ANNOUNCER: Eating right is a good idea for everyone. But changing your eating habits can be a daunting task. That's why people call on nutritional counselors.
BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD: Who needs nutritional advice? Who doesn't need nutritional advice? You know, unfortunately, a lot of people wait until something is wrong to consult with a registered dietitian. And not that that's too late, but why wait until then?
ANNOUNCER: Registered dietitians can help people get it right. And it's not just for people interested in losing weight.
BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD: There are many people who are struggling to gain weight and just find it very difficult to do so, either because they have a very active metabolism or because they themselves are very active.
Then there are those that are overweight, but who have many other problems or chronic illnesses that go along with it, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
But so many women come to see me at the beginning of their pregnancy just because they want to be sure they're doing the right thing.
Athletes frequently consult registered dietitians, because they have tremendous demand for calories.
ANNOUNCER: Parents can also seek help for their children.
BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD: Many of the children that are brought to see registered dietitians have weight issues, because nowadays, there is an epidemic of diabetes, actually, in the population of children, due to all the obesity that we see. So that could be one reason.
Another reason may be that a child's not eating enough or not eating well. And then, sometimes, children do have illnesses: Crohn's disease, digestive issues, diabetes, hypertension.
ANNOUNCER: Dietitians are part detective and part psychologist.
BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD: We look for foods that may be missing, foods that may be in excess. Sometimes, people have a tendency to give you a dietary recall, "Oh, no, I never have any snacks," and then, you might look at the food diary and see, "Well, what happened here at 3:00? What about 10:30 in the morning? What about at midnight?
When a dietitian looks at a food diary, we look for hot spots. Initially, I would glance at the food diary looking for "Does this person have enough calcium in their diet? Are they getting any fruits and vegetables? Do they have enough fiber in their diet? Do they have enough protein in their diet? What about the carbohydrates?
I look for food fads, I look for misconceptions. Very often, from a food diary, I can actually tell the kind of misconceptions that someone may have about diet. If I see everything is fat-free, fat-free, fat-free, and then all of a sudden, you know, something in there that's loaded with fat, I wonder what went on there.
Many of my patients are emotional eaters, where they eat for the wrong reasons. Some people say that, you know, that expression "I eat to live"? Well, those are people that, very often, you know, eat based upon hunger. They're hungry, they eat. Other people say that they live to eat, meaning that they love the food. You know, they love the taste of it, the smell of it, the pleasure of cooking, the pleasure of shopping. So those people may eat for other reasons.
ANNOUNCER: But anyone can hang out a shingle. So how do you find a qualified expert?
BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD: Anyone could call themselves a nutritionist, so these terms, nutritionist and dietitian, are really not interchangeable. However, a registered dietitian did have to go through a certain amount of schooling, education and they must maintain this professional qualification.
The best place to find a qualified registered dietitian is to look on the website. It's American Dietetic Association Web site, www.eatright.org. And you can actually enter your ZIP code and you will find an RD within your local area.
ANNOUNCER: Each program is devised to address your particular problem areas.
BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD: Registered dietitians customize meal plans to the patient's particular individual needs. So not only do we have to look at what they like to eat, but we have to look at what time of day they eat. You know, someone who works on a night shift may need a totally different meal plan than someone who works days. Does this person eat in restaurants all the time? Do they eat at home all the time? Do they like to cook? Do they only eat out and order in?
I think that before seeing a dietitian, you might want to ask yourself, "Well, what are my eating habits like? Do I stand eating in front of the refrigerator? Am I eating in my car most of the time? Do I eat off my kid's plates? What kind of food am I making for my family? I'm so confused in the supermarket, how do I know how to read a label?"
Some people do very well with one visit with a dietitian, others may go to a dietitian for years. It doesn't mean that they're not learning anything, but eating is very personal.
ANNOUNCER: So what makes a diet healthy?
BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD: Good eating habits are habits where you eat until you're full, learning when your stomach is full. Good eating habits has to do with eating a variety of foods in your diet, having whole grain fruits and vegetables, eating lean sources of protein where the fat is trimmed having good sources of calcium in your diet and dairy products that are low in fat, having lots and lots of fruits and vegetables, and keeping your diet low in saturated fat.
ANNOUNCER: So if "we are what we eat" it might be time to take steps towards a healthier diet.
BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD: The most important point that I could leave you with is that your diet should be balanced. There's no one miracle cure food. There's no one food that's going to cause you to become obese. There's no one food that's keeping you too thin. I think that it's important to realize that foods work in concert with each other and this also needs to be in concert with your home life and your emotional well-being.