Most of you non-RDs probably don’t know, but the American Dietetic Association recently changed its name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This change didn’t really make sense to me because I feel like it sounds like a school now with the word “academy” in the title. Then, this month on National Registered Dietitian day, they also decided that RDs (Registered Dietitians) can also start using the title RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist). I think the RDN is ok because half the people I work with want to call me a nutritionist anyway. So, now I no longer have to correct them. Great!
The purpose of this post is not to update you on the pointless name changes, but to discuss something that has been really upsetting me lately in my profession. AND has done a good job of promoting RDs as “THE” experts in nutrition and dietetics. In terms of clinical nutrition, in the US, RDs are the only ones who can practice medical nutrition therapy in hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. RDs do have a specific set of training and skills which is standardized and determined by the Commission for Dietetic Registration. This standardization gives RDs a lot of job flexibility in that they are eligible to do a variety of different jobs including clinical nutrition, food service, and community nutrition. I am happy with those options, as I know that with my RD license I will always have a job. Awesome for RDs!
But, it has come to my attention that although AND has promoted the RD as the nutrition expert and the CDR has standardized our qualifications and education, AND is now (and has been for awhile) doing us as nutrition professionals a great disservice. One of the primary reason I am not a member of AND (other than it is expensive and I don’t see the real benefit), is the fact that they gladly accept corporate sponsorship from companies like PepsiCo and McDonald’s. Companies like this are allowed to sponsor continuing education units and lectures at the annual AND meeting. Coca-cola particularly has been allowed to give presentations regarding how sugar is “not that bad” and provide RDs with information like this (I particularly enjoy the part where they say that increased sugar intake cannot be linked to obesity…WHAT???). In a recent article, an RD was discussing how McDonald’s breakfast (the SUPER high sugar oatmeal) is a healthy choice. I will challenge you to eat the oatmeal and see how you feel a few hours later, my bet is that you will be STARVING and looking for more carbs. How is this a good thing? Not to mention how excess sugar and carbohydrates are the primary cause of the obesity epidemic, this clip from the movie Fat Head explains it beautifully.
I think RDs need to stand together and take back their organization. I don’t think its bad for RDs to work for these corporations, as maybe they can promote positive change, but I think our message needs to be clear. Real food = good nutrition. Fake food (filled with chemicals, sugar, trans fats) will NEVER be an ideal diet for humans. There is NO man-made food that can replace the nutrition provided by locally grown, organic fruits, vegetables, and grass-fed meats. It may be idealistic to think everyone can eat this way, but RDs and other nutrition professionals are determined and smart enough to figure out ways to impact real change in our food systems, especially if we take back our organization and start a real conversation without the influence of corporate sponsorship. If you are an RD, consider joining the Facebook group “Dietitians for Professional Integrity” to learn more.