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Dietetic Technician


When deciding between eating a bag of chips or an apple, a dietary technician will undoubtedly suggest the fruit. Why? An apple a day surely keeps the doctor away, while a bag of chips a day will cause weight gain and eventually may clog arteries and cause serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Dietary technicians assist dietitians or nutritionists in planning and supervising food service operations and providing reliable and objective nutritional information.

Dietary technicians plan menus and diets for individuals or groups under the direction of a dietitian or nutritionist. They especially help hospital patients, such as diabetics, manage their diets and control their food intake. They promote healthy lifestyles, including a good diet coupled with good health. Their goal is to help prevent 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.

Dietary technicians generally specialize in an area of health food promotion such as therapy, management or community work. In therapy, the technicians work with dietitians helping patients with treatment and rehabilitation. Acting as a consultant, they talk with people and families going through major changes in their diets. For example, they will encourage patients with eating disorders to eat healthy foods, showing how they can maintain a certain figure and diet while still eating.

Dietary technicians that work in management roles generally assist dietitians who run food service systems for institutions such as hospitals and schools and plan meals on a large scale. For example, in a dormitory cafeteria, a dietary technician will help 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 dietary technicians work on educating and improving the food habits and knowledge of the general public. They also 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.

If this career entices you to become a dietary technician, it is important to be in good health. Dietary technicians should practice what they preach!
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American University

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Programs Offered:
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  Interests and Skills  
Dietary technicians should 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  
  • Assist dietitians or nutritionists to plan and supervise food service operations
  • Plan menus and diets for individuals or groups under the direction of a dietitian or nutritionist
  • Assist in the supervision of personnel in the preparation and serving of food
  • Take a patient's diet history and help them design individualized menus
  • Provide nutritional education with the supervision of a dietitian
  • Assist dietitians with research in food, nutrition and food service systems
  • Perform administrative duties for dietitians
  • Purchase food and monitor inventory
  • Supervise food service personnel
  • Working conditions for dietary technicians will vary considerably, depending on the type of workplace. They generally work weekdays, approximately 40 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 dietary technicians work part time. They either work in clean, well-lighted and well-ventilated areas or in warm, congested kitchens.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Dietary technicians are employed in health care and commercial food service establishments such as hospitals, extended care centers, nursing homes, correctional institutions, schools, cafeterias and fast food outlets.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for dietary technicians? With further education, they can become certified dietitians. 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 with a dietitian and become self-employed. They 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 cooperatives.

  Educational Paths  
To become a registered dietary technician, students must complete a two year community college program in food and nutrition, resulting in a diploma. The school training includes hands-on work, with a supervised clinical practicum that may last a few weeks to a whole semester. In order to become certified, they must have some job or volunteer experience, and pass the registration examination for dietetic technicians. Upon successful completion of these requirements, the title DTR (dietetic technician registered) can be used after the last name.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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