A nutritious diet plays a key role in many aspects of a person’s health. This week, for National Healthy Weight Week, we spoke with Mackenzie Dougherty, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at our Mill City Clinic. Dietitians are experts at ensuring that proper nutrition delivers results for each patient based on their unique needs.

“A registered dietitian’s specialized training in nutrition is invaluable when making changes to what you eat. We can help debunk myths and fads and focus on what really matters to meet your health goals. It can also be helpful to work with someone for several sessions to adjust plans. Much of creating a personalized diet can involve some trial and error."

Nutrition can be incredibly complex, especially with rampant misinformation on the internet. Therefore, it’s critical that people receive factual information since a diet can impact or even cause serious health conditions. Dougherty explained, “It is imperative in helping to improve health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and renal disease. Dietary changes can also improve digestive function, sleep, athletic performance and mood for others.”

Everyone’s relationship with food is different, as well as their rationale for making dietary changes. Many simply want to lose weight while some have restrictions due to their genetics or a medical condition. Dietitians work with each patient on much more than just food intake, including how it affects them mentally and emotionally. 

“When working with individuals struggling with weight or body image, I aim for compassion first and foremost and listen to understand what body image ideals work best for them, be it body acceptance, positivity or even body neutrality,” Dougherty said. 

Dietitians often collaborate with psychologists, physicians and other medical professionals thus providing patients with holistic treatment for their conditions.

Besides misinformation, misconceptions about how to approach a diet can be detrimental to a person’s goals too. “I try to focus not just on what to avoid but what you should be eating. There’s an expectation that there will just be a list of foods to avoid, but promoting good options is key,” Dougherty said. 

Dietitians work with a wide variety of people, ranging from kids and veterans to spa-goers and the critically ill. In addition to nutritional information and tips and tricks, they can assist with accountability and work with patients to make lifestyle changes. Dougherty noted, “I’m always trying to find the best way for each person, whether that’s setting goals, beginning to cook one time per week, meal delivery services or trying different recipes.”

A healthy diet is an important step toward a healthy weight. An expert in nutrition can help someone establish a solid plan and make ad hoc tweaks throughout the process. This support keeps people on track, regardless of what may be occuring in their life.