Registered dietitians may work in clinics, public health agencies, nursing homes, and cafeterias or restaurants. These health care providers usually work in a clinical setting, however, advising patients who are hospitalized or require regular, or temporary, nutritional counseling. Clinical dietitian services typically include profiling patients, counseling, monitoring dietary intake, and developing meal plans. Dietitians may also work for government agencies, consulting on public health programs and advising community members. Some may be employed or contracted by food service institutions to assist in creating menus. After gaining experience in the field, some dietary professionals teach or assist in nutritional research.
Dietitians who work directly with patients may provide nutritional counseling to overweight or pregnant individuals, or those with medical conditions requiring a special diet, such as diabetics. Services provided in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice organizations often include monitoring patients' diets and creating custom menus after reviewing nutritional restraints and needs. In some cases, these professionals may assist with food preparation. Dietitian services in clinics often involve regular or periodic consultations with patients who have been referred for dietary counseling. Nutritional experts may work in tandem with physicians to develop health advice and customized food recommendations, after reviewing patients' medical charts.
The public sector may use dietitian services to promote healthy eating and food safety within populations. Some dietitians may be involved with programs that offer free or discounted nutritional counseling to eligible individuals or families. Institutions, such as schools and correctional facilities, may also employ dietitians to supervise meal planning and preparation.
Private food service companies — like restaurants, company cafeterias, childcare centers, and caterers — may establish in-house dietitian services, either through direct employment or consulting. These professionals usually work behind-the-scenes to create or gather recipes, and supervise food preparation and service. When a dietary expert is on hand, he or she can customize food ingredients based on their nutritional benefit to the population being served.
Those who have extensive experience offering dietitian services may pass their knowledge on to those who are entering nutrition or health fields by teaching at universities or culinary schools. Qualified dietitians may also conduct or assist with scientific studies, and publish their findings. Some food manufacturers or drug companies may seek dietitians to help develop and test new consumable products, vitamins, diet plans, or medical procedures. Sometimes, dietitians provide product endorsements so consumers know the product or service has been tested and approved by experts who are knowledgeable about nutrition.