What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?
Registered Dietitians (RD) are uniquely trained to translate the science of nutrition into everyday information about food. A state registered dietitian is a professional dedicated to the science of nutrition and diet therapy to manage a variety of acute and chronic medical conditions (medical nutrition therapy).

Dietitians have the only legally recognized and externally regulated degree-level qualification in nutrition and dietetics with an internship done at recognized hospitals.’Dietitian’ is a protected title meaning that only those with a recognized dietetics qualification from a University and the Council for the Professions Complementary to Medicine, Malta (check if your dietitian/nutritionist is registered) can call themselves a dietitian or use the letters RD or SRD after their name. A dietitian can also use the title “nutritionist”. However, a nutritionist does not necessarily have a degree in dietetics nor finished an internship nor involved in secondary care nutritional intervention. A clinical nutritionist must have the qualification of a dietitian since he/she has to deal with medical nutrition therapy. Whilst qualified nutritionists and dietitians may work in many similar areas dietitians tend to work more in clinical settings, such as hospitals and health centres, on a one to one basis with patients who require individual dietary manipulation to manage a clinical condition. Qualified nutritionists tend to work more in health promotion and public health, encouraging the general public, or specific population subgroups, to adopt healthier eating patterns.

Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) can improve patients’ health and quality of life, effectively treat and manage disease, reduce complications and decrease the need for prescription drugs. It can help patients manage conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and related complications, cancer etc.

Your long term health and nutritional well being are too precious to be put at risk by poorly qualified practitioners

What happens during an appointment with the dietitian?
Your first appointment will provide an opportunity for your dietitian to assess your current situation enabling him to provide you with the dietary advice that is most appropriate for yourself [30-45 minutes]. As well as finding out about your eating patterns, this may involve questions about your job, lifestyle, general health, past medical history, cooking facilities and skills, weight and activity levels. There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions but they are necessary to allow the advice and information given to be tailored to your needs.

Everybody’s needs are unique, consequently we do not have a standardised approach, each plan and support programme is tailor-made to meet your requirements and budget.

If appropriate your dietitian may weigh you (in light clothing and without shoes), measure your height and record any recent test results that you may have from your GP or consultant. Each appointment is very different but it is likely that the dietitian will then discuss with you the condition for which you have been referred and the relevant dietary modification recommended for this. Any information or suggested dietary changes will be tailored to your current eating and lifestyle patterns and your pre-existing knowledge. You will have ample opportunity to ask questions. All discussions will be supported by written information and tailored action plans allowing you to read more in your own time and tackle any changes in manageable steps.

I would not expect to cover all the necessary information in one go and so, if you agree, a follow up appointment will be made at a time convenient to you. At this appointment the dietitian can assess your progress with the behavioral changes recommended and adapt or extend these as necessary to ensure that you continue to effectively manage your condition and improve your health.

Do I need to bring anything with me to my appointment?
Any information related to your referral will assist the dietitian. Therefore if you have any recent test results, letters from your hospital Consultant, lists of current medication etc. you should bring these with you. The dietitian can usually obtain these from your GP but if you have your own copies it may save time during your appointment.

If you are attending a follow up appointment you should bring with you the action plan and written information provided previously by your dietitian. This prevents repetition and allows you to build up a personalized portfolio of information.

How can I get an appointment to see a dietitian?
Clients may themselves choose to visit a dietitian or it may be recommended by their GP or hospital Consultant. In some cases an appointment can be made straight away following self-referral, e.g. for weight reduction or healthy eating advice.
What happens after the appointment?
Unless you specifically ask us not to, we will write to your consultant and/or GP to provide them with a summary of the dietary advice provided and behavioural changes agreed. Dietitians work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. This communication ensures that all health professionals involved in the management of your condition are kept informed of any advice given or changes made, ensuring that your overall management is co-ordinated and therefore as effective as possible

Your dietitian may contact you to arrange a follow up appointment [30 minutes], if this has not already been done, or to provide you with information not given at your first appointment.

You will be provided with contact details to enable you to get in touch with your dietitian if you have any queries between appointments.

How many appointments will I need?
Each individual is different and there is no set number of consultations recommended. However, at or even before your first appointment your dietitian will be able to discuss your individual requirements with you and suggest a suitable management plan, including the number and frequency of appointments, so that you are fully informed.

If you feel that you have obtained sufficient information at your initial consultation there will be no need for you to make a further appointment. Even if you choose not to be followed up initially this does not prevent you from getting back in touch with us in the future when we would be happy to see you again.

As a very general guideline someone with recently diagnosed Type II diabetes may only need a couple of appointments initially after which, providing their condition is well managed, annual review appointments may be sufficient to allow them to keep up to date with current information and ensure their diet remain nutritionally adequate.

In contrast someone who wishes to lose weight may benefit from short but more frequent appointments to provide the regular support required to sustain this type of behaviour modification.

As your dietitian & nutritionist, I am here to help you make long-term changes to your eating pattern and nutritional intake. I do not deal with short term solutions such as fad diets. I develop your diet plan with you based on your goals and your lifestyle. I will address not only what you eat, but also how you eat throughout the day since this too affects your energy level, your weight and your metabolism. I will hold you accountable for making changes but also provide strategies for overcoming obstacles. After your goals are achieved, whether they include weight loss, cholesterol lowering or just learning how to eat right. I will continue to see you a few times a year to help keep you on track and to provide an opportunity for continued learning. Just as your physician takes care of your ongoing medical needs, as your nutritionist I look after your ongoing dietary and nutrition needs. Maintaining new eating habits over the long term takes work. Continuing to see me a few times a year helps you deal with lapses when they occur, not after they accumulate.