“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”Ann Wigmore
A career as a nutritionist is not only about assisting individuals in their weight loss journey but it’s more about maintaining the overall health of people, and if used with the right intentions it can produce miraculous results.
In today’s society, social media influencers often promote a particular ideal body type to young people. However, following their advice blindly can lead individuals down a dangerous path, as they may engage in intense and prolonged exercise routines without paying attention to proper nutrition. This can have severe consequences and even result in fatal outcomes.
On the other hand, mothers usually get worried about deciding what kind of food will be right for their children’s growth. Men and women often require a different diet when they enter their 40s-50s, especially women who face menopausal complications during this period. Old people too, have different needs, and to decode all these, we should always concern an expert, skilled professional–a nutritionist.
Roles and responsibilities like- managing clients, evaluating the dietary needs of clients based on their gender, age and other health factors, setting right mindset in people and ensuring that their patients or clients follow healthy eating habits, all these tasks need sheer dedication and a sense of seriousness and moral responsibility towards others’ health.
Step-by-step guide to becoming a nutritionist
1. Make an Early Choice
To be successful in this arena it’s important to have a science stream in your high school. We are aware that under the new education policy, the stream system is not there now, hence it’s advisable to take biology as one of your major subjects.
2. Courses to Pursue
After completing their 12th-grade year, students have the option to pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in nutrition and dietetics. Subsequently, they can further their studies by enrolling in a Master of Science (MSc) program in Nutrition and Dietetics. Upon completion of the MSc degree, individuals are qualified to work as nutritionists.
3. Types of Fields and Roles
There are various job roles one can pursue after completing the required formal education.
Some of them are-
3.1 Consultant Nutritionist
Consultant Nutritionists are those who are concerned with a patient’s eating habits and advice and plan proper diet charts for their clients to gain or lose weight, build muscles, or for preventing future health issues.
3.2 Sports Nutritionist
In the sports field, athletes need a different diet to perform top athletic performance. Sports Nutritionists are the professionals who work closely with players and coaches to determine the diet of players that could help them not only enhance and maintain power and strength but also help them in speedy recovery from injuries.
3.3 Pediatric Nutritionist
Pediatric Nutritionists are concerned with the health of children. They advise the right food and right diet for the proper and healthy growth of children. Also, they work on developing healthy eating habits and the right mindset in children from an early age.
3.4 Food Service nutritionist
A food service nutritionist works in large food establishments like schools, restaurants, etc. Their work is to check whether such establishments are using the right amount of nutrition in food or not. They do audits and inspections to ensure regulatory standards.
3.5 Public Health nutritionist
Public Health nutritionists are those who are responsible to educate the community and groups about adopting positive nutritional habits. They study the general food habits of people and suggest ways through which the government can alter them for a positive healthy outcome.
We hold the belief that professionals possess the ability to guide our young generation more effectively than we do. Hence, we introduce to you Ms. Rakshita Mehra, an expert in her field.
She is a Clinical Dietitian, a Gut Health Specialist, a Certified Diabetes Educator, Food Safety Supervisor, Sports Nutritionist, Public Speaker, Nutrition Educator and a Nutritionist with over 4 years of experience. She had done Masters in Foods and Nutrition. On top of all that , she is the founder and CEO of Nutrishala .
Here are some deep insights from our conversation-
1. As a nutritionist yourself what fundamental values or skills are must to excel in this field?
Skills required to become a Clinical Nutritionist and Dietitian would be a strong Medical Knowledge. Acquiring a solid foundation of medical knowledge is essential. One must be empathetic and compassionate towards their patients. These qualities are essential for understanding patients’ emotions, providing support, and building a strong dietitian-patient relationship. Paying attention to even the smallest details is crucial in medical practice. Respecting patient confidentiality, maintaining trust, and prioritizing the well-being of the patients. Medicine is a constantly evolving field with unpredictable challenges. Cultivate adaptability, flexibility, and resilience to cope with unexpected situations, stress, and changes in healthcare practices. Remember, excelling as a Dietitian or Nutritionist is a continuous journey that requires dedication, ongoing self-improvement, and a commitment to providing the best possible care to your patients.
