Happy National Registered Dietitian (RD) Day! Recognized as the nation’s food and nutrition experts, Registered Dietitians around the nation are committed to improving the health and wellness of their clients, no matter how big or small the goals. What better way to celebrate this day by recognizing some of our nation’s elite. In this post, we went and interviewed three Registered Dietitians from different parts of the country. Before we dive into these interviews, let’s first look at some key messages the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has to say about Registered Dietitians (versus “nutritionists” or self-proclaimed “nutrition/health coaches”).
- RDs are food and nutrition EXPERTS who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions and tactics for their clients/patients.
- RDs undergo a rigorous curriculum and have degrees in nutrition/dietetics, public health or a related field from a credentialed university. They also go through an 8 month to 1-year internship program where they practice their clinical, community and management skills.
- RDs take a national exam that grant them the official credentials of RD or RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist). They are not self-proclaimed nutrition coaches. They are the real deal.
- You can find RDs throughout the community including hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, health/fitness centers, food industry, universities, research labs and private practice.
Nutrition For Performance has the privilege of knowing each one of these RDs. They exude love for this profession and have a profound respect for food, and food’s true power on overall health. So without further ado, let’s get into these RDs in the spotlight!
Ryan Turner, RD, CSSD, CDN
I’m Ryan Turner from Long Valley, New Jersey. I’ve lived up and down the east coast after college. My undergrad was spent down at Coastal Carolina University and then got myself to New York University for graduate work and my internship. I’m now working in NYC for NYU as their Sports Dietitian and also as part of a private practice in midtown.
Maria Tripodis MS, RD, LDN
Hello N4P fans! My name is Maria Tripodis, I’m the Clinical Nutrition Manager of The Miami Medical Center in Miami, FL. I was born and raised in Clearwater, FL with 2 Greek parents and 3 lovely sisters. I went to undergrad at FSU (GO NOLES) and majored in Dietetics. I then moved down to the 305 to attend grad school in Dietetics and Nutrition at FIU. During my dietetic internship, I spent my community rotation at the Broward Sheriff’s Office with the wellness team, where I conducted nutrition counseling for policemen, firefighters, and corrections personnel, made sure all the fitness equipment at their facilities were sufficient, and organized wellness initiatives throughout the county. I completed my foodservice rotation at FIU’s campus dining hall, The Fresh Food Company, where I supervised employees and analyzed the menus and inventory. I completed my clinical rotation at University of Miami Hospital where I learned the in’s and out’s of acute care nutrition therapy. In my free time, my favorite thing to do is cook by myself while blasting hip-hop. I also love lifting weights, tending to my herb garden, and visiting new farmer’s markets so I can experiment with foods I’ve never worked with before.
Joshua Rodriguez, MBA, RDN, CPT
Hey everyone! My name is Josh Rodriguez and I am currently a wellness coach for the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) in Monterey, CA. Along with being a wellness coach, I also do private consultations. I am originally from Watsonville, CA. I received my undergraduate degree from San Jose State University in Nutritional Science with a concentration in Dietetics and went on to get my MBA at Dominican University (River Forest, IL).
When/How did you know you wanted to be an RD?
Ryan: Researching and understanding how nutrition affects my body has always been a strong interest of mine. The more I researched and learned, the more I developed an, “if only I knew then what I know now” mentality. Looking back now, as a younger athlete my eating habits held me back from achieving even more than I did. I enjoy teaching people how to improve themselves through nutrition before they realize they can. With that said, I didn’t always know I wanted to become an RD until after I ended my first job out of college, started reading more about our food system and realizing how broken it was, and still is. I really enjoyed the idea of taking the macro view of how food affects our culture as well as how we can make changes on an individual level and decided to go back to school and start a new career.
Maria: When I was young, I always wanted to be a chef and my parents wanted me to be in the medical field. One day when I was 15 my mom said, I have the perfect job idea for you, a nutritionist! It seemed like the perfect medium, I got the best of both worlds. My family on both sides is big into health and longevity based on the Mediterranean lifestyle. I feel like I was meant for it.
Josh: I was fortunate to have been able to take a nutrition class in high school. It was then that I knew I had a passion for the subject and wanted to become a RD. Being latino and seeing that I had a family history of many chronic illnesses, learning about the power of nutrition further solidified my case for wanting to become a professional in the field.
What is your favorite part about being an RD?
Ryan: The gratification of seeing how empowered someone becomes when they realize they’ve taken control of their health through their diet. I see it daily and that’s what keeps me coming back to my office each day. I truly enjoy receiving emails from my hyperlipidemia or diabetic patients; when they forward me their updated blood work after working together for a few months and the plan we discussed kept them from going on medication or helped them get off it. It’s just an awesome feeling.
