Nutrition Experts II: Eating to survive vs eating to thrive
Going to school to become an RD is really geared for medical settings i.e. learning how to feed sick patients in acute care. Using my alma mater as an example, 20% (14 out of the 67) of the credit hours to become a dietitian are about clinical nutrition. These courses cover which brand of formula best fits a patient’s particular condition, how to compose the formula in a feeding tube, and how many cafeteria slices of chocolate cake the patient ordered against medical advice will fit in their dinner assuming the doctor will approve the RD-recommended diet. Nutrition to stay alive is different than nutrition for longevity, which I will discuss in a moment.
Dietitians are commonly associated with healthy eating and weight loss but are employed in a range of diverse settings. Clinical nutrition is actually the most common area of employment so while speaking with patients about healthy eating and using food in the management of a medical condition is a huge component, sometimes these two may be diametrically opposed. Training to enable people to survive in an acute care setting requires a certain level of training in physiology, genetics, in addition to food and medication interactions.
I’ve had patients with impaired gastric function or inability to swallow - they can’t just eat a salad. So we rely on a can of formula to meet their nutrition needs. I would not recommend a can of formula to my mother who just wants to eat healthy - for her I’d recommend eating more veggies, proteins and decrease her intake of sugar, added oils, and refined grains. These two situations have very different desired outcomes, and so very different nutrition recommendations.
I see RDs get a fair amount of bashing on Twitter because people wrongfully assume we should know all things about optimal diets:
Don’t forget y’all, that CLINICAL nutrition is different than general healthy eating! Speaking of general healthy eating, should people who aren’t dietitians be allowed to give nutrition advice? We’ll discuss this in the next post!
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