Nutrition is one of those topics not everyone wants to talk about. It’s boring to some people while others find it intimidating. But knowing the basics and taking charge of your nutrition is vital to your overall health.
What you eat and drink matters throughout your life. Nutrients from food help us grow when we’re small, develop healthy brains, maintain strong bones and muscles throughout adulthood, and strengthen our immune systems.
It’s easy to ask Google your nutrition questions or read posts from casual bloggers. But the answers you get from these sources can often leave you feeling confused or with even more questions than you had in the first place.
There is so much nutrition misinformation out there, so it’s important to know what’s fact and what’s fable. The best way to learn the facts about nutrition is to talk with a registered dietitian.
Keep reading to find out the nutrition questions to ask the next time you speak with a dietitian.
What is a registered dietitian?
Registered dietitians are the top nutrition experts. They know the ins and outs of nutrition, from the intricate processes of metabolism to how to build a healthy plate of food.
Dietitians should not be confused with nutritionists. A nutritionist may take some courses to obtain a certificate, but the overall education and training is much less rigorous than that of a registered dietitian. To clear things up a bit, many dietitians are now using the credential RDN, which stands for registered dietitian nutritionist.
To become a registered dietitian, you must:
- Complete at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetics or nutrition.
- Complete an accredited internship that requires at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice.
- Pass the national board exam for registered dietitians.
- Stay up to date with continuing education and re-certify your credentials every 5 years.1
Many dietitians decide to obtain a master’s degree either during or after their internship. However, a master’s degree will be required to become a registered dietitian as of 2024.
Registered dietitians work in a variety of settings, like hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, colleges, businesses, food services, public health, research, and private practice.
If you’re meeting with a dietitian to discuss your nutrition, chances are they work in a hospital or clinic. Regardless of where you meet your dietitian, you’ll want to know the best questions to ask.
Key nutrition questions to ask
It’s smart to go into meeting a dietitian (or any other healthcare provider) with a plan. You can do this by writing down the questions ahead of time that you want the dietitian to answer.
When you ask the right questions and the ones that are most important to you, then you make the most out of your session. Asking healthcare providers questions empowers you to take charge of your health.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to take care of your nutrition. Working with the right dietitian can be extremely helpful in this endeavor.
The following list is not exhaustive. There are many more questions you can ask a dietitian. If you’ve chosen a dietitian that you like, then chances are you’ll have more sessions and opportunities for constructive conversations.
With all this in mind, let’s look at the top 10 nutrition questions to ask your dietitian.
1 – How can I get more hydrated?
Drinking enough water doesn’t come naturally to many people. Whether it’s the taste of water or the task of drinking it, it can be challenging to stay hydrated.
But drinking enough water may be more important than you realize. When you don’t drink enough water, you may find yourself with a headache or feeling nauseous. Adequate hydration is associated with better temperature control, physical performance, cognitive performance, digestion, skin, and even heart function.2
Some basic tips for drinking more water include carrying a reusable water bottle wherever you go, setting reminders on your phone, setting hydration goals, and flavoring your water with fruit or natural flavors.
While not drinking enough water is common, there are other factors that influence hydration as well. Your dietitian can give you more ideas for improving hydration and help you better understand your body’s fluid and electrolyte balance.
2 – What breakfast foods are right for me?
There’s a reason why breakfast is called the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast not only jumpstarts your metabolism for the day but also sets you up for a day of healthy eating, especially if your breakfast is nutrient-dense.
In short, regular breakfast consumption may lead to better overall health and more brain power. Of course, some breakfast foods are healthier than others, so ask your dietician about which breakfast options are right for your unique situation.
3 – How can I eat more fiber?
Like water, fiber is another one of those important nutrients that your body needs regularly.
You can find fiber in a wide variety of foods, from fruits and vegetables to grains and seeds. Adequate fiber intake has been shown to improve digestion, help with weight management, improve insulin sensitivity, improve the health of your gut microbiome, reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease, and reduce the risk of certain cancers, among other things.5
There are many ways to eat more fiber, like sneaking it into smoothies and snacks or choosing whole grains over enriched grains whenever possible. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake is always recommended as well. Be sure to ask your dietitian for additional tips.
4 – How can I improve my diet overall?
There’s no such thing as a perfect diet, but oftentimes there’s room for improvement.
There are plenty of different ways to make your diet a little bit more nutritious. When asked, a dietitian can help you find gaps in your current eating habits and give you ideas for ways to eat more nutrient-dense foods.
Food restriction isn’t the way to go when it comes to improving your diet. Instead, work with your dietitian to come up with ways to add more nutritious foods to your current diet.
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5 – How can I get more healthy fats in my diet?
You may have heard the term “healthy fats” many times in your life without knowing exactly what those are (and you wouldn’t be alone!).
A dietitian can help walk you through a lesson on fats and teach you how to differentiate between good-for-you fats and not-as-good-for-you fats. But the gist is that unsaturated fats are better for you than saturated and trans fats.
