Today's major health care problems are increasingly the result of acute and chronic conditions related to poor nutrition and/or over consumption. A large proportion of coronary and cancer can be attributed to unhealthy eating habits and obesity. Chronic diseases continue to increase due to such factors as the rise in obesity in the American population.
Individualized nutritional counseling can provide the patient important insight into food-related illnesses and education regarding how various nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat, alcohol) affect illnesses or obesity. Alternatively, dietary counseling can provide prevention of nutrition-related conditions such as the need for weight management. Dietary counseling can be tailored to meet the treatment needs of patients at diagnosis of specific illnesses, can help reduce complications and/or side effects, and can improve general well-being. Prevention at all levels: primary (preventing disease), secondary (early diagnosis), and tertiary (preventing or slowing deterioration) requires active patient participation and guidance and support from the dietician or physician. Education, motivation, and counseling are needed for effective patient participation. In addition to patient education, dietary counseling often includes meal planning.
A guide to the amount an average person needs each day to remain healthy has been determined for each vitamin and mineral as well as macronutrients. In the United States, this guide is called the recommended daily allowance (RDA). The RDA is under revision and will become the Dietary Reference Intakes, and will be applicable to Canadians and Americans. Dietary counselors may use the RDA as a guide when providing counseling. Consumption of too little or too much of certain vitamins and minerals may lead to a nutrient deficiency or a nutrient toxicity respectively. A dietitian can advise the patient about any vitamin or mineral inadequacy concerns during the dietary counseling session.