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In-Depth Jobs


volume-25, 21 - 27 September 2019

 

Career in Nutrition -Empowering Individuals with Personal Health

Nidhi Prasad

Indian culinary tradition is as diverse as its culture. The food preferences of Indians change with not just the geography and ethnicity but also with climate and seasons. In summer when people suffer from heat-related conditions, such as heat stroke, sunburn, Indians are advised to eat plenty of grains, such as oats, barley, wheat or rice. One should also consume vegetables with starch, like potatoes and fruits such as oranges and grapefruit. In winter, deep fried food items are preferred as they keep the body warm. There is also a preference for foods that are sour and saline based.

However, today's generation's view of modern diet and human health has undergone drastic changes. Many chronic health problems, relate mainly to diet. Unfortunately, today's world has adapted to a system of consumption of foods which has several adverse effects on human health. What you consume on a daily basis will determine how your health will be in the present and future.

As the month of September is blessed with a harvest moon, the government has chosen this month to create awareness about nutritional requirements of the nation. India has the world's third-highest number of billionaires. But at the same time, micro-nutrient deficiency continues to be a major public health issue. Malnutrition is not apparent, as a child may appear healthy, even though she or he may be suffering from the inside because of micro-nutrient deficiency. This is not just limited to kids in rural India but is also deep-rooted among urban children. There is a critical need to create a pool of experts who can provide information on nutrition that is accessible to all.

Gone are the days when grandmas had all the solutions related to health within the kitchen. Eating habits, especially among the urban class, have moved from home kitchen to commercial kitchens as taste is considered more important than nutrition. Similarly, food today is grown for better yield and not for better nutrition and today's rampant lifestyle diseases are the reflection of this trend.

To fight this grave situation, the Government of India has launched September as Poshan Month which complements Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flaghship scheme Poshan Abhiyan which was launched in March 2018.

A new science has emerged as a result of this, the Science of Nutrition. This has opened new vistas for employment.

CAREER OVERVIEW

Nutrition and Dietetics is the science of management of nutrition and food for the promotion of health among people by instilling healthy eating habits. Nutritionist as a profession offers a host of rewarding ways to improve people's lives through food.

WHO IS A NUTRITIONIST?

A nutritionist advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal. They work in many settings, including hospitals, cafeterias, nursing homes, and schools. Some are self-employed with their own practice.They also work with patients suffering from diseases, such as kidney problems, food allergies, cancer, diabetes etc. Some nutritionists provide customized information for specific individuals. For example, a dietician or nutritionist might teach a patient with high blood pressure how to use less salt when preparing meals. Others work with groups of people who have similar needs. They might, for example, plan a diet with reduced processed foods and sugar to help overweight people lose weight.

WHAT WORK DOES NUTRITIONIST DO?

  • Explain nutrition and what it can do for the client
  • Assess clients' health needs and diet
  • Develop meal plans, taking both cost and clients' preferences into account.
  • To advise governments and health bodies on issues related with nutrition.
  • Work with different organizations such as schools, hospitals, restaurants, etc., to maintain nutrition needs of the people.
  • Spread awareness on the advantages of a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Indulge in research on different food ingredients and their benefits.
  • Maintain the records of the patients through periodic updates.

Although all nutritionists do similar tasks, there are several specialties within the occupations.

What's the Difference between Nutritionists and Dieticians?

Many people use the terms, Dietician, and Nutritionist, interchangeably, but their roles and educational qualifications are different. Nutritionists are professionals who advise people on the types and quantity of food intake required specifically to increase or decrease their body weight. They work in the areas of food science, community development, research projects and Fast Moving Consumer Goods Companies (FMCG). Their work relates to research aspect. It could be in the field, desk or laboratory. Public health nutritionists work in the developmental sector. "They go beyond diets - move into the science of biochemistry, food science.

On the other hand, Dieticians are experts who guide patients (medical patients in hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) regarding the right kinds of nutritional intake.  For example, a person recovering from a car accident would have different requirements from someone suffering from cancer. They are specialized in nutrition for different categories of people, especially clinical patients. Dieticians can work as Nutritionists, but Nutritionists cannot work as Dieticians.

Generally, after the course completion, students are entitled to undergo an internship training of three months, which is a mandatory period, or six months at a hospital which is recognized by Indian Dietetic Association and has at least one registered dietician in the dietetics department. It should be a super specialty or multi-specialty hospital.

ELIGIBILITY

You can take any stream in your class 12th, however, the science stream (Physics, Chemistry, and Biology) is highly recommended, as it opens up a wider range of courses and career opportunities. Also, taking Biology as a subject will help you build a base through a focus on human physiology.

