As we close out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month, it’s worth noting that, while it’s important for all of us to be more conscious of the foods we’re eating and where those foods come from, it’s also not easy to make changes. If it were, people wouldn’t struggle to lose weight or eat better or improve their lives in any way at all – they would simply make the changes they desire and continue on with their day. But, as the old saying goes, “nothing worth having comes easy,” which is to say that feeling better, looking better and living better are all worthwhile pursuits, even if they take some work. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone – help is available through the food and nutrition expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN).
So, what exactly is a registered dietitian nutritionist? What do they do? And how can they help? “RDNs are nutrition professionals who have completed multiple levels of nutrition training,” said Blount Memorial registered dietitian nutritionist Angie Tillman, an RDN with more than 20 years of experience. “In addition to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, RDNs must fulfill a specialized, accredited nutrition curriculum; complete an extensive supervised practice program that usually lasts between six and 12 months; and pass a rigorous certification exam. They also must complete ongoing continuing professional education,” Tillman explained. “Many RDNs hold graduate degrees, and many have advanced certifications in specialized fields such as sports, pediatrics, oncology or diabetes nutrition,” she added.
Tillman says there are many benefits to consulting an RDN, whether you’re just trying to lose weight or have larger, more specialized needs. “Consulting an RDN can help you with a variety of different topics and issues,” Tillman said. “The right RDN can work with you on everything from general healthy eating, weight loss and healthy weight gain to sports nutrition, diabetes and bariatric surgery. Specialized dietitians also can assist with plans for heart disease, food allergies, food intolerances, digestive disorders, cancer, eating disorders, integrative medicine and clinical nutrition in a hospitalized setting,” she explained. “Many dietitians specialize in specific areas, so it’s important to find one with the right expertise to meet your specific needs,” she added.
And finding an RDN isn’t as hard as you might think. “RDNs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, grocery stores, corporations, nursing homes, fitness centers, private practices, professional sports organizations, schools, physician practices, community and public health settings, universities and even research settings,” Tillman explained. “Locating one can be as simple as visiting the Knoxville Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website eatrightknox.org. You also can consult your family physician for a referral to an RDN who will be right for you,” she added.
“What we aim to do is really listen to the patient or client and try to determine what’s going on in his or her life,” Tillman continued. “It’s not as simple as just figuring out what to eat and what not to eat. There are lots of factors to consider, including things like time constraints and budgets, so it’s not just someone telling you what you can and can’t have to eat during the day.”