March is National Nutrition MonthⓇ and according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it’s a time where us dietitians “invite everyone to focus on the importance of making informed food choices, developing sound eating and physical activity habits.” In March we also celebrate Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day to increase awareness of dietitians as key providers of food and nutrition services for the public.
I know I’m proud to be a dietitian every day, but I do love the ability to celebrate the profession a bit more during this time. I recently wrote about my career path as a dietitian, highlighting the fact that our degrees open us up to so many opportunities to serve the public and profession. In my case, I began my dietetics career working in school nutrition and transitioned into my current role as owner of Whitney Bateson Digital Strategy, where my team and I provide digital marketing services to other dietitians and nutrition-focused companies. It’s definitely a non-traditional path, and one I couldn’t have imagined when I started my career over a decade ago. While there is a demand and need for dietitians in all areas of the profession – from the clinical setting to food service and community nutrition – more and more dietitians are pursuing careers that put their skills to use in new and exciting ways, too.
Therefore, to celebrate the profession and the many ways in which dietitians support the health of the public, I’m highlighting 11 dietitians who inspire me, both for the diverse career paths they took, as well as for the graciousness, professionalism, and energy they bring to the field of nutrition.
Ana Reisdorf MS RD, Nutrition Writer and Owner of Ana Reisdorf
Ana creates evidence-based content for wellness brands and employs a team of dietitian writers within her writing agency to ensure the public receives fact-based, reliable information. She is a force to be reckoned with – I absolutely loved working with her when we rebranded her business and website – she’s a confident, savvy businesswoman with a clear vision. Even better, Ana runs an active Facebook group for current and aspiring nutrition writers, helping other RDs pursue their professional goals.
Shelley Maniscalco MPH RDN, Consultant, Coach, and Owner of Nutrition on Demand – Shelley Maniscalco, Consulting
I first met Shelley when we worked together promoting MyPlate through the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion’s MyPlate Partnership initiative, and we reconnected when she established her business a few years ago. She gave me invaluable support and encouragement as I began my entrepreneurial journey, and inspired me with the great work she was doing at Nutrition on Demand. Shelley and her team are a one-stop-shop for government organizations, corporations, and individuals who are seeking nutrition and public health services. Shelley’s positive attitude is pretty contagious, and the process she’s created to serve her consulting clients is one to take note of.
Julie Skolmowski MPH, RD, SNS, Branch Chief, Food Distribution Division, USDA
If you work in child nutrition, you know how important USDA Foods (sometimes referred to as “commodities”) can be to the success of our programs. Julie not only champions USDA Foods in schools, she also supports food distribution for child care, food distribution on Indian reservations, emergency food assistance, and more. I’ve always been impressed with Julie’s management style and her ability to face each new challenge and opportunity with positivity and thoughtfulness. I think Julie also serves as a great example of a dietitian successfully navigating leadership and management within the government sector – an unconventional path, but an important one for us dietitians!
Stephanie Clairmont RD, Online Program Guru, Owner and Founder of The Leveraged Practice
Stephanie started the Leverage Practice because she saw a need in the industry to work smarter, not harder, and help other dietitians navigate the sometimes complex world of online course creation. Online courses can be a great way to extend our reach as dietitians, and maintain our sanity as well (you only have so many hours in the day to see clients one-on-one!). However, developing, launching, and running a successful online program is no easy feat, and that’s where Stephanie and her team come in. I love Stephanie’s business because it’s an example of us dietitians helping other dietitians create thriving businesses. Plus, well-developed online programs can mean more people gaining access to the knowledge and skills they need to live healthy lives, in an accessible format that’s in keeping with our increasingly digital world. Stephanie also runs an awesome Facebook group to support us dietitian entrepreneurs.
Heather Caplan RD, Founder and Event Director of Weight Inclusive Nutrition and Dietetics
Health at every size, weight inclusivity, and a focus on health, rather than body size or weight, are concepts that many dietitians are tuning into, but at times it can be a lonely road as the medical field catches up to this new way of thinking. Heather founded Weight Inclusive Nutrition and Dietetics (WIND) to create a safe space for like-minded dietitians to connect, collaborate, and learn together. WIND has held successful in-person events in Washington, DC and New York, and continues to create new opportunities for dietitians to feel supported as they apply weight inclusive dietetics to their own practices. If that isn’t enough, Heather is also host of the Podcast RDRealTalk where she and her guests keep it real – sharing their philosophies and personal stories. Another great example of dietitians supporting other dietitians! 🙌
Mellissa Honeywood RD, Foodservice Director, Cambridge Public Schools
Mellissa and I completed our dietetic internship together at Keene State in New Hampshire, and ended up going into similar fields, working in school nutrition. Mellissa began her career in Baltimore City Public Schools, I worked in DC Public Schools. Mellissa now leads the Food and Nutrition Department in Cambridge Public Schools, and it makes my heart happy to see a dietitian in a foodservice director role. Of course, when you’re managing a foodservice operation, nutrition is a fraction of the job – procurement, public relations, business management, and human resources also come with the territory. I’ve always loved Mellissa’s light-hearted approach to her roles in school nutrition – it may not always be easy running a school meal program, but she keeps the end goal in mind – serving delicious, nutritious meals to kids. Another fun fact, Mellissa received her degree in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson and Wales, and has the culinary skills to prove it. I always wished I had taken some culinary training during my schooling to better prepare me to offer not just nutrition, but food advice!
