Savor the Flavor. Period.

I couldn’t let National Nutrition Month® go by without sharing my thoughts on this year’s theme: “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional organization for dietetic professionals, is the sponsor of this annual event, and it’s no surprise that each year’s theme is often some kind of build off the organization’s catchphrase: Eat Right. (The website URL for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is, in fact,

I love the first part of the tagline: savor the flavor. It jives with my philosophy toward food: that eating is not just about nutrition but that it’s an experience, a source of enjoyment and a sense of culture. I feel strongly that when eating people should take note of all five senses: the sound of the sizzling stovetop, the smell of a dish that evokes a childhood memory, the look of a well-plated meal, the feel and texture of the food on your tongue, and of course, the taste! It’s when we fail to engage all senses that we find ourselves eating mindlessly, which can lead to unhealthy habits.

It’s the second part of the phrase that rubs me the wrong way: eating right. It implies a dichotomy: right vs. wrong. Good vs. bad. Pure vs. poison. No wonder people think of dietitians as the food police. The last thing people want to be told is that they’re eating wrong. Don’t even get me started how finger pointing like that can lead to disordered eating and views toward foods…

If I were in charge, I’d change the Academy URL and all associated phrasing to eating better. There is always room for improvement, no matter how healthful you diet may be already. There are plenty of other choices to make, foods to try, small steps to take. There is no perfect healthy eating plan (because then the food police will knock on your door and tell you to get some variety, for goodness’ sake!)

Think of it this way: when I introduce myself as a dietitian at a dinner event, people tend to get uncomfortable and say things like, “please don’t look at my plate!” I tend to say back to them, “don’t look at mine either!” This is one meal, on one day, and most likely a special occasion. This is not my everyday pattern.

If there is a definition of eating “right,” to me that means making more nutrient-packed choices and staying within your energy (calorie) needs. But it also means enjoying a rich dish or decadent dessert – heck, maybe even daily – so long as it’s portioned right and within a framework of an overall healthy eating pattern and lifestyle.

Not Your Nana’s Nutritionist

Everybody eats, therefore everybody knows about nutrition. At least that’s what you might think by clicking through various articles and posts about health, food and what you should and shouldn’t eat.

The true nutrition expert is registered dietitian (or registered dietitian nutritionist, abbreviated RD or RDN, respectively). RDs all have a college degree – many have advanced degrees – and completed didactic coursework plus hundreds of hours in internship rotations (unpaid, for the most part!) before sitting for and passing an exam to earn the privilege of putting those precious abbreviations after their names. Not only that, but RDs must complete at least 75 hours of continuing education credit every five years to maintain their credentialing and be allowed to keep those little letters.

What credentialing does a nutritionist need? Nothing, really.

The truth is, while some states have laws on licensure for health professionals, practically anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Only dietitians can administer medical nutrition therapy and have some of their services covered by insurance providers.

Where can you find an RD?

Traditionally, RDs are found in some kind of clinical setting – working in a hospital or outpatient clinic. They may be developing diets for newly diagnosed diabetics or celiac disease patients, or working alongside cardiologists to help at-risk patients adopt heart-healthy diets, to name a couple of roles. You may envision her as the weight loss specialist (NOT “the food police”) suggesting foods you may want to incorporate into your diet and which to save for special occasions. But hospitals and clinics aren’t the only places where RDs can be found. You may see us in:

  • Schools: Have you been to a school cafeteria lately? It may surprise you. Many school foodservice directors at the helm are registered dietitians, and these folks have a tremendous job trying to feed thousands of children daily, in a limited amount of time and on a limited budget. For some students, school lunch may be the most reliable, substantial meal of their day, so the foodservice director needs to make sure the lunch she serves is not only nutritious but also appealing so that it gets eaten and not tossed in the trash.
  • Community Settings: Many RDs heed to a calling to help underserved and underprivileged populations. These are the RDs running programs for WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), SNAP-ed (formerly known as food stamps) and many more, helping individuals spend their food dollars wisely and learn basic cooking skills.
  • Kitchens: RDs are chefs, working at major restaurants, spas, or managing their own chef/culinary business. Many have traditional culinary training in addition to their nutrition degrees, training at the Culinary Institute of America or other fine institutions.
  • Research/Academia: Nutrition research is ongoing, and who better to be designing and conducting studies than the food and nutrition experts? Not only do RDs work in food science, but many have expertise in behavioral nutrition, economics, and other fields.
  • Industry: Call me biased, but RDs working with industry are the unsung heroes. Talk about effecting change – these are the folks with actual seats at the actual table, helping companies reformulate products to make them more healthful and desirable to consumers (it’s not nutrition unless people buy and eat it!). These folks have the ear of senior leadership, telling them what issues they need to address today, given the current policy and labeling landscape. These are RDs taking the research conducted by their their colleagues in academia, and disseminating it to their front-line RD peers working directly with consumers.
  • In the Media: More and more (and rightly so), RDs are being called upon to provide expert insights to educate consumers on a larger platform than simple one-on-one communications. We see RDs as commentators on news programs, writing articles in major newspapers, building up audiences on social media. Heck, even winning reality TV shows!

