Seeing that March is National Nutrition Month, it’s very fitting that it is also my first month as an RD (yay!). Besides all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into getting those two little letters, I’ve been thinking a lot about what they mean to me now and in the years to come.
Combo bowl and cornbread from Angelica Kitchen
Over the years I’ve met, encountered and befriended a lot of RDs, and have looked up to many of them as I worked to get to their level. But like most things in life, the dietetics/nutrition world isn’t all fluffy bunnies, rainbows, 100% ethical and right. Just as I’ve thought, “I definitely want to be/do that when I’m an RD” upon observing and talking with my RD friends, there has also been a fair share of, “I for sure will never do/say that when I’m an RD.”
In every profession there are ethical dilemmas, but I think ethics is absolutely crucial in the health professions. You’re dealing with people – someone’s child, mother, grandfather, husband, etc. – and the decisions you make or advice you give is kind of a big deal. Usually I like to focus on what I will do rather than what I won’t do (more positive), but over the years I’ve kept a growing list of what I will not ever do as an RD and thought I’d share. I will not:
Endorse avoidance of entire food groups or nutrients for weight loss or performance enhancement - there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part diets like this don’t work and can negatively affect long term health. Nutrient deficiencies, sluggishness and even weight gain are just a few of the risks. The whole “Gluten Free” craze comes to mind here (enough already!), unless it’s medically necessary of course. And if you say the word “Paleo,”my head may explode just a little.
Incessantly talk about calories and endless ways to cut calories – focusing and obsessing about calories (or fat, or carbs…) all day every day is. not. healthy. And if you see or hear an RD doing it, then it may make you think it’s necessary and ok. If you’re trying to lose weight, I think there’s a healthy way to keep track of caloric intake without it consuming (pun!) your life. If you’re at a healthy weight, obsessive calorie counting not only isn’t needed, but may pave the way to more serious disordered eating patterns.
Tell you to not eat cake - or cookies. Or that big juicy steak. Or fried calamari.* Whatever it is, I don’t think there is any one food that should be totally and completely shunned (except maybe a fried Twinkie). Food can and should be enjoyed, and there’s room for most of this stuff in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
*I’m talking about generally healthy people here. If you have a chronic medical condition, then let’s talk.
carrot cake exists for a reason
Tell you to drink soda – contrary to my previous statement, I do think there is a beverage that has no place in any diet, ever. And that is soda. There’s nothing good I can say about it, so yeah, just don’t drink it.
Take the easy way out – when you work in a hospital, sometimes it’s all about productivity and numbers. It’s totally possible to be productive and not sacrifice patient care, but sometimes the patients are the ones who get the shitty end of the stick when it comes to meeting productivity and I want no part of that.
Recommend taking herbal concoctions to cure XX conditions – show me the research and maybe I’ll consider it someday.
Tell you that XX diet or XX food product is the best thing ever because someone is paying me to – there is a certain level of integrity we must maintain as RDs, but sometimes money talks and people sell out. I’d rather be a little poor (let’s face it, I’ll be paying back student loans until I’m at least 122 years old) than compromise my integrity as an RD for a few bucks.
Force my (food) beliefs and habits on you – sure, I eat a certain way for various reasons, but I’d never make a patient think they had to do the same thing or make them feel badly for not doing the same thing. We all have different tastes, beliefs, habits, likes and dislikes, and that’s why individualizing nutrition care plans is so important.
I will also not tell you to never eat pizza, because it’s delicious, and I won’t not tell you to cook things, because it’s fun, economical and a bit healthier. Here’s what I made the other day, which was perfect refueling after a tough long run.
Whole Wheat Pesto Pizza with Goat Cheese and Veggies (makes one pizza)
- 8 oz. whole wheat pizza dough (I cheated and bought mine at Whole Foods)
- 1 tbsp pesto
- 1-2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- 5-6 broccoli florets
- 1/2 plum tomato, sliced
- 3-4 slices red onion
- 1/4 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 1-2 ounces grilled chicken (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the dough as per the instructions on the package. I let mine sit in a bowl for a few hours before kneading it into the desired pizza shape. Spread pesto onto dough, followed by goat cheese, tomato, onions, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, place pizza on sheet and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Once removed from the oven, let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!
I’m curious – if you wanted to see an RD, what qualities would you look for?