Nutrition Series, Article 1 with Brandi Thompson, RD March is National Nutrition Month, and because of this, I have teamed up with registered dietician Brandi Thompson to teach us about the breadth and scope of nutrition. In the following nutrition series blogs we will learn what a registered dietician is as well as her role in your healthcare team, nutrition for senior citizens and children, nutrition for vegetarians and vegans, and we'll discuss the difference between the two diets, including information for those wishing to transition to these diets; lastly, we will take a look at nutrition for weight loss. Brandi Thompson has been a registered dietician (RD) for eleven years, graduating from the University of Texas. She has practiced in Texas and in Florida and sees both individual clients as well as consults with schools, doctors, and other health care providers. When I asked Brandi how she got into the field, she told me that after getting her undergrad in biology and chemistry, she decided to go into nursing. While in a nutrition class, she took notice of her father’s ailing condition. Despite her father’s allegiance to holistic healing and his near obsession of vitamins (the refrigerator being stuffed with vitamins and herbal supplements), his health was deteriorating. Brandi shared her father’s condition with her nutrition professor, an RD, and as it turned out, Brandi’s father had an excess of Vitamin E, he was basically overdosing his system with this vitamin. From this point on Brandi realized that she could help people and, “I went from there." When I asked Brandi about the difference between a dietician and a nutritionist, there was a pause and a snicker. A registered dietician requires a Master’s degree. It is very science- based with a lot of chemistry and a concentration on how food and other nutrients affect the body. An RD also requires 1,000 hours of unpaid internship, essentially a residency as well as sitting for a State Board exam (for each State that she practices in). A nutritionist, on the other hand, is anyone who has taken a course or a certification in nutrition. It can be an online course, a workshop, or a class. Basically anyone can call themselves a “certified nutritionist” so when looking for someone to advise you nutritionally speaking, it is wise to consult with a registered dietician. You can begin your search with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A registered dietician can help people with a variety of needs. Since physicians might “have a few hours in medical school or although they may have an interest in nutrition," says Thompson, “registered dieticians are the experts when it comes to nutritional issues.” Clinically speaking, an RD can consult with those who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, gastric bypass, heart problems, kidney problems, or failure to thrive, to mention a few. RD’s can sometimes work as lactation consultants, making sure that mom is nutritionally sound to feed her baby. RD’s also help make policies for schools that ensure children have access to healthy foods. An RD will typically work in conjunction with a physician. RD’s cannot prescribe medicine nor do they perform blood work. Matters such as high cholesterol, blood pressure, or food allergies can be addressed by the RD. Lab results will be reviewed by the RD. She will then review the patient’s diet history, behaviors, and listen to the patient as they describe their lifestyle. One client Brandi saw recently came in concerned that her two year old daughter was underweight. After examination, it was concluded that her child was not underweight and that a lack of interest in food at that age is normal. Brandi will keep in touch with the mother, seeing her a couple of times per year and keeping track of the toddler’s growth and behavior to make sure that she is on track. Finally, when I asked Brandi to share her Top Five nutrition tips, she provided me with this:
- Steer towards a more plant-based diet.
- Avoid fast food and overly processed food. Processed food is everything that changes a whole food, i.e. a potato into a potato chip (additives, preservatives, color, frying, baking, squeezing, packaging).
- Avoid sodas and sugary drinks.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Your behavior influences your children.