Diabetes affects the body's ability to make or properly use insulin, which leads to high blood glucose — or sugar — in the blood. Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is essential to managing diabetes. Choosing nutritious foods and monitoring portion sizes help keep blood sugar levels as stable as possible. If you have diabetes, a registered dietitian nutritionist, or RDN, can provide medical nutrition therapy to help manage the disease while ensuring you get necessary nutrients.
What Is Medical Nutrition Therapy?
Medical nutrition therapy includes a lifestyle examination, a thorough review of current diet and eating habits and development of a personalized healthful eating plan. These services are covered by a variety of insurance plans. Medicare Part B covers medical nutrition therapy for diabetes and kidney disease; patients with diabetes who have private insurance should check their individual plan for specific coverage details. An RDN who meets certain requirements can provide these services, including a nutritional assessment, education and individual counseling to address specific dietary needs and preferences.
Why a Dietitian?
RDNs are food and nutrition experts who have completed multiple levels of training established by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, or ACEND. While many RDNs are generalists with knowledge about a variety of nutrition subjects, some might have a specialty interest or an advanced credential such as a Certified Diabetes Educator, or CDE. An RDN who is a CDE will have a unique and specialized skill set to help educate people with diabetes on how to manage their condition and improve their outcomes.
How Does the Dietitian Help?
People with diabetes need to understand how foods and nutrition affect their bodies to successfully manage the disease. Dietitians can provide detailed information about how to eat and practical tips to address daily challenges. A dietitian can help put together a daily meal plan that considers individual food preferences, level of physical activity and lifestyle, and will work with patients who have diabetes to set nutrition goals to improve their health.
What Should I Expect?
The length of a visit with an RDN may vary. The first visit typically lasts 45 to 90 minutes. Three to four visits over the next three to six months may be needed depending on additional medical conditions or if weight management also is a consideration. Annual follow-ups for updated information on diabetes and nutrition, or for help with questions or concerns about eating and blood sugar management are to be expected. The dietitian will determine an appropriate follow-up schedule.
Personalized nutritional counseling and advice will help people with diabetes set and prioritize their goals.