My Visit to a Registered Dietitian
I’d like to think I’m the picture of perfect eating. After all, as a health writer; I frequently read, research and write about healthy lifestyles. I’m fairly disciplined (though not perfect), exercise regularly. And as a cancer survivor, I’m hyper-vigilant about what I put into my body.
Then why was I sitting at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Connecticut, opposite registered dietitian Samantha Heller, my hands overflowing with folders worth of my personal health history and food diary, asking for advice?
Because I needed to check in with myself. Despite what I thought I knew, I really needed someone to remind me that although I was doing a lot of things right, I was also doing some things wrong.
I used to think the terms “nutritionist” and “registered dietitian” were interchangeable. After all, they both advise clients on basic principles of healthy nutrition, wellness and weight management. But the similarities end there. Registered dietitians (or RDs) have, at the minimum, a four-year college degree and must complete a training program, internship and pass a test in order to be registered with the American Dietetic Association (ADA). In addition, to keep current with their knowledge, they must complete 75 hours of continuing education every five years. Most RDs I’ve met have continued their formal education to include a master’s or Ph.D. degree.
Nutritionists, on the other hand, require little more than a keen interest in food and wellness. There is no specific training, education or certification needed to hang up a shingle and counsel patients.
Meeting Samantha was an eye-opener. I was impressed with her thoroughness and keen knowledge as well as her easy-but-concerned manner. After I answered some routine questions – age, height, weight, workout history, current medications and supplements and my personal health goals, Samantha reviewed my most recent lab results and the 5-day food diary (which she asked me to log prior to our visit).
“You’re a goddess,” she declared.
But not so fast.
Further discussion revealed that my protein intake was woefully lacking. I suspected this – I tend to shun protein in favor of things like fruit and carbohydrates (blame my robust sweet tooth for that!) – and really needed some advice on ways to incorporate more protein into my diet. I had been feeling rather sluggish and frustratingly fatigued lately, and it concerned me.
“Protein? I just don’t…like it,” I whined.
Samantha reminded me of the reasons to eat protein – to help manage energy, hunger, blood sugar and satiety – and brought up sources I’d long ignored or not eaten enough of, like beans, cheese, Greek yogurt, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, tofu, edamame, cottage cheese and even those soy lattes I favored on a daily basis. She also reminded me to make sure to include a healthy protein with every meal and snack.
Then she calculated, based on my weight, how many grams of protein my body required daily. The number – 50 grams – shocked me. I was unquestionably depriving myself. My conscience was soothed though, when I got the thumbs up on my body mass index.
Hydration was another issue. I’m rarely thirsty (except when I exercise), so I don’t drink much. But according to Samantha’s calculations, my body requires about 80 ounces of fluid each day. Knowing I could get this amount in foods as well as liquid made the number a bit more realistic.
I left Samantha’s office that day feeling empowered by the knowledge I’d gained during our hour-long visit. I got into my car, headed straight for the grocery store, and filled my wagon with cottage cheese, beans and tofu (which I planned to marinate and grill that night).
Maybe now I’m inching a wee bit closer to claiming that title of “goddess,” after all.
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The Supplemental is a blog for "Life...supplemented", a forum for discussion around healthy diet, supplements and exercise. Our panel of experts who share a variety of fresh and innovative perspectives, will provide ways to live a healthier life and inspire you to make smart choices.
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