A nutrition specialist offers advice and assistance with meal planning. This can include activities ranging from personal meetings with clients to working with a school district on a lunch program. Certification requirements for nutritional consultants vary, depending on the nation and the specific titles they want to use. Some people may pursue advanced nutrition training and certification by a professional organization as an assurance to patients.
Nutrition specialists typically start with a consultation, whether they are talking to a cancer patient with concerns about meeting dietary needs or an airline about the development of healthy in-flight meals. During this initial meeting, the nutrition specialist and client can discuss specific goals and concerns. For individual consultations, this may include a review of medical records or a conversation with a care provider. It is important to coordinate care and make sure that patients receive advice relevant to their health conditions; if a doctor has recommended a low-sodium diet, for example, this information is important to have.
Taking information from this meeting, the nutrition specialist can develop a meal plan with advice and recommendations. This may include a detailed meal schedule with menus for individual patients who want help with nutritional matters. It can also involve the creation of rotating meal ideas, with specific nutritional information, to assist the client with meal planning. Airlines that want to make sure they have meals that meet specific dietary restrictions, for instance, can draw upon a library of options developed by a nutrition specialist when they order meals for specific flights.
Education can also be an integral part of the job. A nutrition specialist may work with people recovering from eating disorders, for example, who may need specific nutrition education to aid with recovery. This can include information about eating a balanced and healthy diet, caloric requirements, and special needs like eating during pregnancy or supporting an exercise routine. People like athletes can rely on meetings with a nutrition specialist not just for meal planning, but for information to help them eat balanced, healthy diets to support every stage of training.
Hospitals and clinics may retain nutrition specialists for meal planning and patient education. In residential facilities like hospitals, jails, and nursing homes, it is important to make sure that nutritional needs are met, including special needs. The specialist can oversee a kitchen and plan meals, purchasing, and other activities to meet the needs of residents. At clinics and similar environments, nutrition counseling can be a part of routine care for patients identified as being at risk, such as people with chronic illness or patients who demonstrate a poor knowledge of nutrition in visits with care providers.