A nutritionist is someone who specializes in the study of nutrition, including nutritional deficiencies, sources of nutrition, and nutritional challenges which may face individuals or communities. The word is thrown about a bit loosely in many parts of the world, which can make it difficult to define. A person may take a few classes in nutrition and consider him or herself a nutritionist, or someone may have a PhD or MD in nutritional science.
There are several different aspects of the study of nutrition which interest nutritionists. Some nutritionists work directly on the study of nutrients and food, in labs and through field work. These nutritionists may also make nutritional recommendations for society as a whole, and they focus on learning as much as possible about nutritional requirements and sources of nutrition. Public health nutritionists may work to identify nutritional problems in various communities, and they also provide education and outreach to encourage people to improve their nutritional habits.
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With obesity continuing to be a major health problem among both adults and children, it’s clear that many of us need to learn to eat better. Overeating isn’t the only thing that compromises our well-being. So does eating the wrong foods. Dietitians plan food and nutrition programs. They work in schools, community agencies, colleges, health care facilities, company cafeterias and private practices.
As a student studying to be a dietitian you will learn a lot through your professional training. There are things, however, your training won’t teach you. These are the traits you either are born with or develop as you mature and if you don’t have them, it will be difficult to work as a dietitian. For example, dietitians must be excellent communicators. If you can’t understand what your clients are telling you or you are unable to convey information to them, you won’t be able to do your job. Since keeping up with the literature in your field is important, you must have good reading comprehension skills. Dietitians must also be sensitive to their clients’ needs.
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For consumers seeking advice from a nutritionist, the poorly defined boundaries of what a nutritionist is can be very frustrating. It is a good idea to ask about qualifications such as education and field study when consulting a nutritionist, to determine how much the nutritionist actually knows. Ideally, you should seek a recommendation from a doctor or another medical professional who may have worked directly with a particular nutritionist.
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