In Graduation one can pursue B.Sc. Nutrition and dietetics for 3 years or pursue B.Sc. Home Science for 3 years and after graduation pursue M.Sc. Nutrition and dietetics / Home Science for 2 years or one can also do Post-Graduate Diploma in Nutrition and dietetics.

There are numerous programmes available at the graduate, postgraduate level, and course combinations, also. At Delhi University, the entry point is B. Sc Home Science, of which Food & Nutrition is one subject. There are two types of programmes: B. Sc Home Science and (Honors). In B. Sc Home Science (Hons), a student can specialize in Food & Nutrition in the second and third year, whereas in the B. Sc.programme, there is no specialization. The Honours programme admits only students from science backgrounds as its subjects include Biochemistry, Botany, Physics, Zoology and Chemistry.

SKILLS REQUIRED

If you have an inborn interest in cooking and exploring various cuisines from different countries, nutrition and dietetics is one subject which will help you explore how to design controlled diets. Based on the Body Mass Index, you can design your own food charts that would summarize the quantity of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins which must be consumed everyday.

The Skills Required Are:

  • Good communication skills to interact with people, individually and in groups
  • Writing skills to produce reports, documentation, leaflets
  • Good research skills
  • Patience and a genuine concern for fellow beings
  • Planning, administrative skills and organizational ability

Career Opportunities in Nutrition and Dietetics

The recent mushrooming of health clinics and fitness centers and booming commercial food services will ensure that nutrition and dietetics continue to have ample of job opportunities in the future.

The sectors where one can work are:

FMCGs and Pharmaceutical companies: Like Nestle, Cadbury's, Unilever, GSK, Eli Lilly, Novartis require nutritionists in two areas - R&D and medical marketing.

Government bodies: Many are hiring nutritionists for social welfare and developmental work. They also work in public health departments. Depending on the number of vacancies available, UPSC conducts interviews for posts at Food & Nutrition Board (FNB).

Apart from these, opportunities are available in: 

  • Sports and Health Clubs
  • Teaching
  • Consultant Dieticians
  • Mass Media
  • Nutrition educators
  • Private nutrition consultants
  • Government sector jobs
  • Clinical dieticians

A course in Nutrition and Dietetics is as good as a Hotel Management course if knowledge is continuously upgraded about foods, measurement scales, and medical implications. If you are employed in a Hospital, you can learn a lot about nursing and pharmacy which could be further used to complement your career as a dietician.

Various roles as a nutritionist:

  • CLINICAL NUTRITIONIST:

Clinical nutritionists work in medical settings, such as Hospitals, Doctor's offices and clinics. These nutritionists are in charge of providing medical nutrition therapy, a therapeutic method used to treat diseases by specifically tailoring the diet.

  • FOOD SERVICE NUTRITIONIST:

Food service nutritionists work in school cafeterias, restaurants and other large-scale food establishments. Routine audits and inspections are done to ensure kitchen staff and managers are in compliance with regulatory standards. Food service nutritionists also give advice for handling special dietary concerns and food allergies.

  • SPORTS NUTRITIONIST:

A sports nutritionist works with athletes and coaches to ensure top athletic performance. Individual plans are developed based on each athlete's nutrient needs. A sports nutritionist also collaborates with athletic trainers to prevent injuries and help recovering athletes.

Top Companies

The top companies in the hospitality industry hiring nutrition professionals are as mentioned below:

  • Hyatt Corporation
  • Accor Hospitality
  • Taj Group of Hotels
  • Le Meridien

 Besides these, there are several companies in other industries such as Apollo group of hospitals, AIIMS and other private nursing homes that hire nutritionists and dieticians. Top-ended sports clubs and fitness centers also employ these professionals.

TOP COLLEGES FOR NUTRITION AND DIETETICS

  • Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi, New Delhi
  • Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi
  • Women's Christian College, University of Madras, Chennai
  • SNDT Women's University, Mumbai
  • National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad
  • JD Birla Institute, Kolkata
  • All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata
  • College of Home Science, Nirmala Niketan, University of Mumbai
  • University of Mysore, Mysore

(Lists are indicative only)

With the break of disease and rising level of unhealthy eating habits, the need of nutritionist is on the rise. To give your nutrition career new wings, an internship is the most important aspect. It will give you the practical exposure on top of your theoretical knowledge and is surely going to open up many doors for a lucrative career opportunity.

(The author is a Senior Counseling Psychologist. E-mail id- nidhi prasadcs@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal.

(Image Courtesy : Google)