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Happy RD Day!

Today we celebrate registered dietitians (RDs)! I am so madly in love with this field. There are so many wonderful RDs doing amazing work in such a wide variety of capacities, and I am honored to be able to highlight three of my favorite people today (plus my own input at the end) as they discuss what brought them to nutrition, what they do now, their favorite eats, and their BEST advice that they find themselves providing to patients and clients on a regular basis. You’re in for a treat!

 Megan Best, RD, NASM-CPT

Health Club Dietitian and Personal Trainer

Megan’s story: With nutrition being my second career, I had to leave a relatively stable corporate job in hospitality to go back to school for dietetics. I was pretty unhappy in that job, and found myself constantly experimenting with recipes and wanting to learn more about food and nutrition. I just found everything so fascinating. When I went back to school and actually enjoyed reading my textbooks (with the exception of organic chemistry!), I knew I made the right decision.

What Megan Does: I am a Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer for a health club in Virginia that is part of a growing chain of health clubs in the DC metro area. In addition to one on one nutrition counseling and personal training, I do metabolic testing, performance coaching, and I get to teach group classes.

Megan’s Favorite Dish: I try to keep things pretty simple in the kitchen lately- any combination of roasted veggies with sweet potato and some sort of protein thrown together in a bowl usually hits the spot. I’m all about the spices!

Megan’s Best Advice: READ NUTRITION LABELS and if you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.

Amy Hollar, MS, RDN, LDN

Cooperative Extension Community Dietitian

Amy’s Story: Before I went back to school for nutrition, I was a scientist working in a research lab. I enjoyed it, but ultimately I was frustrated with the scope of my work. Instead of focusing on specialized topics, I wanted to work on something that touched the lives of literally everyone. When I learned about the profound impact nutrition has on the chronic diseases that affect millions of Americans, it struck me as an opportunity for a very rewarding career. So I became a dietitian with the intention of using my understanding of science and research to convey simple messages that can benefit the vast majority of individuals and families by improving their health and well being.

What Amy Does: I work for a local university’s cooperative extension program. Cooperative extension programs exist to address public needs and provide resources to improve the lives of people living in the community. The program I work for provides nutrition education for limited-resource people and families, as well as support to improve the nutrition environment they live, work, and play in. At the end of the day, my job is about making it easier for people to make healthy choices and lead better lives. I find it deeply fulfilling to spend my days working toward this simple yet significant mission.

Amy’s Favorite Dish: That would have to be something Indian, a really delicious curry maybe. I love how Indian cuisine packs so many contrasting flavors into a single dish.

Amy’s Best Advice: Nutrition is boring. People complain that nutrition advice is always changing, and I know the media makes it seem that way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have loads of scientific research to back up the mundane dietary advice we’ve been doling out for decades- eat more fruits and vegetables, drink water, choose whole grains and lean proteins… you already knew all of that, right? Funny thing is, even though this is the important stuff, we’ve never done a good job following it as a population. And if we all followed that boring advice a little better, the results would be undeniably exciting. So I say keep it simple.

Lauren Comunale, RDN, LDN

Clinical Dietitian

Lauren’s Story: My passion for dietetics stems from my childhood. I grew up in a health and nutrition conscious home, as my mother owns her own personal training business. From an early age, I was taught about the importance of good nutrition and preparing healthy home cooked food.

What Lauren Does: I currently work as a clinical dietitian. I am in charge of the nutritional care for the patients on the general medical surgery floors, the orthopedic floor, and the neurology floor at a 305-bed hospital. As a clinical dietitian, I make sure to check in on patients throughout their hospital stay to check for signs of malnutrition, encourage appropriate healthy eating habits for their conditions, and plan nourishment for those who struggle to chew or swallow, can’t eat enough (or at all!), and those who can’t feed themselves. On my orthopedic floor, I am very involved with the joint replacement program and see each patient in an office visit setting before his or her surgery.

Lauren’s Favorite Dish: My favorite food is crab cakes! You cannot grow up in Maryland and not love crab!

Lauren’s Best Advice: I always find myself telling my patients to focus on health and happiness rather than fixating on a number on the scale. When you find this balance, the rest works itself out. I preach moderation, but not restriction. Eating a balanced diet is important, but enjoying the food that you consume is living!

Andrea Goergen, MHS, RDN, LDN

Outpatient Dietitian Educator and Entrepreneur

My Story: I learned about dietetics as a career when I read an article about it in a magazine at 15 years old. I have always had a love for food, so I could not believe that I could earn a living talking to people about food! I got my undergraduate degree in dietetics long ago, but decided to join the Peace Corps and work as a health educator and research abroad after college. I came back with an interest in public health, so I pursued a graduate degree and landed an incredible job working in health research at the National Institutes of Health. Something was missing from my sweet federal gig, though. I spent much of my time behind a desk analyzing data, and writing memos or research articles. I missed the connection with people and working with others to make positive changes in their lives. So I went back to school to update some of my upper level nutrition knowledge, applied for an internship (a requirement to become an RD), and left my cushy job to re-start my dietetics career.

What I Do: I am working in a bariatric surgery clinic counseling patients through a weight loss program that prepares them for bariatric weight loss surgery. I teach classes and counsel patients on behavior change, healthy eating, meal planning, and nutrition requirements after surgery. I also run a private practice (Cultivate Healthy!) through which I counsel clients on weight loss, digestive health, and mindful eating. My business allows me to facilitate workshops, manage corporate wellness programs, and teach classes, too.

My Favorite Dish: This is a tough one, but my time abroad influenced my palate significantly. I am a Latin food girl all the way, so a plate of rotisserie chicken or carne asada with black beans, rice, guacamole, and plantains is the way to my heart. Add in some fresh corn tortillas and I’m a happy camper!

My Best Advice: Get in the driver’s seat of your own life. I tell my patients and clients that every single day. So much of our crazy lives is spent reacting to events happening to us. When you can set your intentions, plan your meals and your activity, and prepare in advance, that is the beginning of cultivating your healthiest you! And if you fall off the healthy train, be consistent in evaluating what went wrong and developing strategies to deal with those issues next time.

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