Gina McDonald, senior health coach at Capital Blue Cross
Gina McDonald, senior health coach at Capital Blue Cross

Giving blood is, well, in Gina McDonald’s blood. It’s so important to McDonald, the senior health coach at Capital Blue Cross, that she does it every two months like clockwork.

Unless something stops that clock – and stops McDonald from donating. Which is precisely what happened this past April.

“I was flagged for low iron – again,” said McDonald, who shared that the issue had arisen periodically in the past. “So I couldn’t donate, and it was very frustrating to me. I had finally reached my trigger point where I said, ‘Enough. I need to do something about it.’ ”

McDonald called Kaitlyn Miele, a registered dietitian (RD) at Capital Blue Cross, to schedule a consultation, and go over a list of questions McDonald had about her iron levels and a dietary journal.

“It was extremely beneficial to take a look at my diet and have Kaity answer my questions,” McDonald said. “I was given resources about how to stabilize my iron – things that fit into my life very easily – and it was a very open conversation addressing my concerns as to what was making my iron too low to meet the criteria for blood donations.”

Why See an RD?

Too often, McDonald said, people mistakenly believe RDs are only for people such as pro athletes, or those with serious weight issues, eating disorders, or chronic medical conditions.

But according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), dietitians also can help people looking to make nutritional tweaks to reach a specific goal – like McDonald trying to boost her iron levels – or those seeking behavioral or performance changes that may relate to what they’re eating. Examples include people caring for aging parents, those with digestive issues, expectant or new mothers, or folks simply seeking practical lifestyle advice – like ensuring their families eat healthier.

The AND notes that RDs can partner with doctors and patients to create realistic, safe, years-long diets, and RDs are creative in helping to plan meals, shop for food, and eat mindfully. The journal American Family Physician advocates for dietitians to be part of a team-based approach to patient nutritional care.

“Nutrition-specific questions, behavior-change strategies, meal planning, goal setting – all of these are reasons to meet with a dietitian,” McDonald said. “That is why they’re there, for an open conversation and exchange of information.”

“You reach a point where you’re like, ‘I need to do something about this,’ ” McDonald said. “Well guess what? You have the resources to do it.”
— Gina McDonald

‘You have the resources’

Another misperception is that only a few can afford registered dietitians.

Capital Blue Cross has registered dietitians available by appointment through its Capital Blue Cross Connect health and wellness centers. You can schedule appointments in person at the Connect centers, by calling 1.855.505.2583, or online at

McDonald scheduled her appointment, made some “quick, easy changes” suggested by Miele, and made her way back to healthy iron levels – and to the blood donation center. She wants everyone to know that RDs can help them, too.

“You reach a point where you’re like, ‘I need to do something about this,’ ” McDonald said. “Well guess what? You have the resources to do it.”