Struggling with your weight? Looking to change your eating habits to manage or prevent a health problem? Trying to achieve peak athletic performance? These are just a few examples of why someone might seek nutrition advice.
In today’s society, food and nutrition are timely topics. And like many popular issues, everyone seems to have an opinion about what food and nutrition-related practices are useful and beneficial. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine just who is a qualified nutrition expert.
A registered dietitian, or RD, is an individual who has completed extensive education and professional requirements to earn the RD credential and thus is qualified to provide credible nutrition information and advice. To earn the RD credential, people must receive a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field from an accredited college or university that has a program approved by the American Dietetic Association. He or she also must complete 900 hours in a supervised practice program. To become registered, eligible individuals must pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, and to maintain registration, dietitians complete ongoing continuing education requirements.
As a result of their education and training, RDs can be a valuable resource for consumers seeking guidance on a wide variety of nutrition issues. Here are just a few of the situations in which consulting with an RD can be very beneficial.
– You have diabetes, cardiovascular problems or high blood pressure. A registered dietitian can be an integral part of your health-care team by helping you to adapt your eating plan without compromising taste.
– You’re thinking of having or have had gastric bypass surgery. Since your stomach can only manage small servings, it can be a challenge to get the right amount of nutrients for your body. An RD will work with you and your physician to develop an eating plan for your new needs.
– You have digestive problems. A registered dietitian will work with your physician to help fine-tune your diet so you don’t aggravate your condition.
– Your teenager has issues with food and eating healthfully. A registered dietitian can assist with both eating disorders and overweight issues.
– You are struggling with weight issues and need to gain or lose weight. A registered dietitian can provide calorie sources for a healthy weight gain or a healthy restricted-calorie eating plan for weight loss.
– You are caring for an aging parent. A registered dietitian can help with food and drug interaction, proper hydration and special diets for hypertension and changing taste buds.
– You want to improve your performance in sports. A registered dietitian can help you set goals to achieve high performance whether you’re running a marathon or jogging with your dog.
To find a qualified registered dietitian near you, ask your health-care provider or contact the ADA at 1-800-877-1600, ext. 5000 or on the Web at www.eatright.org.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension