California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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Featured RDNs/DTRs



Featured RDN/DTR of the Month

Jennifer DeFrain

November 2015

Jennifer DeFrain, MS, RD

Registered Dietitian and CEO of Dietitians of OC

LinkedIn: Dietitians of OC
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

Our November feature, Jennifer DeFrain, MS, RD, has such an amazing background that it will make your head spin! From food service to clinical to dialysis to management and most currently...CEO. Wow...impressive! Since 2003 she has managed to start her own company and place over 100 dietitians in 200 organizations in southern California! As a business professional she is passionate about sharing that knowledge and has taken on Public Policy through CAND Orange County District in hopes of teaching dietitians how to be more "business savvy." Read on for her inspiring story!

Please tell us about your experience in the field of dietetics, and where your passions lie. How many years experience have you had and what is your background? I have been a registered dietitian since 1998, 17 years. Before I became a dietitian I had the opportunity of gaining experience in the hospital setting as a dietitian's assistant and a kitchen supervisor while putting myself through school. I completed my Internship at the Detroit Medical Center, a large teaching hospital with more than 2,000 beds. I completed my Masters Degree at Central Michigan University. My first job as a registered dietitian was at another teaching hospital with over 1,000 beds, William Beaumont Hospital, from 1998-2001. I worked at the hospital's dialysis clinic my first year and then worked on the Oncology and Gastroenterology units. On weekends and during staffing shortages I helped cover all units in the hospital. During my time at this hospital I presented two Poster sessions at an Oncology Conference at MD Anderson Cancer Center. I also participated in several television interviews for the local news whenever the local stations had nutrition related news and requested registered dietitian expertise.

I moved to Southern California in 2001 as a clinical dietitian with Sodexo and then worked with them as a Clinical Nutrition Manager until 2003. I earned a Nutrition Support Certification in 2001 and a Certification in Adult Weight Management in 2005.

In 2003 I started Dietitians of Orange County, a consulting company providing registered dietitians in a variety of health care settings from clinical assignments to work site wellness. In the beginning I used to take all the consulting opportunities I could fit into my schedule and then subcontract out the rest. I found there was a need for a pool of reliable and experienced consultant dietitians with good problem solving skills that could adapt and jump right in and be a relief to accounts instead of adding to their staffing burden or department drama. Being more business minded than anything else, and having the experience of a Clinical Nutrition Manager, my clients' needs could not have been clearer. When these accounts called for our help I knew exactly what they needed in order to relieve their staffing shortage and make their life easier as a director, manager or administrator. They were not calling our office for a friend or for any more addition burdens to add to their department but simply the need for a professional, pleasant presence in the department that could complete the dietitian work correctly and efficiently with very little handholding. In essence, a consultant needs to have business sense, knowing their value is in their professionalism and efficiency of work more than their ability to be a part of any facility activities that may distract them from being as productive as possible. Clients pay top dollar for the clinical skills of a consultant and they expect top performance on all levels including behavior and professionalism.

We currently provide registered dietitians for over 200 health care organizations including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and hospices with a resource pool of over 100 dietitians. Just this year (2015) Dietitians of Orange County became "in network" providers for Anthem Blue Cross and we are now expanding the office setting side of the business. My niche has been to fill dietitian-staffing needs in the health care community with the appropriate dietitians. I work closely with my dietitians, and try to sharpen the business side of them by encouraging them to follow the standards that the company has learned works over the past 13 years. Each consultant in the company has the ability to learn from the accumulative experience of the company as a whole making them an even more valuable consultant.

What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition and why? Please tell us about your role in your consulting firm and what services you provide. What population do you serve? I honestly have to say I am a businesswoman by birth and a dietitian by education. I have always had a business sense starting with lemonade stands before the age of 10 and housecleaning and baby-sitting as an early teen then of course the normal waitressing etc during college. My entrepreneurial side was strong enough to realize, as a Business major in college that you don't need to have a degree in business to own a business but rather a good product and know a lot about it. I had an interest in nutrition, before even knowing the "degree" existed, so when I found out there was a "nutrition degree," I learned how to become a dietitians and started my degree all over at a new university and have been passionate about it ever sense. I had not even thought about any business dealings as a dietitian and assumed I would work for a hospital or other health care facility. I first started consulting out of a need for flexibility in my schedule while finishing my graduate thesis. I was working in the hospital as a clinical nutrition manager and just could not find the time I needed to finish my thesis or truly invest the time I needed into my job as a clinical nutrition manager. I quit my job and picked up consulting hours for a few nursing homes while finishing my thesis. Once my thesis was complete I continued consulting and found there were unlimited opportunities for consultant dietitians. I was in the perfect place in my life to take a few risks with consulting. I realized the career path for dietitians was wide open and there was so much more a dietitian could do than I realized. Dietitians have an amazing education and have more to offer than people realize. I just hope I can do my part while being a dietitian to market all of our abilities and our worth in the health care field! My goal is to sell the expertise of a true consultant RD and allow them room to bloom while recognizing their true value in the health care setting.

When did you start the company and what inspired you to do so? Although I had planned to go back into hospital management once my thesis was complete I found I enjoyed consulting and the variety of doing something different every day. I particularly enjoyed finding out how different health care facilities operated and the different styles of various nutrition departments. I was open to realizing there is not just one perfect way to meet the nutrition requirements of facilities but that each facility is unique and needs to develop their own individual style to meet the specific needs of their population while also meeting regulations and standards of care.

What is the most rewarding part of your career? I feel so rewarded when I see more opportunities for dietitians open up. As a business owner and dietitian, I want not only healthcare facilities, but society as a whole to recognize our value in helping to improve the health of America! I am a voice for our profession and am constantly showing our community the need they have for dietitians! I recently became involved politically for our profession as the public policy chair for the Orange district of CAND. I hope my business sense can have a good influence in our career and I can teach dietitians how to be more business savvy. For some reason the dietitian personality is not very aggressive or business savvy and I think in some respects that has slowed our career down. I hope I can make a positive difference in our career by sharing my business knowledge with other dietitians and students.

