[This story was written by Jamie Epting, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, the system director of clinical nutrition for 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 (ANC), 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.
A registered dietitian has at least four years of education including extensive biology and chemistry coursework. Following the completion of that education, dietitians next apply for a very competitive and rigorous internship program, which includes 1,200 hours in different specialties. The final step is gaining accreditation, following a comprehensive exam conducted by ANC. Although many registered dietitians already have one, starting in 2024, a master’s degree will be required for someone to sit for the exam.
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 recipes helps to keep your healthy meal routine from becoming boring. Recipes from different ethnic backgrounds can be a fun way to explore new and exciting flavors. That is why the theme of National Nutrition Month this year is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.”
Throughout March, the dietitians at St. Peter’s will be partnering with colleagues to share recipes from cultures around the world. We will be sharing these recipes and stories on St. Peter’s social media in the coming weeks, as well as tips on how to meal prep and make recipes a little healthier.
Below is our first featured team: Ricardo and Aimee! Ricardo grew up in Jamaica and enjoyed learning to cook with his grandmother. Aimee and Ricardo both enjoy gardening and love good food. And they agree the most important ingredient in every dish is love.
Happy National Nutrition Month from all of us here at St. Peter’s!
Embrace the Flavors of Jamaica!
Ital is a vegetarian diet intended to improve health and energy through a focus on natural, clean food. Because many classic Jamaican dishes include meat or fish (such as jerk chicken, below), serving them with ital-style vegetables offers a perfect balance of flavors.
St. Peter’s dietitian notes:
- Ital-style cooking keeps veggies light, fresh, and full of vitamins and minerals.
- Removing the chicken skin lowers the fat and will boost the spiciness.
- Pair jerk chicken and ital with a serving of rice with stewed peas for a balanced meal.
1/2 whole nutmeg seed
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs. coriander seeds
1 tsp. whole cloves
6 allspice (pimento) seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 to 3 scotch bonnet peppers
10 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
10 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh lime juice or white vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup light brown sugar
8-9 pieces of chicken, cut small
- Dry toast nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cloves, allspice, and black peppercorns. Grind into a powder.
- Puree all ingredients into jerk marinade
- Score chicken, season with salt and work in marinade. Refrigerate overnight
- Bake 35 min at 350oF, finish on grill to 165oF
1 medium chopped onion
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 medium cabbage, chopped
1 bunch callaloo (or kale)
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 small sweet green pepper, diced
1/4 cup water
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, sliced finely, no seeds (or jalapeño for less heat)
Black pepper and salt to taste
- Sauté onion in oil until translucent.
- Add remaining ingredients, except for hot pepper, salt, and black pepper and steam (covered).
- Add remaining ingredients, cook briefly to combine.