Research Original Research: Brief| Volume 117, ISSUE 2, P271-277, February 2017

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Registered Dietitian Nutritionists’ Perspectives on Integrating Food and Water System Issues into Professional Practice

Published:August 18, 2016DOI:



      Sustainable agriculture encompasses economic, environmental, and social aspects of the food system. Members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy) play an important role in promoting sustainable agriculture because they work in areas where they can influence the food purchasing decisions of foodservice operations and the public.


      To investigate behavior of registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) toward incorporating sustainable agriculture principles into professional practice using the Theory of Planned Behavior.


      This cross-sectional study surveyed RDNs nationwide about their perspectives on incorporating sustainable agriculture issues into practice. The survey questions were based on a survey originally administered to Minnesota RDNs during 2002.

      Participants and setting

      The sample (N=626) was drawn from a randomly selected, national sample of Academy members.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, independent t tests, Pearson correlations, and stepwise regression.


      The sample was mostly white, female, and the average age was 45.4±12.2 years. Almost half of Academy RDNs (47%) reported incorporating environmental issues into their practice. All four Theory of Planned Behavior variables (intention, attitude, perceived behavior control, and subjective norm) were predictive of behavior to include sustainable agriculture issues into practice. Barriers to incorporating this topic into practice included lack of knowledge, ability, time, and employer support.


      This study found that most of the RDN respondents had heard of sustainable agriculture and nearly half reported including this topic in their professional practice. To integrate this topic into practice more consistently, RDNs need more knowledge, time, and employer support.


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      L. Heidelberger was a student at the time of the study, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St Paul.


      C. Smith is a professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St Paul.


      C. Earthman is a professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St Paul.


      R. Robinson-O’Brien is a project manager, Berman Center for Outcomes & Clinical Research, Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation, Minneapolis, MN.


      K. Robien is an associate professor, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, George Washington University, Washington, DC.

      Linked Article

      • Questioning the Definition of Sustainable Agriculture
        Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsVol. 117Issue 11
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          I wanted to respond, on behalf of the National Pork Board, to the Original Research: Brief published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ February 2017 issue titled, “Registered Dietitian Nutritionists’ Perspectives on Integrating Food and Water System Issues into Professional Practice,” by Heidelberger and colleagues.1 As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who supports America’s livestock farmers, I was concerned about some of the assertions about meat and agriculture throughout the research brief and discussion.
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