There is a tremendous correlation between our health and the food we consume. Even though the relationship between these factors can seem apparent on the surface, it can be pretty tricky to associate a health condition with specific food intake.
The scientific measurement and understanding of the relationship between these two factors are exactly what a nutritionist does. In short, a nutritionist’s job is to study the effect of the food we consume on our health.
While they usually start by understanding this relationship on a general level, they can also apply their knowledge to different individuals based on their unique biological makeup.
This way, they are able to help them formulate a diet plan that facilitates positive changes in their lives.
What Nutritionists Do
There are numerous scenarios where an individual might feel the need to change their eating habits. This could be as a result of medical conditions such as cancer, obesity, or diabetes; or as a result of food restrictions and eating disorders.
The problem, however, is that understanding which food causes an adverse reaction and which food causes a positive one can be an immense challenge.
In these situations, it is highly advisable to talk to an expert with in-depth knowledge of all food classes and their effects on human health. And that’s where the service of a qualified nutritionist comes in.
It is hard enough to come up with a general diet plan on your own; taking it a step further by coming up with a specialized plan based on your unique biological makeup is almost impossible. Thankfully, it is a much easier task for a nutritionist.
Responsibilities of a Nutritionist
A nutritionist usually has the following responsibilities during their day-to-day activities:
- Meet with clients to discuss and identify their dietary needs. They do this by accessing their health, history, food habits, and exercise routines.
- Come up with a personalized nutrition plan and help oversee its correct implementation.
- Continue to offer advice for long-term success and sustainability. Provide support throughout the journey.
- Help break down complex but essential information into digestible chunks that the client will easily understand and implement or use as a source of motivation.
- Establish long and short-term goals while consolidating these plans with the latest nutritional trends and breakthroughs
- Contribute to growth in the field through publications and seminars that aim to educate the public and fellow nutritionists about the latest breakthroughs in the field
Who Makes a Good Nutritionist
Nutritionists often find themselves playing the role of counselor as much as that of a healthcare professional. For this reason, while they develop their technical knowledge of the field, nutritionists must also develop strong communication skills, empathy, listening skills, and curiosity.
Below are a few other vital skills that every nutritionist must have.
- Ability to carry out thorough research
- Ability to make clear decisions
- A high level of creativity
- Ability to simplify complex concepts into understandable bytes
- Comprehensive knowledge of nutrients and their effects on both physical and mental health
Where Nutritionists Work
Nutritionists work in many different settings, and as time passes and the world becomes more decentralized, it has become possible for them not to have a localized work environment at all.
Traditionally, most nutritionists work in hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient facilities, and government agencies. Modernization, however, has seen nutritionists working from home.
They do this by leveraging the power of social media to build a solid reputation as an expert in their field. Through the platforms, they can reach out to potential clients who can get through to them through the same avenue.
Online nutritionists may also provide remote consultation or publish books, videos, or courses to which people can subscribe to learn more about their nutritional needs.
Career Path for a Nutritionist
Nutritionists have the same underlying functions but do not necessarily follow the same career paths. Below are a few areas you can specialize in as a nutritionist.
- Nutritionist - Regular nutritionists focus strictly on developing healthy nutritional guides for their clients.
- Registered Dietician - A registered dietitian also advises clients on nutritional needs, but they must possess a standardized credential and formal education.
- Corporate Wellness Consultant - A corporate wellness consultant works with a private company as an in-house nutritionist who advises employees on nutritional and lifestyle changes that benefit them professionally and personally.
- Nutrition Educator - A nutrition educator develops programs geared toward promoting better food habits. They also teach people how to design healthy meal plans from various affordable options.
- Nutrition Writer - A nutrition writer takes advantage of the internet and social media to craft articles, ebooks, and other innovative content forms. The purpose of their writing is usually to educate and train people on how to live a better life through healthy nutrition.
Becoming a Licensed Nutritionist
To become a licensed nutritionist with the legal prerogative to offer counseling, you must take four broad steps.
The first is to earn a bachelor’s degree. This takes about four years, and the degree in question must be obtained from schools that meet requirements set by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
Once step one is complete, the next step is to gain work experience. This is needed for licensing, and the minimum accepted duration usually varies by state.
Step three is to get a state-issued license, which means you can legally offer counsel. Lastly, some choose to complete a fourth step which is to obtain a master’s degree.
Is a Nutritionist the Same as a Dietician?
On a closing note, many tend to confuse nutritionists and dieticians as the same thing, whereas there is technically a difference between both descriptions.
While both of these terms have the same job descriptions, the key difference lies in the fact that registered dieticians have to possess a relevant bachelor’s degree along with appropriate licensure and certification. In contrast, all that is needed to become a nutritionist is to complete a certification program or obtain relevant knowledge through nontraditional settings such as a wellness center.