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HealthInfo Canterbury

Dietitians

Dietitians are health professionals who are experts in preventing and treating disease using food and nutrition. They can help you improve your health and lifestyle through good nutrition (eating well).

Dietitians provide specialist services in hospitals, private practices, medical centres and aged care facilities. You may also find them in community organisations, sports clinics and gyms. They see people one-on-one and in groups.

Dietitians also coordinate healthy eating programmes such as Senior Chef.

How do I find a dietitian?

If you meet certain criteria, your doctor may refer you to see a dietitian. In this case, there is no cost to see the dietitian and they will see you at an outpatient clinic or in your own home.

If you don't meet the criteria, you can pay to see a private dietitian. You may be able to claim the cost of your dietitian appointment through your health insurance. This will depend on the type of cover you have.

You can search for a dietitian on the Dietitians New Zealand website.

What qualifications do dietitians have?

A dietitian has a degree in human nutrition and a postgraduate diploma or masters in dietetics. To use the title of dietitian, a dietitian must be registered with the Dietitians Board. They must also hold a current practising certificate. The Dietitians Board maintains a register of dietitians.

You may see the letters NZRD after a dietitian's name. NZRD stands for New Zealand Registered Dietitian.

All dietitians are also nutritionists. But anyone can call themself a nutritionist. For more information about the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist see Dietitian or nutritionist on the Dietitians New Zealand website.

When should I see a dietitian?

There are many reasons why you may choose to visit a dietitian. Some examples include:

Your first appointment with a dietitian may last half an hour to an hour. You can bring a family member or friend with you, especially if they are in charge of the shopping or cooking.

Your dietitian will ask you about what you eat and drink. They will also ask you about your general health and lifestyle. They may measure your weight and height.

Your dietitian will use this information to develop an eating plan for you. The eating plan will aim to suit your lifestyle and manage any health condition you have. It will also make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to be healthy.

Follow-up appointments may take 15 minutes to half an hour.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated March 2017.

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Review key: HIDIT-44111