What can a dietitian do for you?

By A Contributor

Special to The Mercury

With so many options for food in the world, such as raw, organic, GMO-free as well as many more, it can be difficult and at times confusing to navigate one’s own diet.

However, not all heroes wear capes; some of them work in everyday settings such as universities, hospitals and even grocery stores as nutritionists, others are certified dietitians.

According to Heidi Oberreider, a registered dietitian nutritionist and instructor at Kansas State, the difference between a nutritionist and dietitian is that “dietitians are a subset of nutritionists. Consumers need to be aware that there is no definition for the word nutritionist, so anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.”

Someone who chooses to become a registered dietitian nutritionist, or an RDN, attends a school to earn a Bachelor’s Degree as well as a 1,200-hour supervised practice experience, and a passing score on the national registration exam, Oberreider said.

They do more than working with food, however. Dietitians are educated in human physiology, disease management, behavior change theories, food science as well as food production management. “It is through this unique blend of disciplines that dietitians are perfectly positioned to help individuals navigate the world’s food supply in an effort to improve their health through healthy food choices,” Oberreider said. In most states, including Kansas, dietetics is
a licensed profession.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be a 21% increase in jobs for dietitians between 2012 and 2022, with the medium income for RDN professionals landing around $60,000, with entry-level incomes for graduates of Kansas State averaging around $45,000.

Dietitians have a wide variety of job options, with most being in the medical field. In a hospital setting, a dietitian will complete tasks such as assessing patients’ nutritional needs, developing meal plans, contributing to the latest food and nutritional science research, counseling patients on nutritional issues and healthy eating habits as well as promoting better overall health, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. They are of especial help to patients with issues such as heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, to name a few, making RDN another rising job in the medical field.

For services available more to the public, most can look no further than Hy-Vee.

“In 2000, Hy-Vee first contracted with two dietitians to operate the HealthyBites program,” dietitian Kristi Glessner said. “Since that time, Hy-Vee has added more than 200 dietitians to serve its 244 stores across eight states to help its customers live happier, healthier lives.”

Glessner earned a degree in dietetics from Kansas State, as well as completed internships in the nutritional science field at Kansas State, Geary County WIC, Truman Medical Center in Kansas City and passed the Registered Dietitian examination authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the official credentialing agency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

As a dietitian at Hy-Vee, Glessner offers a variety of services to help people live healthy lives, including nutritional counseling custom tailored to suit an individual’s needs, healthy cooking classes and a few more services exclusive to Hy-Vee.

While much of what Glessner does is offered for free, nutrition consultations do have a fee and some of the classes taught have a cost to cover necessary supplies, Glessner said.

“I enjoy sharing my nutritional expertise with our customers to help them make positive lifestyle changes,” Glessner said. “Many times, customers meet with me because they simply need guidance
or direction on how to eat healthy or best meet their dietary needs.” Like many dietitians, Glessner works one-on-one with customers as well as in groups, depending on the activity. “For example, I may conduct a one-on one store tour to assist someone who is trying to lower their cholesterol or who was just diagnosed with diabetes. Then later that day I may hold a Simple Fix class with a group to demonstrate how to prepare healthy meals that they can freeze and defrost when they are ready to eat them,” Glessner said.

There are many options and classes available to those seeking the knowledge of living a better, healthy lifestyle, whether it is for personal gain or to pursue an entirely new chapter with an education for a career in dietetics. Lastly, for those who are tired of scrolling through thousands of complex and unrealistic recipes on Pinterest, a local dietitian may be just what the doctor ordered.

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