March marks National Nutrition Month® which focuses on the importance of making healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices. It also recognizes registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) as go-to experts for nutrition, whether it be meal planning, managing chronic disease or tailoring diets to support athletic lifestyles, healthy aging, weight loss and more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are nearly 60,000 RDN’s in the U.S., many working in the healthcare field counseling, researching and providing meal-planning services. At Abbott, dietitians are critical: they conduct global research and develop products that feed the tiniest of babies, help children grow, fuel elite athletes and support the frailest of adults battling a disease or illness.
In talking to a dietitian, you’ll quickly find that their profession is a passion — that doesn’t stop at the office or patient’s door.
Tiffany Dewitt, a dietitian at Abbott, is no exception. She specializes in adult nutrition developing products to combat malnutrition and fill nutrition gaps. Tiffany shares the inspiration that drove her to become a dietitian and a few things she’s learned along the way, including what is for dinner at her house.
Q: Why did you become a dietitian?
A: For me, it’s about helping better peoples’ lives through nutrition. Personally, my grandmother’s struggle with cancer inspired me to learn everything I could about prevention. On that journey I discovered the importance of nutrition and lifestyle choices — and a career.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
A. Nutrition is often overlooked or undervalued. I enjoy developing nutrition therapies that help people of different ages and health needs get the nutrients needed to get back to their best life. I also like collaborating with other dietitians to solve problems and help patients receive the nutritional support they need to recover.
Q: What would you change if you could?
A: Good nutrition nourishes our bodies and minds. Without it we can’t function properly. I would love to see nutrition used as a first line of treatment in patient care. For example, up to 50 percent of cancer patients have a nutritional deficit that may be impacting them physically. In oncology clinics, let’s consistently screen every patient for their nutritional status and ensure they get the nutrition therapy needed to endure treatment and their condition.
Q: What is the best advice another RDN gave you?
A: Treat each person as an individual when you give nutrition advice. Nutrition is personal. Beliefs and approaches vary according to an individual’s experience and upbringing with food. It’s important to listen and understand so you can best provide guidance to encourage long-lasting change.
Q: So tell us…do you always eat healthy? What are the common misperceptions you face as a dietitian?
A: No, I don’t always eat healthy! Food brings joy to peoples’ lives — dietitians included! It’s ok to choose fries instead of a salad every now and then. It’s about balance and moderation.
Q: What’s for dinner at your house?
A: As a working mom with young children, I’m often pressed for time. On a busy night, I have my go-to favorites for my family. I’ll make whole wheat spaghetti with sauce and steam green beans. I don’t hesitate to substitute with frozen vegetables too – getting a veggie at every meal is important.
Another favorite are fish tacos – baking cod or mahi mahi and topping them with avocado and mango salsa to add lots of flavor and vitamins. Don’t forget snacks too: keep plenty of fresh berries and cut veggies handy for pre-meal snacks.
In the end, when it comes to healthy eating, you have to decide what your goals are. They are endless ways to eat healthy and achieve your personal health goals. You need to choose what works best for you and your lifestyle — and enjoy!