How do I find a Registered Dietitian?

There are a few ways you can schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian. Here are a few tips:

  • Talk with your primary care doctor. Many doctors know dietitians in their offices or your local community. When you see a dietitian who works with his or her doctor, they can both make sure you receive the best care for your needs.
  • Ask your friends to recommend a dietitian. Many people see dietitians for different reasons. Ask your friends if they know a dietitian who has helped them improve their health.
  • Find a dietitian on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’s website. Go to Then, click on the “Find a Registered Dietitian” button in the top right corner. From there, you can search for a dietitian by zip code or specialty.

How do I schedule an appointment with a dietitian?

You can schedule an appointment with a dietitian by calling your primary care doctor. Ask the doctor to send a referral to the dietitian.

You should also call the dietitian’s office to make sure he or she has received the referral. Ask if the dietitian needs any other documents to schedule the appointment.

Will my health insurance cover the appointment?

It is best to call your insurance company to check for your level of coverage. When you call your insurance, ask about the Medical Nutrition Therapy benefit.

If you have a private health insurance company, it should have good coverage for many nutrition concerns. These concerns include weight gain, weight loss, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, food allergies or tube feeding.

If you have Medicaid, coverage varies by state.

If you have Medicare, it will cover only diabetes, chronic renal insufficiency, end-stage renal disease or post-kidney transplant.

What will happen at the first appointment?

At the first appointment, the dietitian will ask questions about you. The dietitian will also ask about your eating habits and nutrition goals.

Then, the dietitian will help you make a nutrition plan. The plan will include your food likes and dislikes, lifestyle and health. The dietitian will also help you choose a few smaller goals to work on during the week after the first appointment.

Before the appointment ends, the dietitian will talk with you about follow-up appointments. Many people who see a dietitian regularly do better with their nutrition goals.

Are there dietitians who specialize in nutrition for Down syndrome?

Yes, but a dietitian does not need to specialize in nutrition for Down syndrome. This is because nutrition for people with Down syndrome is similar to nutrition for people without Down syndrome.

Many dietitians who specialize in nutrition for Down syndrome work in Down syndrome programs. They see patients as part of a medical team like your team at Mass General for Children.

How can I work with the dietitian so I receive the best nutrition care?

Working with the dietitian is a good way to help you receive the best nutrition care. Here are a few tips on how you can work with the dietitian:

  • Provide the dietitian with information about your health. This will help the dietitian learn more about your needs.
  • Tell the dietitian if you have any medical conditions that are more common in people with Down syndrome. These can include hypothyroidism, celiac disease or sleep apnea. Offer the dietitian a chance to ask questions about how he or she can best care for you. You can ask the dietitian, “Are there any questions that I can answer so you can better care for me?”
  • Share your strengths and learning style. This way, the dietitian can give care in the way you like or learn best. You can say, “I like your colorful handout. I learn best with handouts.” If you see a dietitian through a Down syndrome program, ask the dietitian if it’s okay to share his or her contact information with the dietitian who is closer to home, in case he or she has questions. This will ensure that your dietitian closer to home can reach out to the dietitian in MGfC’s Down Syndrome Program.

If you’d like to see a dietitian who specializes in nutrition for Down syndrome...

We recommend Joan Medlen, MEd, RD, LDN. She is based in Oregon, but she can provide nutrition services at a distance that you pay for out-of-pocket. This means your insurance might not cover the distance nutrition services. Learn more about Joan’s distance nutrition services here.

Did you know...?

The nutrition needs for people with and without Down syndrome are similar. The main difference is that people with Down syndrome have a slightly lower basal metabolic rate. This means they digest food a bit slower than people without Down syndrome.

You can tell the dietitian, “My basal metabolic rate is 10% slower than that of a person without Down syndrome.” This will help the dietitian give you the best care for your needs.

Did you know...?

A dietitian is different from a nutritionist. You should schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian. A Registered Dietitian is a true expert who will make sure you receives the best medical and nutrition advice.

A Registered Dietitian has the letters RD or RDN after his or her name. These letters mean the person has a college degree in nutrition and has passed a national nutrition test. It also means this person has worked with patients who have different nutrition and medical needs.

A nutritionist does not have the same training or education as a Registered Dietitian. A nutritionist often does not have RD or RDN after his or her name.

Rev: 1/2015. Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General for Children do not endorse any of the brands listed on this webpage. This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.