Have you received any special recognition's or awards? I was just nominated for: "Excellence in Private Practice, Business or Communications Award" by my district this year.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs and students?Someone once told me "Always do the right thing and you can't go wrong." When I get into challenging situations and need to give myself advice the first thing I ask is "what is the right thing to do" in the grand scheme of things; I have found even though it may not be the easiest or the most fun it always works out and gives you peace of mind in the long run! Without peace of mind it is difficult to accomplish much!

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Lori Zanini

October 2015

Lori Zanini, RD, CDE

Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator; National Media Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Website:
Twitter: @LoriTheRD
LinkedIn: Lori (Walker) Zanini, RD, CDE
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

Lori Zanini is one well-rounded dietitian! Her work as a media spokesperson and consultant has allowed her to provide her expertise in many areas of nutrition! She not only has a private practice but is the AND National Media Spokesperson in which one of her main focuses is to promote the dietitian as the leaders in the food and nutrition industry!

Please tell us about your experience in the field of dietetics, and where your passions lie. How many years experience have you had and what is your background? With over 8 years experience as a Registered Dietitian, I have enjoyed working in a variety of areas within the dietetics field. I have worked as a clinical dietitian in a hospital, outpatient diabetes educator, employee wellness specialist, consultant for global fitness brands, as a media spokesperson, and as a business owner.

My passion is in nutrition communications and the creativity that can lie in creating solutions to help individuals, companies, groups, and media outlets understand nutrition in a manner that will improve their health. It's my goal to always present this in a fresh and relatable way.

What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition and why? I realized while working with individual clients that often times, even though they had read about healthy eating in blogs, magazines, and by discussing with friends and family, they had very little confidence in feeding themselves in a way they knew would provide long-term health benefits. I noticed the need for dietitians to not only work with clients on an individual basis, but also in every other outlet possible. We need registered dietitians to be the ones behind the blogs, social media, traditional media, and in the medical offices to relay the best and most accurate information.

Please tell us about your role in your nutrition consulting firm and what services you provide. In my business I provide a variety of services. In addition to traditional one-on-on counseling and group presentations, I also help companies and brands provide accurate and engaging nutrition content to their audiences. This looks different for each client. I have been hired to help fact check books, provide nutrient analysis for recipes, conduct research on ingredient profiles for new food products, and provide nutrition information for client social media posts, blogs, and online newsletters. Additionally, I also provide career coaching for nutrition students and dietetic interns.

Please tell us about your experiences in and with AND and CAND. What were your roles? Have you received any special recognition's and awards? I am currently a media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In this role, I help promote the expertise of Registered Dietitians and continue to position our profession as the leaders in the food and nutrition industry.

Previously, I have served as the Social Media Chair for CAND and on the Blog Review Committee for the Communications Council. I also served in roles for the Los Angeles District of CAND.

In 2011, I was honored as the Young Dietitian of the Year.

Can you elaborate on being a sought-after nutrition expert? I work with a variety of media outlets, brands, and medical professionals on a daily basis to help translate nutrition science to various audiences. For more on the articles that I have contributed to and or written please see

What is the most rewarding part of your career?I love that our profession helps improve the health of others in a very tangible, real way.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs and students? Network and seek out new experiences to pursue your career passions and interests. I always encourage the students that work with me to realize that just because your dream job may not be listed in a place where you could apply for it, that doesn't mean you can't create it.

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Erica Julson

September 2015

Erica Julson, RDN

Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

Welcome newcomer Erica Julson, RDN, "The Champion of Whole-Food Cooking," who comes with a serious background in neuroscience as well as a passion for cooking, recipe creation and innovativeness.

Please tell us about your experience in the field of dietetics, and where your passions lie. How many years experience have you had and what is your background? I've been a Registered Dietitian for just over 1 year, and I am loving it! I originally entered the field because of my interest in cooking and wellness, and am so blessed to be able to share my passion and do what I love each and every day.

My goal as a dietitian is to help people become more confident and competent in the kitchen, and teach the principles of mindful/intuitive eating so people can find a natural pattern of eating that makes them feel their best.

Prior to becoming a dietitian, I worked in neuroscience, studying the effects of mindfulness on the body and mind. Becoming a dietitian enabled me to combine my love of both psychology and nutrition and create a career that feeds my soul.

Tell us about all the different ways in which the public can work with you and your expertise. What is YOUR role in the business? I work primarily in recipe development, food photography, and writing. I create content for both my own Website and for other wellness professionals. I love sharing delicious recipes (and photos) that inspire people to get in the kitchen and try their hand at cooking. For many people, cooking has become a lost art. They may not have been exposed to much cooking growing up, and so they are not sure where to start. I'm here to help them understand that cooking doesn't have to be difficult, and that enjoying a diet of whole foods can make them feel vibrant and wonderful, in a way that processed foods never will.

To engage my audience and grow my brand, I post recipes and nutrition/wellness articles on my Website 2-3 times per week, and share them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and food sharing Websites like Tastespotting and Foodgawker. My next goal is to venture into video, sharing cooking tips via YouTube and Periscope. I also plan to create an online program to help novice cooks improve their cooking skills.

Can you tell us about The Dinner Club? What inspired this idea? Many of my readers are ready to start cooking, but need help with meal planning, so I have created The Dinner Club, a subscription-based dinner planning service. Subscribers receive weekly emails with links to 5 easy dinner recipes that feature whole foods and take no more than 45 minutes to prepare. They also receive a corresponding shopping list so they can shop once and cook all week!

The Dinner Club saves people planning time, encourages them to try new ingredients and cooking techniques, and promotes a whole-foods lifestyle. I have partnered with some of my favorite food bloggers on this project, and I pay them when I feature their recipes in The Dinner Club. I love that I can help make cooking less daunting and support food bloggers at the same time!

Are you involved in any other online programs? Yes! I am also the co-creator of The Body Bliss Program (, a 10-week online fitness and nutrition program for busy women. I teamed up with my friend Jennifer Dene, a certified trainer, to create this program.

