Guest Blog: Tips to work with a Registered Dietitian

Knowing what to eat when you have PCOS can be confusing. The internet is full of conflicting advice. How many carbs should you eat a day? Is dairy, gluten and soy off limits? What should you eat to lower insulin levels? What about supplements? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a nutrition health professional put together a plan based on scientific evidence that is individually tailored and gets you the results you are looking for? Your answer could be to work with a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in PCOS. Keep in mind that insurance may not cover nutritional counseling, so it’s important that you do your homework first.

Difference between a registered dietitian (RD) and nutritionist

People often get confused between these 2 terms. Every RD is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is an RD. A registered dietitian is a food and nutrition expert who has met academic and professional requirements including:
-Earned a bachelor’s degree with course work approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
-Completed an accredited, supervised practice program at a healthcare facility, community agency or foodservice corporation.
-Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
-Completes continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration on an ongoing basis.

Compare this a nutritionist who may have had some training, but likely not even close to the RDs training. FYI: another name for an RD is an RDN – registered dietitian nutritionist.

Benefits of meeting with a registered dietitian

Meeting with a registered dietitian can help clear some of the confusion and provide you with evidence-based nutrition recommendations to help you with your current symptoms and decrease potential health risks associated with PCOS. And very important – you will receive accurate nutrition information. The trick will be to find the right nutritionist for you and someone who specializes in PCOS.


How to find the right RD for you:
Start here:

  1. Do a search on the website for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Look for Find a Health Professional and enter your zip code. Then scroll down the names and look for their specialties. Note: this website does not allow the RD to list PCOS as a specialty so browse through their websites to see if they work with women with PCOS.
  2. You can also use good old Google! Search for “registered dietitian and PCOS”. Or add your zip code if you want to find local RD for in-person sessions.
  3. You can look at your local ZocDoc or HealthProfs for RDs in your area.
    Do more research:
  4. Do a little more research by contacting any RDs who seem like they might be a good fit for you. Keep in mind that just because an RD has gone through extensive training, it doesn’t mean they specialize in PCOS. Ask them about their experience with PCOS, their philosophy and what you can expect from their sessions. And of course, cost!  If meal plans are important to you, ask if they provide individually tailored plans, as not all RDs believe in meal plans. If meal plans aren’t your thing and/or you want to lean how to have a better relationship with food, ask if they deal with intuitive eating. Now keep in mind this will likely be a short phone or email convo, so make your questions short and to the point so you can get the info you need.
  5. Do you prefer in-person sessions or phone/Skype?
  6. Contact your insurance company to see if they cover nutrition for PCOS and if you need to stay in network or if you can go out of network. Tell your insurance company if you have any other medical condition such as diabetes, prediabetes, high cholesterol, obesity or overweight. Often times insurance companies base reimbursement on diagnosis codes. Ask the RD if you will be provided with a form to submit to your insurance company if they are out of network. Keep in mind that RDs counseling out of state via phone/Skype are not allowed to provide you with medical nutrition therapy (MNT) codes unless they are certified in your particular state. It has to be called nutrition “coaching” and you likely cannot submit a claim form to your insurance company. Ask your company if this is important to you.


How to prepare for your session

Most initial nutrition sessions are 45 – 75 minutes and 30-45 minutes for follow-ups. The more organized you are, the more you’ll get out of it. Here are some things to prepare in advance:

  1. Ask the RD if you need to fill out any forms prior to the session. In my private practice, I have the patient fill out a detailed questionnaire that includes goals, details on medical history, symptoms of PCOS, weight history, meds and supplements, exercise, what you eat on a typical day, problem areas in your diet/lifestyle, etc.  If there are no forms to fill out, it still might be helpful to fill in the above info and present it to the RD at the visit. The less time the RD has to spend asking these questions, the more productive the session will be. Of course, you’ll still to review these questions with the RD.
  2. Think about your goals as well think about your motivators.
  3. Tell the RD ahead of time if you are looking for any specific advice including:
    -meal planning guidelines
    -if you have any specific needs in addition to PCOS (i.e. food intolerances, dietary preferences, such as vegan, Kosher, gluten free, etc)
  4. Have realistic expectations. Everything cannot be addressed in the first session. You may likely need a few sessions. It can also take a while to make behavior changes and you may benefit from ongoing coaching and support.


Bottom line

Working with an RD who specializes in PCOS can help clear the confusion on what to eat. You can get practical advice on meal planning and how to have a healthier relationship with food. The RD can guide you on nutrition recommendations for any other medical conditions you may have (such as diabetes, IBS, high cholesterol as well). And very importantly, you’ll get a plan that is tailored to you!


About Martha McKittrick

Martha McKittrick is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health and wellness coach. She has been specializing in nutrition for PCOS for over 15 years. Martha is available for nutrition counseling in person or via skype/phone.

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