Alissa Rumsey MS RD CDN CSCS, Intuitive Eating Coach, Speaker, and Coach for RDs
Alissa has been an Academy Spokesperson, RD-on-TV, clinical dietitian, and now focuses her practice on intuitive eating and business coaching for other RDs. She isn’t afraid to tell (and show… check out her Instagram) it like it is, which is super inspiring. I also love the path she’s taken in her career – showing that you can really create your own destiny as an RD, depending on what you enjoy doing and where you want that path to take you. Fun fact: Alissa and I also did our undergrad together at the University of Delaware!
Lauren Panoff MPH RD, Writer and Plant-Based Lifestyle Strategist
Lauren and I connected when she was looking to rebrand her business and website to focus more on her writing and brand partnerships in the vegan and parenting space. I love that Lauren helps parents who are wanting to raise their kids on a plant-based diet with practical, non-judgmental advice. She’s been published in countless news outlets, appeared on TV, and is just a really awesome RD carving out a niche and name for herself. Often we are taught in our undergrad programs about the more traditional roles RDs can take – namely in clinical, foodservice, and community settings – but RDs like Lauren demonstrate how to still be true to ourselves as RDs (giving sound, science-based advice and practical tips and tools to the public), in new and exciting ways.
Chef Vahista Ussery MS MBA RDN, Chef and Culinary Nutrition Educator, Co-Founder of To Taste
Another RD-Chef combo! I also came to know “Chef V” and the To Taste family when we connected to update the recipe section of their website a few years ago (and we’ve partnered again for a complete redesign of their site, which I am super excited about and will include on my portfolio page when it’s done). To Taste is focused on teaching people foundational skills for preparing healthy, delicious meals for themselves and their families. They do this by focusing on “base recipes” (think overnight oats, for example) that can then be customized with different flavors and ingredients, so people can build their confidence with preparing meals without always following a recipe. I know this is a challenge for me personally – while recipes are great, I wish I could just look in my kitchen and “whip something up” without having to head back to the store for missing ingredients called for in a recipe. So, I really love what To Taste is about, and think they’re another inspiring example of dietitians helping the public in their own unique way.
Megan Boitano MS RD CNSC, Founder of RD2RD – Online Marketplace for Dietitians
I first met Megan at a Nutrition Entrepreneurs event at FNCE, and we immediately hit it off. She was building an online marketplace to make it easier for dietitians to gain access to resources (handouts, presentations, etc.) that would make their jobs easier, while supporting the dietitians who created them. I thought the idea was brilliant – there are so many awesome resources out there, created by dietitians – why should someone have to create something from scratch? We all know how valuable time is, and if you’re able to utilize resources from another reputable source (a fellow RD), even better! And the marketplace is just the tip of the iceberg – Megan also provides useful marketing and selling tips across all of her channels, including within her Facebook group, in the form of Facebook Live interviews, her blog, and regular newsletters. And as a fellow RD who went down a road-less-traveled (combining tech/marketing/online with dietetics), my hat goes off to her innovative and entrepreneurial spirit!
Tarrah Westercamp MS RD SNS, Indiana School Breakfast Manager at Share Our Strength
Tarrah and I first worked together at Chartwells, and she exemplifies what it means to be an “intrapreneur:” in her role as a dietitian in one of our school districts, she was always finding new ways to bring excitement and attention to the school meals program, while promoting healthy habits along the way. One idea she created during the summer was a “nutrition scavenger hunt” that utilized QR codes to send meal participants to different feeding sites across the district to gain points and learn about nutrition at each location. Not only did she deliver nutrition education in a new way, she also educated the district about the many places they could go to receive free meals throughout the summer months. Tarrah is now bringing this same innovative approach to her new role, and I couldn’t be happier for her. One of my biggest pieces of advice to any RD working within a larger company, is to keep trying new things and sharing them with your colleagues and superiors. It keeps the job fresh (for your own sanity!) and adds a lot of value to the organization overall.
There you have it – I hope you enjoyed reading about these dietitians and the many ways they are supporting the profession and the public. Who inspires you as a dietitian? Let’s share the love – let me know in the comments!