The Job of a Nutritionist
Nutritionists are needed in all walks of life and in all stages of the human life cycle. As a nutritionist you are first and foremost an expert with skills in food and nutrients.
You’ll help individuals learn food concepts and you’ll evaluate clients current diets. You’ll make recommendations on how clients can change their diets in order to lose weight, gain weight and eat a healthier diet.
Certain clients will have specific dietary deficiencies that need correcting. While others may benefit from taking nutritional supplements.
Some clients need to have their calorie counts and nutritional needs closely analysed before starting a dietary program.
As a nutritionist you’ll produce nutrition plans and access the clients nutritional needs.
Education is crucial to your job as a nutritionist because only through teaching the client the proper way to eat, can long lasting changes be made in the clients lifestyle.
If you don’t have all the skills listed in this section – don’t worry! Over the course of your study your knowledge of diet and nutrition will grow and grow.
As a good nutritionist you must be able to:
- Work with a wide variety of clients, including children, teens, adults and elderly.
- Use a variety of skills to educate the client on the proper foods to eat, including proper portions and the nutrient content of foods.
- Understanding calorie-counting books, diet books and reading of nutritional labels.
Additionally, as a nutritionist you will have:
- Good mathematical skills. These are important as you’ll have to precisely calculate calories and protein content etc.
- An understanding of the various food groups as well as the types of nutrients found in them.
- Knowledge of conditions caused by nutritional deficiency or excess. There are relatively new conditions related to obesity that you need to know about. Diabetes type II, for example, has reached epidemic proportions. So knowing how to manage diabetes using diet plus or minus medications is vitally important.
Throughout this academy your knowledge of the following will also improve:
- You should learn about the various dietary supplements that are available. Including those marked as natural or herbal. Many clients find themselves “self treating” with herbal or natural supplements and do not realise the effects they may have on their body. It takes a nutritional consultant to look at the totality of an individual’s diet, including any supplements they may be taking.
- Being a dietary consultant means clearly understanding different methods of calculating body composition and the strengths and limitations of such methods. For example, the body mass index (BMI) is used by many health professionals. During this academy you will learn how to calculate this. It’s important to know what is normal and what falls outside the limits of normal. Following the BMI can be important in tracking an individuals progress, particularly when weight is concerned. Other method increasingly used are waist to hip measurement ratios.
- Knowledge of the digestive tract and its diseases are important. There are certain conditions of the digestive tract that lend themselves to specific dietary concerns. Understanding how the digestive tract works can be important in determining the cause of an individuals nutritional complaint. Often this means working with the client’s doctor.
- A good nutritional consultant also has knowledge of the components of food, including fats, proteins, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. They also know which foods are the best for obtaining those required items and which foods to avoid, if necessary. Nutritionists understand the value of a balanced diet and understand how to create a balanced diet in a variety of circumstances. Macros and micro-nutrient counts need to be known and calculated for every diet.
Potential Client Groups
There is a broad client base available to you as a nutritional consultant. Clients can range in age from infants to the elderly and include all ages and types in between.
Lets look at some of the potential clients that you might work with as a nutritionist and the problems that might occur in the practice of being a dietary consultant.
You may need to consult in the care of an over weight toddler. the evaluation entails weighing and measuring the child and getting a dietary history from the parent.
You should determine ways to educate the family on healthier ways to feed the toddler. Offering them suitable recipes.
You should also schedule follow up meetings to assess if obesity is still a problem.
You may be asked to consult in the care of a teenager with health problems whose diet consists of snack foods and fast foods.
You’ll have to weigh and measure the teen before educating them on a well balanced diet and exercise.
Amateur Athlete & Bodybuilder
You could be asked to work with an amateur athlete or bodybuilder looking to maximise their performance before a competition.
You’d have to weigh and measure the athlete and get a sense of how many calories they burn during a daily workout.
Following that, You’d have to educate the client on what and when to eat before and after training.
For example: a bodybuilder may require a higher intake of foods high in protein and you may advise the individual on protein supplements in common use by bodybuilders and other athletes.
You may assist in the management of an adult female suffering a specific dietary deficiency, such as iron deficiency.
Which is observed to be very common. You will also suggest foods high in iron and educate the individual on foods that she could take to overcome the deficiency and prevent it from recurring.
You might work with an obese adult who wants to lose weight. You’ll have to calculate there BMI and advise on proper eating behaviors.
You will have to set up a meal plan and work out the customers calories and macro nutrient (protein, fats and carbs) needs.
This type of patient will/may require long term management and lots of psychological support with reaching their goals.
As a nutritionist you will use many different tools as you work with many different clients throughout your career as a nutritionist.
Knowledge of how to obtain information about an individuals general health and daily diet is first and foremost.
Followed by the tools such as, education, meal planning, troubleshooting and managing eating difficulties in order to ensure that the clients are getting the proper nutrition in the proper form.
Up Next: What Makes a Healthy Diet?