What Is Medical Nutrition Therapy?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 10, 2021
3 min read

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is a way to manage chronic health conditions, especially through weight loss or weight maintenance. This therapeutic approach to health can help you reduce symptoms of certain conditions and prevent further health complications by following a personalized diet and meal plan. To get started with MNT, you need the help of a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN).

Medical Nutrition Therapy aims to manage certain chronic conditions through an individualized nutrition plan. MNT is also called nutritional counseling. Your RDN will work with you to create a nutrition plan that meets your dietary needs while giving you feedback. While many people may feel nervous or reluctant about starting a new diet or meal plan, your dietician will give you the tools you need to manage your chronic condition through dietary changes.

Your doctor may suggest nutritional therapy if you have one of these conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Renal disease
  • Obesity 
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • History of heart attack

Nutrition and diabetes. MNT is helpful for people with diabetes. Medical nutritional therapy often complements diabetes treatment, as your diet has a large impact on this condition. A personalized plan for nutrition and diabetes can help you maintain your blood glucose levels within a normal range. MNT can help reduce symptoms of diabetes, such as weight gain and frequent urination.

Weight loss. Nutrition therapy is a useful tool for people who want to lose weight. Weight management and nutrition go hand in hand, so MNT can help you take a look at the foods you’re eating and your eating habits. Your doctor may recommend MNT if you are obese, because losing weight can help prevent further health complications, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Infertility
  • Stroke
  • Certain cancers
  • Mental health problems

To start Medical Nutrition Therapy, you need a referral from your primary care doctor. Many MNT services are covered by insurance, including Medicare. Your insurance coverage will probably determine the number of sessions available to you.

You will begin by working with a Registered Dietician Nutritionist. Your RDN will help you create realistic goals to improve your health through nutrition. They will:

  • Look at your current eating habits and lifestyle
  • Give you an in-depth assessment of your nutritional status
  • Work with you to develop a personalized nutrition treatment plan

Your initial appointment with an RDN will take about an hour. During this time, the RDN will ask you about your current diet and lifestyle. Using this information and your medical history, they will ask you what your goals are for MNT. Together, you decide what outcomes you’re looking for while creating a personalized plan.

Your RDN will most likely ask you to start a food journal so you can reflect on your diet and habits. This can help your dietician decide where you need to change or improve your plan. Your RDN will keep in mind your cultural preferences and the latest research and science while working on your plan.

During follow-up visits, your dietician will provide you with tools to help you through Medical Nutritional Therapy. They will teach you how to make better food choices and track your progress. Your RDN will use your updated lab results and monitor any health changes to make sure your nutritional needs are being met.

There are lots of benefits of nutrition therapy. In addition to helping you manage your chronic condition, MNT can help prevent future health issues. Since you’re getting the help of an RDN, they can customize a diet plan for you that can help lower the risk of diseases like heart disease, obesity, and diabetic neuropathy.

While weight loss is often the goal, the benefits of weight loss include increased levels of energy and healthier habits. You’ll notice that when you work with an RDN, you will most likely start to:

  • Increase your physical activity
  • Make healthier choices
  • Read food labels
  • Reduce the amount of fried or processed foods you eat
  • Drink more water instead of sugary drinks

The habits you pick up while practicing Medical Nutritional Therapy can improve your overall health now and into the future.