The Medical Nutrition Therapy Experience

What Is Medical Nutrition Therapy?

Medical Nutrition Therapy includes a lifestyle examination, a thorough review of current diet and eating habits and development of a personalized nutrition treatment plan. These services are covered by a variety of insurance plans. Medicare Part B covers Medical Nutrition Therapy for diabetes and kidney disease; diabetic patients with private insurance should check their individual plan for specific coverage details. An RD can provide these services, including nutritional assessment, education and individual counseling to address specific dietary needs and preferences.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the governing board for RDNs), Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is:

“…an essential component of comprehensive health care. Individuals with a variety of conditions and illnesses can improve their health and quality of life by receiving medical nutrition therapy. During an MNT intervention, RDs counsel clients on behavioral and lifestyle changes required to impact long-term eating habits and health.”

Medical Nutrition Therapy is not the same as simply “going on a diet”. This would be like comparing Physical Therapy to “doing stretches”.  

It is a clearly coordinated process and includes these steps taken by a registered dietitian:

– Performing a comprehensive nutrition assessment to determine a nutrition diagnosis

– Planning and implementing a personalized nutrition intervention

– Monitoring and evaluating an individual’s progress over subsequent visits

Who needs Medical Nutrition Therapy?

RDs provide MNT and other nutrition services for a variety of diseases and conditions including:

  • Cardiovascular Diseases: hypertension, dyslipidemia, congestive heart failure
  • Diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, Gestational
  • Disease Prevention: general wellness
  • GI Disorders: celiac disease, cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease
  • Immunocompromise: food allergy, HIV/AIDS
  • Nutritional Support: oral, enteral, parenteral
  • Oncology
  • Pediatrics: infant/child feeding, failure-to-thrive, inborn errors of metabolism
  • Pulmonary Disease: COPD
  • Renal Disease: insufficiency, chronic failure, transplantation
  • Weight Management: overweight/obesity, bariatric surgery, eating disorders
  • Women’s Health: pregnancy, osteoporosis, anemia

Once a patient receives a diagnoses, a registered dietitian can provide more detailed information about how to eat and practical tips to address daily challenges. A dietitian can help put together a daily meal plan that considers individual food preferences, level of physical activity and lifestyle, and will work with patients to set nutrition goals to improve their health. The registered dietitian individualizes the nutrition information by reviewing medications, recent blood work, recent medical visits, and current height, weight, and diet.

The goal of treatment is tailored to the patient’s needs and focuses many areas including preventing disease or condition progression, problem-solving specific concerns, educating on valuable skills like medication administration and monitoring, and empowering patients to make behavior modifications with nutrition. Personalized nutritional counseling and advice will help patients set and prioritize realistic goals. Once patients begin with a few changes, then the dietitian can help them take the next steps in future consultations. The patient is on a tough journey, but luckily the dietitian is able to help them make it easier!

Written By: Jenny Westerkamp

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (