It's National Registered Dietitians Nutritionist Day and National Nutrition Month here in the United States. We connected with three of our own to hear about what this day means to them and the importance of the work they are doing around the country, especially in the field of nutrition and lactation as it relates to pregnant women and their families.
by Alexis Wheeler
Alexis: Why is it important to annually highlight National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day (RDN) Day?
Theresa: The RDN credential gives you the assurance that we’ve gone through the training and education needed to understand the biochemistry of the human body and how different foods interact. We have to stay on top of the research and we are passionate about what we do.
Grace: National RDN Day is a wonderful way to highlight RDNs and their important role in providing evidence-based care to clientele. In order to understand the role of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, the focus should be on the distinction between an RDN and other wellness rolls that educate in a nutrition space. March is the perfect time to celebrate RDN Day as it is also National Nutrition Month!
Leah: National RDN Day is important to recognize those practitioners who have met the requirements to obtain certification as an RDN. This sets us apart from individuals using the title “Nutritionist” without true credentials.
Alexis: What are some of the current health and wellness trends you see in your patient population through telemedicine?
Grace: Trends come and go in waves. As a wellness provider, I have found that keeping abreast of the current trends is important to understand a client’s mindset when considering or perhaps practicing a health trend. Whether it be celery juicing or a detox diet, the Whole 30, or Paleo diet, each season inevitably brings about new food or health trends that I encounter while working in telemedicine. There are a few that I think will likely stick around including intuitive eating, meditation, and farm-to-table eating.
Theresa: There is a lot of interest in personalized coaching and there is a lot more interest in seeing a coach or nutritionist in general with the explosion in telehealth. It’s a great opportunity for people who have always been curious about seeing a nutritionist!
Leah: My current role in telemedicine is as an IBCLC; due to COVID, I’ve had a significant increase in new moms with questions about establishing supply, latch, etc. Previously, these questions would have been answered by hospital LCs, but many in-person options have become limited.
Alexis: Why is it important for a woman to have a nutritional screening prenatally?
A prenatal nutrition screen can be beneficial in identifying nutrient deficiencies and supporting pregnant women in optimizing their nutrient stores in ways that will most benefit the growth and development of the baby. - Leah Joy, RDN, IBCLC
Grace: During the prenatal period, nutritional screening is key because a woman’s health and nutrition status can impact pregnancy outcomes. Working with pregnant women has been a delight in my experience. A pregnant woman tends to seek information to be as healthy as can be because she has her child and her delivery in mind.
Theresa: There is more and more attention about what’s called the “First 1,000 Days” and the importance of nutrition from pre-conception through 2 years of age. Talking with a nutritionist prior to conceiving or during the prenatal period can help with identifying nutrient needs, special diets, morning sickness, and any other issues that come up.
Alexis: What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?
Grace: The title of Nutritionist is broad and is not thoroughly regulated. There can be a false sense of the amount of training or work experience of a Nutritionist due to the title itself. In contrast, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) has completed rigorous training to become credentialed including a bachelor’s degree, an internship, and an exam. The profession is governed by the Commission on Dietetics Registration and RDNs must abide by a code of conduct and attend continuing education regularly, in addition to licensure in some states to provide evidence-based practice to the client.
Theresa: Nutritionist is not a regulated term. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist! Dietitians go through at least a Bachelor’s program (sometimes a Master’s), an internship, and an exam. Dietitians are medical professionals!
Leah: A Nutritionist is anyone who specializes in Nutrition, including Dietitians. A Dietitian is a nutritionist who has met education and practice (internship) requirements and passed a national credentialing exam.
Alexis: Why is it important in the work you are doing to have the credentials of both a Registered Dietitian (RD) and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)?
Grace: I am a Registered Dietitian and a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). As a dual provider, the ability to provide both services to my clients has allowed a seamless continuity of care, which is beneficial to my clients and me, since gaps in patient care often occur in the postpartum period. Seeing a client from preconception through the postpartum period and breastfeeding can bridge that gap. Additionally, the postpartum period, while joyful, can also be stressful and challenging. Have already built rapport, my clients have a trusted clinical expert to turn to with each new phase of life.
Leah: Having both the RD and IBCLC credential is a beautiful and sensical pairing. I appreciate being able to support a woman from pre-conception, through pregnancy, lactation and even weaning. Nutrition affects lactation in many ways; from supply concerns to possible nutrient sensitivities, and the nutrient composition of breast milk. Just as a CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator) is a Dietitian with advanced education and training in diabetes, commonly referred to as a “diabetes expert”, I feel having both the RD and IBCLC credentials puts me in a position as a Lactation and Infant Feeding Expert.
