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Published on October 19, 2016

Nutrition Counseling Helps Patients Recover From and Manage Chronic Conditions

Having a registered dietitian on your medical team yields nutrition expertise you can’t get anywhere else.

Nutrition DiscussionThe evidence is persuasive: Everything we put into our bodies affects our health. But when it comes to meeting medical goals, where you get nutrition counseling matters, too. Finding reliable information is challenging. All of the commercial hype and the conflicting claims made by self-proclaimed nutrition experts can confuse even the most informed people.

Barbato (left) and Underwood coordinate with another team member to devise the best plan of care for a patient.

Nutritionists Reanne Barbato (left) and
Debbie Underwood coordinate with
another team member to devise the
best plan of care for a patient.

With so much hinging on good nutrition, it’s no surprise that registered dietitians play important roles on an individual’s medical team. A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) has the education and specialized training to provide sound nutrition counseling.

“We are the nutrition experts,” says Cone Health Clinical Nutrition Manager Debbie Underwood, RD, LDN, CNSC.

Underwood leads a system-wide inpatient team of registered dietitians who are dedicated to providing evidence-based nutrition care and accurate information to patients. Her registered dietitians are sometimes consulted by doctors to initiate nutrition counseling of patients with chronic diseases. This counseling is continued by registered dietitians who work in various outpatient areas throughout the health system.

“Often patients have misconceptions about nutrition and food. Time must be spent clearing up those misconceptions before the education can continue.” Underwood says. “The value of working with registered dietitians is feeling confident that the advice, information and plans we provide are based on facts.”

Visits with a registered dietitian typically include a physical exam of the patient, an assessment of the patient’s weight, health issues and usual eating habits. The dietitian asks questions to learn if the patient has challenges taking in the nutrition needed to stay healthy. The dietitian then creates a personalized nutrition plan designed to meet the nutrition needs of the patient.

Nutrition and heart health

Reanne Barbato, RD, LDN, says her work often involves seeing patients diagnosed with congestive heart failure at Moses Cone Hospital.

“I worked with an older male with heart failure, and his wife had some health issues, too,” Barbato recalls. “They were very motivated, but they had very limited income and resources, and almost all the food they ate was high in sodium. Finding them food alternatives that were affordable, low in sodium and easy to prepare was a challenge.”

Some of the benefits of working with a registered dietitian include:

  • Specially tailored advice.
  • Expert counseling and education.
  • An eating plan designed to help manage diseases such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease.
  • Guidance on how to stick with a healthier eating program.

Ask for a dietitian

You need a referral from a physician to see a Cone Health dietitian. If you are an inpatient, you or a member of your medical team can request that a dietitian be brought on board.

“We provide nutrition care based on each patient’s needs and work to find ways to overcome barriers they might have in meeting their nutrition goals,” Underwood says. “Patients gain the information and tools they need to heal faster, recover more completely and manage chronic disease.