Registered Dietitians: Helping Students Eat Right

By Andrea Ginacola, MPH RD

Looking for someone who will look out for your kid’s health during the school day? Look no further than the registered dietitian (RD). As food service directors and nutrition specialists, RDs across the country are doing great things to ensure kids eat healthful meals at school. Although new meal standards, set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, went into effect July 1, 2012 requiring more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and less sodium, school based RDs were already employing innovative techniques (from salad and taco bars to fruit-and-yogurt parfaits) to entice kids to eat right.

Look to an RD for Expertise

RDs are crucial to school meal programs because they have the nutrition expertise and “vision to create a healthy food climate in the cafeteria that engages students not only in eating healthy, but in developing healthy behaviors,” says Dona Richwine, MS, RD, Nutrition Specialist for Santa Monica Malibu (Calif.) Unified School District. Debbi Beauvais, RD, SNS, Director of School Nutrition for Gates Chili & East Rochester Schools (New York) and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics concurs, “Schools are a good venue to model good eating behaviors for kids.”

Healthier Menu Options

Beauvais’ mission is to provide healthy menu items for the 75 percent of her students who choose the school cafeteria over brown-bagging it. But, Beauvais says, “It’s not nutrition unless they eat it.” Beauvais finds that students make healthier choices with her “made fresh for you” and taco bar programs. “Children tend to consume more vegetables when they can add them. They pick more variety.”

Richwine agrees; for over 10 years she’s been getting kids excited about produce with a farmers’ market salad bar. Richwine says the favorite part of her job is to watch students walk away with their plates piled high with fruits and veggies. Schools are now also providing healthier versions of some of kids’ favorites. In Beauvais’ schools, chicken nuggets are baked with whole grain breading, and are lower in fat and sodium than typical restaurant versions. A healthier pizza comes with low- fat mozzarella and a whole grain crust. Leaner versions of hamburgers and hot dogs are served on whole grain buns.

Andrea Giancola is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters of Public Health. To learn more about her, click here

This article was published as part of the Kids Eat Right campaign. For more information visit

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One Comment to “Registered Dietitians: Helping Students Eat Right”

  1. Jennifer says:

    According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just one generation ago. There is no single or simple solution, but we can get involved by promoting healthy eating and physical activity within our own family and community.

    The Kids Eat Right campaign is a great program (mentioned above). I am a student member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and volunteer for the Kids Eat Right campaign. My job as a volunteer is to present nutrition education presentations to different audiences, including students (all ages), parents, coaches and more. Please contact me via email if your school, group or team is interested in learning more about healthy snacking, breakfast, family meals, good nutrition and physical activity.

    Contact email:

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