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When deciding between eating a bag of chips or an apple, a nutritionist will undoubtedly suggest the fruit. Why? An apple a day surely keeps the doctor away, while a bag or chips a day will cause weight gain, acne and eventually may clog arteries and cause serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Nutritionists provide reliable and objective nutritional information, separate diet facts from fads and translate the newest scientific findings into understandable health and diet answers. They develop and implement food and nutrition strategies, manage food service systems and try and instil nutritional policies.

Nutritionists especially help hospital patients, such as diabetics, manage their diets and control their food intake. They preach truisms, promoting a good diet coupled with good health. Sometimes called dieticians, although the title depends on which state your live in (some states do not recognize the title nutritionist), nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. Their goal is to 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.

Nutritionists generally specialize in an area of health food promotion such as therapy, management, community work, research or consulting. Nutrition therapists help patients with treatment and rehabilitation. Like a consultant they help people and families go through major changes in their diets. For example, a patient diagnosed with Crohn's disease and lactose intolerance will have to cut out certain dairy products. This change could be very drastic for a person, especially if they were a former cheese lover. Therefore, the nutritionist acts as a therapist to help the patient get through this ordeal and learn how to change their diet and lifestyle habits. Therapists also work with people with eating disorders, trying to encourage new and healthy eating, showing how they can maintain a certain figure and diet while still eating.

Nutritionists that work in the management role generally run food service systems for institutions such as hospitals and schools. These nutritionists are in charge of meal planning on a large scale. For example, in a university residence cafeteria, a dietician will carefully plan out all the meals and meal options, ensuring that they are promoting healthy eating choices and offering vegetarian meals and an abundance of fruits and vegetables, instead of cakes and French fries.

Community nutritionists try and educate and improve the food habits of the general public. They develop and run nutrition programs at schools, community centers and at local food stores and pharmacies. For instance, they will show how advertisers often use words such as "lite," on products, which are supposed to have less-fat; however these products are equally as fatty as their competitors products and the word lite is a trick that may denote, light texture or light in weight. Community food health has grown speedily in the past few years, as people are taking notice and care of what they eat.

Nutritional consultants provide advice to hospitals, businesses, patients and industries on nutrition programs and food services. Their goal is to teach such institutions about good eating choices, healthy food, exercise and practicing proper nutrition. Nutritionists talk to doctors and health care workers about their patients. This is especially prevalent in nursing homes, where it is very hard to get the elderly to eat.
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  Interests and Skills  
Nutritionists must be in good health in order to promote healthy eating habits. They are interested in the science behind food and the way it metabolizes in our bodies and how we can choose healthier options. They have excellent communication skills for dealing with patients, clients and the public. They are also analytical and enjoy solving problems related to health food and healthy lifestyles.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop, administer and supervise nutrition and food preparation and service programs in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, company cafeterias or similar settings
  • Provide nutrition counselling and consulting to health professionals, dietetic interns, community groups, government, media and individuals
  • Manage food service departments or clinical and community nutrition services
  • Assess an individuals' nutritional and dietary status
  • Plan, evaluate and conduct nutrition education programs and develop educational materials for students and the general public
  • Conduct basic and applied research in food, nutrition and food service systems and nutritional assessments
  • Participate on health care teams to determine nutritional needs of patients and to plan therapeutic diets and menus
  • Study and analyze current scientific nutritional studies and conduct research to improve the nutritional value, taste, appearance and preparation of food.
  • Make recommendations regarding public policy, such as proper nutritional labelling, food fortification, nutrition standards for school programs and other standardized practices
  • Working conditions for nutritionists will vary considerably, depending on the type of workplace. Nutritionists generally work weekdays, approximately forty hours per week, but may be on-call weekends or evenings to meet patients and clients or to deliver educational programs and seminars. A good deal of nutritionists work part time. Nutritionists either work in clean, well-lighted and well-ventilated areas or in warm, congested kitchens.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Nutritionists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, government agencies, clinics, social services agencies, correctional services, food processing companies, pharmaceutical companies, private consulting firms, organic and health food stores and non-profit organizations. Some also work in the teaching and research areas and can be found a colleges and universities. Nutritionists could also work as educators in television and on the radio.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for nutritionists? Those with experience may advance to management or supervisory positions within a dietetic department in a hospital or health center. Some may also decide to open up their own consulting clinic and become self-employed. Nutritionists could write articles for food and nutrition magazines and in newspapers. Some may decide to focus their work on a particular group or area of nutrition. There is also the possibility of going into sales for pharmaceuticals, health food or organic food co-operatives.

  Educational Paths  
Since the title nutritionist is not accepted everywhere in the United States, but a dietician is, most nutritionists following the same educational path as a dietician and can use the title interchangeably, once they start working. The minimum requirement for becoming a nutrition-dietitian is a four-year bachelor's degree in food and nutrition, usually obtained through a science degree. Most practising nutritionists have a master's degree in dietetics, nutrition or a related biochemistry field.

Of the 46 States with laws governing dietetics, 30 require licensure, 15 require certification, and 1 requires registration. The Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) awards the Registered Dietitian credential to those who pass a certification exam after completing their academic coursework and supervised experience. Because practice requirements vary by State, interested candidates should determine the requirements of the State in which they want to work before sitting for any exam.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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