2. After completing studies, what can be the practical ways to start one’s career?
After completion of the degrees, one must take hands-on experience at a Government or Private Hospital setup or work under the guidance of a well qualified Clinical Medical professional. With years of experience and knowledge, one can start private practice and even build their own healthcare companies. One can even opt for higher studies such as PhD. If anyone has an interest in medical research or teaching, pursuing a career in academia can be a viable option. However, one must not forget that the joy is in the journey. Embrace the process, savor the moments, and find fulfillment in the pursuit, for it is the path that truly shapes us.
3. Given the increasing prevalence of health issues and growing awareness surrounding them, what do you think the scope of nutritionist is in the near future?
There is a growing awareness and interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, preventing chronic diseases, and optimizing overall well-being. As people become more health-conscious, the need for expert guidance on nutrition and dietary choices increases. Health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and digestive disorders are on the rise. These conditions often require dietary interventions as part of the treatment and management. Nutritionists play a crucial role in developing personalized nutrition and diet plans to address these health issues. As they say, prevention is better than cure. Nutritionists can contribute to preventive healthcare by promoting healthy eating habits, designing tailored meal plans, and educating individuals about the impact of nutrition on long-term health. Thereby , enhancing the quality of life of patients.
4. What would be the preferred courses and top institutions to be a nutritionist?
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics/food or nutrition science/Home science is a common route to becoming a nutritionist. With the rise in competition today, a Post graduate diploma or masters in foods and nutrition/clinical nutrition or nutrition and dietetics is a must. Talking about the top institutions, there are many government universities such as Delhi University, SNDT women’s University or Banasthali University.
However, I feel that College is made by the students who attend it. In essence, it is the students who breathe life into the college, transforming it from a mere physical space into a thriving educational community. Even if you are not a part of top institutions but as a student you can become the best version of yourself.
5. What’s the best and the most challenging part of your job?
For me, this field has been more rewarding than challenging and I am grateful to god for this.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of being a nutritionist or dietitian is the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives. The blessings and love received from the patients tops the list of rewards. That feeling of watching your patient becoming happy, healthy and fit is very special. Being able to educate and empower individuals to make informed food choices and adopt healthy lifestyles is immensely rewarding.
On the contrary, the challenge here is the rise in random people becoming nutritionists, health coaches or dietitians. This is a paramedical field and requires extensive years of study and demands hands-on experience in hospital setups. People cannot call themselves Clinical dietitians or nutritionists, if they have lost weight themselves or have done 3-6 months of nutrition course.
Despite the challenges, the field of nutrition and dietetics offers immense opportunities for personal and professional growth. The ability to positively impact lives, share knowledge, and contribute to the health and well-being of individuals and communities makes it a rewarding and fulfilling career.
6. Many individuals frequently turn to Google or social media platforms to design their own diets, but unfortunately, they often encounter unfavorable outcomes as a result. What advice would you like to give to such people?
My advice to all the people out there would be to be mindful of the information you find on the internet and social media. Not all sources are reliable or evidence-based. Look for reputable sources such as registered dietitians, credible nutrition organizations , government health papers, and research articles. Remember that everyone has unique nutritional needs and goals. Avoid blindly following generic diet plans found online. Be cautious of diets that promise quick fixes, extreme restrictions, or drastic weight loss. Nutrition is a complex field, and the guidance of a qualified professional can provide you with accurate, personalized advice that aligns with your health goals.
7. One myth or any false perception that is related to your profession?
One common myth or false perception related to the dietitian profession is that dietitians only focus on weight loss or restrictive diets. While weight management and dietary modifications are certainly within the scope of a dietitian’s practice, the role of a dietitian extends far beyond weight loss alone. Dietitians are trained professionals who possess in-depth knowledge of nutrition science and its applications in promoting overall health and well-being. Contrary to the misconception that dietitians only promote restrictive diets, they emphasize a balanced and inclusive approach to eating. They help individuals understand the importance of variety, portion control, and moderation in their dietary choices. Dietitians focus on long-term sustainable habits that promote overall health, nourishment, and enjoyment of food. It’s crucial to recognize that dietitians are qualified healthcare professionals who adhere to a code of ethics and practice based on scientific evidence. They are uniquely equipped to provide reliable and individualized nutrition advice that takes into account a person’s entire health profile, rather than focusing solely on weight or restrictive diets.