Registered Dietitian Day 2021: The Role of RDs in Health and Nutrition

By Nicole Ford MEd RD LD, Vice President of Operations for HHS Senior Living

Happy Registered Dietitian Day! Today we celebrate our nation’s food and nutrition experts.

Many of you may be wondering what exactly Registered Dietitians (RDs) do besides tell us to eat our fruits and veggies. While we advocate for healthier eating, RDs play a much larger role in both healthcare facilities and our communities. 

 

Bringing Expertise to the Pursuit of Health

RDs work in various settings, including hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, schools and universities, and fitness centers. They also do important research, contribute to food service management, or even run a private practice. Our skills and areas of expertise are far and wide! But we have one common goal: to help people live healthier, happier lives through food and nutrition.

So, what’s so great about RDs, and why are they the experts? You’ll find many people that claim to be qualified to provide nutrition advice. RDs, however, are the real deal. We have degrees from accredited colleges and universities, have completed an internship, passed an examination, and maintain continuing education. 

The path to becoming an RD is far more rigorous than the online certification classes for nutritionists. The next time someone tries to sell you a magic weight loss potion or pill, do yourself a favor and ask if they’re an RD. Expertise matters when it comes to your health, and there is a ton of misinformation out there.

What does a Registered Dietitian do?

Being an RD myself, I’m a bit biased about what we bring to the table (pun intended). But there are lots of misconceptions about RDs. You may have this image in your head: the RD with the white lab coat, clipboard in hand, marching down the hall to tell you to put your fork down. 

Almost all RDs have been in this situation: the RD introduces themself and is met with the statement, “Oh no, you’re a dietitian! Don’t judge me for what I’m eating.” Contrary to popular belief, we are not the food police. In fact, we often want you to eat more and not less. RDs frequently ask you to incorporate more of certain food groups rather than just listing out all the things you shouldn’t eat. 

This is especially true in healthcare, where malnutrition affects at least 50% of our patients and residents. 

Overly restrictive diets and boring meals don’t benefit anyone. RDs work with chefs to make sure that food is fun, flavorful, and nutritious (it’s possible to be all three!). RDs also get a bad rap for using a one size fits all approach. You may be thinking we just tell everyone to eat baked chicken and steamed broccoli. In actuality, part of our role is to create personalized plans for each individual. 

We recognize that everyone comes from a different background with varying goals for their health. While there are some limitations to this tailored approach in healthcare, the RD can still develop creative ways to improve your intake. After all, a menu filled with food that won’t get eaten doesn’t benefit anyone.  

While today may be RD day, you have the whole month of March to celebrate National Nutrition Month! 

Celebrating Diversity During National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Academy is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, founded originally to help the government conserve food and improve the public's health and nutrition during World War I. 

Today, the Academy represents more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners and is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education, and advocacy. 

Every year the Academy has a theme for National Nutrition Month. The theme for 2021 is “Personalize Your Plate.” In recent years, the Academy has received criticism for its lack of cultural awareness and resources for our diverse population. 

The Academy and RDs alike have been accused of failing to tailor recommendations with consideration to race and ethnicity. I’ll be the first to admit that our profession has a long way to go when working with diverse populations. But RDs never back down from a challenge, and we collectively are expanding our viewpoints to ensure we provide personalized care for everyone.

Thank an RD Today!

If you happen to see an RD today, please thank them for their hard work and commitment to their profession. RDs work tirelessly — and often thanklessly — to optimize the health of our communities. 

The next time you’re searching for nutrition advice, seek the help of an RD and know that you’ll be receiving scientifically sound advice. And remember that a healthy lifestyle is all about balance — your friendly RD won’t turn down a cupcake as an RD day gift.

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