When I first started nutrition school out at McGill’s MacDonald College I thought dietitians just helped people with their diets in a general kind of a way. Most people don’t really know the vastness of this wonderful profession.
It turns out dietitians do many things. One of them is working in the foodservice sector. You need a trained dietitian to run and oversee an institutional kitchen like those found in hospitals, long term care facilities and schools. These places must serve healthy food that meets the nutritional needs of its clients. On the other hand, a large company that has a cafeteria does not necessarily need to hire a dietitian. Their cafeteria is for convenience and for profit. Health needs of employees doesn’t have to be a consideration.
Clinical dietitians are responsible for direct patient care. Some dietitians specialize in renal care and help patients who are on dialysis. Other hospital based dietitians create enteral and parental diets which means they focus on tube feeding either through the gastric system or through the veins. I’ve worked with dietitians who specialize in meal plans for patients with transplants, diets for mental health patients and diets for dysphagia (swallowing problems).
Community dietitians work on policy and programs specifically intended for special populations like new mothers or shut in seniors. There are also private communications companies that hire dietitians for media work, blogs and for printed consumer documents. Pharmaceutical companies use dietitians as reps to sell products to doctors and other dietitians. These products are generally supplement based.
Other dietitians build private practices and typically see clients that want to lose weight, need to lower cholesterol levels, newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics and many other health concerns. There are dietitians who only do sports nutrition and others who focus on clients with severe eating disorders. Some private dietitians like to do home visits and help clients makeover their refrigerators and pantries.
Dietitians also do workshops and lectures on specific topics depending on their target audience. Others love to do supermarket tours which is a fun and informative way to teach a group of people about healthy eating.
As you can see dietitians don’t just do “weight loss”.
* note that in Quebec and Montreal francophone dietitians prefer the designation nutritionniste and anglophones prefer professional or registered dietitian. All of these terms are legally protected by the OPDQ. Ensure that your Quebec dietitian or nutritionniste is licensed with this order.