March is National Nutrition Month – a time to salute registered dietitians as the indispensable providers of food and nutrition services and recognizes them for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives.
Most qualified to help
According to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, primary care physicians identify registered dietitians as the most qualified providers to care for obese patients.
Clinical dietitian Paula Serafino-Cross, MS, RD, LDN from Food and Nutrition Services at Baystate Medical Center noted that registered dietitians can help people with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.
“We also see patients who are thinking of having weight loss surgery, need to gain or lose weight, want to improve their performance in sports, or just want to eat smarter and tune up their diet,” she said.
Some registered dietitians specialize in working with children, some with older people, and still others are experts on special diets such as the gluten free diet for celiac disease.
“What makes the experience with us different is that registered dietitians work with patients through motivational interviewing and as a nutrition sleuth to develop a plan based on the individual’s goals, preferences and constraints,” Serafino-Cross said.
See trusted professionals
When looking to a nutritionist to assist for help, it’s important to look closely at a person’s credentials since the title of “nutritionist” is an unregulated field.
Registered dietitians, however, must meet stringent academic and professional requirements, including earning at least a bachelor’s degree, completing a supervised practice program and passing a registration examination. The majority of registered dietitians work in the treatment and prevention of disease, often in hospitals such as Baystate Medical Center.
“A patient’s outcome and healing process can be severely impacted without the proper nutrition,” said Nancy Anderson, MS, RD, CSP, LDN, a clinical dietitian and certified specialist in pediatrics at Baystate Children’s Hospital.
“We look at the patient from all perspectives from anatomical to physiological and both socially and emotionally, making registered dietitians what I like to refer to as the ‘original holistic practitioners,’” Serafino-Cross added.