Call for food counsellors

Last Updated 20 June 2012, 13:57 IST

You could save society from long-term lifestyle damages by simply prescribing the right diet, says Samir Srivastav.

In recent times, hectic lifestyles and the high cost of curative healthcare, the concept of overall wellness is fast gaining acceptance and accorded priority.

Diet plays a major role in the promotion of health and wellbeing of an individual. A good and balanced diet improves the quality of life while poor diet may lead to morbidity and diseases. From this point, the role of a dietitian thus begins.

Nutritionists/dieticians are professionals who can translate the theories of food science to the wellbeing of people. They suggest corrective food habits by taking into consideration the various aspects of an individual such as age, work routine, medical status, etc.

They also educate their clients on the preparation of food according to the principles of nutrition. They graduate from college with a thorough understanding of food production and processing, psychological factors influencing food choice, digestion and its effects on nutritional aspects.

Dietitians work mostly in healthcare facilities like hospitals, slimming centres, gyms and in some extended healthcare facilities. Jobs in community health settings for nutrition-related projects are also common. Career opportunities also exist in diverse areas such as sports nutrition, wellness programmes for industry and sales of food supplements, food service equipment, etc.

A dietitian can open his/her own clinic or can work in conjunction with doctors to provide multi-dimensional service to the patients. Working as a freelance food columnist, food stylist or corporate consultant is another attractive career opportunity. A recent opportunity is at high schools wherein they can look after direct food service operation and provide nutrition education to students.

Nutrition courses in India have gained significant importance during the last decade as incidence of lifestyle-related diseases has increased across cities in India.

Nutritionists are also in demand now because of rising awareness about healthy lifestyle practices among the masses. Increased working hours, sedentary job profile, lack of exercise and polluted environment all add up to the stress level of individuals, requiring the intervention of nutritionists.

The basic qualification required to be a professional dietitian is either a Bachelor’s degree or a Diploma in Food, Nutrition or Dietetics.  There are many universities and colleges which offer programmes in the field of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Technology. The courses aim at creating awareness among people regarding the importance of nutrition.

The objective is to help society learn about the alternatives to keep fit and hopefully, put off degenerative disorders/diseases by a few years.

Dietetics and nutrition is a remunerative field of work. Those working in government hospitals, academic institutions, research institutes and other agencies have salaries as fixed by the government, determined by work profile and experience. Some private sector wellness chains, hotels, food manufactures offer higher salary and attractive perks.

Independent practitioners and private consultants have good earning opportunity which largely depend upon numbers and nature of their clients.

Starting salaries vary from Rs 1.25-3 lakhs/annum as per the ability and qualifications of the candidate. For mid-level positions, salaries can go up to Rs 12 lakhs/annum, again depending on qualifications, position held, experience and location.

The job prospects for a dietitian/nutritionist are very promising and are expected to grow in the years ahead.

(The author is business head, Education Division — VLCC.)

(Published 20 June 2012, 13:57 IST)

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