A certified nutritionist, also sometimes called a certified dietitian, is a person who has received professional training to help others develop and implement healthy eating plans. In general, nutritionists must go through several years of training before becoming certified. They often go on to work in many settings helping people with a variety of nutrition-related concerns. The overall aim of is typically to help people improve health through better nutrition.
To begin the process of becoming a certified nutritionist, a person must usually first obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in a health-related science. Many pursue degrees in food science, food service management, dietetics or similar fields. They must often receive licensing from local authorities to begin work as a nutritionist after completing the degree. Many also go on to receive professional certification, which usually requires additional training and successful completion of exams, to be competitive in the job market. Maintaining nutritionist certification also often requires ongoing learning to help ensure individuals stay current in nutrition principles and emerging areas of research.
Organizations that often employ certified nutritionists include hospitals, health clinics, health departments, schools and nursing homes. Depending on the setting, they may work one-on-one with patients or oversee the general nutrition operations of the entire group at once. For example, in a health clinic setting, a nutritionist may help individual patients create meal plans that they can follow at home. In a larger setting, however, he or she might oversee general meal planning for all of the patients as a whole, instead of working individual with patients.
Certified nutritionists often work with people who have a variety of health concerns. One of the most common and obviously food-related issue is that of weight. A certified nutritionist can generally help people develop meal plans to either lose or gain weight, as needed. The focus is usually on building lifelong, healthy habits, such as eating a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and proteins, rather than following a fad diet, such as one that eliminates an entire food group or relies heavily on supplements.
In addition to helping people with weight-related concerns, certified nutritionists can also often help people with specific health conditions, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. When working with a patient with high cholesterol, for example, a certified nutritionist will often try to help educate the patient about what types of foods increase bad cholesterol levels and which types increase good cholesterol levels.
With the knowledge, the patient and nutritionist can often then work together to identify the healthiest foods that will fit into the person’s lifestyle and help him or her improve his or her cholesterol levels. Taking into account real world circumstances such as this is often the hallmark of certified nutritionists, as they understand people generally won’t stick to a healthy eating plan if it doesn’t incorporate their unique needs and preferences.