Watch nutrition like HAWC

by 2nd Lt. Lindsey Leitz
Nutrition program manager

March is National Nutrition Month, which begs the question, “Where do you get your nutrition information?” Advice from family, friends and colleagues, coupled with the massive amount of information found on the Internet, leaves many people in a state of nutrition information overload. The challenge stems from the fact that everyone eats, so everyone has a familiarity with food. However, many people do not truly understand the science behind nutrition. Terms like “kilo calories,” “thermic effect of food” and “ketogenesis” cloud the issue further.

Most of us have not had a nutrition lesson since middle school, yet we continue to turn to each other for advice. While this seems harmless, this improper nutrition counsel can have serious health implications.  Would you have your car engine repaired by your dentist? This is essentially what you are doing when you get your nutrition information from someone other than a nutrition expert, or worse, your Facebook feed. Not only does this get confusing, it can be dangerous.

Where do you begin? The natural answer is to ask a nutrition professional. Ironically, one of the biggest foundational misunderstandings is many people do not know the difference between a registered dietitian and nutritionist. In fact, there is a world of difference between the two.

A registered dietician meets the following criteria:
• Bachelor’s degree in nutrition/dietetics
• Completes a 1,200-hour accredited, supervised internship
• Passes a national registration exam
• Completes continuing professional educational requirements every five years to stay current in the field

A nutritionist, on the other hand, is not a standardized position and the term is not regulated. While a nutritionist might have a Ph.D. in nutrition and have been an expert in the field for decades, it is also possible that they hold no credential other than their interest. It is wise to verify their background.

If you do not have a nutrition professional in your area, the Internet is always within reach. This should be approached with caution.  Publishing an all-inclusive list is not practical.

However, below are a few reliable, dietitian approved websites to get you started:
• Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,
• Choose My Plate,
• American Heart Association,
• American Diabetes Association,
• Human Performance Research Center,

When it comes to eating and nutrition, what comes easy to one person, does not to another. What is right for one person could be wrong for another. What is safe for one person can be downright dangerous for another. The next time you hear someone giving nutrition advice, think twice about heeding it until you have verified with a reliable, evidenced-based source.

Contact the Ramstein Health and Wellness Center for your nutrition, fitness and wellness needs at 480-4292.