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If you’re considering working with a nutrition therapist, you probably have health goals you’re hoping to achieve, whether it’s weight loss, managing a chronic disease (autoimmunity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, for example), or simply feeling better. You may have received a diagnosis from a physician or been referred to a nutritionist and you’re looking for someone who will work with you holistically, not just give you generic one-size-fits-all advice. Most doctors are not comprehensively trained in nutrition, but a nutrition therapy practitioner is specifically trained to guide you towards optimal health through your food choices.
While studying at NTI, one of the concepts that was reiterated was to “meet clients where they are.” In other words, we are taught to assess our clients’ current eating habits, lifestyle, commitment level, work and family dynamics, likes/dislikes, in addition to their health status and take those factors into consideration when formulating a plan. For example, we wouldn’t expect a client to start drinking daily green smoothies if her current breakfast is a doughnut grabbed on the way to work after dropping kids off at school, she doesn’t own a blender, and hasn’t eaten a green vegetable in years. We teach clients how to make choices on a daily basis that are in alignment with their health goals. Curious about whether working with a nutrition therapist is right for you? Here are the top 5 reasons why hiring a nutrition therapist will help you achieve optimal health.
We can analyze your diet
To reach your health goals, you must first understand what habits and behaviors contributed to your current health challenges. A qualified nutrition therapist will work with you to determine patterns and trends in your diet and identify opportunities for improvement. This usually starts with keeping a food journal where you write down everything you eat for at least several days (honesty is critical here!). It helps if you also record what might be going on in your day and how you felt both physically and emotionally. Completing this exercise helps create awareness and mindfulness about when hunger strikes, how emotions like stress and anxiety can affect when/what you eat, and how certain foods make your body feel. Your nutrition therapist will use this information to assess the nutrition content of your diet and identify potential inadequacies that will dictate what he/she suggests for you. The diet analysis is a critical step that ensures that your plan is customized for your lifestyle, personality, and health goals.
We can do lab work
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “you are what you eat,” but it really should be, “you are what you absorb.” Certain health conditions and medications can prevent or inhibit the absorption of nutrients. While performing a diet analysis will give your nutrition therapist a reasonable indication of insufficiencies and imbalances in your diet, laboratory testing will provide a more complete picture of your nutrition status. You may have had your vitamin D, blood sugar, or iron levels checked by a physician, but micronutrient testing can look at levels of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids within your white blood cells, giving a more accurate idea of how your body is utilizing nutrients from your food. Keeping in mind that it is not within our scope of practice to diagnose disease, there are many other lab tests your nutrition therapist might offer:
- Some nutritionists have training in genetic testing such as MTHFR status and can make specific recommendations based on your body’s genetic limitations and predispositions.
- Urine and stool tests can identify dysbiosis, metabolic disorders, heavy metal and other toxin exposure, hormone imbalances, and digestive conditions such as intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut).
- IgE allergic response testing can check for food sensitivities and allergies to mold and environmental inhalants (weeds, grasses, etc.)
- Breath testing for SIBO
We can create meal plans for you
So now that you have a plan of attack, how do you implement it? For many people, the most challenging aspect of achieving their nutrition goals is the implementation phase. You know what you’re supposed to do, but doing it is another story. This is where meal planning comes in. Nutrition therapists are able to create detailed plans that take into consideration not only your dietary needs, but also your schedule, budget, cooking abilities, likes and dislikes, and available tools and equipment. A meal plan might include shopping lists, menus with recipes, pantry stocking lists, or snack ideas. We can also teach you how to prep foods for the week ahead so that meals can be put together quickly on busy weeknights. A good meal plan is worth its weight in gold!
We can help you organize and clean out your pantry and freezer
When working with a nutrition therapist, you will quickly learn that some of your old pantry standbys no longer deserve a place in your home. You will learn how to replace unhealthy products with more nutritious or less processed options. This often entails doing an overhaul of your existing pantry and restocking it. In doing so, you might need help organizing things in a way that makes your meal prepping more efficient. Did you know that in 2014, Americans threw away more than 38 million tons of food? Much of that waste could be eliminated by properly storing and organizing food so it gets used before spoiling.
We can take you on a grocery store tour
When I first learned about this concept, it honestly sounded a bit silly to me. I mean, why would anyone need a tour of a grocery store? Then I realized that many people are very intimidated by grocery shopping or think that it is too time-consuming or confusing to decide which products or brands to buy. A nutrition therapist can take you aisle by aisle (maybe skipping certain aisles!) and show you how to cut through all the marketing hoopla and read labels to find the best products for you. For example, did you know that the numerical codes on produce stickers can provide insight into how the crop was grown? Once you learn how to read ingredient labels, grocery shopping goes much more quickly. Nutrition therapy practitioners can also help you figure out how to shop in season, how to find the best prices, which prepared foods are worth buying, and how to use the bulk section to stock your pantry. These are skills that once learned, will set you on the path to success and make your health journey that much more effective.
Cadie Berrian, BA, MNT
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