What is a dietitian?
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 the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Dietitians who have 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 DAA website.
Dietitians are sometimes called ‘nutritionists’, depending on their area of work. All accredited practising dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are accredited practising dietitians.
Dietitians work in many areas including hospitals, community health services and private practice.
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 you and your child general healthy eating advice and help you work out what to feed your family. A dietitian can also give you tips and advice about recipes.
Dietitians can also help you and your child manage a range of conditions like:
- food allergies and food intolerances
- type-1 diabetes and type-2 diabetes
- eating disorders
- childhood obesity and obesity in teenagers
- malnutrition and poor growth
- gastrointestinal conditions
- fussy eating
Dietitians work with other health care professionals, like doctors, nurses and psychologists, to provide a holistic approach to patient care.
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 DAA 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 the following things:
- Why you’re going to the dietitian: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see a dietitian and whether there’s anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment.
- Any medical results or information: check with your GP to see whether there’s any relevant medical information (like blood test results) that might be useful for the dietitian.
- Cost: 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.
- Location: 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.