March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthful eating. It is also the time of year when the academy celebrates the contributions and expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
“Since 2007, the second Wednesday in March has marked Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, when we acknowledge the significant work RDNs do as advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Toby Smithson.
“Nutrition has been highlighted by scientific research as one of the leading lifestyle factors in health promotion and disease prevention throughout life,” Smithson said. “The RDN credential is vital when determining your best source for safe, accurate and actionable nutrition information.”
Registered dietitian nutritionists meet stringent academic and professional requirements, including earning at least a bachelor’s degree, completing a supervised practice program and passing a registration examination. RDNs must also complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. More than half of all RDNs have also earned master’s degrees or higher.
“Registered dietitian nutritionists’ expertise in nutrition and health is more extensive than any other health profession and has been recognized as such by Congress as well as federal health agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” Smithson said.
“Numerous scientific studies over many years, including studies mandated by Congress, have shown that [medical nutrition therapy, or MNT] provided by an RDN can lower health costs, decrease hospital stays and improve people’s health,” Smithson said. “Besides being the designated providers under federal law of MNT for Medicare beneficiaries, RDNs are also the preferred providers of nutrition care and services in many private-sector insurance plans.”
All registered dietitians are nutritionists — but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy’s Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian may optionally use registered dietitian nutritionist instead. The two credentials have identical meanings.
Between what you hear on TV and read in the news, eating right can seem like a real challenge.
But it doesn’t have to be.
“Whether you want to slim down, lower your cholesterol or simply eat better, an RD or an RDN can help you weed through the murky waters of nutrition misinformation and provide sound, easy-to-follow nutrition advice,” said Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Here are just a few of the benefits of working with a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist.
The highest level of nutrition counseling
Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, but only a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist has completed multiple layers of education and training established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Personally tailored advice
When you see an RD or RDN, the last thing you’ll get is one-size-fits-all diet advice.
“A dietitian is like an investigator seeking to learn about your current and desired state of health,” McDaniel said. “At your initial visit, expect to do a lot of talking while the dietitian does a lot of listening.”
After learning about your health history, favorite foods, eating and exercise habits, an RD or RDN will help you set goals and prioritize. Follow-up visits will focus on maintenance and monitoring your progress.
Help managing chronic diseases
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer it can be hard to know what to eat.
“An RD or RDN can review your lab results with you, help you understand your condition and provide education about the nutrients that affect it, and help create an eating plan that includes the important nutrients for your condition,” said Angela Ginn, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy.”
Guidance navigating food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances
When you suffer from conditions such as celiac disease, food allergies or lactose intolerance, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by what you think you can’t eat. That can translate into a boring diet and may even lead to nutrient deficiencies. An RD or RDN can teach you how to read food labels so you’ll know which ingredients to avoid and a help you find substitutions to keep your diet balanced and tasty, too.
A weight loss program that really works
Fad diets may sound like the quick ticket to weight loss, but they rarely work. An RD or an RDN will partner with you to develop a safe, effective weight loss plan that you can stick with. To guide and motivate you, an RD or RDN will use creative strategies to help with meal planning, grocery shopping, food journaling and mindful eating.
If you would like to learn more about what an RDN can do for you, email GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to answer any questions. If you have a nutrition related issue that you would like to be seen for we can discuss that as well.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.