Maria: Definitely the knowledge. I love being able to help my family and friends with their food and nutrition questions. It not only has allowed me to become closer with extended family members, but long-lost friends from high school and college text me all the time asking for recipes and nutrition advice, so it’s even brought back some old friendships.
Josh: What I love about being an RD is simply being able to engage, learn and share with others. Whether it be working with a single individual to an entire community, being able to spread the good word of nutrition and being able to learn from others about the subject as well brings me joy. Food/nutrition is a social marker. What better way to invoke such thought than by discussing it with others?
What is the most challenging part of being an RD?
Ryan: This may point to deeper rooted personal struggles, but I find it a challenging to separate myself from my work. Food is all around and it keeps my mind always thinking about how I can improve my food suggestions, a different counseling strategy I could have focused on with that last patient, or what I don’t know and need to research more. It can be polarizing at times.
Maria: Probably having to hold my tongue to prevent getting into disagreements with people about nutrition. I’m not confrontational at all, so the last thing I want to do is start an argument with my friends and family about their (misguided) nutrition beliefs. I always make sure to stay as objective as possible, always evidenced-based.
Josh: Nutrition is science, and with it, comes continuous research. It can be difficult to read and learn about all of the new research that has been presented. I try to find balance by focusing on research from certain categories (i.e. sports nutrition, weight management) one-by-one.
What is your food/nutrition philosophy?
Ryan: Improve yourself: don’t let your environment dictate your health. I like to empower my patients through nutrition education. If you sat in on any of my patient sessions or heard me speak to my athletes, you’d hear me talk a lot about “building up your nutrition too box”, preaching “protein plus soluble fiber”, and “optimizing blood sugar”.
Maria: Love this question! My food philosophy is BALANCE IS KEY. One of my nutrition professors in undergrad said “there’s no such thing as a bad food” and it has always stuck with me. One piece of chocolate cake isn’t bad for you, but it becomes bad for you if you eat it every day. Just like 1 bowl of salad isn’t good for you, but if you tie it into your regular diet, it becomes good for you and you’re going to reap the benefits.
Josh: My philosophy with nutrition is that success comes when the individual truly believes in making it a lifestyle, not a mere “quick fix.” The ability to put nutritious food first will ultimately leave a lasting impression on your health.
“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle
What is your favorite cuisine/dish? Why?
Ryan: Ribeye with sautéed mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts all with an Old Fashioned – sit back and indulge. When my workouts increase you’ll find me taking down burritos and tacos pretty consistently. Mexican is the best recovery food.
Maria: Favorite cuisine is Greek food and my favorite dish hands down is my mom’s spanakopita (spinach pie). This is my version of comfort food. It’s got buttery, crispy, flakey filo dough on the outside and the perfect blend of spinach, feta, and cream cheese for the filling. If it’s a friend’s birthday, if they just lost a loved one, or as a thank you gift, my mom will always make them a spanakopita. Not only does it taste amazing, but it takes hours to make, so it’s like giving them a piece of your heart. It’s the best way to let them know that you care and are thinking about them. Now, I make it for my friends all the time.
Josh: Favorite cuisine: Mexican Why? Because I am Mexican and life without Mexican food is no life at all. Favorite Dish: Chile Relleno
What is your favorite exercise or form of physical activity?
Ryan: Running. Nothing clears my head better. I’ve lived in some great places and experienced will always remember my run with the sun coming up over the monuments in DC or a sunset behind the Statue of Liberty. It’s a great way to explore and connect with a city.
Maria: Lifting weights! It’s become therapeutic for me. I also have recently incorporated some cardio for 2 days out of my 3-day split and am definitely noticing the difference. One day it’s treadmill sprints and the next day it’s plyos. I’m not into distance running, so I make sure my cardio is short (~10-15 mins) with very high intensity.
Josh: Aside from playing various sports, I enjoy doing various posture and mobility strength exercises.
Give us one fun fact about yourself.
Ryan: I play the ukulele and brew my own beer. One leaves a bit to be desired and the other is enjoyable regardless of the quality. I’ll let you decide which is which.
Maria: I have a weird obsession with chefs. I think they’re all geniuses and I have so much respect for them. I love reading about the world’s best chefs and following up with their latest awards and creations. I think it’s amazing how they are able to translate their creative minds and childhood upbringings into their dishes and make the customer feel a particular way just through food.
Josh: Being that I’m a thrill seeker, I once participated in the Running of the Bulls/San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain.
There you have it! A little snippet in the life of these amazing RDs. Be sure to check out their websites and social media to see how they are helping make this world a healthier place.