What to know before you go

Should I be putting oat milk in my latte? Or a little butter? I heard a sprinkle of cinnamon can lower glucose levels, is that a thing? Should I even be drinking caffeine? One morning on Instagram and you could have an existential crisis about coffee.

Seriously though, we’ve never been more overloaded with inspiration and information. How’s a student supposed to know what will work for them?

If you’re hungry for real advice, catered to you, a visit to a dietician might be a good place to start. To get you ready, here’s a list of frequent questions you might like answered.

What's a dietitian?

Put simply, an expert in all things food. They have a tertiary degree in nutrition and dietetics and they’re not afraid to use it. Dietitians apply science to educate others about nutritious food and optimal diets for health, disease prevention and management.

What's the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?

In Australia, both are qualified professionals with expertise in nutrition and research. And both can work to promote health within communities or organisations by providing info, advice and shaping policy.

Dietitians, however, have an additional specialisation that allows them to work in hospitals and one-on-one with patients too. So if you’re keen to see someone privately about your nutrition, it’s one of these guys.

How can a dietitian help me?

A dietitian will work with you to realise your healthiest self through evidence-based nutrition advice. They don’t dish out standard meal plans. They give expert advice, tailored to your needs and lifestyle.

Like a relationship counsellor but they help you:

  • understand the relationship between food and health 
  • improve the relationship between food and you

Hot tip: Look for the term ‘APD' (Accredited Practicing Dietitian) to know your provider is professionally certified and the real deal.

How do I know when to book an appointment?

There are a lot of reasons to visit a dietician. Truth is, our diets can affect so many aspects of our health. You could be experiencing low energy levels or gut issues like diarrhoea, constipation and IBS. Or maybe you have a chronic disease like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Dietitians can also help if you’re struggling to lose or gain weight. Or if your relationship with food is not what you'd like it to be. Maybe you’d just like to check how your nutrition is faring. This is a great idea if you have a specific diet (hello, vegos and vegans). If you fall into any of these categories, come in and chat.

What does a session look like?

Your first consultation is a getting-to-know-you session. This is where your dietitian would weigh you up, quite literally. They may take height, weight and waist measurements and get into more nitty-gritty details: medical, social and dietary history.

You can expect questions on why you’ve sought help, what you typically eat and drink and when. At the end, the dietitian can usually provide education and advice on your diet or relationship with food. If you need it, they might also refer you for a nutrient-level blood test or to see another relevant professional.

For any follow-up appointments, they'll let you know what to expect, and how many you’ll need. You could be one and done or require a few follow-ups to make sure you're on the right track.

Will I feel uncomfortable?

Maybe, maybe not. Not everyone likes spilling their guts to someone new. But you won’t find anyone more interested in what your actual gut spills than a dietitian. Even if you feel awkward sharing your bad habits or gastrointestinal concerns, they won’t. They’re nutrition veterans and helping people make healthy changes is what they love to do.

Will my information remain private?

It’s completely confidential. Anything discussed will stay between you and your practitioner, unless you consent otherwise.

How much will an appointment cost me?

Dietitian appointments can vary privately, typically ranging between $30 and $95 per session. If you have extras cover through private health insurance, you may get some of that back.

If you're concerned about cost, speak to your GP to see if they can recommend any bulk-billing dietitians in your area.

Did you know?

Wellbeing at Swinburne offers a full range of health services, including fully confidential counselling, to students with both on-site and online options available.

Call +61 3 9214 8483 to make an appointment, or register and book online. You will need your student ID (or photo ID if you are not a student), Medicare card or OSHC details, and your Centrelink Health Care Card if you have one.

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