A Day in the Life of a Dietitian
In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, find out what it is like to be a clinical dietitian.
Learn how Laura Yudys, MS, RD, LDN, inpatient dietitian at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, and Carla Schuit, MPH, RD, LDN, outpatient dietitian for Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Adult Weight Management and Bariatrics, spend their day.
Q. What is your typical day like as a dietitian?
Yudys. As an inpatient dietitian, no two days are ever the same, which is one of the things I love most about my work. I cover the Neuro ICU, Neuro step-down floor and two surgical floors at Central DuPage Hospital. Many of the patients I see have had a stroke or other brain injury or are recovering from a surgery, such as a bowel resection. I educate patients on eating plans, ranging from stroke prevention to eating with an ileostomy.
Many patients I see require nutrition support in the form of tube feeding or intravenous nutrition. A major focus of inpatient dietitians is properly screening for malnutrition and providing nutrition interventions to reduce the complications of malnutrition.
Schuit. I work in Adult Weight Management and Bariatrics. I see patients who are looking to eat healthier food and lose weight. In addition to individual appointments, I participate in New Directions, Medical Weight Management and Surgical clinics. From a surgical standpoint, my job is to help guide our patients through the surgical process and make sure they understand the dietary modifications and requirements after surgery. Our New Directions and Medical Weight Management programs provide nonsurgical options for desired weight loss, focusing on the relationship with food and lifestyle modifications. Some patients opt to also use weight loss medications to help them lose weight. My schedule fluctuates daily depending on what clinics and classes are offered that day.
Q. What do you look forward to most about your work?
Yudys. I most look forward to the opportunity to help people understand the impact of food and nutrition on overall health. Whether it's clarifying a misconception about a food group, educating patients on the benefits of certain nutrients in disease prevention or helping patients navigate a new way of eating based on their current condition, the right foods for them can make a big difference in their quality of life.
Schuit. I love helping my patients achieve their goals. Many of my patients have tried different diet and weight-loss programs in the past with mixed results. I help them understand why those plans didn't work and how they can implement an eating plan that is sustainable. There is so much information available about nutrition and weight, and patients can be very confused about what they should and should not be doing. I like helping them sift through the information and figure out what will work best for them.
Q. What do you eat for lunch?
Yudys. I often eat leftovers from dinner from the previous night: veggie stir-fry, chicken and bean tacos, baked salmon and roasted potatoes. Another go-to is what I call my "adult Lunchable," which includes deli turkey, cheese, whole grain crackers, and cutup fruits and veggies.
Schuit. Today, I had a salad with salmon and an 18 Rabbits granola bar.
Q. What is the most common advice you give about how to eat healthy?
Yudys. I call it my "90/10 rule," and it's my take on the idea of moderation. About 90 percent of the time, eat in a way that nourishes your body and that helps you maintain a healthy weight and prevent disease. The other 10 percent of the time, allow yourself the flexibility to enjoy the foods that may not provide optimal nutritional value but that provide value toward your quality of life.
Schuit. Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong process. We are looking for patients to improve and eat better -- not strive for perfection. Choose small changes you can make daily that will create lifelong habits. If you indulge, enjoy it, and then just get back on a healthy track for your next meal. Quick fixes often provide quick results, but also a quick route to old eating patterns. Be realistic about what you are willing to change and focus on that.