By: Emily Little, RD
Happy National Nutrition Month! Every March, dietitians, nutritionists, and others passionate about the nutrition and well-being of the human body get to celebrate something they love. On top of that, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RD or RDN) get to be celebrated with their own day on the second Wednesday of March! So, what is it about Registered Dietitians that makes them so special and why should we trust them?
Education: Each RD has devoted time and eagerness to learn about nutrition, especially in relation to the human body. They have taken science heavy courses such as years of chemistry, biochemistry, and even study the chemistry of food (ok, that is a lot of chemistry) to really gain an understanding of the body’s processes when food is involved. In school, Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is emphasized. MNT is the application of food as “therapy” for those with chronic illnesses, expecting mothers, those with digestive troubles, and basic nutrition through the years.
Service Learning: RD’s care about the citizens in their communities – they are servant leaders. During their time in studies, most with interest in the dietetics field are required to get out in the community and be involved! Anything from helping out at the local food shelf, to serving meals at the senior center, or teaching preschool-aged kids about fruits and vegetables is allowed as long as we are putting ourselves into the community and learning about the different needs of the citizens. These community learning opportunities can be gained in one’s internship, too.
Internship: Future RD’s and RDN’s are required to complete a 4-year degree and 1200-hour internship to practice skills in all the different areas of dietetics. Experiences might include supporting habit changes in a weight-loss clinic or Women Infants and Children (WIC) clinic for low-income mothers and children, working under supervision of another dietitian in a hospital or a nursing home, or managing a food service and modifying foods to meet needs of a guest with a modified diet. Their internship allows the future RD to gain a well-rounded experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics. This is where a soon-to-be RD will become confident in their skills and get to practice being a real dietitian.
Credential: Before being able to call one’s self a Registered Dietitian, the individual will likely spend months restudying for their credentialing exam. After successfully passing the national exam, the now RD or RDN must maintain their credential by obtaining continuing education credits. These credits are necessary to stay up-to-date on all the latest nutrition trends, new technologies, and educating ourselves on the freshest research so we can provide our clients, patients, and the community with only the most accurate information and recommendations. What we know about nutrition is ever-changing – the credential maintenance process is a key reason why RD’s are the experts of their fields.
To be a Registered Dietitian means being the advocate for nutrition but more importantly an advocate for the community which is YOU! As an RD myself, I commit myself and career to being knowledgeable about nutrition and supporting the well-being of the community. Have you celebrated a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist this month?