CareerChoice:Nutrition and Dietetics
Diet plays a very crucial role in the health and well being of people. A good and balanced diet improves the quality of life to a great extent. Poor eating habits and inadequate food intake are a major cause of lot of diseases. Nutrition and dietetics are fields related to this food and nutrition aspect of life. The study of nutrition means an understanding of the various components of food and the role and requirement of each of these components for the body. One becomes aware of the right type of food which provides a balanced mix of the essential vitamins, minerals etc. It also involves a study of the process by which the food is digested and absorbed in the body.
This field finds application in medicine, veterinary, agriculture and public health.
Nature of Work
Nutritionists and dietitians deal with people to inform and guide them about the diet they should take to improve the general health, to avoid certain diseases or to keep the existing ailments in control. People suffering from certain diseases need to take extra care of their eating habits and the kind of food they eat. Ignorance of this can aggravate the disease, whereas adherence to the right diet can help in speedy recovery or stability of the condition. Major role of dietitians is to assist people in planning their meals depending upon their age, sickness or work routine. Nutritionists counsel individuals and groups, organize the food service systems in hospitals, schools, hotels etc.
Dietitians specialize in education, research, administration and clinical/community dietetics.
- Administrative dietitians play a major role in large scale meal planning and monitoring the food preparation process in schools, canteens etc. They take up the entire responsibility of their department and actively participate in selection, training, budgeting, equipment purchase, checking safety regulations, maintaining records etc.
- Clinical dietitians are associated with health care institutes, hospitals and nursing homes. Depending on the nutrition needs of the patients, they prepare their diet charts and monitor the results of dietary therapy.
- Research dietitians work in the field of nutrition in healthy and therapeutic food items. They work in studying the effects of various types of diet on the body chemistry.
They are also involved in conducting highly specialized research in nutritional needs in various different conditions and environments like - space travel etc.
Dietitians and nutritionists, who are associated with hospitals and clinics generally have regular work hours. At times they may be required to work on the weekend too. In this environment, they come in direct contact with patients and advise them appropriate diet based on the illness.
In commercial food service, the working hours are usually irregular. The work in research is carried on in the laboratories while in most other assignments their office is located near food preparation areas. Certain time needs to be spent in kitchens which are usually hot.
There are good career opportunities in the food industry too. Lot of food companies employ nutritionists and dietitians to check the nutritional quality of the food products, for new product development and for marketing related advice. There is team work involved in experimenting on flavors and preparations.
A person who has an interest in food and diets along with an aptitude for science is suited for this profession. Good communication skills and qualities like patience and concern for living beings are vital for taking up this profession.
A dietitian should preferably complete M.Sc (Nutrition), which is a 2 year course after graduation. Preferable fields of graduation are - Microbiology, Chemistry, Home Science, Medicine, Hotel management or catering technology.
Other option is to pursue a 1 year PG Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics. Fresh dietitians usually undergo training for 1 year in the F&B department of the hospital. After 5-10 years of experience, dietitians usually become consultants and run the dietetics department.