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Editorial Articles


Issue no 19, 07-13 August 2021


Emerging Careers in Food and Nutrition Science

Nidhi Prasad

Like water, food is necessary for our survival. Food impacts a person's health, body and mind, thus maintaining wellness as well as preventing illness.

There is little doubt that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives- both at home and in work spheres. Social restrictions, quarantine, telecommuting, virtual learning, etc have all become the new norm. No one knows for how long these pandemic safety measures will need to stay in place. This scenario presents a perfect time to protect and improve our health because a well-balanced nutritious diet helps support a strong immune system. Good nutrition also reduces the likelihood of developing other health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. Now more people are becoming aware of the impact their diet can have on their daily life, and growing interest in improving their health through nutrition. This phenomenon has fuelled a global demand for qualified nutrition professionals, who can apply their expertise to improve public health and engage in health promotion. It is an exciting field with many career opportunities which allow you to improve people's lives with evidence based insights about food and nutrition. Having knowledge about food and nutrition can put you in many work settings, like offices, labs, hospitals, schools, corporations, restaurants and other places.

Nutrition and Dietetics: A nutritionist is a person who advises on matters of food and nutrition and their impact on health. Some people specialize in particular areas, such as sports nutrition, public health, or animal nutrition, among other disciplines. As a nutritionist or dietician, you will suggest your clients the right kind of food combination according to their age, weight, gender and nutritional requirements. You'll help them in reducing/ gaining weight, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and meeting their dietary requirements.

While nutritionist and dietician are very similar professionals, there is a slight difference between these two food and diet experts. Anyone who offers nutritional advice on a professional basis can be called a professional nutritionist. To be called a certified nutritionist, they need to have a certification from Clinical Nutrition Certification (CNC) Board. For becoming a dietician, one needs to have the required academic degree and pass an exam to get registered with the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA).

Following are the study route one can choose to make a career in Nutrition and Dietetics:

Path 1: Clear Class XII in Science Stream and pursue B.Sc. Nutrition and Dietetics for 3 years, followed by M.Sc. Nutrition and Dietetics for 2 years. OR

Path 2: Clear Class XII in Science Stream (Home Science is recommended) and then pursue B.Sc. Home Science for 3 years, followed by M.Sc. Home Science. OR

Path 3: Clear Class XII in Science Stream then pursue B.Sc. Nutrition and Dietetics for 3 years followed by Postgraduate Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics. You are also required to complete an internship and clear the licensing exam conducted by the Indian Dietetics Association (IDA) after your post graduation. One can also advance in the field by opting for PhD or further research, as the opportunity for continuous learning is high.

New Emerging Careers in Nutrition A graduate with a B.Sc in Nutrition is qualified to work in a number of new emerging areas such as:

1.       Sports nutritionist: If you have a passion for fitness and nutrition, you may want to consider becoming a professional sports nutritionist. As a sports nutrition professional, you will teach body builders, sports athletes and other fitness enthusiasts how to optimize their performance on the field or the court while they improve their health with nutrition. To become a sports nutritionist, one requires a Bachelor's Degree like B.Sc in Food Science and Nutrition) or in Dietetics. After obtaining a Bachelor's Degree, the aspiring candidate can look for on-the-job training with some sports organization or go for Master's Degree in the related field by clearing entrance exam for National Institute of Nutrition. Sports nutrition deals with specific nutrition requirements and guidelines of sports players depending on the category of sports. The scope of this field is as follows:

·         Nutritionist at sports training, gyms and fitness centre

·         Digital sports coach for gym-goers

·         Fitness streaming programmer

·         Certified supplements and granular nutritionist

·         Nutritionist at Sports Authority of India (SAI)

2.       Sustainable Nutritionist: The United Nations estimates the world population to reach almost 10 billion by 2050. Providing everyone with a nutritious diet and protecting the planet requires a global response. The emerging topical issue of sustainable eating and diets might offer new opportunities for the training of nutrition professionals. Food sustainability is being conscious of how our everyday choices can influence the future of our planet. Dieticians tell people about green-eating tips, the benefits of plant-based eating, the importance of ethical eating, and the impact industrial agriculture has on our planet. The EATLancet Commission, a group of scientists from 16 different countries, addressed the existing evidence surrounding the planet's food demands, waste, and overall diet. According to the Commission, food production is the world's largest cause of environmental change. If we want to implement real change and discover smarter approaches to agriculture, we need a critical under-standing of all the components of a food system and the Sustainable Food System Model. Natural and human resources, food policy, economics, education, technology and social values all turn the cogs of the supply chain from production to distribution, food access and consumption. While it might not seem obvious at first, there are many jobs in food sustainability, and while the path is different for everyone, job options are only expanding.

3.       Public Health Nutritionist: Public Health Nutrition is another field of nutrition that focuses on the public health problem regarding food and nutrition like Anaemia, Vitamin A, Diabetes, Iodine deficiency etc. The scope of this field is as follows:

 

  • Graduates can work as a project assistant, project associate at an organization like PHFI, WHO, UNICEF, other health organizations.
  • Work as a chief nutritionist in an NGO or private organization
  • Nutrition journalism is another field to explore
  • Public health policymaker
  • Sustainable food nutritionist

Public health nutrition aims to promote the overall nutritional health among a population. This can be done through a variety of ways, most notably through health services, program development, and public policy. Public health nutrition is the field of study that is concerned with promotion of good health through prevention of nutrition-related illnesses / problems in the population, and the government policies and programmes that are aimed at solving these problems. Public health nutritionists / professionals use large scale, organised and multidisciplinary approaches to solve the problems that affect the population i.e., large number of people for whom group action is necessary. Therefore, this field is multidisciplinary in nature and is built on the foundations of biological and social sciences. It is important for a professional in the field of public nutrition to identify the problem and its magnitude, understand how and why these problems occur and then plan strategies and actions to implement them and evaluate their impact.

4.       Food Safety Officer: Food Safety Officer is a professional who is responsible to analyze food samples collected from various places for inspection. The major purpose of the analysis of food sample is the identification of any hazardous effect of a food product, suspicious material in food or raw material used for its manufacturing. Based on the results, the Food Safety Officer can issue a notice to the manufacturer, distributor or the seller of the food product if found using hazardous contents or raw material. Other job roles of a Food Safety Officer include surprise visits at hotels, restaurants and food industry for inspection of food items and to survey if all safety protocols and guidelines are being followed during the manufacturing or preparation of food articles. In India, the State Governments hire Food Safety Officer at an administrative post. The recruitment is done based on State Civil Services (SCS) examinations. The candidate must hold a Bachelor's Degree or a Master's Degree in a relevant discipline like B. Sc/ B. Tech in Food Technology/ Dairy Technology/ Biotechnology/ Agriculture Science/ Biochemistry etc from a recognized institute. Those who wish to work as a Scientist must hold a PhD degree in a relevant discipline. After acquiring the relevant degree, the candidate must apply for the post of Food Safety Officer. The recruiting process is based on the State Civil Services (SCS) examination. The selection will be done on the basis of performance in the entrance test and personal interview rounds. The notification for recruitment is released on official websites, newspapers, and other media by the respective state governments. Candidates must regularly check for job posts to apply.

5.       Food Technologist: Food technology involves various aspects of science to develop and design innovative processing technologies, improve food quality and nutritive value, enhance the safety, wholesomeness and availability of our food supply. It involves study of characteristics of food, its nutritional composition, reactions and changes that take place at various levels of processing and storage, microbiological aspect of food to prevent spoilage and enhance shelf life. Professionals work to improve manufacturing methods through new processing, preservation and packaging technologies. Food scientists study new ingredients with better nutrition and health benefits, develop new products or technologies to improve the shelf life of the product. A food technologist is not only involved in the food processing, but also in designing of the food plant and various equipment used in processing. Students can opt to pursue a degree, diploma or doctorate programme in food technology. To pursue the course at undergraduate level, candidates should clear Class 12th in science stream with subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, and Home Science and minimum qualifying marks as prescribed by a university/ college (usually 50% - 60%). To pursue a food technology course at postgraduate level, candidates should possess a BSc (in Physics, Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry) or B.Tech/ BE (in Food Technology) degree with the minimum qualifying marks as prescribed a university/ college. One can find job opportunities in Government sector as well as private sector. The major government departments and establishments that hire food technologists include:-

  • The Food Corporation of India (FCI)
  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) 
  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) 
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Food Processing Industries

Meanwhile, if you are a foodie and want a career that has something to do with food, here are some additional professions you can take up.

