How a Dietitian Nutritionist Can Help With Food Allergy Management
Balanced nutrition is an important part of your child’s growth and development. When you have to remove certain foods from your child’s diet due to food allergies, you may have to pay special attention to how they get their nutrients. This is especially important for children with milk allergy or multiple food allergies. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) may be able to help.
What Is a Dietitian Nutritionist?
An RDN is a food and nutrition professional. They are also sometimes called registered dietitians (RD). They have to meet certain requirements such as:
- A bachelor’s degree in nutrition
- An approved practice program or internship
- Pass a national registration exam
- Get a state license
- Take continuing education courses
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sets these requirements.
A nutritionist is a bit different than an RDN. A nutritionist may be accredited as a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). But not all states require nutritionists to be certified. In these states, anyone can claim to be a nutritionist.
Does My Child With Food Allergies Need a Dietitian Nutritionist?
If you think your child may not be getting the nutrition they need, talk with their doctor first. They can help you decide if an RDN can help. If possible, try to find an RDN who specializes in food allergies.
An RDN may also be helpful if you have a child with food allergies who is a picky eater or has food aversions.
Before you meet with an RDN, confirm your child’s food allergies with a board-certified allergist.
When you meet with an RDN, you will talk about what your child normally eats. They will help you compare the nutrition your child needs with what they are currently eating. This will help to determine if you need to adjust their diet and/or add supplements.
You will likely work together to create a meal plan. The RDN should give you meal ideas, a list of foods to feed your child, and a list of foods to avoid.
Schedule a follow-up visit to talk about progress and concerns. You may also need to get suggestions for meals that did not work.
How Can I Find a Dietitian Nutritionist Who Specializes in Food Allergies?
There are doctors who have specialties. In a similar way, there are dietitians who specialize in certain areas of nutrition. You will want to find an RDN who specializes in food allergy or pediatric nutrition, if possible.
When choosing an RDN, consider the following:
- Where did they get their education and train?
- How many food allergy patients have they worked with?
- Does the dietitian work with your allergist to recommend tests or food challenges? Is the dietitian involved in educating people about food allergies?
- How did the dietitian learn about food allergies beyond their bachelor’s degree and internship?
- What professional memberships do they have? For example, are they a member of any of the following groups:
- Pediatric Nutrition Practice Group
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
- American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology
If the RDN has not had food allergy experience, keep searching for one who does. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists RDNs by specialty and location.
Medical Review: December 2022 by Michael Pistiner, MD, MMSc