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Do You Give Diet Plans? Why I Don't Give Out Diet Plans as a Registered Dietitian

Sometimes patients call me asking if I give diet plans or meal plans as a dietitian. My short answer is "no." The reason is because diet plans are not useful. Patients don't tend to follow them. And when they do, it is not long term. Even the most exquisitely crafted diet plan is lacking something that I can't give as a registered dietitian. What it is lacking is the real life of the patient. The patient who wants a plan with new recipes forgets to purchase the ingredients they will need. The patient who stated that they want foods that are easy to prepare because they are used to relying on takeout ends up still relying on takeout. The patient wanted a diet plan full of meals they have to cook has some days where they don't want to cook. You can't predict someone's life from week's in advance.

notebook to write a diet plan or meal plan

What tends to be more useful for patients is learning how to plan meals on their own. If a patient wants a meal plan, I have found that the best way to do it is have the patient create it with me during our appointments. During this process, they will go through the days of the week knowing what their own days look like. They can plan meals that are appropriate for their own schedule. Also, patients will sometimes note that they need a few options, and they can put that into their own meal plan. For example, they might usually have time during the evening to pack lunch, so we might have one option of a homemade lunch, but they might know that their elderly parent sometimes calls them for help at night, so they have a few options of what to get if they need to purchase lunch. This also allows for the flexibility of what the person is in the mood to eat on a given day. As the dietitian, I will give them ideas, resources, information, and feedback so they can optimize their diet plan.

More importantly, it gives the patient the skills of meal planning. Patients learn which food categories to include at meals. We work on executive functioning skills like planning ahead, grocery shopping, and meal prepping. We can troubleshoot and find ideas that work for the patient in their real and ever changing life. As a dietitian, my more important role is to teach patients how to plan their diet and meals on their own

I used to be more inclined to give diet plans when patients really wanted one. I would take the time to craft these detailed plans with exact food quantities and recipes based on the types of foods that I know the patient likes. Sometimes the patient would excitedly accept the plan, and then by the time we follow up again, they had not followed it. It was just too different than their routine. Other times, the patient would look it over and right away tell me that they could not follow it. It didn't meet their preferences for foods, quantities, or food combinations. In either case, helping the patient meal plan themselves would be a better solution.

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