Career in Culinary Arts: If having a kitchen instead of cubicle as your work place excites you and you would rather create your masterpiece using food, then culinary arts is your field. There are different responsibilities one may have to take up depending on the job role, starting from preparing food, baking, presentation of food, supervision of kitchen etc. This job may require working across different locations and time-zones, which could be extremely exciting! This career does not require degree in food science, but having a degree enhances the knowledge in understanding kitchen. For a career in culinary arts, one can pursue Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts/ Hotel Management Catering & Technology (HMCT) for 4 years or Pursue Diploma/ Post Graduation Diploma for 6 months to 1 year Or Pursue BBA in Hospitality and Culinary Education or B. Sc. in Catering and Culinary Arts. There are diploma programmes available in chef management

Many exciting career opportunities are available in culinary arts such as:

  • Chef 
  • Culinary Chef 
  • Baker 
  • Pastry chef 
  • Sommelier

Flavour Chemist: A blue packet of a particular brand of potato chips tastes spicy while a green packet tastes cheesy and creamy. What gives these food items such distinct flavours? Flavour Chemists are those wizards in disguise who create the agents that give different food items their unique taste, often without the presence of the actual substance itself. The flavours in many of the food items we eat every day are created in laboratories by flavour chemists who recreate natural flavours or enhance the taste of existing flavours by figuring out their chemical makeup. To work as a Flavour Chemist, you should have a bachelor's and master's degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry or Food Science. Not just this, you also require a keen sense of smell and detail-oriented taste buds to distinguish flavours. You can work with food processing companies, tea, coffee and wine industry, etc. Other employment opportunities include pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and pet food industries.

Molecular Gastronomist: Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a Pina Colada. The drink could be served in a jelly form with a liquid coconut drink inside. Molecular gastronomy is what makes it possible. It is all about studying the chemical properties of food and using that understanding to prepare traditional items in innovative ways. Even the Nitrogen Ice-Cream that has become popular recently is an example of Molecular Gastronomy. A graduation in Hotel Management or Culinary Arts is the way to get into this field. You'll have to follow this up with a specialized program in Molecular Gastronomy for your post graduation. Molecular gastronomical cuisines are picking up in popularity fast; as a result, the demand for professionals in this field is increasing. You can work in high-end bars, hotels, food joints, as well as research institutes.

Food Stylist: Whenever you ask a chef, what the most important part of a dish other than the flavours is, the answer would always be the look and presentation of the dish. Even a simple dish like Rajma Chawal can be made to look a lot more attractive and like a restaurant-worthy dish through professional styling. The job of a food stylist is to make food look beautiful and fresh for photographs, videos and clients. They focus on elements of colour, shape and texture to create an appetizing and visually appealing plate of food. A certificate or Diploma in Food Styling is recommended to learn the skills professionally, although it is not compulsory. Knowledge of photography and a degree in culinary arts/hotel management can also give you the needed boost. Creativity, patience and innovative thinking are skills you can't do without. You'll work at restaurants, hotels and magazines, etc. and associate closely with chefs, bloggers, photographers, food critics, etc. In some cases, you can be the food photographer as well.

Food Critic: If you too are crazy about food and can evaluate dishes, restaurants and hotels with a critical eye, then you can consider becoming a food critic. Food critics explore minute details of a food dish, such as its texture, taste, smell, appearance, quality, flavours, etc. and share their opinions through written columns or even video shows. Other than a love for food, knowledge about cuisines, flavours and food elements, etc. is of utmost importance. Thus, a degree in Hotel Management or Culinary Arts will be useful. You can also pursue degrees in English Literature, Mass Communication, Journalism, etc. to brush up your writing skills. Most restaurants, cafes and bars invite food critics to review their food. Food critics often write for magazines, newspapers and online food websites.

 

 

(The author is a Counselling Psychologist & Career Consultant. She can be reached at nidhiprasadcs@ gmail.com)

 

Views expressed are personal. Image Courtesy: POSHAN Abhiyaan