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Dietitians, choose your battles

If you read publications intended for Registered Dietitians (the only kind of nutritionists who are allowed to work in hospitals), you will often see a lot of pieces which put down the 'others' - people who call themselves nutritionists but aren't RD's. There's a good reason to do this because as the law stands, anybody can call themselves a nutritionist; so it stands to reason that due to the clinical and academic training of an RD, a patient should be safer. I'm an RD myself, I know the work that went in to becoming one - a lot of it rather baffling (snapshot: pancreatic cancer patient screaming at me - quite rightly - 'what is the point of you?' when I offered her Ensure when she wanted soup. I wanted to give her soup but the hospital kitchen said no.)

I still remain baffled sometimes. A few months ago I read an editorial in a dietitians magazine (I sadly can't recall which one, I threw it away already) where the editor was literally bitching about how terrible it is that a Superfood cafe was going to open in a hospital in London, and what an awful message it is going to give to patients and that superfoods are rubbish etc etc. I just couldn't believe my eyes.

Yes, she has a point that almost all plant foods could be classed as superfoods and when people get on the bandwagon about chia seeds being a cure all for every ailment they're clearly going potty! BUT, and a big but, is it not better that people eat chia seeds and quinoa instead of the 'food' provided by Burger King etc who are very well distributed in the lobbies of hospitals? What am I missing here?

The superfood battle is a small one we RD's have to fight - we need to remind people that apples, plums, raisins etc are all packed with nutrition too and a diet full of different plant foods is the best way forward and not to fall victim to fads. But it is a much smaller battle then the one we should be fighting with all our might - to get junk food off the hospital trays served to sick patients and out of the lobbies of hospitals. To ensure that the message of food as medicine is something that dietitians shout from the rooftops.

Dear dietitians who moan about other nutritionists; stop being defensive and look inward. WHY has this gap of alternative nutritionists being so popular arrived? Many, many RD's are FAILING people by being too cautious to say that processed food IS in fact bad for our health, it SHOULD be out of people's lives as much as possible, food is nature's BEST medicine and to the dietitian who told my patient yesterday to increase his caloric load by adding custard to his food, shame on you. Shame on you for telling a man, at a moment when he has learned his cancer has moved from bowel to liver, that he can liberally add absolute processed crap onto his food, but ooohhh noooo be careful of that cafe serving green smoothies and sauteed kale! It is not giving a patient false hope to tell them to eat as close to nature as possible - it is simply common sense.

If dietitians don't loudly proclaim the importance of food as medicine, other nutritionists will, and they're quite right. I'm an RD and a nutritionist and my patients are safe. The RD recommending custard instead of extra virgin olive oil, and the RD bitching about a superfood cafe instead of lobbying the government to make changes to hospital food and to remove chain restaurants from the hospitals themselves are also not a safe haven for very sick patients, despite their clinical training.

RD's: Choose your battles. Non dietitians - always choose the super food option instead of the chain restaurant; it will definitely be healthier for you. A french fry is disease promoting, kale is not (unless you are one of the tiny minority who have a condition requiring you to avoid greens), in which case have an apple :-)


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