LiveSmart: Celebrating Dietitians and Moving “Beyond the Table”

[Written by Jamie Epting, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, System Director for Clinical Nutrition, St. Peter’s Health Partners.]

March is National Nutrition Month, a celebration of the importance of making informed food choices and the professionals on the front of line of educating people on those choices – registered dietitians.

When you want nutrition advice, seek out a registered dietitian. They are professionals credentialed through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the United States. There are no regulations on a person calling themselves a “nutritionist,” so there is no way to know what skills and knowledge they bring to the table.

Effective January 1 of this year, the AND changed the minimum education requirement for dietitians to a graduate degree. That means a registered dietitian must have both an undergraduate and graduate level degree, with extensive biology and chemistry coursework, to sit for the AND’s accreditation exam. And dietitians also must complete a very competitive and rigorous internship program, which includes up to 1,200 hours in different specialties.

Although education is at the core of everything registered dietitians do, in the hospital setting they do much more than teach people how to eat right and make meal plans.

Registered dietitians make recommendations to doctors on how to feed patients that can’t take food orally. They look at the big picture of a patient who may have complex medical issues, reviewing their labs and tailoring their care with recommendations for increasing or decreasing certain nutrients.

In a big hospital, each dietitian usually has a specialty. Although registered dietitians are well-rounded in all aspects of nutrition, one may be in expert in critical care while another may be an expert in pediatrics or cardiac care.

Just as it’s important for me to have a diverse team of registered dietitians with different skills and expertise on my team at St. Peter’s, diversity is key in a healthy diet. A diverse arsenal of foods helps to keep your healthy meal routine from becoming boring.

The theme of National Nutrition Month this year is “Beyond the Table.” The focus is on the farm-to-fork aspect of nutrition, from food production and distribution, to navigating grocery stores and farmer’s markets to select the right foods for a healthy, delicious lifestyle. Visit the AND’s National Nutrition Month page at for tips on eating right, reducing food waste, eating on a budget, smart snacking for adults and teens, and many more.

If you are a dietitian looking to join the SPHP team, we have opportunities in a variety of settings. Visit and search “dietitian” for more information.

Happy National Nutrition Month from all of us here at St. Peter’s!

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