Ask the Nutrition Expert: What Is a Dietitian?

A dietitian or, more specifically, registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are credentialed experts in food and nutrition who help people make informed food choices to support their health and well-being, including sharing the story about the origin of food—from farm to table.

Did you know dietitians can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, research centers, schools, supermarkets, media, restaurants, spas, universities, sports teams, Fortune 500 companies and more? They can even work for farmers. I am an RDN and am proud to lead a team of 16 RDNs at National Dairy Council (NDC), working on behalf of America’s dairy farmers.

NDC dietitians have expertise in research, nutrition affairs, supermarkets, restaurants, food and culinary, food science, disease management and health optimization, child nutrition, sports nutrition, education, food and nutrition security, marketing and communications and so much more. We work on diverse projects that underscore the commitment of dairy farmers and the dairy community when it comes to being part of the solution for human health and the health of the planet. Through a nationwide network of more than 100 dietitians — comprised of national and state and regional dairy council team members— we educate, based on peer-reviewed science, about dairy’s contributions to nutrition, health and sustainable food systems.

Here are just a few of the ways our NDC RDNS do this:

  • Working with school nutrition directors and leading organizations like the School Nutrition Association and the Food Research & Action Center to ensure students are fueled for their day through the National School Breakfast and Lunch program, which include dairy foods. School meals can be linked to better performance in school as well as reduced food and nutrition security. They also work with students through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which empowers students to become leaders and teach their peers about the importance of nutrition and physical activity.
  • Collaborating with leading sports nutrition and fitness experts to ensure the comprehensive body of research is considered when it comes to dairy’s role as part of healthy eating patterns on the training table to help athletes perform at their best and recover better, including the role of white or chocolate milk as an exercise recovery beverage.
  • Working with restaurants and companies to help create new products that incorporate nutritious dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt on the menu.
  • Addressing hunger and food insecurity through partnerships with Feeding America, which includes connecting milk processors with food banks to help ensure nutrient-rich milk and dairy foods are available for people in need.
  • Educating others on the importance of sustainable food systems and working with the experts on the topic to understand how dairy can contribute solutions to health and sustainable food systems.
  • Some of our dietitians are researchers who work with other scientists and universities to explore topics like bone health, healthy aging, protein quality as well as to understand the link between recommended dietary patterns, which include dairy foods, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation and more!

As an RDN, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many incredibly smart and talented RDNs across the food system, representing all food groups and helping the public make informed decisions about their diets. Thank you to NDC and state and regional RDNs who help spread the word about how nutritious dairy foods contribute to public health and also connect consumers and health and wellness experts to where their food comes from by sharing stories of dairy farmers. Dairy farmers are stewards of the land and follow best practices to care for their animals and the environment, ultimately providing milk that makes the dairy food group possible to help nourish Americans as part of overall healthy eating patterns.

Interested in learning more about the great work being done? Be sure to join us in our new Dairy Nourishes Network to receive the latest dairy research, resources and information about upcoming webinars, contests and more.

A milk toast and cheers to all of the RDNs who strive to help keep Americans healthy!