The job of a nutritionist, sometimes referred to as a dietician, is an important one, especially now, given the obesity epidemic in our country. Expanding waistlines and rising numbers on the scale have prompted research into ways of preventing obesity.
What’s more, experts have warmed about the consequences obesity can have on a person’s life…and some of these consequences are pretty unsettling.
All that said, it’s obvious why the job of a nutritionist is an important one. Many people need expert advice when it comes to diet and exercise. If you’re interested in becoming a nutritionist, a dietician, or any other health-related professional, you might find the information below useful. What it takes to work in this field requires more than just a passion for healthy eating.
What is a Nutritionist?
Did you know that there is a difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian? Not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. RDs have met specific academic and experiential requirements set forth by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). The credential RD (registered dietitian). Some registered dietitians may refer to themselves as nutritionists.
Nutritionists are health professionals who analyze, interpret, and clarify nutritional information to their patients. They provide more than just tips for healthy living; they teach their patients how to improve their quality of life. Exercise, diet, and nutrient supplement use are all part of what a nutritionist does. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides a useful job summary:
“Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. They help prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and suggesting diet modifications, such as less salt for those with high blood pressure or reduced fat and sugar intake for those who are overweight.”
Dieticians and nutritionists also conduct research and work closely with other health professionals to determine what foods to avoid and how best to avoid items that may cause health problems.
Holistic nutrition is a relatively new field that zeroes in on the imbalances in our body that cause inflammation, allergies, and immune disorders. They look at the whole body and advocate cutting out processed foods. Sound similar to the job of a dietician or nutritionist? The roles are pretty similar, but holistic nutrition looks at a person as a whole with special emphasis on natural methods of wellness.
According to the NIH, the education required to work as a nutritionist is as follows:
- Most dietitians and nutritionists have earned a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related area. Programs include courses in nutrition, physiology, chemistry, and biology.
- Dietitians and 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. Many dietitians and nutritionists have advanced degrees.
Many states require dietitians to be licensed. Therefore, it’s important to know what’s required of you in order to practice in your state. Licensure often requires hours of clinical and field work so speak to a faculty member or admissions representative to ensure the degree program of your choice prepares you for future testing and other licensure requirements.
Where Do Nutritionists Work?
Nutritionists work in a number of different industries, some of which include:
- nursing homes
- home health care agencies
- public health organizations
- private offices
Keep in mind that where you work depends on your area of interest and geographic location. If you want to work for a public health organization, you might need to take extra courses in program development, public health policies, and global health. Alternatively, if you want to start a private practice, a metropolitan location might be more advantageous. Think about the clients you want to serve and how you want to serve them. Clinics and hospitals are typically the primary employers of dietitians; however, you might have to follow stricter protocols.