If you’ve never met with a dietitian before, a million questions could run through your head. Do I need to prepare anything? Will they tell me to stop eating my favorite foods? How much will it cost?
And what makes a dietitian different from a nutritionist?
This article will review why a dietitian differs from a nutritionist and how to feel confident you are picking the right one to work with.
You’ll learn the average cost out of pocket for nutrition appointments and what you can expect to pay in your state.
What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
A registered dietitian nutritionist is a regulated healthcare professional.
You must complete an undergraduate degree in an accredited nutrition program to earn a dietitian license.
As of 2024, all future dietitians will also need to complete a mandatory master's level education as well.1
After school, you must complete internship hours and placements and write the state exam to earn your official license.
The entire process can take 4-6 years. After becoming a dietitian, you must complete ongoing education opportunities to ensure your skills and knowledge are up to date.
Is an RD the Same as a Nutritionist?
Titles do matter when it comes to involving people with your health care.
A registered dietitian is a protected title, but anybody can call themselves a nutritionist. You can choose to work with a dietitian or a nutritionist, but you should know the distinction between them.
Nutritionists are not regulated and can say whatever they want to clients without repercussions.
This can expose you to potentially dangerous advice (even though the nutritionist has good intentions).
They are not qualified to work in hospital or patient settings because they don’t have a health care license. Their knowledge of chronic disease will be more limited, and if you suffer from multiple conditions, they may not understand the complexity of your health status.
There is a misconception that dietitians are food police, but that’s simply not true. Many dietitians are open to different forms of nutrition therapy; they want to help you build a diet that includes your favorite foods and keeps you healthy.
How Much Does a Dietitian Nutritionist Appointment Cost?
The cost of an appointment will vary per state.
Initial appointments are normally 60-90 minutes, and follow-up sessions can be anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending on the dietitian’s recommendation.
Below is data pulled from a US health insurance company called Sidecar.
They regularly receive nutrition claims for dietitians and have organized their data by state. The costs represent a range you can expect to pay for an initial visit.2
- California: $90-$135
- Florida: $80-$119
- Illinois: $84-$124
- Kansas: $72-$107
- Maine: $74-$110
- Maryland: $87-$129
- Massachusetts: $89 - $133
- Michigan: $82 - $122
- Montana: $76 - $113
- New Jersey: $96 - $142
- New York: $90 - $134
- Ohio: $75 - $112
- Pennsylvania: $85 - $126
- Tennessee: $72-$108
- Texas: $78 - $116
- Washington: $87 - $129
If you don’t see your state in this list don’t worry, we can still calculate the average rate using the data available.
You can expect to pay $82-122 for initial appointments (if you live in the US).
How Much do Nutritionists Charge for a Meal Plan?
Specialized services, like meal plans, can incur an additional cost. On top of your appointments, a meal plan can cost anywhere from $75 to $250 for one week.
These unique services are customized to your health goals, and choosing recipes that satisfy your preferences takes time to develop.
Investing in a meal plan can provide you with clear direction on what to start eating, today.
This option is perfect for anyone who feels overwhelmed by food choices and meal ideas. The best thing about a meal plan is that it is yours forever. Even though there is an upfront cost, you can recycle the recipes and modify them as your tastes change.
How Do I Choose the Right Dietitian?
Figuring out who to hire is a big decision. You want to make the best choice for your health without surpassing your budget. Fortunately, most dietitians offer no-charge discovery calls to help you decide if they will fit your needs.
During your call, you should be open about your nutrition goals.
This brief meeting is about getting to know each other and understanding if your personalities will blend.
Don't feel bad about saying no if it’s not the right fit. Just because you agree to a discovery call does not mean you have to commit to working together.
Dietitians often specialize in different areas of nutrition and well-being. They can complete higher education to earn their masters in a specific field or take accredited courses to earn a certification.
- Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE): a great option for someone with nutrition questions related to diabetes management.
- Certified Intuitive Eating Counselors: they can teach you how to practice mindful eating habits, decreasing binge episodes and increasing meal satisfaction.
- International Board Certified Lactation Consultant: prenatal or postnatal women can benefit from meeting with an IBCLC to help with breastfeeding practices and ensuring your diet meets their needs.
Dietitians can devote themselves to a certain area of health, such as disordered eating, gastroparesis, ulcerative colitis, and other gut-related conditions. They work day and night to review relevant literature and guidelines to ensure you get the best care possible.
What To Expect In Your First Appointment
During your first appointment, your dietitian will ask you about your nutrition goals and what you need help with.
You can expect to give a detailed food recall; if you have difficulty remembering what you ate, you should write down your food intake three days before your appointment. Try to capture weekdays and one weekend day because people’s diets usually change if they are at work or home.
If you can’t write down your intake, you can take pictures on your phone and upload them to your video chat for the dietitian to review.
At the end of your session, you should have crystal clear goals to work on until your next appointment. Booking regular check-ins can help you stay accountable and on track with your nutrition goals.
Can Dietitians Give Prescriptions?
Dietitians can not write prescriptions for any medications; only physicians and nurse practitioners can do this. They are the only ones who can give you a blood requisition and ask for imaging diagnostics, including x-rays and MRIs.
Dietitians can recommend certain supplements, but your doctor or pharmacist will recommend the correct dosage.
You should always follow your physician's recommendations because some vitamins can lead to toxicity if you take too much.
Examples of this include vitamin D, vitamin C, and iron. As a rule, you should avoid taking any high-dose supplement (unless medically recommended) because it can increase your risk of different cancers.3
It can help your dietitian understand your current health status if you update your blood labs before your appointment. If you haven’t had your blood checked in the last twelve months, ask your doctor for a blood requisition and complete the test prior to your nutrition session.
Nourish Can Help
The average cost of a dietitian nutritionist appointment is $102 out of pocket.
This option isn’t feasible for everybody, especially if you need to book repeat appointments for ongoing care.
Fortunately, there are affordable options available to you online, and you don’t have to pick between your budget and getting proper health care.
Nourish can set you up with a dietitian who is covered by insurance. 94% of current patients pay zero dollars out of pocket.
All appointments are remote to fit your schedule and availability better. Click here to learn more and book an appointment today!
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