If you think that Dietetics is just about weight loss and nutritional health, you’re in for a reality check. This career is about so much more. If this is the field you’re interested in, take note. We’re about to unpack the facts.
Dietitians are employed across private practice and public healthcare; academia and research; corporate, government and non-government sectors. While they all have the expertise to deal with weight loss and weight management, their expertise in science-based nutrition means that they work far more widely on a myriad of nutrition-related issues.
Dietitians are Actually Lifesavers
Due the fact that Dietitians work in a variety of realms, they are silent superheroes. In general, a human’s relationship with food is so complex that it’s not uncommon for a community-based dietitian to be dealing with both issues of obesity and malnutrition. This will not only be in the same day, but within the same family. Yes, it is pretty extreme.
Here’s some more food for thought…If you’re in hospital, recovering from cancer surgery or a debilitating stroke; how do you take in the nutrition you need? If you’re a consumer goods company wanting to offer healthier food products, whom will you turn to? If we want to understand the latest claims about Omega 3 fats, who will help us sort the fact from fiction? If a school needs to revamp its tuck shop and find healthier, popular alternatives, what are the best, proven recommendations? These are just some of the areas Dietitians are trained to serve in.
In light of the recent Dietitian’s Week, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) is raising awareness around what Dietitians actually do with the aim of giving a fair perception of this career.
Registered Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson Abby Courtenay says,
“At the core of every Dietitian’s work is evidenced-based nutrition science and the ability to interpret this to meet an endless variety of demands for sound and expert nutrition advice. Worldwide, nutrition research is ongoing, and Registered Dietitians are required by regulatory bodies to keep studying after they have qualified in order to ensure that they are at the forefront of the latest nutrition science, no matter what field or industry they work in.”
South African Society for Parental and Entreral Nutrition (SASPEN) spokesperson, Logesh Govender, further explains:
“In South Africa, Dietitians must be registered with the HPCSA which regulates the professional titles of Dietitians, Supplementary Dietitians, and Student Dietitians, as well as Nutritionists, Supplementary Nutritionists, and Student nutritionists. Requirements for eligibility for registration include a recognised bachelor’s degree in dietetics or nutrition from an accredited educational institution.
The undergraduate training should include the three practice areas of therapeutic nutrition, community nutrition, and food service management. Dietitians can then select any of these areas to practice. Even in these different areas there are Dietitians who may develop a keen interest in specific components.”
Want more Insight into the Career?
Here are a few comments from Registered Dietitians in South Africa:
These are some of things that Registered Dietitians do:
“As a Registered Dietitian researcher and consultant, I make nutrition evidence useful for different sectors, including government, the private sector and the public. I also invest in developing leadership capabilities in nutrition professionals across the continent to move the nutrition agenda forward.”
“My role at the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) is to be the Nutrition Consultant to the Food Safety Initiative (FSI). The CGCSA is a non-profit organization representing more than 12000 member companies engaged in the manufacture, retail, wholesale and distribution of consumer goods in South Africa and internationally. The FSI advocates for sustainable initiatives, forums, projects and programmes related to food safety, nutrition, quality and sustainability.
My work focuses on helping members achieve compliance to food and nutrition regulations and I am responsible for driving the Healthy Food Options Industry Initiatives programme. The work in this programme aims to make healthier food options available and accessible to South Africans, as a means of curbing non-communicable diseases and promoting good health.”
“I am a Consultant Registered Dietitian. I have over 20 years’ experience spanning food composition, research, lecturing dietetic students, supporting food industry research and development, regulatory and marketing teams in product development (in particular salt reduction, healthy recipe development and fortification), and developing nutrition communication.”
Dietetics is more complex than you might have thought. Regardless of the realm Dietitians work in, they are health professionals with huge responsibility. If you have an interest in health, science and caring for individuals in need of guidance, this could be a career you could thrive in. Why not think through the different areas of Dietetics and dig deeper if something sparks your interest.