What does a nutritionist do?
Nutritionists design meal plans for clients who want to live healthier lifestyles. This career is very similar to that of a dietitian; you even start in the same place academically.
Nutritionists are different from registered dietitians, though, because state governments and national organizations don’t regulate nutritionists as strictly. However, you are just as dedicated to the health benefits of choosing whole grains and lean protein over refined sugar and fatty fast food. You just work with a different set people and approach nutrition from a different angle.
Because of their certification, dietitians tend to work in regulated environments like hospitals and nursing homes where they devise menus in conjunction with doctors for cancer patients, diabetics, and others who need a special diet. A nutritionist, on the other hand, views food as just one part of a bigger nutritional picture. You work with individual clients like athletes who want to improve their athletic prowess through a combination of food, exercise, and supplements. Or working moms who want to introduce organic foods to their families.
In this manner, you provide a balanced approach to health: You are less motivated by following FDA recommended daily allowances to a “T”, and more interested in teaching clients to incorporate healthy eating realistically into their established routines.
Because you have less qualification than a dietitian, however, you might have to do more work to convince people that you give sound nutritional advice. The plus side? No daunting certification exams. So if you’re a conversationalist that has a knack for making people feel at ease, consider skipping the test anxiety and starting a career as a nutritionist.