What does a nutritionist do? A nutritionist — also known as a dietitian — advises people on how to make informed food and lifestyle decisions.
Let’s say that you’re trying to choose a career path for your life. You’ve graduated college with a degree in something that you don’t have a passion for, now you’re re-evaluating yourself and what you actually want to do. You don’t feel that you’re too skilled at anything specifically, but you’re also open to the idea of learning something new. Maybe you’re someone who loves food, but you don’t necessarily like to cook. You enjoy exercising regularly, making healthy and informed decisions in regards to your life, and you love to help people.
After reflecting and doing a bit of research, you decide that you want to pursue a career in nutrition. Where do you start? And, what does life as a nutritionist actually look like? We’re going to find that out.
To begin, we should answer the question; what does a nutritionist do? A nutritionist, also known as a dietitian, is someone that advises people on how to make informed food and lifestyle decisions. As an expert in the field of food and health, nutritionists work within a variety of environments including schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and their own private offices. Nutritionists also work with a wide range of patients as well. They build diet plans for people looking to accomplish specific health and fitness goals, provide medical nutrition therapy to patients with kidney diseases, and even work with diabetic clients to find dietary solutions.
A nutritionist must be able to:
- Assess clients’ current diet, their health needs and aspirations
- Explain what proper diet and nutrition looks like for the client in particular, how it benefits them
- Evaluate efficient and affordable meal plans, their effects, and sacrifices involved
- Maintain a working knowledge of nutrition and medical research and updates
The type of patient that a nutritionist will typically work with is based on the type of nutritionist that he or she is.
Here are some roles you may find a nutritionist in:
- You could be a certified health coach and help clients achieve and sustain their own unique personal wellness desires.
- There are management dietitians who work directly with health and food services in cafeterias, food corporations, and clinics. These nutritionists are often involved with food orders, overseeing kitchen staff, and managing other business-related aspects of food services.
- Clinical dietitians are those who practice nutrition therapy. They work in large hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other health establishments. Clinical dietitians also tend to specialize in specific fields of nutrition while also working alongside other healthcare professionals such as surgeons, health policy administrators, dentists, and nurses.
- Community nutritionists engage with the public on different health and nutrition topics. You’ll usually find them working with groups of people such as pregnant women or with groups diagnosed with a chronic disease such as cancer. They are typically hired to work in spaces like government and nonprofit agencies, health maintenance organizations, or even large gatherings and festivals sponsored by health and community organizations.
You can see, a career in nutrition offers you a variety of meaningful work. With all of these different job opportunities previously mentioned, you may now be wondering what education and certification you’ll need to obtain in order to work in this field. Most nutritionist jobs that involve you working in a clinic, large hospital, or cafeteria, will require you to be a licensed or registered nutritionist with, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree.
Different organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists, the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board, the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board, or the American Health Science University, offer a variety of training courses that require different amounts of time and levels of education to complete.
However, if you are simply looking into a career as an health coach or consultant, some programs may only require a high school diploma or GED to apply for their programs. The optimal choice is a personal one in this case, based on the time and effort that you want to commit, and on how far you want to take your career in nutrition.
Life as a nutritionist is one that will allow you to be a role model and educator to the people in your family and community. If you are the person that was described early on, excited about health and fitness, then why not choose a career in something that you are passionate about and that can further your own wellness? You can work amongst other healthcare professionals that are eager to give back to their communities, or you can practice on your own and provide personal and consistent advice to your clients. The opportunities to help people in this profession are almost limitless.
GC Content Writer: Makalani Mack
GreenChoice, PBC has evaluated and rated more than 340,000 food & beverage products across hundreds of attributes related to diet, health, and sustainability. Easily find the best products for you, the planet, & your budget. Download the free GreenChoice app for Apple iOS or Android!