A dietitian is a university-trained health professional who can give you and your child expert nutrition and dietary advice.
If you’re interested in seeing a dietitian, it’s a good idea to choose one who’s been accredited by Dietitians Australia. Dietitians who’ve been accredited are known as accredited practising dietitians. You can ask your dietitian directly whether they’ve been accredited, or you can check on the Dietitians Australia website.
Dietitians work in many areas including hospitals, community health services and private practice.
Dietitians aren’t the same as nutritionists. Dietitians have more qualifications than nutritionists, and not all nutritionists are university trained. But you might find that dietitians are sometimes called ‘nutritionists’, depending on their area of work.
Nutritious food and healthy eating habits in childhood and adolescence lay the foundations for health and wellbeing throughout life. Helping your child eat well, and getting expert advice from a dietitian if you need it, is part of helping your child grow and develop well.
Why your child might see a dietitian
A dietitian can give your child healthy eating advice and help you and your child put this advice into practice at home. A dietitian can also give you tips and advice about recipes.
Dietitians can help you and your child manage:
- breastfeeding, formula feeding and starting solids
- childhood obesity and obesity in teenagers
- cystic fibrosis
- eating disorders
- food allergies and food intolerances
- fussy eating
- gastrointestinal conditions like coeliac disease and lactose intolerance
- slow or poor growth
- tube feeding and other additional feeding needs
- type-1 diabetes and type-2 diabetes.
Dietitians work with other health care professionals to provide a holistic approach to patient care. For example, they might work with doctors, nurses, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and psychologists.
You don’t need a GP referral to see a dietitian, but your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health, growth and development. These professionals can help you find a dietitian if you need one. You can also use the Dietitians Australia website to find an accredited practising dietitian.
Before going to a dietitian
If your GP refers your child to a dietitian, it’s a good idea to talk with your GP about things like the following:
- Why you’re going: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see a dietitian.
- Appointments: does the appointment need to be in person, or can it be via telehealth?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the dietitian?
- Any medical results or information: check with your GP to see whether there’s any medical information (like blood test results) that might be useful for the dietitian.
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment? For example, should your child keep a food diary? Or does your child need to get blood tests?
- Costs: how much will the appointment with the dietitian cost? You could check whether you can get money back from Medicare or private health insurance. Only accredited practising dietitians are recognised by Medicare and most private health funds.
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the dietitian – for example, a public or private hospital or consulting rooms.
The dietitian’s clinic should also be able to answer any questions you have. It’s a good idea to write down any questions before the appointment, so you don’t forget.