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After weeks of indulging in pretty much everything that is bad for us, it's easy to see why we resolve to eat healthier come January. Adopting a healthier lifestyle is at the top of most resolution lists, and part of being in better physical condition is fuelling our bodies with better food.

If you feel overwhelmed by all of the recommended meal plans out there, then it might be worth investing in the services of a registered dietician. Supplements, vitamins, cleanses and specific foods can get costly, and turn out to be a waste of money, if they're not what we actually need or will produce results.

According to Alexandra Anca, a Toronto-based registered dietician, many of us will only require a consultation plus one or two follow-up visits. On average, the initial consult and follow-ups cost $100 an hour. The total investment of $200 to $300 could be far less than the money we might spend on unnecessary dietary items.

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According to Ms. Anca, some private health insurance plans cover these costs, so check with your provider or HR department. If your family physician works out of a hospital, and refers you to a dietician on staff that sees outpatients, he or she might be able to work with you for free. Without coverage, you could ask your dietician if they would consider a discounted rate. Dieticians.ca provides a national directory for these regulated health professionals.

If you're opting for the DIY route, there are a number of free resources available. Dieticians.ca provides free interactive meal plans, online tools for tracking food, and reliable articles, tips and recipes. You can also speak with a registered dietician by phone or e-mail for free, if you're in Ontario, British Columbia or Manitoba. By visiting the site of EatRight Ontario I was provided with a toll-free number to call, and asked specific and general health questions for close to 30 minutes. Still, I realized that a one-on-one is likely best if I'm looking for a detailed plan tailored for me.

In the same way we choose to work with a fee-based financial planner to sift through information and craft a plan just for us, we'd choose a dietician to do the same but for our health. The end goal is ultimately to save us time and money as we work to reach our objectives.



Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the Globe's personal finance site.

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