Health freak? Become a nutritionist

Additives, chemicals, colourings, flavourings, preservatives, GM crops, fast foods, fertilisers, insecticides and more – it’s no wonder the human race’s collective immune system is failing and disease is increasing. ‘You are what you eat’ is a truism totally ignored by the profit and shareholder-motivated food industry worldwide.

Nutritionists help to reverse this trend by estimating the needs of their clients and planning a healthy, immune system-boosting diet accordingly, as well as advising on eating disorders and weight loss projects.

Nutritionists may work with local or national government organisations such as hospitals, schools, care homes for the elderly or nursing homes, or may deal with private or corporate clients as independent consultants. Either way, their aim is to upgrade the health of their clients and prevent diet-related illnesses by intricate study of nutritional do’s and don’ts on an individual or group basis. This career has a number of sub-sectors, all of which benefit the health of consumers.

become a nutritionist
Clinical nutritionists work mostly within hospitals or nursing and care homes, with direct patient contact resulting in beneficial meal plans created to reinforce recovery or minimise chronic symptoms often the result of physical deterioration due to old age. Private hospitals are particularly keen on using nutrition as an aid to recovery. Community nutritionists, employed in the public sector, work in the public arena, giving instruction on healthy eating and promoting public health by the use of advertisements. Lectures on healthy eating given in schools are another job aspect for community nutritionists.

Management nutritionists are school-based, planning large-scale healthy meals with the challenge of a low budget as the norm. Ordering supplies, supervising preparation, portion control and problem solving are day-to-day tasks in this sector, which may also include public hospital and other medical facility locations. Consultant nutritionists, often seen in the forefront of organic food and natural supplement promotion, run private practices dealing with individual clients, sports teams, athletes and privately run medical facilities. Other opportunities in the field include testing or developing new products in a commercial laboratory.

Skills required include a talent for supportive teamwork, excellent communications abilities, attention to detail, a strong understanding of links between physical and mental disease and diet and a thorough knowledge of biochemistry and human physiology. Experience in alternative food therapies such as food combining, vegan and vegetarian foods and food allergies is also important, especially for consultant nutritionists. 

Academic requirements for this career are fairly stringent, including a basic degree in nutrition or food sciences. Further qualifications in biology, chemistry, psychology, business management and a master’s degree in a related field are often requested by employers. Consultant nutritionists will need basic business accounting and other related skills, and research on new breakthroughs in the science is an essential requirement.

Salaries and other benefits depend on employer status, with public health employees earning less than consultants and those working within privately-owned facilities. but eligible for pension schemes. Entry–level wages sit around $45,000 (£30,000), with increases up to $80,000 (£55,000) or more, with experienced consultants setting fees at a higher level.

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