Body Bliss members receive bi-weekly releases of workout videos, recipes, shopping lists, and nutrition videos and challenges. They also receive access to an exclusive Facebook group where members support each other and interact directly with Jennifer and me. Receiving direct support from a trainer and a dietitian has been invaluable for our members.

I am passionate about this program because it is NOT about losing weight, dieting, or following a specific meal plan. Instead, we teach Body Blissers to become more mindful eaters, improve their ability to prepare whole food meals, and provide them with simple 30min workouts to enjoy 3 times per week. The goal is to be realistic about health and wellness, and help guide people to find their own sweet spots with cooking and moving their bodies. We've had great success with the program so far, and can't wait to watch it grow! Creating the recipes and nutrition challenges for this program has been so much fun.

What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition and why? I always knew that cooking was my main interest within the field of nutrition. From a young age, I noticed how the quality of the food I ate dramatically influenced my energy levels and digestive health, and I became an avid home cook. At the same time, I also noticed that many of my friends had very limited cooking skills, so I took an interest in helping others learn to cook and thrive on natural foods.

What is the most rewarding part about your career? When I receive emails or messages from readers saying they tried a new recipe or cooking technique and how they feel so accomplished and proud of themselves. Truly, anyone can become a fabulous cook, so I get a burst of pride and happiness as I watch my reader's blossom in the kitchen.

Have you received any professional recognition's and awards? Not yet, but I hope to in the future! I received awards in my past career in Psychology, so I know it's possible :) So far my favorite accomplishment is having my recipes posted in The Huffington Post.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs and students? As a new dietitian, it took me the majority of my first year to hone my niche and message. The absolute best way to do this is to just go out and TRY things. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there, and don't fall into the trap of thinking that anything you try has to be THE thing you'll do for the rest of your career. It's very likely that you'll try a variety of projects before you'll find the one that you're most passionate about. Rather than applying to jobs you think dietitians "should" do (counseling, clinical, etc.), think deeply about your passions and personal strengths. What makes you unique? What are your natural gifts and talents that you can share to make the world a better place? People can sense authenticity, so let your voice shine. Feel the fear and do it anyways!

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Geri Loranzana

August 2015

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN

Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

Amy Mydral Miller is a force to be reckoned with! She is a powerhouse dietitian with over 20 years of experience under her belt! From co-authoring a cookbook to working with the Culinary Institute of America, she is exceptionally qualified in marketing, research, writing, education and advocacy. She has traveled the world and ran conferences. Now being “her own boss”, Amy works with her niece (who is also a dietitian) to provide nutrition marketing and communication support to a variety of clients ranging in the food, beverage and agriculture industries. Read on for a truly inspiring story!

Please tell us about your 20 years of experience in the field of dietetics, and in what areas. During my internship I realized I didn't want to work in clinical dietetics, so I went straight to graduate school at Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy where I earned a Master of Science degree in nutrition communication.

I started my career at Fleishman Hillard in Kansas City where I worked on a variety of food and beverage accounts. It was wonderful training in being “buttoned up”, professional, and very thoughtful and polished in terms of business communication.

I left Fleishman-Hillard for a job in clinical research at the Rippe Lifestyle Institute. My boss, Dr. James Rippe, was a very entrepreneurial cardiologist who provided a lot of unique opportunities for me, including co-authoring a book with him—The Healthy Heart Cookbook for Dummies—and creating a Website for the research lab. I loved that job because I got to use both my left brain and right brain as I worked on clinical research studies as well as fun, creative marketing projects.

From there I went to Dole Food Company where I worked in nutrition education, marketing, and research. I loved working for Dole. I was so proud of the products and the work we did to educate school children about the benefits of a healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

After Dole I worked for the California Walnut Commission, a job I was very passionate about because I was representing farmers. I grew up on a farm in North Dakota, so I understand and appreciate the hard work farmers do each day to ensure a safe, healthful, and abundant food supply for Americans.

From 2007 to 2014 I worked for The Culinary Institute of America. While my home campus was the Napa Valley campus, I had a college leadership role, planning continuing education conferences for the Napa Valley, San Antonio, Singapore and Hyde Park campuses. A highlight of that job was traveling to Singapore multiple times to run conferences on increasing healthful menu options at food centers and restaurants in Singapore.

In July 2014 I made the BIG LEAP in being my own boss. I launched Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, LLC on July 21, 2014. It was the hardest, yet best professional decision I’ve made!

Tell us about Farmer's Daughter Consulting and your expertise. What is YOUR role in the business? Farmer’s Daughter Consulting is a limited liability company that I founded and operate. I work with my niece Megan Myrdal, who is also an RDN. She’s based in North Dakota, my home state, and she works with me to provide nutrition marketing and communications support to a variety of food, beverage, and agriculture clients. I also do quite a bit of public speaking for various clients. This spring and summer I had the opportunity to present “Changing the Way We Look at Agriculture” at seven state affiliate meetings on behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. I serve on the Foundation’s RD Farmer and Agriculture Committee of Experts, a group of 14 RDN farmer/leaders who had worked together since 2012 on a variety of educational initiatives for our colleagues around the country who want to learn more about farming and food production.

What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition and why? Growing up on a large family farm in North Dakota inspired me to start my own business. Farmers are entrepreneurs who value freedom and flexibility. I guess I’d have to say being my own boss is in my blood; it was professional destiny.

The work that I do is focused on helping people appreciate where food comes from, how it’s produced, and how to enjoy it more. Less than two percent of the American public feeds the rest of the country and much of the world, yet farmers are under increasing pressure from a public that doesn’t understand and appreciate the science and business of farming. I see my role as one of an advocate for the farmer as well as the consumer. We need science-based guidance to make the best decisions, and we need nutrition professionals who can translate the science and help consumers feel good about their food choices.

What is the most rewarding part about your career? The most rewarding part of my career has been the relationships I’ve made with other RDNs across the state and around the country. We are such a diverse group. I love meeting and learning from RDNs who are experts in unique areas of practice.

Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? I’ve received a number of awards, including an ADDY Award for a nutrition education toolkit I created while working for the California Walnut Commission. I’ve also received an Excellence in Research Award from the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In April 2014, I received the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Nutrition Impact Award. My biggest professional recognition has been being given the opportunity to present the Lenna Frances Cooper Memorial Lecture at FNCE in Nashville this October. I’ll be presenting “Success in Dietetics: Inspired by Farmers, Flavor, and Fun” on Monday, October 5 from 1:30 to 3:00 PM.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? The best advice I can give is the best advice I was ever given, by a mentor who works in the produce industry. His advice? “Say yes to everything that interests you, that you’re passionate about. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn, develop new skills, and develop your expertise. Only say no if something doesn’t interest you, and if something scares you, then definitely say yes!”

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Geri Loranzana

June 2015

Geraldine Lorenzana, RDN

Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

CAND is proud to feature Geri Lorenzana as our June 2015 Featured RDN!

How many years of experience have you had in the dietetics field and in what areas? I have been a registered dietitian since 2009, so 6 years and am very happy with my career decision! My dietetic internship through the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center provided me with a well-rounded foundation not only in clinical, but administration, food service and community. The majority of my career so far has been in community nutrition, specifically school districts.

Prior to becoming a dietitian, I was a Business Manager for a non-profit psychotherapy clinic/training center and also a massage therapist at chiropractic offices and a popular day spa. I discovered many of the skills from my prior careers have benefitted me as a dietitian. My accounting background has helped immensely when working with financial reports and communicating with the fiscal department of school districts. Working one-on-one with massage clients provided an opportunity to practice my assessment skills and learn to communicate in a compassionate manner.

What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? What is your current role as a dietitian? When I was younger, my mother developed cancer. I took over her care and saw how changing her diet and encouraging her to eat more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and less fried and refined products, made a difference in her health and energy level. This stayed with me for years until I realized I could have a career as a Registered Dietitian! I soon realized that my passion was in prevention, especially with our children.

As a new dietitian, I began assisting part-time with the implementation of the Network for a Healthy California nutrition education grant at Glendale USD. Under the Food Service department, I worked on special projects such as applying for and then implementing the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable grant at the elementary sites. This evolved into a full time position as a Nutrition Specialist with the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). Through LACOE, I've had the opportunity to work with six school districts establishing, implementing and coordinating nutrition education grants in LA County (I currently work with El Monte City School District and Mountain View School District. Both districts are located in El Monte, CA).

Tell us about the Nutrition Education Obesity Prevention Program, The CHIPRA Grant and the California Community Foundation? Are they connected in any way? What is your role in all of these programs? The Nutrition Education Obesity Prevention Program (formerly known as The Network for a Healthy California) is a USDA SNAP-Ed federally funded childhood obesity prevention grant administered through the LA County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) and LACOE. The goal was to empower our low-income population with the ability to select healthy food and beverages and increase physical activity through nutrition education, social marketing and environmental supports. According to the 2013 Kaiser Permanente Community Health Needs Assessment, 1/3 of our youth in El Monte are considered obese. Through interventions such as in-classroom taste testing activities, nutrition education trainings for district staff, parent workshops, physical activity promotion, school wellness policy enhancement, I hope to reverse this trend. With evidence-based nutrition education resources linked to curriculum, teachers can easily integrate this activity into reading language arts, math, science and other core curriculum. As a result of our train-the-trainer model, I often include teachers as co-presenters to provide nutrition education to their peers. With the NEOP grant, my role, has been not only to establish, implement and coordinate the program in the district, but more importantly, to build collaborative relationships with community members, administration, district staff and families in order to sustain those efforts. Policy is addressed for long term sustainable change. I provide technical assistance to districts on enhancement of their school wellness policy as well as assistance with establishing and maintaining a coordinated school health council. Wellness policies are then assessed using the CDC's School Health Index assessment tool to identify what area may need strengthening and more support.

In between nutrition education grants, I've had the opportunity to become involved with The CHIP Atlantic Grant (fka CHIPRA) and the California Community Foundations' El Monte Community Building Initiative. CHIP Atlantic, is a grant through the Children's Defense Fund and The Schools Superintendents Association (AASA) that assists districts with identifying students who are eligible for free or low cost health insurance and connecting them with health care community partners who assist with enrollment. One of the popular events I created to bolster support and strengthen the relationship between administrators and local health clinics was a Gilligan Island themed "Three Hour Tour". Like the passengers of the S. S. Minnow, many of our district families experience rough weather and may feel stranded without health insurance. Administrators, health clerks and school nurses had loads of fun dressing up as the Captain, Gilligan and all the crew as we visited our health care partners to ask questions, discover what resources these facilities could provide and brainstorm how we could better serve our district families.

The California Community Foundation (CCF) is a public charitable organization that has collaborated with residents and civic leaders in El Monte to form initially the El Monte Community Building Initiative which has now evolved into the El Monte Promise Foundation. Together, they are creating approaches to increase college attendance rates. Through CCF, I developed an assessment of the health and wellness goals of the City of El Monte's strategic plan. This report, which included points of synergy, challenges and recommendations, was provided to the El Monte Promise Foundation so they may better understand the health and wellness needs of El Monte students. School districts, health care agencies and the City are collaborating and conducting many activities to change the health trajectory of the students.

Together, all three of the above programs help to address the health and well-being of the "whole child" to ensure students are college and career ready. The districts I work with recognize that in order for our students to learn, they must be healthy. We can bring awareness to the situation and begin a dialogue by asking simple questions, such as "are our students eating breakfast?" "Can they tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods and beverages?" "Are they being physically active?" "Do they have health insurance?"

