Curious about what your first session with a registered dietitian (RD) might look like? In this post, we take you through the steps to prepare for your first visit, provide insights on what to expect, and share tips from our RDs. Preparing ahead of time can help ensure things run smoothly, and that you get the most out of your first session.
Finding the Right Dietitian for You
At Culina Health, we prioritize matching you with the best RD for your specific needs. We consider your preferred counseling style (i.e., a gentle versus more direct approach), as well as your primary reason for seeking nutrition services. So before the session even begins, we are already setting you up for success.
Our registered dietitians are trained to support a range of health conditions, including weight management and obesity, metabolic health and diabetes, and gastrointestinal and gut health, among others. We also provide general healthy eating guidance, exercise and sports nutrition advice, and prenatal and postpartum nutrition care.
All Culina Health RDs are qualified, registered dietitian nutritionists (RD/RDNs) who strive to create a professional and welcoming environment where you feel comfortable and supported. Your RD will work with you to develop a personalized care plan, including attainable and realistic goals. They will also provide targeted nutrition education and resources. If you are currently receiving nutrition counseling and do not feel your dietitian provides these resources, it may be time to switch!
Steps to Take Before Your First Registered Dietitian Visit
We’ve put together a checklist to help you prepare for your first dietitian appointment.
- Activate your patient portal and download the Culina Health App.
- Check your email for new patient paperwork. We recommend filling out your forms before your visit so you don’t waste valuable session time on administrative tasks.
- Submit all paperwork through the patient portal. The patient intake form, in particular, helps your RD understand your medical, dietary and social history before your first visit.
- Identify your long- and short-term health goals. Your RD will help to develop these into specific, approachable, actionable, measurable, and time-bound goals so you can focus your efforts and track your progress. Examples of short-term goals include incorporating more movement and learning how to build a balanced meal. Long-term goals could be improving your nutrition-related labs (i.e. reducing cholesterol, HgA1c, or inflammation markers) or developing a healthy relationship with food.
- Prepare to provide a mini autobiography covering your medical history, why you’re seeking nutrition counseling, and any other essential information your RD should know. Your RD will review your intake form before your session so you’ll have an opportunity to discuss your nutrition goals and concerns in detail.
- Expect your RD to ask in-depth questions about your eating habits, food choices and/or restrictions, cultural preferences, medications, and supplements.
- Write down any questions you may have before the first session, including questions about the session format or specific nutrition-related concerns. For example, you may have questions about certain supplements or want clarification on conflicting diet information.
- Decide where you will join your telehealth visit and test your technology. It’s important to choose a quiet, private, and well-lit space where you feel comfortable discussing your medical and personal information. You should also make sure you have Zoom downloaded on your preferred device and that your audio and video settings work.
What to Expect During Your First Session
Culina Health RDs use a collaborative approach to meet you where you are, taking into account your current dietary habits, nutritional knowledge, health history, lifestyle, schedule, culture, tastebuds, and relationship with food.
From there, we create a personalized care plan, integrating nutrition education and behavioral modifications with realistic, sustainable steps to help you achieve your long-term health goals. The primary goal is for you to feel informed, supported and empowered from your first visit.
You can expect your first session to include a brief introduction and intake form review, diet education, goal setting, and time to discuss your session schedule.
The first session is an opportunity to get to know each other. Your registered dietitian nutritionist will introduce themselves and share their plan for the session, which may include a review of general protocols like our cancellation policy. You’ll also have a chance to share why you decided to book your first nutrition counseling session.
Intake Form Review
Your dietitian will review your intake form with you, using it as a platform for you to tell your story and for the RD to ask more in-depth questions. They may also ask you to provide an example of what a typical day of eating might look like for you, to understand your current intake and dietary preferences.
Initial Diet Education
Your RD will provide education aligned with your reason(s) for your visit or other topics that arise throughout the session. If you are very knowledgeable about a certain topic, the education may be more in-depth and science-focused. If you are new to nutrition education, it will start out with basic concepts and gradually progress throughout your sessions.
Melissa Alazraki, MS, RDN, CDCES, a Culina Health dietitian, believes this step is an important part of the process that can be tailored to your specific needs.“Helping people understand how food and activity affect their health is one of my favorite parts of the job,” she says. “There is so much we know and want to share with you, so…if there’s a specific topic that you really want to dig into, let your RD know!”
Goal setting is a collaborative process. While registered dietitians provide education, nutrition expertise and coaching, patients know themselves best and should help create their care plan. You and your RD will work together to set short- and long-term goals, refine them, and develop strategies to attain them.
Goals are an evolving part of your care plan that involve consistent check-ins and adjustments. Alazraki finds that turning big picture health goals into a manageable action plan is where most patients need support. She says, “If you are clear on what you want to achieve through lifestyle modification (whether it’s changing your weight or lowering your cholesterol), I can show you the toolbox of evidence-based options for achieving that goal.”
Scheduling Your Next Session
Your RD will discuss how many sessions are covered under insurance or review your membership plan if you are not using insurance. From there, you can both decide how often to meet and schedule your follow-up session. It’s best to schedule your follow-up at the end of each session (or set up a recurring appointment) so that you stay committed, especially in the beginning when you are starting to establish and work toward your goals.
What to Expect After Your First Session
After your initial appointment, you’ll leave with some important resources and takeaways, including your own personal care plan, educational materials, a list of goals, and information about how to communicate with your RD between sessions.
You and your RD will develop your personalized care plan, including education materials, recommendations and goals, based on your unique needs. “To set you up for success, we usually don’t use every tool all at once (you can’t hold a wrench and a screwdriver at the same time)!” says Alazraki. “Together, we collaborate to decide which tools we’ll use first, and how we can best fit them into your current life. Those become the short-term goals — the week-to-week action plan that leads you toward your big picture health goal.”
Educational Materials and Recommendations
Your registered dietitian may send you educational materials related to the topics covered during your session so you can reference them between sessions. Depending on the goals you identify, your RD may include recipe ideas, meal ideas, grocery lists, and other specific recommendations that may be helpful in reaching your goals.
Your care plan in the Culina Health app will outline the goals and subgoals you establish during a session with your RD. You have the option to check in on your goals and mark them as completed in the app to help you stay on track and share your successes with your RD between sessions.
Alazraki says, “Goal setting is where the rubber meets the road. You may only set one goal at a time, especially when starting out, but that one goal will be very specific and include any strategies you need to set yourself up for success.”
If you want to communicate with your RD between sessions, you can use the messaging feature on the app. For example, you can ask a question or share your successes and challenges. Note that most of the work is done in session, but messaging can be helpful for quick questions and check-ins. Your RD will establish expectations as far as response time, but you can generally expect a response within 24 hours.
About Culina Health
Culina Health registered dietitian nutritionists are clinically-trained experts who work with patients and healthcare teams to craft personalized, flexible and sustainable nutrition and lifestyle plans. Our RDNs come from a variety of backgrounds and specialties, providing culturally competent care that meets you where you are. Even better, one-on-one virtual nutrition sessions with Culina Health dietitians are covered by most major health insurance providers.