In recent times of hectic lifestyles and prohibitively high cost of curative healthcare, the concept of overall Wellness is fast gaining acceptance and accorded priority. Diet plays a major role in 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 begins. They are the professionals who can translate the theories of food science to the well-being of people. They suggest corrective food habits considering various aspects of an individual such as age, work routine, medical status, etc. and thereby improving their quality of life. They also educate their clients about preparation of food according to the principles of nutrition. They know about food production and processing, psychological factors influencing food choice, digestion and its effects on nutritional aspects.
Dietitians are working mostly in health care facilities like hospitals, slimming centers, gyms and in some extended healthcare facilities. Getting a job in community health settings for nutrition related projects is 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 in significant importance during the last decade as incidence of lifestyle related diseases has increased across cities. Nutritionists are also in demand because of rising health consciousness among 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 nutrionists.
The basic qualification required to be a professional dietitian is either a degree or a diploma in food and nutrition or dietetics. There are many universities and colleges which are offering programmes in the field of nutrition, dietetics and food technology. The courses aim at creating awareness among people regarding the importance of nutrition and its role in postponing early aging. The objective is to help society to learn about the alternatives to keep fit and postpone degenerative disorders/diseases.
Dietetics and Nutrition is a remunerative job. Those who are working in government hospitals, academic institutions, research institutes and other agencies have salaries as fixed by the government depending upon work profile and experience. Some private sector wellness chains, hotels, food manufactures offer higher salary and attractive perks. Independent practitioner and private consultants also have good earning opportunity which largely depends upon numbers and nature of their clients.
Starting salaries vary from INR 1.25 - 3 lakhs / annum as per the ability and qualifications of the candidate. For mid-level positions, salaries can go up to INR 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