What is the most rewarding part about your career? When I see and hear stories of how families who have received nutrition education have started to make real changes. Students are requesting parties with kale and broccoli or do-it-yourself flavored water where they bring in an assortment of fruits and create their own healthy beverage options. Recently, a School Board Member shared how when she visited a 1st grade classroom, the student showed her a nutrition facts label and told her that a breakfast bar she was considering eating for breakfast had too much sugar in it. Another rewarding aspect is seeing our schools receive recognition through national programs such as the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (an American Heart Association and Clinton Foundation collaboration). Many of our schools in El Monte have received bronze, silver and gold award status for the healthy systemic changes they are enacting at their school sites:, jog-a-thons, dance-a-thons, healthy food or non-food fundraisers, walking clubs for families before school, nutrition education integrated into the curriculum.

Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? Upon graduation from college, I was honored to receive the Outstanding Graduating Senior Award from the California University of Northridge (CSUN) and the Outstanding Senior Award from the Family and Consumer Science Department of CSUN. Recently I was a recipient of the 2015 Golden Apple Award from the West San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). Each year, school administrators nominate and choose someone who has gone above and beyond to help the community. The Mountain View School District administrators chose me to be this year's recipient. This is not an award you apply for and so I was very honored and humbled, especially when I discovered the award ceremony would be occurring on my birthday!

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? To be open to unexpected opportunities is important. For example, I was approached by the California Community Foundation after they received a recommendation from the Superintendent of Mountain View School District. The City of El Monte Health and Wellness Assessment was not a project that was on my radar, but saying yes, opened doors I had not anticipated. However, I think even more important is to view a difficult situation as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. This will help you to stand out from others who are stuck in their ways or are naysayers. At one time I was working with three school districts. I could not be in every classroom at every school site providing nutrition education. However, by training teachers and other district staff, this gives others a chance to be a part of the solution. Others may want to be involved, so give them an opportunity to shine!

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Melissa Halas-Liang

May 2015

Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RDN, CDE

Author of: Super Baby Abigail’s Lunchtime Adventure and Havoc at the Hillside Market with the Super Crew
Website: SuperKids Nutrition Summer Shield Program and American Institute for Cancer Research
Twitter: @KidsNutrition
Twitter: @FitNutrition
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

CAND is ecstatic to feature Melissa Halas-Liang of SuperKids Nutrition! With over 20 years in the field of nutrition, Melissa has sure made her mark. Not only has she put SuperKids Nutrition on the map, but she has now partnered with the American Institute for Cancer Research to help protect kids from developing cancer by creating the Summer Shield Program, a 6-week toolkit to help kids stay healthier this summer. Melissa is a powerhouse dietitian who has dedicated her time and efforts to educating the public on healthy eating and lifestyles. Read on and get inspired by her story!

What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? What is your role in SuperKids Nutrition? I started SuperKids Nutrition in 2006 to provide an evidence-based source of nutrition that’s fun and engaging for parents and kids. There really wasn’t much out there about nutrition for kids back then, and childhood obesity wasn’t in the spotlight just yet. It took off and we started providing nutrition resources, not just on-line and in the community, but to school Websites across the nation. These sites feature activities and curriculum with the Super Crew characters, who get their powers from healthy colorful foods. We have over 50,000 monthly unique visitors on, and our nutrition content is in the millions of hits on the school Websites. The Super Crew is currently part of a CDC grant with Healthy Dining Finder and the Kids LiveWell program. They are being featured as placemats and as little toys when kids order healthy meals at a few restaurants in San Diego, including Boston Market.

Tell us about the Healthy Kids Today, Prevent Cancer Tomorrow program with the American Institute for Cancer ( research and the Summer Shield Program? Since the time I was an undergrad I was a big fan of AICR. I used to get their newsletter and I fell in love with their mission and vision. Years later, through a colleague referral, I did some consulting work for them and loved it. I spoke with them about doing something together to get the message out on the importance of starting cancer prevention at young ages. Nearly one in three cancers can be prevented by eating smarter, moving more and staying lean. The message has to start with families with young kids, so that they learn healthy habits that can help prevent cancer later in life. Our Summer Shield program encourages families, schools, and camps to use our program and make a six week commitment to fun and healthy activities in the summer. We have recipes, lesson plans, activity trackers (my favorite!) and tips to choose from at: and We protect our kids from sun damage, teach them to cross the street safely, but seldom teach them the connection between food, fitness, and cancer risks. With the staggering 50% chance of Americans developing cancer in their lifetime, this has to change.

How many years of experience have you had? I have close to 20 years of experience in the field of nutrition. I started out in clinical nutrition, then moved to critical care and became a certified nutrition support clinician (CNSC). After that, I provided nutrition counseling in clinical trials, and became a clinical nutrition manager (CNM). As a nutrition manager, I had a special interest in the NICU and pediatrics –I loved being around kids. I also started an adult weight and fitness program for the hospital at around the same time. These both led me to create SuperKids Nutrition and eventually Melissa’s Healthy Living.

I’ve been teaching for over a decade, which keeps me current with the latest, evidence-based nutrition guidelines. I’ve also been a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) for over 10 years, and I like to stay up to date on diabetes management. I also served as co-president of LAD and spokesperson for CAND. I recommend getting involved in your local chapter or state dietetic association –you’ll learn so much!

What is the most rewarding part about your career? I really love the diversity. One day a week I teach and write for clients, one to two days a week I provide corporate wellness/weight loss webinars and consult with various companies through Melissa’s Healthy Living, and then three days a week I work on projects related to SuperKids Nutrition. SuperKids Nutrition projects also vary greatly from providing seminars across the country, to local school workshops, media tours, outreach and program development. I love working with my graduate interns too –they help keep me young and inspired.

Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? I was just nominated for the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior’s Mid- Career Award, which has encouraged me to become more involved. I’ve also been nominated for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Preceptor of the Year, and in 2011 was the recipient of the California Dietetic Association’s Outstanding Community Dietitian Award. My other awards date back to the early 2000’s, which just makes me feel old!