Today is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day and a time not only to recognize these allied health professionals, but to also applaud them for the sometimes thankless jobs they are doing. These are people working every day to improve the health and diets of those around us so that we can live longer and better.

RDN poster
Feature photo and RDN logo were both used with permission by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietietics

For more information, or to locate an RD in your area, visit

Have you hugged your RD today?

Today’s a special day, haven’t you heard? No?

Not only is March 14 “Pi” day (the number pi is approximately 3.14), but this year it is also national Registered Dietitians Day, or RD Day for short.

OK, so maybe we haven’t gotten the attention of Hallmark or Google yet, so there are no greeting cards or fun search-engine graffiti to increase awareness of this notable day, but RDs all across the country are wishing each other a happy RD Day…and I hope others take note of today, too.

The fact is, it’d be hard to find a single person who hasn’t been affected by the work of a registered dietitian. I mean, have you ever…

  • eaten a school lunch? (especially lately? You should see some of the great things schools are doing for lunch and breakfast.) An RD likely prepared that menu, sourced the ingredients and ran nutritional information to ensure the meal met certain criteria for calories and nutrients.
  • read a book, article or brochure on healthy eating? It might’ve been written by an RD, who spent the time reviewing complex research and putting the information in clear language to make it easier for people to understand…and better yet, to follow.
  • bought food from a grocery store? Many supermarkets have RDs on staff to help guide healthy eating programs at the corporate level, and help consumers make smart choices at the store level. And many food manufacturers have RDs doing product research, marketing and communications, among other functions.
  • tried a delicious, healthy dish at a restaurant or from a cookbook? Culinary RDs know all about recipe development using healthful ingredients, and understanding that enjoying food is as much about the experience of eating as it is about the flavor.
  • heard about MyPlate (or its predecessor, the food pyramid)? This icon for healthy eating is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is updated every five years after a thorough evidence-based review of the research by leading food and nutrition researchers, many of whom are registered dietitians.

Yes, we have “diet” in our titles, but dietitians are more than that. Sure, we help people who want to “go on a diet,” but many of us think of “diet” in the more general terms – as an eating plan to help people live healthfully. You may find us in hospitals, clinics, schools or restaurants; online, on TV, in the bookstore, in the paper or in a magazine; working for a company, for a health club, at a university or in the public sector. We’re not the food police, but we do love food. And we’re here to help people live healthier, longer and better.

Simple salads – every day!

It’s been a while since my last post. Life got a little hectic, but like any plan – whether it’s a resolution to eat well, get to the gym, or yes, blog – when you get derailed the only thing you can do is get back at it and try harder next time. So here I am! Miss me?

Last post I promised to write about salads, and how my family almost always starts each dinner with fresh, colorful veggies. I love having a salad before our main course, as it’s a great way to make sure we get our daily servings of vegetables – and it’s filling. Without the salad course first, I might find myself taking seconds or more at dinner. I also find that when I go a few days without eating a salad, like when I travel or go on vacation, I actually crave one after a while.

Yes, salads typically involve a bunch of ingredients which take time to prepare. But with a little planning, having a salad each night is very easy and not too time consuming. Here are my tips for a healthy dinner salad each night:

  1. Buy only the vegetables you like and which will keep for one week (or however often you go grocery shopping). Cut vegetables spoil easily, so plan ahead and don’t overdo it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to cut corners and buy prepared, fresh produce. Even though it’s more economical to buy heads of romaine or other lettuce, I hate rinsing, scrubbing out dirt, patting dry and chopping lettuce leaves. I prefer the baby greens which are easier to rinse and serve.
  3. Most salad toppings do need to be cut, but do it once or twice a week, and keep cut vegetables in sealed containers.

Here’s what we do:

– Start with this:

And this (or a good knife will do. The mandoline makes good, uniform slices quickly and I find it safer than slicing with a knife):

Which will make this for you to save in the fridge for making salads all week long:

Makes a colorful, crunchy, tasty salad to get dinner started off right:

Even for kids!:

Embrace Apps

Today’s National Nutrition Month tip of the day is to embrace apps – appetizers, that is.

Sounds counterintuitive, but studies show that people who eat a low-calorie appetizer before a meal will eat fewer total calories during that meal (I love this fact sheet from the CDC). Good choices include broth-based soups (I love miso soup, but more traditional soups such as chicken noodle or minestrone are also great) or garden salads. Just skip the heavy dressings, croutons, bacon bits or tortilla strips and stick to raw veggies…maybe add a little fruit, nuts or seeds for added flavor and good fats.

Speaking of good fats and salads, some of the vitamins in vegetables are fat-soluble, meaning they get absorbed better when eaten with a little bit of fat. So don’t feel guilty if you toss a few pecans, almond slivers, avocadoes or olives onto your greens. You’re actually making it more healthy!

Later this month I’ll share quick and easy tips my family and I use to make sure each dinner starts with a healthy salad. Stay tuned!