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Focus on Preventive Healthcare - Career Prospects for Dietitians

In the fast moving life of today our health is often compromised. For maintaining good health it is important to take care of our eating habits and ensure a healthy diet. It may not be possible for everyone to understand their individual dietary needs and we can always turn to a dietitian for professional help and guidance. Developments in technology, healthcare, and the food industry, as well as evolving trends in consumer behavior, are changing the face of dietetics and opening new doors for dietitians. In India, B.Sc. in Nutrition and Dietetics has a promising scope today, and it is only going to expand more in the times to come.

Common sectors Dietitians can work in:

Self Employed Consultants: They can start their own clinic and set up a private practice. Their main role is to provide expertise in nutrition as well as promote health and prevent disease. They prepare diet/nutrition plans for individuals from various walks of life., They can offer advice on weight loss, weight gain, cholesterol reduction, and a variety of diet-related concerns. They can also provide services to food service or restaurant managers, food vendors, athletes, nursing home residents, company employees, or individuals seeking nutrition counseling.

Community & Public Health: Dietitians can teach, monitor, and advise the public. Their efforts focus on helping to improve the quality of life through healthy eating habits. This health promotion may include working with families, children, the elderly and pregnant women.

Schools & Education Sector: Dietitians are aptly suitable for the education sector, primarily in the development of evidence based, structured health and nutrition education material that can possibly be taught as a stand alone subject in schools to improve the health outcome of children, teachers and parents through the country. Imparting the knowledge to students and teachers, through specialized teacher training programs, menu planning, daycare meal service, etc. are just some of the prospects in schools.

Management: They can work in organizations like NGOs, star hotels, recreational clubs, gyms, office cafeterias, government’s health department, etc. Besides giving nutrition advice, dietitians' responsibilities in this sector may also include menu planning and budgeting as well.

Clinical: Hospitals, health care or diagnostic centers often require dietitians. They need to educate patients about nutrition and administer medical nutrition therapy as part of the health care team. They work with doctors, nurses, and therapists to help speed patients' recoveries and lay the groundwork for long-term health.

Sports and Wellness Centers: Dietitians educate clients about the connection between food, fitness and health. Counsel and assess the nutritional needs of competitive and recreational athletes and teams and can provide nutritional solutions to encourage the athletes' best performance.

Food Technology and Development: Typically work for food and beverage manufacturing companies and provide guidance in planning for the research, development, testing, manufacturing, preserving, improvement, and processing of new food products.

Food Service: The dietitian is responsible for providing nutritionally adequate, safe, tasty, and sustainable quality food to individuals or groups to improve health and treat disease within financial and regulatory frameworks. This may be in schools, hospitals, day-care centers, or correctional facilities. Typically, they oversee everything from food purchasing and preparation to staff management.

Journalism: Dietitians can write articles for newspapers, magazines, circulars and newsletters. They can also be writing website content, blogs, ebooks, and electronic newsletters. The topics may range from cooking, recipe development, healthy eating, gardening, specific nutrients, specific foods, food science, food industry, food culture, diet and weight loss, exercise, stress management and diseases or disease prevention and recovery.

Research & Education: Conduct research with experiments to answer critical nutrition recommendations for the public. Some research dietitians study the biochemical aspects of nutrient interaction within the body.

Teach in educational institutes such as schools, colleges or universities and teach about the science of nutrition & dietetics. They can also be teaching about food chemistry, or food service administration to students in any health profession and at all levels of education.

There are a multitude of other fields of work in which nutritionists and dietitians can practice and make a true difference in the wellbeing of individuals and groups.

A Registered Dietitian (RD) meets all of a set of special academic and professional requirements, including the completion of a bachelor's and/or master's degree in nutrition and dietetics (or equivalent). In addition they must also have completed 1 or more internships or clinical placements and passed the Registration Examination. Many dietitians may have specialty credentials in areas of nutrition support, sports, pediatrics, renal, oncological, food-allergy, or gerontological nutrition. Salaries of dietitians may vary depending upon the qualification (Masters, M Phil and PhD), years of experience, skills, knowledge, license of registry, areas of specialization, location, designation, etc.

Nutrition and Dietetics are evidence based sciences and are practiced by professionals who have ascertained the pre-requisite qualifications. Nutrition science is a key ingredient in the fight against malnutrition, lifestyle diseases and crippling nutrient deficiencies, and should be encouraged as a career option as part of preventive healthcare rather than just curative.

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