What is a dietitian?

A dietitian has qualifications and skills to give you expert nutrition and dietary advice.

Dietitians work in many areas including private practice, community and public health, hospitals and nursing homes, food industry, government, research and teaching.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) recommends looking for the Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) credential when you're choosing a dietitian. APDs have either completed a DAA-accredited university degree, which is a minimum of four years full-time training, or they've successfully sat the DAA examination for overseas-trained dietitians.

APDs must keep doing professional development activities and are bound by DAA's Code of Professional Conduct.

Dietitians are sometimes called 'nutritionists', depending on their area of work. All APDs are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are APDs.

To find out if your dietitian is accredited, you can ask your nutrition professional if they hold the APD credential, or you can check on the Register of Accredited Practising Dietitians on the DAA website.

Why your child might see a dietitian

Dietitians are trained at university to help manage a range of conditions like:

  • food allergies and food intolerances
  • type-1 diabetes and type-2 diabetes
  • eating disorders
  • childhood obesity and weight management
  • malnutrition and poor growth
  • gastrointestinal conditions
  • fussy eating
  • cancer.

Dietitians can also give you and your child general healthy eating advice. Sometimes it can be very confusing to work out what foods to buy for your family, and a dietitian can help with this. Dietitians can also give you tips and advice about recipes.

Dietitians work with other health care professionals, like doctors, nurses and psychologists, to provide a holistic approach to patient care.

You can find your local Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) by:

  • using the Find an Accredited Practising Dietitian tool on the DAA website
  • phoning the DAA's toll-free APD hotline on 1800 812 942
  • searching the Yellow Pages under 'Dietitian'
  • calling your local public or private hospital or community health centre and asking to speak to an APD.
You don't need a GP referral to see a dietitian, but your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you're worried about your child's health or growth and development.

Before going to a dietitian

If your GP refers your child to a dietitian, it's a good idea to talk with your GP about the following things:

  • Why you're going to the dietitian: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see a dietitian and whether there's anything you can do while you're waiting for the appointment.
  • Any medical results or information: check with your GP to see whether there's any relevant medical information (like blood test results) that might be useful for the dietitian.
  • Cost: how much will the appointment with the dietitian cost? You could check whether you can get money back from Medicare or private health insurance, or whether you can get some other kind of financial help.
  • Location: find out where you have to go to see the dietitian - for example, a public or private hospital or consulting rooms.

The dietitian's clinic should also be able to answer any questions you have. It's a good idea to write down any questions before the appointment, so you don't forget.