For the first time in history, the number of registered dietitian nutritionists in the U.S. recently surpassed 100,000 credentialed practitioners.

That’s a lot of professional food enthusiasts.

From hospitals to schools and professional sports teams to government agencies, RDNs are everywhere. On March 14th, the national Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics will honor the profession on the annual Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day.

These professionals are food, nutrition, and science experts who have invested a minimum of five years in education and supervised practice to earn the RDN credential.

There’s plenty that the public can learn from RDNs, starting with these 10 things:

  • Better habits: RDNs work directly with patients of all ages and with a variety of nutritional needs and health concerns, just like other healthcare clinicians. They are a required, valuable part of healthcare teams across the country.
  • What the research really says: Along with being practitioners, RDNs are also scientists who conduct research and translate that work into evidence-based best healthcare practices. RDNs are the only healthcare providers who study food science as a part of their undergraduate curriculum. When a recipe is changed to remove egg or wheat flour, for example, dietitians understand how that changes the nutrition facts, along with how it will alter a final recipe.
  • The diet that suits each person best: There’s no one-size-fits-all diet. Each person’s needs are different. From South Beach to Paleo, RDNs understand what makes each person different and can tailor a plan to fit those specific needs.
  • When to seek help: If you or someone you know has taken dietary restrictions too far, RDNs can help find a treatment team to battle the challenge of disordered eating behaviors.
  • How to improve athletic performance: Professional athletes turn to RDNs for nutrition advice. Even the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles employ two certified sports dietitians to offer credible nutrition recommendations to their elite athletes.
  • What’s best at your age: From pediatric to geriatric populations, RDNs make an impact and improve health every day. Though the needs of these two populations are vastly different, an RDN can understand the needs of any age group.
  • To supplement or not to supplement: RDNs will assess your diet and consider a person’s medical conditions to help decide if taking a dietary supplement will enhance health or just be a waste money. In certain medical conditions, such as after weight loss surgery, dietary supplements are a vital part of maintaining good health.
  • What to eat, not just what to avoid: If a doctor has asked you to follow multiple diets for medical conditions, RDNs can merge those guidelines to help you choose the best food options to maintain good health.
  • What to eat while on the road: Traveling can wear down even the best of us. RDNs know just what a body needs to avoid the pitfalls of long flights or hours in the driver’s seat. From carrots to nuts and hummus to turkey jerky, RDNs can make a food plan to fuel your adventure.

And last, but not least …

  • How to pronounce quinoa: For the record, the supergrain is pronounced “keen-wah.” RDNs can also tell you how this 3,000-year-old grain packs a protein punch, provides a phenomenal amount of fiber and has plenty of iron to keep your red blood cells healthy.

About the author

Julie Stefanski, RDN, is a registered dietitian with Nutrition Dimension by OnCourse Learning and serves the public relations/social media chairperson for the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.