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? Advocate for our credential to stay strong. Be a preceptor. Being a preceptor is essential not just to create more RDNs, but to shape the level of excellence for our profession. Make sure you take interns at your site, especially if you’re a clinical dietitian. The vast majority of my interns have been outstanding, and I continue to work with many of them years later. If you get an intern that is apathetic or not responsible, don’t let it get you down or hold you back from taking future interns. Often I hear about a site wanting to drop a program after one bad intern – don’t punish the majority based on a few. It’s so important that we don’t dilute the number of RDNs, because they couldn’t get an internship. If your site doesn’t take interns, figure out how to sell them on the benefit –and make it happen.

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Merijane McTalley

April 2015

Merijane McTalley, RD

Website: Nutrition Ink and Equine Business
Facebook: Nutrition Ink
LinkedIn: Merijane McTalley, R.D.
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

Merijane McTalley, RD is on extraordinary Dietitian. Owner of Nutrition Ink for over 33 years, she has managed to not only operate her company on a daily basis, but she is managing to help a new pediatric hospital open and has taken on the role of Director of Nutrition Services, has her own equine business on the side in which she breeds Dutch Warmbloods since 1988 and is starting her own Dietetic Internship Program to begin in 2016. Read on to find out more about this fascinating woman.

What inspired you to pursue this area in nutrition? How did you start Nutrition Ink? I am a self-starter and ambitious. I like to try new things without someone telling me "let's wait or no you can't do that or working through a chain of the bureaucracy. Nutrition Ink started back in 1982. I had previously been a food service director at Palm Springs Unified School District and Desert Hospital and a consultant for a nursing home chain. I felt that I finally had the background and skills to start out on my own. Being a FSD gave me the financial skills and working for the nursing home chain gave me the consulting skills. I started with one account and a new idea. That idea was to offer custom menus. Hence the name Nutrition Ink. By the end of one year, I hired my first employee. I was still doing menus at night at home and working full time. The company now offers (in addition to the custom menus), we offer services in Cost Analysis, Dietary Supervisor Coverage, and Quality Inspections. The Products we offer range from menus, Successful Survey Training Guides which come in English and Spanish, Weight Management Protocols including Policies & Procedures, and Feeding Strategy Labels. There are now two full time office personnel (one is in school to be an RD) and approximately 25 RDs on staff for consulting positions! Several have been with me over 20 years. We are also currently in the process of starting the NIDIP (Nutrition Ink Dietetic Internship Program). We have our site visit for internship on June 1st. If accepted we will have 30 interns and will be starting September 2016. This new internship is needed because so many BS grads can't find programs to complete the RD. We need RD and I've even sponsored out of country RDs to fill the void.

Can you explain what your role in Nutrition Ink is? It seems very extensive.. Are you mainly management or do you actually work in the field? I am the president and 100% shareholder of Nutrition Ink. The Company has many functions As Founder of Nutrition Ink, I was responsible for the interviewing, and hiring of RDNs. As a sole owner starting out I was a one-person operation: billing customers, paying bills, writing menus on a typewriter HA'. I did the day-to-day consulting and then worked on the menus at night. I had a very busy life with children, a husband and starting a consultant business. It was a balancing act. Now after 33 years as a company I have an HR department and VP of Operations that play a significant role.

I still manage the day-to-day operations but currently am in a unique situation of helping a new pediatric hospital open and am their Director of Nutrition Services. This role will soon be delegated to another staff person but in May of 2014. I assumed that role to aid in the opening of the hospital.

How did you get started in the field? How many years of experience have you had? I looked at two fields when starting college: languages and nutrition. The two ended up being a good blend with so many food service staff being Spanish speaking, which is my second language. I have been a registered dietitian since 1976.

What is the most rewarding part about your career? At first, it was seeing the company grow and being proud of my accomplishment. It is like a child - you nurture it and then watch it hopefully grow up successfully. As the years have gone by, I find helping new RD's and interns is more of a rewarding effect.

Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? I was the Recipient of the “Ann Gallagher Award” from Consultant Dietitians in Health Care Practice Group. I've been VP of CAND; President of the Inland District Dietetic Association (IDDA); and many other roles including preceptor and instructor at LLUMC's internship program, Patton States Internship program and Cal State San Bernardino's internship programs. I was President of the Consultant Dietitians of California Practice Group three times. I do a lot of volunteer time that is very rewarding. I feel that all dietitians need to give back to the organization.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? Stay in one job for at least 2 years. I see so much job-hopping these days and I know that you don't learn everything at a job in 6 months. I'm still trying to figure out the millennials. Ha!!! Also, I would recommend a wide variety of rotations during their internships, so they have some idea where they want to hang their hat. Many jump into a position without knowing what the job entails. I now have prospective RDs follow one of my RDs for a week so that they can see if consulting is really what they want to do.

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Sherry Lam

March 2015

Sherry Lam, MS, RDN

Clinical Dietitian - San Francisco VA Medical Center
Bay Area Dietetics Association Events Chair 2014-2016
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

Sherry Lam, MS, RD loves her role as a clinical dietitian and meets many unique individuals with a multitude of medical conditions. She is passionate about what she does and is compassionate about the population that she works with. She is a new dietitian who is looking forward to all the years of learning that are still to come.

What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? I am currently working as a clinical dietitian at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. I completed my clinical rotation of the dietetic internship at the VA and was very fortunate to be offered a position here soon after. This was a wonderful opportunity, as I wanted to continue pursuing work in clinical dietetics. Clinical dietetics encompasses a vast variety of sub-topics as I encounter patients with various conditions - examples include preventing malnutrition in the hospital setting, nutrition for wound healing, pre/post management of diabetes and renal diseases. I am inspired by the fact that nutrition plays such a vital role in the success of these patients. Additionally I am honored to be working with our veterans.

What is your role as a dietitian with respect to your job duties? Since starting at the VA, I have taken on multiple roles. I originally started with a split position in both acute care and in our long-term care facility, the Community Living Center, working closely with our geriatric population. More recently, I have taken on a training dietitian role for both our clinical and food service staff and transitioned to working in our hemodialysis unit, an area of great interest to me.