Research has shown that a higher intake of saturated fats can lead to more LDL “bad” cholesterol, less HDL “good” cholesterol, and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. And, on the flip side, eating more unsaturated fats is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease.6
6 – Am I eating enough fruits and vegetables?
We’re told from childhood to eat our fruits and vegetables. And, when we asked adults why we needed fruits and veggies, the answer was usually “to grow up big and strong.” And while there’s certainly truth to this statement, fruits and vegetables are important for many other reasons throughout the lifecycle.
The overarching reason why fruits and vegetables are important is that they are packed with nutrients. Both fruits and vegetables are great sources of fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis. Plus, fruits and vegetables are low in calories, making them a great addition to any diet.
Regularly getting the nutrients offered by fruits and vegetables can help your body run as it should, so to say. Not only that but eating about 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day has been linked to lower mortality.7
A dietitian can assess your fruit and vegetable needs as well as help you find tasty ways to sneak more of these nutritious foods into your diet.
7 – How much protein do I need to eat per day?
Protein is a vital nutrient that you need in large amounts every day, which is why it is considered a macronutrient. Protein is found in every cell in your body and is needed for normal growth, tissue repair, and, of course, muscle mass.8
The amount of protein you need depends on a few factors, like your age, gender, activity level, and even the type of exercise you like to do. Typically, you’ll want protein to make up anywhere from 10% to 35% of your total calorie intake each day.
A dietitian can do some handy math equations for you to help you find your protein goal.
8 – Is it okay to eat snacks?
Dietitians love snacks because they know they can round out any meal plan. (Plus, they’re fun to eat.)
It’s always okay to eat snacks, and any dietitian would tell you the same. Eating nutritious snacks between meals can keep you from feeling so ravenously hungry at mealtimes that you accidentally overeat.
But not all snacks are created equal. There’s an obvious difference between a bag of chips and a piece of fruit that no one would deny. It’s good to keep things interesting and change up your snacks, but your dietitian can help you find nutrient-dense snacks to eat more often than the extra fun ones.
9 – Should I take a multivitamin?
Certain people need to take multivitamins. Anyone unable to obtain all the vitamins and minerals they need through food should take a multivitamin. This can be due to diet preferences, food intolerances, low appetite, and certain health conditions.9
However, not everyone necessarily needs to take a multivitamin. For most healthy people with normal diets, a multivitamin wouldn’t add many benefits. Your body will excrete the vitamins and minerals it can’t immediately use or store.
It’s helpful to look at multivitamins like insurance policies. Most of the time, you don’t need them, but once in a while they come in handy.
Your dietitian can help you learn if you need a daily multivitamin or any other supplements.
10 – How can I know if I have any food intolerances?
Food intolerances can be sneaky. There are a few ways to know if you have one besides looking out for symptoms like bowel changes, upset stomach, bloating, and skin rashes.10
A dietitian can help you in the process of finding any new food intolerances. They may ask you to try an elimination diet in which you’ll slowly eliminate common food allergens, and then reintroduce them one at a time to see if any are causing you problems.
Or your dietitian may ask you to keep a food diary where you write down everything you eat as well as any symptoms you have after each meal or snack.
If these and other tools don’t work, your dietitian can help set you up with lab tests that will tell you once and for all if you have any food intolerances.
Work with a dietitian & take control of your health
Knowing the right nutrition questions to ask a dietitian or other healthcare provider is important. Only you can take control of your health and nutrition.
Dietitians undergo extensive education and training that prepares them to help patients navigate the often-confusing topic of nutrition. A dietitian can help you shuffle through what is myth and what is fact when it comes to food. You can start the conversation with a dietitian by asking the 10 nutrition questions you just read.
About Brittany Lubeck
Brittany Lubeck is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. She has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition, and began her career as a clinical dietitian. Brittany has always enjoyed research and loves that she can help people learn more about nutrition through her writing.
1. “What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eatrightpro.org.
2. Popkin, B. M., K. E. D’Anci, & I. H. Rosenberg. “Water, Hydration and Health.” Nutrition Reviews 8, no. 68 (2010): 439-458.
3. Gibney, M. J., S. I. Barr, et al. “Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative.” Nutrients 5, no. 10 (2018): 559.
4. Galioto, R., & M. B. Spitznagel. “The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Adults.” Advances in Nutrition 3, no.7 (2016).
5. Barber, T. M., S. Kabisch, et al. “The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre.” Nutrients 10, no. 12 (2020): 3209.
6. Li, Y., A. Hruby, et al. “Saturated Fat as Compared With Unsaturated Fats and Sources of Carbohydrates in Relation to Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Prospective Cohort Study.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 14, no. 66 (2015): 1538-1548.
7. Wang, D. D., Y. Li, et al. “Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies of US Men and Women and a Meta-Analysis of 26 Cohort Studies.” Circulation 17, no. 143 (2021): 1642-1654.
8. “Protein in diet.” MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine. Medlineplus.gov.
9. “Multivitamin/mineral Supplements.” National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Ods.od.nih.gov.
10. Tuck, C., J. R. Biesiekierski, et al. “Food Intolerances.” Nutrients 11, no. 7 (2019): 1684.