Theresa: Having the dual credential of IBCLC and RDN allows the practitioner to help not only with mom’s nutrition needs but helps her meet her feeding goals as well. Think of it as all-inclusive nutrition support from pregnancy through post-partum!
Alexis: How can Registered Dietitian help me through my pregnancy + postpartum journey?
Leah: A Registered Dietitian can actually help BEFORE pregnancy, as a nutrient-dense pre-conception diet can help women become and stay pregnant, as well as avoid common pregnancy concerns, such as nausea, low hemoglobin, even Gestational Diabetes. By working with a RD throughout your pregnancy, you can optimize your nutrition status, thereby creating the healthiest baby possible. Following pregnancy, a Dietitian can help a new mom reach her postpartum weight goals and, again, optimize her nutrient stores following pregnancy.
A Registered Dietitian is an excellent resource at any phase of life, including pregnancy and postpartum. Since many women begin to examine their health and food habits more in-depth during the prenatal period, meeting with an RDN is a constructive way to meet wellness goals in such an important time of life. Dietitians not only educate but also support clients in managing their goals to live their most vibrant, healthy life. - Grace Norton, RDN, MPH, IBCLC
Theresa: We can help with making sure you and baby are getting what you need, how to structure your day if you have morning sickness, low appetite, a big appetite, or are simply forgetting to eat! We can also help with more complex issues like gestational diabetes or hyperemesis gravidarum.
Alexis: What should I expect when I see a Registered Dietitian through telemedicine?
Theresa: Telemedicine is a great platform for nutrition. It allows for flexibility in timing and we can even do things like take a tour of your kitchen or grab product labels of things you typically eat. Try to keep your space free of distractions to get the most out of your appointment.
Grace: Telemedicine visits provide clients the same quality with the convenience and flexibility of location and timing. A client can expect to see a friendly face who will guide her through the appointment from start to finish. The RD will take a thorough assessment which will include a deep dive into the client’s social, physical, and mental wellness. Additionally, the RD will provide education and practical advice that supports the client’s goals for personal health.
Leah: A Registered Dietitian will often begin a telemedicine session by learning a bit about you and why you’ve sought their help. Then they will ask relevant questions pertaining to what it is you’re seeking. The Dietitian will then work with you to come up with SMART goals to set any necessary change in action and set a follow-up plan.
Alexis: What are the most common questions you get when others discover you are a Registered Dietitian?
Grace: Most frequently, I am asked about a day in the life of a dietitian. It is also very common to hear questions about whether Telehealth functions as well as traditional in-person services, especially pre-covid when such services were less common. Of course, I often get plenty of questions regarding specific diets and wellness trends as well!
Leah: "What should I eat?"
Theresa: I definitely get questions about whatever the latest diet is or questions about complex medical issues. The reactions can be very strange!
Alexis: What challenges have you faced being a Registered Dietitian?
Grace: Professionally, my largest challenge has been overcoming certain stigmas associated with the job profession of a dietitian. Even within healthcare settings that regularly hire dietitians, there are often team members who think a dietitian is solely a part of the foodservice chain of work. While an innocent enough assumption on its own, these team members fail to understand the years of training and the medical and health know-how RDs possess. I am pleased to be part of the dietetics community and want everyone to know that it is a specialized field that provides medical nutrition therapy, counseling, coaching, and much more!
Theresa: Other medical professionals don’t always recognize our role on the medical team or even the role of nutrition in general. There also is a stigma that we are stodgy and not up to date, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Leah: My biggest challenge as a Dietitian is that I tend to follow a more natural/traditional/holistic approach to nutrition. I sometimes have to separate my personal beliefs from my practice, as my role is to provide “evidence-based nutrition”.
Alexis: What do you want people to know about you?
I LOVE what I do! - Theresa Moutafis, RDN, CDE, IBCLC
Leah: When I became a Dietitian I wondered if I had made the right decision because after my internship I knew that working in a hospital setting was not for me. After working in the community health setting, I was able to become a CLE and meet my credentials to sit for the IBCLE. After becoming an IBCLC I knew that I had found my passion and becoming an RD was simply part of my path. Now, with both credentials, I feel that I’m truly able to help women from pre-conception through weaning, and I LOVE what I do!
Grace: Ultimately, I hope people know that I am a person first and although dietetics and food education is my vocation, I understand the realities and complexities of food selections. I am an approachable dietitian, here to help, not harm with harsh judgments regarding my clients’ choices.
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