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A nutritionist is an expert in the field of 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.
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 processed foods 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:
Clinical dieticians provide medical nutrition therapy. They work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other institutions. They create both individualized and group nutritional programs based on the health needs of patients or residents. Clinical dieticians may further specialize, such as working only with patients with kidney diseases. They also may work with other healthcare professionals.
Management dieticians plan meal programs. They work in food service settings such as cafeterias, hospitals, and food corporations. They may be responsible for buying food and for carrying out other business-related tasks. They may oversee kitchen staff or other dieticians.
Community dieticians educate the public on topics related to food and nutrition. They often work with specific groups of people, such as pregnant women. They work in public health clinics, government and non-profit agencies, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and other settings.
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.
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.
Each state now has specific educational, experience and licensing requirements to become a certified nutritionist. You also must pass a state board examination and pay a certification fee.
Compared to other branches of medical knowledge, the study of human nutrition is still in its relative infancy.
If you’re looking to work with a health professional to create a customized nutrition plan, one of your first steps will be to choose whether to work with a registered dietitian (RD) or a holistic nutritionist.
The amount of people seeking work in the Nutrition field has increased nearly 25% in the last three years alone!
As a dietitian I wear many hats. I’ve enjoyed it that way since I first began my career...