How Dietitians Are Expanding Their Healthy Influence

Dietitian Photographing Food

Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) have always played a vital role in public health, providing nutrition guidelines, advice and therapy to clients in healthcare, food service and community settings. Most dietitians still fulfill those types of roles, but as people of all backgrounds have become more interested in healthy eating, RDNs have more opportunities than ever to share their knowledge with a wider audience.

Healthy-minded Americans are more confused than ever about what they should be eating. Consider this: The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2017 Food & Health Survey, “A Healthy Perspective: Understanding American Food Values,” found that, while 96 percent of respondents said they seek out health benefits from their diets, 78% say they receive conflicting information about what to eat and avoid, and 56% of those people say inconsistent advice makes them doubt their food choices.

With the prevalence of wellness blogs, alternative news sources and the ubiquity of social media, consumers are suffering from information overload when it comes to nutrition. Though registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) and other healthcare professionals are the most trusted sources of information about healthy eating, nearly 1/3 of those surveyed rated friends and family members as top influencers on dietary choices.

Americans are hungry for accurate dietary information, and as RDNs become more media savvy and expand into non-traditional outlets, that advice has a greater chance to get seen and heard. Here are some ways that nutrition professionals are expanding their healthy influence to help people eat better.

Retail Dietitians

Many RDNs are working on the front lines of where most nutrition decisions are made: at the supermarket. In the United States and Canada alone, more then 2,000professionals work as retail dietitians, helping both consumers and employees make better nutrition choices.

“Everyday I am grateful to have a role as an RD that impacts how people ‘see’ their grocery shopping space,” said Annessa Chumbley, who is a national brand endorser for Safeway grocery stores. “Whether it is from a simple healthy cooking video, a new easy recipe, or a daily tip, starting a ripple effect of positive choices is so fulfilling. Literally, what is in that shopping cart represents a person’s energy for the next week! I love being in a position of influence in the retail space to inspire people to better living through nourishing, healing, healthful food.”

RDNs in supermarket settings aren’t just focused on adult shoppers. Weis Markets Mystery Tours™ field trips help 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade students learn about healthy eating through an interactive mystery story. Weis Dietitians were given a unique opportunity to develop an innovative in-store program to educate children about food choices.

Grocery chains like H-E-B, Ingles and Wegmans all employ retail dietitians, and pharmacy chains like CVS do as well. The Retail Dietitians Business Alliance offers resources to nutrition professionals working or interested in working in the retail space.

These RDNs are making a difference in the supermarket aisles every day:

  • Leah McGrath: Leah is the dietitian for Ingles Markets, and she uses her marketing expertise to inform customers about health and nutrition through the chain’s social media channels.
  • Hillary Pride: As one of the dietitians for Hannaford Supermarkets, Hillary does in-store cooking demos, as well as classes and store tours.
  • Emmie Satrazemis: Emmie is a “Wellness Evangelist” for Raley Supermarkets, where she works on programs to help customers improve their nutrition.

Dietitians in the Corporate World

The workplace wellness industry has been growing steadily as healthcare costs have skyrocketed, and it’s forecasted to increase to $11.3 billion by 2021. As nutrition counseling is an integral part of overall good health, opportunities for RDNs within the field will continue to grow as well.

Corporate wellness companies like Marino Wellness and Wellness Corporate Solutions have dietitians on staff for nutrition assessment and therapy. Companies like Netflix, Deutsche and FOX hire these companies to design healthy programs for employees. Smaller companies who want to improve employee wellness but don’t have the budget for a corporate wellness company’s services will often hire an RDN to provide nutrition education to workers. LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD and Mary Purdy, MS, RDN provide this service to corporate clients.

Many brands employ RDNs to help boost their credibility with consumers—to be the nutrition “face” of their product line. Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh of C&J Nutrition are the bloggers behind Bumble Bee Foods’ Bee Nutritious blog; Manuel Villacorta has represented brands like Egglands’ Best and Foster Farms; and Amanda Blechman offers her dietary expertise to Dannon, just to name a few.

Dietitians at Non-Profits

Non-profits dedicated to fighting hunger or ending obesity often employ RDNs to design menus or education plans. Meals on Wheels and Share Our Strength are two examples of organizations that utilize dietitians.

Common Threads, a non-profit dedicated to fighting childhood obesity by teaching kids the fundamentals of cooking and nutrition, recently teamed up with Quaker Oats to launch a campaign dedicated to healthy breakfasts. They tapped Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN to create healthy recipes for the program. By bringing on a credentialed health professional with a large following, non-profits can help to get the word out about the ways in which they’re changing lives.

Dietitians Online

The Internet has given RDNs an outlet to educate, inspire and change the lives of millions of people. Whether it’s by performing online consultations, providing healthy recipes and nutrition tips, or simply posting a beautiful photo on Instagram that gives someone motivation to eat better, dietitians have the opportunity to change lives every day. Because health professionals are trusted voices in nutrition, they are also able to cut through some of the noise online, be it debunking fad diets or advising against dangerous or ineffective weight loss methods.

These RDN influencers are using blogs and social media to give readers the tools they need to transform their diets:

  • Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition, considers herself a “snacktivist” in making healthy snack options more accessible to kids.
  • Wendy Lopez and Jessica Jones of Food Heaven Made Easy share practical health tips on their podcast and easy plant-based recipes on their blog.
  • Dawn Jackson Blatner authors a weekly WOW newsletter and blog to share news and tips for a healthy and active lifestyle.
  • Emily Kyle’s online training program The School of Health & Happiness promotes health and wellness with an anti-diet approach.

In the age of information overload, registered dietitians are more important than ever to a society that is increasingly health-conscious. We’re glad that so many opportunities exist for them to be the voice of reason and sound nutrition advice.

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