How did you get started in the field? What sparked your interest? How many years of experience have you had? I have always had a general interest in good health since I was very young. I originally started college at UC Davis as a psychology major, but soon changed to clinical nutrition as my understanding of what food does to our bodies grew. Good nutrition is so important in both the prevention and management of diseases. My studies had only increased my interest in the field further as I learned to utilize it in different settings - public health/community, the clinical setting, and personally with family and friends. I would classify myself as a young dietitian with 3 years of experience! I still have much more to learn!

What is the most rewarding part about your career? Helping my patients and/or clients succeed in making lifestyle changes, no matter how big or small a change, it is most rewarding to me. This may include helping a renal patient make a change in their intake of a certain nutrient within the very restricted renal diet. Or, when I worked as a Nutrition Consultant for Marin Head Start, helping parents and their children adopt healthier eating habits was very rewarding to me. Giving good nutrition advice and counseling can help so many people from all walks of life develop healthy habits for the long-term.

I believe a career in nutrition holds endless possibilities. While I spend a lot of my time in the clinical/hospital world, I also have a great passion for nutrition in public health, food insecurity issues, and sustainable food and agriculture. I hope to explore more opportunities in these areas in the future. For now, I hope to provide such learning opportunities for dietetic professionals in the Bay Area as the BADA Events Chair. Helping others gain knowledge in this field is also another rewarding aspect.

Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? No, I have not.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? To be open to all the opportunities presented to you and to create opportunities for yourself. I meet young RDs or newly graduated interns who tell me that they’re interested in one particular area in dietetics, but may find it challenging to seek work there. I think it’s important to know that you can learn a lot from wherever you start, with skills that you will gain that you can later apply to your dream career. As mentioned earlier, there are so many possibilities in our field, so there is a lot of room for creativity!

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Digna Cassens, MHA, RDN

February 2015

Digna Cassens, MHA, RDN

Cassens Associates - Diversified Nutrition Management Systems,
PO Box 581, La Habra, CA 90633
Business Website:
Book: Flavorful Fortified Food - Recipes to Enrich Life - a collection of 60 high calorie, high protein, easy to prepare recipes for home or facility use by Digna Cassens and Linda Eck Mills
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

Digna Cassens MHA, RDN has got to be one of the most well-rounded dietitians, or rather people, I know! To see her you would say there is NO way she has been a dietitian for 52 years…. But when you start to listen to her you actually get it because she is brilliant and has so much experience you are sure to be mesmerized. She is magnetic and you can only sit in awe and hope that someday you will have that kind of expertise and confidence. Her recent win as CAND’s Excellence in Private Practice, Business and Communication Award for 2015, is long overdue!

What inspired you to pursue your particular area in nutrition? I started as most of us do, working in a hospital as a clinical dietitian, realizing after one year that I needed more variety and independence. After marriage and a hiatus for babies and Navy life I settled with my family in Southern California, teaching at a community college, providing home services for developmentally disabled children and adults and consulting for long-term-care nursing centers. I seized each opportunity to do what I liked or anything new and different. By the mid to late ‘70s I found myself working full-time in long-term-care companies as a consultant. One of these contracts led to full-time employment at the corporate level, continuing for 4 decades eventually being promoted to executive level. In 2001 I decided to make the break with full-time employment and almost full-time travel and started my own business. In a few months I again received an attractive offer from a privately owned long-term-care California company and kept that position until 2010.The time was right for me to follow my dream and fulfill postponed goals. On January 1, 2011 I launched Cassens Associates – Diversified Nutrition Management Systems. It’s always best to focus on what one enjoys and does best so I have continued to work with the elderly population and individuals with developmental disabilities. I conduct my practice in the client’s location, at their home, a group home, a senior assisted living or skilled long term care. Regardless of what other areas I’ve tried, I am most comfortable working with the aging population although I also work with a variety of clients, including teens.

What are your roles as a Nutrition Consultant in your business with respect to Healthcare, private practice and publishing? How do they differ and is there any crossover? I’m very well organized and work quickly, so I can finish just about everything I have to do within the timeframes required. What makes my life interesting is variety, and that’s what every day brings into my life. The only constant activities are waking up at 6AM and spending 2 to 3 hours of office time before leaving for the day. During my office hours besides the necessary processing of paperwork, completing reports, I work on the books, manuals and blogs I write. My focus when providing consulting is management and administration. My style is as a mentor and role model, and although I don’t hesitate to assist clients by completing necessary or requested tasks, I try to adhere to the basic rules of being a consultant; obtain client data, analyze and trend, and problem solve by brain storming, then designing the training programs and systems that will prevent reoccurrence of previous problems. I work on what is important to the client, not on what is important to me, or what I think they should receive from me. My approach to private practice is the same; what does the client want or need? I’ll give you an example. I was approached to treat a young lady’s allergies and rashes. When I walked into the home I was struck by the fact that the family as a whole is very overweight. Of course I would have loved to have helped them in that area, but I was contracted to work with the food selections, interpret the allergy report from her attending physician, and find ways for her itching to decrease, including skin care since she’s a competitive swimmer and spends hours in the pool. If they’re ever ready, then I’ll gladly return to discuss wellness and weight management. Otherwise when I’m contacted by the client or parent I stick to our contractual agreement. In publishing I have tried to watch for trends, popular topics and the needs out there. I am not writing for the general public but to provide useful guides to RDNs, DTRs and CDM/DSS in their practice. I’d love to write the next best seller, but that’s not what my books are about. Because I’m writing only about topics I’m intimately familiar with I believe I do it well. Both my books so far have been based on work I’ve done for my clients and in my practice.

How do you manage to work run your consulting company, do private practice, publish your book and manage your social media? Again, speed and efficiency come into play. I’ve modified my working hours and visit frequencies and have planned on this since early 2014. Therefore I’ve created more office time in which to plan and develop. I realized that I now live over 120 miles from my clients, but I’ve structured the business so that I only travel to them quarterly as of this year.

