Jessica Corwin, RD: In Honor of National Registered Dietitian Day
“What exactly is a registered dietitian?”
“Don’t they work in hospitals?”
“She can’t eat that, she’s a dietitian.”
“Oooh, don’t let her see my grocery cart – she’s a dietitian!”
These are only a few of the comments I have heard since I became a dietitian. Many people seem to associate dietitians with the food police. Covering up their grocery carts and stretching the truth when it comes to the true portion size of ice-cream they had last night, for fear of what their dietitian may think. While I’m sure there are some dietitians out there who do make others feel bad by their food choices, intentionally or not, I promise you that is not our mission.
What IS a registered dietitian?
Dietitians are here to help you make small changes to your diet so that you will feel better and have more energy, not only now but for your entire lifetime.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “a registered dietitian is a food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the credential "RD." In addition to RD credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners. State requirements frequently are met through the same education and training required to become an RD.”
What does it take to become a registered dietitian?
All dietitians must complete four-years of undergraduate study and complete a one-year dietetic internship before being eligible to take the registration exam. Once completed, he or she is bestowed with the glorious new title of Registered Dietitian.
However, the schooling is not over.
Similar to several other professions, RDs must continually build on their education by attending seminars, conferences, webinars, or other forms of learning. If the minimum number of hours is not met at the end of the five-year term, that person will lose his or her RD status and need to take the registration exam all over again. Thankfully, most of us are able to keep up with our hours – which is incredibly important as the science and methods are continuously evolving and improving and we need to keep up!
Where did you go?
In my case, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Western Michigan University before being accepted into the Michigan State University Dietetic Internship program. I completed my year long internship in the Grand Rapids area where I served in a variety of locations ranging from hospitals, long-term care, and schools, to cancer centers, WIC, and supermarkets. Not to toot my own horn for too long, but during that time, I was awarded with both ‘Dietetic Student of the Year’ and ‘Dietetic Intern of the Year’ by the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the Michigan Dietetic Association). Truly an incredible honor to be recognized by such amazing peers in the field of nutrition!
Encouraged, I decided to return to school for my Master in Public Health. This experience has not only led me to my dream job, it has opened my eyes to the incredible opportunity we have to prevent chronic disease in this country and around the globe.
Did you know that chronic diseases heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis - account for 70% of all deaths in the US?
Or that simple improvements in diet and lifestyle are enough to prevent the most common types?
Statistics like these are exactly why my passion lies in the field of public health!
Where do dietitians work?
I hinted at the variety of places dietitians work through the list of rotations in my dietetic internship, though that’s barely the tip of the iceberg.
The roles a dietitian can pursue seem to be expanding each and every day. Dietitians are not only found in the traditional hospitals, they are now in supermarkets, magazines, schools, retirement homes, food manufacturers, foodservice distributors, fitness facilities, restaurants, spas, health centers, and even within the kitchens of celebrities and laypeople alike. Surprised?
I began my own career in the corporate realm working for a foodservice distributor, though now you will find me writing for various publications (including Yum Food and Fun for Kids) and providing nutrition education and cooking tips within the community.
As a community nutrition educator I am able to work with my favorite aspects of food and nutrition, helping people to make healthier choices in the supermarket and at home in their kitchen. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work with new moms learning how best to feed their children one day and then conduct a cooking demonstration for a food pantry the next. My job is always full of surprises, but I mean that in the best way!
What do you think of the dietitian stereotypes?
My goal with this blog is to help break through the preconceived notion that RDs only work in hospitals or that we only eat flax seed and kale. Dietitians have taste preferences as diverse as anyone else! Some are vegan and some are as carnivorous as they come. Others struggle with weight, meal planning, or cooking just the same as anyone else.
I’m certainly no Sue Chef, but I am learning and practicing my cooking techniques every day. I am always experimenting with new ways to tweak my recipes to boost the nutrition, sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. Thankfully, I am one of the lucky ones as my husband makes my efforts well worth it, cheering me on in the kitchen - even when he’s not exactly sure what I am making (you should have seen his face the first time I made quinoa, haha). What’s more, he always sits down to enjoy the food I have prepared and he always expresses his appreciation. Each time he "Thank you!", and he gives me the motivation to try again. And of course, National RD Day doesn’t hurt when it comes to that motivation factor.
I am always learning, day in and day out, everywhere I go and certainly from many of YOU!
Hopefully this blog helps you to do the same and perhaps even provides you with even a touch of inspiration :)