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Ask the RD

Posted by itsupportgroup
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on Wednesday, 08 March 2017 in School Nutrition Blog

AskTheRDHappy National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day from Whitsons Culinary Group.  Whitsons is proud to showcase our experienced team of registered dietitians by picking their brains with frequently asked questions that we receive from students, parents, and the community with our Ask the RD service.


Our team consists of Katherine Barfuss, RD, CDN, Courtney Yablonsky, RD, CDN, and Katherine Ancona, RD, CDN.  Each one of our nutrition experts has specialized knowledge and a passion for certain topics including school nutrition, sports nutrition, weight management, food sensitivities, and so much more.


Our Nutrition Services team is available year-round to provide various value-added services for our accounts, including presentations, interactive workshops, health fairs, and more.  To submit a question, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


As a highlight to National Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist day, our team has chosen a few questions that we would like to share with our Nutrition blog community.


What is the deal with sugar?  I avoid eating too much fruit because I hear it is high in sugar.

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that gives food its sweetness and can either be naturally occurring or added in.  Sugar is found naturally in dairy, fruits and vegetables but added to processed foods like soda, cookies, cakes and protein bars.  Some foods that have naturally occurring sugar can also have sugar added to it, like flavored yogurts.  It’s important to note that there are different kinds of sugar that have different effects on the body.   


The most common type of sugar is sucrose, which is also known as table sugar.  This is the type of sugar found in most processed foods and this is the type of sugar that has been getting a lot of attention lately.  It has been questioned whether or not a diet high in sucrose is good for one’s health.  Studies are showing that diets high in sucrose can increase the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and many other conditions.  Although there is no official upper limit, the World Health Organization recommends limiting sucrose consumption to no more than 10% of total calories. 


Fructose is the type of sugar found in fruits, some vegetables and honey.  Since it can’t be utilized directly by the body as is, it must be broken down by the liver into a usable form.  Avoiding these foods is not recommended since they have amazing health benefits such as being low in calories and providing hydration.  These foods also tend to have fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants.  That being said, eating excessive fruits and honey can cause gastrointestinal distress in some individuals (bloating, diarrhea, gas, etc..) and overtime, a fatty liver.  Since most Americans do not eat enough fruit, this is not typically a problem for the majority of people, but it is a possibility for those that eat more fruit than they need. 


Lactose is the type of sugar found in milk.  Like fructose, it also cannot be used as is and must be converted to a usable form.  For some individuals, lactose is a hard to digest sugar and can cause symptoms like bloating, gas, loose stools and abdominal pain.  Lactose is found in dairy products, however, the bacteria in yogurt and cheese makes the lactose easy to digest, even for people with lactose intolerance. 



What is the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist/health coach?  I often hear them used interchangeably.

The terms registered dietitian and nutritionist are used interchangeably but are separate titles that mean different things.  A registered dietitian is a food and nutrition expert whose entire education is focused on studying the effects of food and disease.  They work with individuals by altering their diets to address their medical needs.  All dietitians hold a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition/dietetics and around 50% also hold graduate degrees (master’s and doctorates).  Many also hold advanced certifications.  Dietitians must also complete 1200 hours of supervised practice (referred to as an internship) before sitting their registration exam.  Once both are successfully passed, they must earn continuing education credits to not only stay current in the field but to also maintain their credential.  The term registered dietitian is a legally protected title. 


On the other hand, the term nutritionist is not legally protected and anyone can call themselves a nutritionist regardless of their education.  Some nutritionists have no education in nutrition (yes, it IS possible AND more common than you think) while some may have either a bachelor’s, master’s and/or doctorate in nutrition.  Others however, fall somewhere in between.  Some nutritionists have completed supervised practice (which should not be confused with the dietetic internship) whereas others have not completed any supervised practice.  Some nutritionists are required to earn continuing education credits while others are not.  The latter scenario is true if the nutritionist is not regulated by any professional body.  Since there is no consistency, it’s hard to know who is legitimate and who is not, so you really have to do your research to ensure you’re receiving dietary advice from a qualified professional.  To sum it all up, all dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are dietitians.   


To add even more confusion to the mix, health coaching (also called wellness coaching), is another term that’s been popping up lately.  Health coaching is the process of having an individual determine the behavioral changes they are going to make as opposed to a healthcare practitioner telling them what to do.  Many dietitians use this model in their practice, however, other professionals including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, etc… also use this model.  It is not a legally protected title and anyone can call themselves a health or wellness coach, even without education or certification in this area.        



I notice that dietitians use one of two credentials- RD and RDN.  What’s the difference?

This is another area of confusion.  Traditionally dietitians have used the RD (registered dietitian) credential but as of March 2013, the RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist) credential became available for use.  Its purpose is to communicate that dietitians incorporate a broader concept of wellness when treating individuals (including prevention of health conditions beyond medical nutrition therapy) as well treating conditions.  The RDN credential is voluntary and dietitians are not required to use it.  Both credentials are considered equivalent to each other. 



I keep hearing how good protein is for you, so I try to eat as much as I can.  Is that okay?  How much is TOO much?

Protein is an essential nutrient, meaning that we have to eat it in order to live.  Just like all other nutrients though, getting too much or too little is bad for health. 

Protein is often attributed to muscle growth and although that is true, protein has other uses.  Protein also maintains acid-base balance in the body as well as fluid balance.  Proteins are used to transport substances, are used to make enzymes, hormones and antibodies and can be used as a source of energy.


Eating more protein than you need can lead to weight gain as the excess protein is stored as fat and not utilized for muscle development.  Eating a pound of protein whether from animal and/or plant sources does not equate to a pound of muscle growth.  Excess protein consumption can also lead to dehydration, poor sports performance, bone loss and cardiovascular disease, especially if the protein comes from fatty foods.     


Many factors determine how much protein we need including our age, sex, kidney health, physical activity level, existing medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, height and weight.  A registered dietitian can help you determine how much protein you need.  


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author and should not be construed as the opinions of Whitsons Culinary Group or any of its affiliates.  All content and material contained in this blog is provided for informational purposes only, and no representation is made as to the accuracy or completeness of this information.  It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual.  It is not medical advice and should not be treated as such.  You should not rely on the information in this blog as a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.




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