The food we eat impacts our health in a myriad of ways. Everything from our mood to our energy levels to the look and tone of our skin is affected by our diet. The nutrients in our food are involved in the most intricate of bodily processes ranging from tissue repair to warding off infection to helping us think properly.

Most people know that it’s in their best interest to eat healthy, and there’s definitely no shortage of books written on the subject or information just a mouse-click away on the internet. The problem is, we live in an era of information overload, and oftentimes the range of conflicting health advice can be downright confusing and overwhelming. Deciphering fact from fiction isn’t always that cut and dry.

The reality is, there is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to diet. A person’s nutritional needs are as unique as a snowflake and dependent on many factors including their life stage (i.e. pregnancy, elderly), health and diet history, lifestyle, activity level, current state of health, and personal health goals.

Working with a qualified nutritionist who is familiar with your unique circumstance and health situation can be a great step in the right direction for helping you improve your eating habits and your overall health.

A nutritionist can help identify and correct any nutritional causes of disease and is trained in designing personalized diet and lifestyle programs that optimize health. And for many people, working with a nutritionist provides the support and accountability needed for sticking with a new health program over the long-run.

Who Can Benefit

Well, pretty much anyone who is looking to improve their current state of health and/or prevent disease!

Here are just a few of the areas where a nutritionist can provide support in tailoring a diet-lifestyle program:

• Digestive health (i.e. heartburn, bloating)

• Food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities

• Special diets (i.e. gluten-free, vegan)

• Weight management

• Heart health

• Blood sugar balance

• Low energy or fatigue

• Life-stage (i.e. pregnancy, athletes)

What to Expect in Your First Session

Sessions may take place in person, over the phone, or online via a video conferencing program such as Skype.

In advance of your appointment, most nutritionists will have you fill out a health and lifestyle assessment which often includes a sample food journal. The initial session is usually spent going over the health assessment together, identifying areas for improvement, and educating you around diet, lifestyle and/or supplementation recommendations. Other resources your nutritionist may provide you with include a meal plan, recipes, grocery shopping tips, and other dietary/lifestyle guidelines. Depending on your specific health goals, follow up sessions are often necessary and encouraged. These sessions can provide the support and accountability needed to stick with a new health program over the long-run, and many nutritionists offer packages that include multiple sessions.

How to Choose the Right Nutritionist

Since the term “Nutritionist” is largely unregulated in most areas, a person’s credentials and education can vary widely. Many nutritionists offer complimentary 15-20 minute consultations, often over the phone, where you can ask questions and find out more about their qualifications, education, experience, personal nutrition philosophy, as well as possible areas of specialization. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You can consider this a bit of a “courting process” where you can see if you feel comfortable or connect with a particular practitioner, and help decide if you want to take the relationship to the next level and actually work with them.

Other Resources

If working with a nutritionist isn’t an option for you there are other resources you can seek out. For example, many grocery stores, health food stores and community centres offer free seminars or low-cost workshops on various nutrition and health-related topics. If you’re looking for a good comprehensive guide on the topic of nutrition, “Staying Healthy with Nutrition – The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine” by Elson M. Haas, MD is a great book that can be found used online or borrowed at your local library. And of course there is always the internet for finding new recipes and other health tidbits.

At the end of the day, if you can make only one change to improve your health it would be to limit overly processed and packaged foods and move towards a diet rich in whole-foods that are closest to their natural state as possible, and of course – eat more veggies!

About the Author

Elaine is a Certified Nutritionist and Women’s Health Coach. She works with clients across the globe to help them improve their health and relationship with food. Elaine believes in a real food approach to health that is rooted in optimizing digestion and includes ongoing and intelligent cleansing. You can download her FREE Hip, Healthy & Holistic Makeover Guide to learn 5 simple things you can do every day to lose weight, increase energy, kick cravings, and feel beautiful inside & out.