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Opportunities for nutritionists and dieticians

Overview

The healthcare industry in India is worth Rs.61,000 crores (excluding the pharmaceutical industry). It is expected to touch dizzy heights with the entry of private hospitals, healthcare centres, health management organizations and health insurance companies. Large-scale investments to the tune of Rs.2,000 crores in the next four years will open up numerous job opportunities including that of dieticians or nutritionists

Nature of job

Dieticians/ Nutritionists are the professionals recognized as experts on food and nutrition. They are an authority on diet and the application of the principles of nutrition. They plan nutrition programmes and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. They are often responsible for promoting sound eating habits through education and research. They are concerned with food and health in its widest sense and their work is preventive and therapeutic.

Dieticians must know about food production and processing; social, economic, and psychological factors that influence food choice; the digestion, absorption and metabolism of food, its effect on nutritional well-being; how to treat disease and prevent nutrition-related problems.

Where to work

Dieticians manage food service systems for institutions such as hospitals and schools, promote sound eating habits through education, and conduct research. Major areas of practice include clinical, community, management, and consultant dietetics.

Clinical dieticians provide nutritional services for patients in institutions such as hospitals and nursing care facilities. They assess patients’ nutritional needs, develop and implement nutrition programs, and evaluate and report the results. They also confer with doctors and other healthcare professionals in order to coordinate medical and nutritional needs. Some clinical dieticians specialize in the management of overweight patients or the care of critically ill or renal (kidney) and diabetic patients. In addition, clinical dieticians in nursing care facilities, small hospitals, or correctional facilities may manage the food service department.

Community dieticians counsel individuals and groups on nutritional practices designed to prevent disease and promote health. Working in places such as public health clinics, home health agencies, and health maintenance organizations, community dieticians evaluate individual needs, develop nutritional care plans, and instruct individuals and their families. Dieticians working in home health agencies provide instruction on grocery shopping and food preparation to the elderly, individuals with special needs, and children.

Increased public interest in nutrition has led to job opportunities in food manufacturing, advertising, and marketing. In these areas, dieticians analyze foods, prepare literature for distribution, or report on issues such as the nutritional content of recipes, dietary fiber, or vitamin supplements.

Management dieticians oversee large-scale meal planning and preparation in healthcare facilities, company cafeterias, prisons, and schools. They hire, train, and direct other dieticians and food service workers; budget for and purchase food, equipment, and supplies; enforce sanitary and safety regulations; and prepare records and reports.

Consultant dieticians work under contract with healthcare facilities or in their own private practice. They perform nutrition screenings for their clients and offer advice on diet-related concerns such as weight loss or cholesterol reduction. Some work for wellness programs, sports teams, supermarkets, and other nutrition-related businesses. They may consult with food service managers, providing expertise in sanitation, safety procedures, menu development, budgeting, and planning.

Training programmes

A Home Science course right after Plus Two or equivalent is a direct training route. Sometimes, there is the provision of Home Science as a subject during Plus Two. Admission into the 3 or 4 year Home Science course is open to those with Plus Two (Science/ Home Science). A three-year B. Sc. (Bachelor of Home Science) course could offer Food, Nutrition and Dietetics as a specialisation.

The 2-year Master's degree programme in Home Science also offers Food & Nutrition as a specialisation. Postgraduate diploma courses in Nutrition & Dietetics are offered to science (Microbiology/Biochemistry/allied) graduates and home science graduates. Hotel and catering technology degree may also lead to a postgraduate diploma in dietetics. Medical graduates may pursue post graduation programmes in nutrition science.

Food Science & Technology/Nutrition can be offered in a B.Sc. course or as a Bachelor's degree in Applied Science as in Delhi University. Food Technology course of 4 year duration after Plus Two in Science is an option for those who are keen on going in-depth into the technical, research aspects of food, food processing and technology.

The ultimate making of a nutritionist/dietician is the culmination of education, training, personal skills, interests and updating of knowledge. Continuing education in the form of seminars and symposiums on nutrition and food are helpful.

Prominent institutions

  • G B Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar-263145
  • Acharya N.G.Ranga Agricultural University, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad-500030
  • Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore-641003
  • University of Lucknow, Badshah Bagh, Lucknow-226007
  • Chandra Shekhar Azad University of Agriculture & Technology, Kanpur-208002
  • Institute of Home Economics, New Delhi-110049
  • Bangalore University, Jnana Bharathi, Bangalore-560056
  • Banasthali Vidyapith,P O Banasthali Vidyapith -304022
  • M S University of Baroda, Fatehganj, Vadodara-390002
  • University of Mumbai, Fort, Mumbai-400032
  • Nagpur University, R. N. Tagore Marg, Nagpur-440001
  • SNDT Women's University, 1 Nathibai Thackersey Road, Mumbai-400020
  • Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute,Porur,Chennai-600116
  • Panjab University, Sector 14, Chandigarh-160014
  • University of Madras, Chennai-600005
  • Sri Padmavati Mahila Visvavidyalayam, Tirupati-517502
  • National Institute of Nutrition, Jamia-Osmania P O, Hyderabad-500007

Conclusion

Dieticians and nutritionists work in different settings such as hospitals, nursing home, schools, old age homes, catering services in railways, airlines, hotels, etc. They may work with local authorities in helping to develop and implement food policies or work as faculty in centres of higher learning. They could be involved in research or join industry (food processing), catering organisations, and other industrial set-ups. As consultants dieticians and nutritionists may work in quality control, or freelance for sports nutrition, media and fashion/beauty industry. Some may eventually specialize in the management of overweight patients, care of the critically ill, diabetic patients, or patients with renal failure. Dieticians may work in health and fitness clubs, gyms, private weight loss companies, health spas and convalescent centres. They may be attached to sports teams, individual athletes, sports medicine clinics in a consulting role. Experienced dieticians may move up the hierarchy in the dietetics department of a health facility or with any other employer or become self employed. Private consulting is usually lucrative.

For Comments: psjamwal@amity.edu

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