National Nutrition Month, observed every March, is a nutrition education campaign by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that focuses public awareness on the importance of not only making more informed (and better) food choices but also developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month – “Celebrate A World of Flavors” – highlights how flavors from cultures around the world are not only a tasty way to nourish ourselves but also an opportunity to appreciate our region’s impressive cultural diversity.
“We’re all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes,” says Lucette Talamas, a registered dietitian with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida. “As registered dietitians, we can help create healthy eating habits that allow you to celebrate your heritage and favorite flavors — or explore new ones.”
What’s the difference between a registered dietitian and nutritionist?
According to Ms. Talamas, Registered Dietitians (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria in order to earn their credentials:
- Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a U.S. regionally accredited university or college and course work accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Effective January 1, 2024, the minimum degree requirement will change from a bachelor’s degree to a graduate degree.
- Completed an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agencies, and foodservice corporations. This may be combined with undergraduate or graduate studies.
- Passed the national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
- Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain credential.
- Some RDNs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice such as pediatrics, renal nutrition, sports dietetics, nutrition support and diabetes education.
- In addition to RDN credential, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners to assure every practitioner meets minimum requirements for safe practice. Therefore, some dietitians have the LDN credential signifying they are licensed in their state of practice.
Do I have to give up the flavors I love?
“Food is so much more than just fuel – it’s so deeply rooted in our cultures and traditions and personal preferences,” acknowledges Amy Kimberlain, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) with Community Health at Baptist Health. “As registered dietitians, we hope to show people that they can fill their plates with the foods they love and still eat healthy.”
Ms. Kimberlain says that regardless of which culture’s cuisine you enjoy, you should consider following the Baptist Plate, as adapted from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate guidelines. This involves making 50 percent of your plate vegetables, 25 percent whole grains and 25 percent lean proteins.
“This provides the macro and micronutrients your body needs, it’s sustainable and it can easily accommodate any dietary restrictions, cultural considerations or food preferences,” Ms. Kimberlain says. “We should all be personalizing our plates since we’re all unique and have our own individual tastes and preferences.”
What about carbohydrates?
Carla Duenas, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) with Community Health at Baptist Health, suggests you try to break down your plate into the main food groups: vegetables, grains and proteins. “When eating Italian food, for example, eating a Caesar or Caprese salad can count as vegetables, with some added protein from the parmesan or mozzarella cheese,” says Ms. Duenas.
When it comes to carbohydrates, Ms. Duenas recommends asking yourself what is it that you’re craving. Risotto? Pasta? Bread? All count for the same food group, she says, adding that portion control is important with carbs.
Continuing the Italian food theme, she suggests filling 25 percent of your plate with your favorite Italian carbohydrate – “If it’s whole grain, that’s even better because you’re getting added fiber,” she says – and the remaining 25 percent of your plate could be a lean protein such as grilled chicken or branzino.
Craving Middle Eastern food? Ms. Duenas suggests substituting labneh (thickened yogurt spread) for cream cheese and try snacking on hummus or babaganoush (eggplant dip). “You can also spice up dishes with za’atar or sumac or by making a lemon-tahini salad dressing,” she says. “You should also try kefir, a fermented milk that’s rich in probiotics and similar in taste to yogurt.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Amy Kimberlain RDN LDN is a registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida. Ms. Kimberlain has 20 years of experience in nutrition and dietetics and is a media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.
Carla Duenas MS RDN is a registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida. A passionate promoter of wellness and prevention, and nutrition’s role in managing chronic diseases, Ms. Duenas’ expert tips and advice have been featured in print and broadcast media.
Lucette Talamas MS RD LDN is a registered dietitian with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida. Ms. Talamas enjoys providing practical nutrition information to promote healthy lifestyles that can help prevent and manage chronic diseases. Her expert tips and advice have appeared in print and broadcast media.