How did you get started in the field? What sparked your interest? How many years of experience have you had? This was an indirect decision arrived at after 2 years of college as a science major. I discovered then that I had interest in so many other areas, such as the arts, music, history, languages, fashion, travel and food. My very wise and perceptive Dean sat down with me to explore practical options that would make me happier. I realized immediately that the field of dietetics and nutrition was the best fit for my multiple and creative interests. She helped me gained focus, and I found my niche. It’s easy to keep on working when you enjoy what you do and are having so much fun.

What is the most rewarding part about your career? There are so many rewards! Mentoring students and interns, new practitioners, seeing my dietary managers succeed under any circumstances, managing budgets, helping my clients achieve their goals. In the long-term-care sector of course it’s passing a survey, in my private practice it’s achieving wellbeing and improving their health. On a personal level I enjoy growing my food, eating and cooking. My focus is on fresh foods; fruits and vegetables grown at home when in season and fresh from the market otherwise. Some of my favorite meals include legumes and fish. I take advantage of my spare time to make stock to freeze and use for soups, sauces and gravies. The added bonus is that I take advantage of this cooking time to prepare food for my two rescued dogs every month. One of my hobbies is to modify the most popular recipes to a healthier version so I can afford to eat my native foods. It is my belief that we need food as nourishment but also as comfort, and instead of depravation moderation is key.

Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? Yes, I’m very pleased to say that after 52 years as a registered dietitian I was awarded the DHCC Distinguished Member of 2014 Award, and CAND selected me as the recipient for Excellence in Private Practice, Business and Communication Award for 2015. I owe this honor to the LAD member who nominated me last year.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? Whatever you do, do it boldly, wholeheartedly and well. Have no fears and the opportunities will seek you out. These words by Wolf. J. Rinke, are my favorite and they hang over my work area:

Life is a journey … travel it.
Life is a test … pass it
Life is a game … play it
Life is a celebration … enjoy it
Life is a sacrifice … make it
Life is love … love it!

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January 2015

Cynthia Cordon RD, NHA, CSG

Food Service Director, Los Angeles Jewish Home
7150 Tampa Ave., Reseda, CA 91335
Twitter: #JewishHomeforTheAging #CindyCordonRD #RDCHat
Interviewed by Randi Drasin, MS, RDN, CAND Communications Council

CAND is proud to feature Cindy Cordon, RD, NHA, CSG master at everything food service related! Her passion for cooking from concept to creation is what makes her an exceptional phenom in the field of food. She is a whiz at everything physiological, understanding how the body works to process macro and micronutrients which makes her not only an amazing chef, but an incredible dietitian. She truly understands the “science” of the body. She is passionate about what she does and is compassionate about the people she serves. She is a force to be reckoned with and believe me, you don’t want mess with her kitchen!!!!

What inspired you to pursue this particular area in nutrition? Can you explain what your roles are in at your place of work? How many hats do you wear? As a precocious child I fell a lot, visited many Emergency Departments, and became fascinated by hospitals. During high school I began baking, cooking, and reading cereal box labels and nutrition books. Julia Child and Adelle Davis were my idols. Then, while at UCLA I worked in a health food store as a clerk, cashier, cook and waitress. Put these together and you get Healthcare Food Service Dietitian. For over seven years I have had the privilege to be in the position of the Food Service Director at the Los Angeles Jewish Home. I am responsible for the design and implementation of three different Kosher seasonal scratch menus every week and to oversee the purchasing, preparation, production, and service of over 2500 meals/day. We serve SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility) and Board and Care residents, PACE (Program Of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) participants and our own Jewish Home Deli customers in a total of 15 locations, out of two kitchens, by 119 FTEs, with 140 employees, as well as more than 100 catered events monthly between the two campuses. Including my fiscal responsibilities, managing more than eight million dollars annually, mentoring, training, evaluating and counseling staff, and monitoring for Kashrut and regulatory compliance, I wear about 20 hats.

How did you get started in the field? How many years of experience have you had? I have been in food service for 42 years and healthcare food service for almost 38, 16 of which were in acute care while the last 22 years have been in long term care. My first food service job was at the health food store in the autumn of 1972 and my first healthcare position was in a hospital kitchen dish room while studying at Berkley in early 1977. I am proud to say that I started in the dish room because this has enabled me to understand the work load of the different positions within the department. Over the years I have worked in the capacity of a Food Service Worker, Cafeteria Supervisor, Dietary Supervisor, Dietary Manager, Nursing Home Administrator, Clinical Dietitian and Food Service Director. Each position offered different responsibilities, perspectives, challenges and rewards and I feel that each and every one of these roles has prepared me for the role I have now, the one that I dearly love and enjoy every day!

What is the most rewarding part about your career? One of the most rewarding parts of this job is to see employees grow and succeed in their professional and personal lives. I am proud to say that I have been instrumental in the development of over 25 staff members throughout my career into such dietetic positions as Diet Clerk, Assistant Cook, Cook, Chef, Baker, Dietary Supervisor, and Dietary Manager as well as into other healthcare disciplines as Admissions, Housekeeping, Maintenance, Nursing, and Activities. Another very rewarding part of this career is the relationships that I have developed with the people living in the facilities. The long term care setting enables us to know and love the residents. These relationships are symbiotic, benefitting both the resident and the employee. Some people say that they feel a kinship to the residents, as if they were their grandparents, but I think of them as friends; very, very good friends.

Have you received any professional recognitions and awards? I was awarded employee of the year when I was the Dietary Director at another facility. I have been acknowledged twice by my current employer through their Home Team program in 2007 and 2013. I presented poster sessions twice at CAND conventions (1999 and 2000) and I recently qualified as a Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG). In 2013, the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics recognized my efforts as a preceptor for the CSUN (California State University, Northridge) Dietetic Internship program.

What is the single most important piece of advice you can give to young RDs? Know your anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. A strong grasp of these three subjects will enable you to understand any new strides that we may see in medicine, pharmacology, kinesiology, nutrition or phytonutritionals. This will enable you to explain health and nutritional issues with you clients most effectively helping them to understand why they need more fiber, less sodium, lower glycemic index carbs.

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