Nutritionists are experts in food and nutrition. They advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal. They work in many settings, including hospitals, cafeterias, nursing homes, and schools. Some are self-employed with their own practice.
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Some nutritionists provide customized information for specific individuals. For example, a dietitian or nutritionist might teach a patient with high blood pressure how to use less salt when preparing meals. Others work with groups of people who have similar needs. They might, for example, plan a diet with reduced fat and sugar to help overweight people lose weight.
Nutritionists typically do the following:
Although all nutritionists do similar tasks, there are several specialties within the occupations. The following are examples of types of nutritionists:
Most nutritionists have earned a bachelor’s degree and receive supervised training through an internship or as a part of their coursework. Also, many jurisdictions require nutritionists to be licensed. Their degrees are in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related area. Programs include courses in nutrition, physiology, chemistry, and biology.
Nutritionists typically participate in several hundred hours of supervised training, usually in the form of an internship following graduation from college. However, some programs in dietetics include this training as part of the coursework.
Nutritionists must keep up to date with the latest nutrition research. They should be able to interpret scientific studies and translate nutrition science into practical eating advice. Because there are many aspects to the work of nutritionists, they should have the ability to stay organized. Management dietitians, for example, must consider both the nutritional needs of their customers and the costs of meals.
Nutritionists must listen carefully to understand clients’ goals and concerns. They also have to be emphatic to help clients confront and overcome dietary struggles. They must explain complicated topics in a way that people with less technical knowledge understand. For example, a clinical dietitian must be able to clearly tell clients about what to eat and why eating the recommended foods is important.
Nutritionists work in hospitals, cafeterias, nursing homes, and schools. Some nutritionists are self-employed and maintain their own practice. They work as consultants, providing advice to individual clients, or they work for healthcare establishments on a contract basis.
The median annual wage of nutritionists was $53,250 in May 2010. (The median annual wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $33,330, and the top 10% earned more than $75,480.