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How to Gain Nutritionist Qualifications in the USA

By Linda, published on 12/08/2019 Blog > Health and Fitness > Nutrition > Become a Qualified Nutritionist

Food plays an important role in our daily lives. Making sure you eat the right foods and food groups to give your body the nutrition it needs to thrive should always be on your mind when you are cooking and buying food.

Want to lead a healthy lifestyle but not sure where to start? Start by paying attention to what you eat and your nutrition health. Now combine that with a regular dose of physical activity, you are bound to be able to maintain a healthy weight as well as reduce your risk of getting chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.

In the United States, thanks to the rise of fast-food chains such as MacDonalds, Burger King, and KFC over the past several decades, more people than ever are drawn to the convenience, affordability, and the additive tastes of junk food.

The rise in unhealthy eating habits in the general population have contributed to the obesity epidemic and a rise in chronic diseases in the country. Believe it or not, around 30% of adults living in the United States are medically obese, while 17% of children under the ages of 19 are obese.

Even for those not considered obese, these people can still eat a poor diet that can contribute to other health problems, chronic diseases and an early death. When was the last time you checked the food nutrition label on something you bought from the grocery store? Nevertheless, once an individual starts to realize their diets are affecting their health and quality of life, they will likely benefit from seeking help from a qualified nutritionist.

Dried pasta noodles on a flat bamboo mat. A nutritionist can be registered or unregistered and gives dietary guidance. (source: unsplash)

What is Nutrition Science?

Nutrition science is a specific branch of science related to agricultural and food studies. It focuses on dietary concerns and general health issues related to the consumption of food, nutrition programs, nutrition therapy, and food systems.

One of the earliest successes of nutritional science includes the identification of the linkage between diseases like scurvy and beriberi to vitamin deficiencies. These discoveries led to a simple cure for scurvy which required sailors suffering from the disease to consume fresh fruits and vegetables with large amounts of vitamin C such as lemons and oranges.

Today, taking nutrition courses at any level requires a basic understanding of the science of biology and chemistry. But with some background reading, anyone can understand the basics of nutrition studies as the topic of nutritional science can be studied at any difficulty level.

Many areas of specialization can be found in nutrition science, and the subject itself can be taught via online nutrition classes as well as ones in-depth ones at the university level. Some specialization nutrition classes you can take include food and wellness, sports nutrition, and community nutrition.

What Do Nutritionists Do?

Nutritionists are usually people who provided nutrition services and have completed years of studies specializing in nutrition science. Usually, nutritionists will also have a nutrition degree and are experts at identifying food groups and nutrition needs.

Many nutritionists work as consultants, advising people on how to make better food choices in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or researchers keeping up to date on the latest nutrition research and nutrition news.

Additionally, nutritionists are advocates of eating a healthy diet. They are responsible for introducing new foods into a person’s diet to change or alter their lifestyles and avoid chronic disease. Some nutritionists can even provide health and wellness programs like teaching you how to read food labels and understanding the food industry.

Other nutritionists can work for the government and policy-makers, becoming advocates of eating healthy foods. In fact, every 5 years, the HHS and the USDA will publish an updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is the country’s go-to source to get their nutritional information. This serves as the country’s foundation for making healthier eating and drinking choices as well as the adoption of nutrition programs across the country.

Why Become a Nutritionist?

Working as a nutritionist can be a rewarding career, as you will be able to help other people fulfill their nutritional needs and avoid getting chronic diseases. While meeting their clients, a nutritionist will provide dietary advice and encourage the consumption of a balanced diet.

They will also educate people on how to choose healthy food items as well as how to read food labels to obtain important nutritional value and nutritional information.

After completing their nutrition lessons, some qualified nutritionists can choose to work as self-employed entrepreneurs if they desire more freedom in their working lives. Other nutritionists desiring a structured life and career can choose to work for hospitals, schools, and even holistic medicine clinics.

In the United States, nutritionists who have successfully completed their nutrition courses and earned their qualifications can expect to make a comfortable living.

Based on statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nutritionists working in the United States earned a median annual wage of $56,950 in 2014. nutritionists in the top ten percent of the earning bracket all made more than $79,840 per year, that’s more than three times the minimum wage in some U.S. states!

A variety of fruits sitting in a bowl on a marble countertop. Eating many fruits and vegetables is part of a balanced and healthy diet. (source: unsplash)

Qualifications for Nutritionists in the USA

The easiest way and the most common way for people to become a nutritionist is through years of dedicated studies toward an education program beyond the high school level. While an education and/or license is not required for working in some fields of nutritional science, the career options are also limited for those who did not go through a formal nutrition health education.

Nutritionists with a formal nutrition degree can do many things with their formal nutrition science degrees. They can work in nutrition research publishing nutritional studies, as public health advocates for community health programs and clinics, as well as work in the private sector in the food or medicine industries.

If you are determined to make nutritional science into a career, there are several options for earning your nutritionist qualifications. They are the Associate of Science in Nutrition, Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, and the Master of Science in Nutrition.

The most basic nutritional degree is the Associate of Science in Nutrition. This is a two-year degree that involves foundational science courses as well as basic nutrition courses that prepares the student for entry-level positions.

Depending on the type of school the student enrolls in, they can take online nutrition classes, on-campus nutrition courses, or even part-time nutrition classes.

Getting a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition is the next step for those already with an associate degree. Like all other bachelor’s degrees, this requires four years of intensive university studies focusing on all nutrition-related courses.

A degree program prepares the student to work as a Registered Dietician. Upon graduation, the graduate can expect to work as a nutritionist, health educator, or sports nutritionist, or even an in-school consultant.

For those who are interested in further pursuing their nutritionist studies, they can obtain a Master of Science in Nutrition. This is a two-year program designed for students who have a bachelor’s degree as well as professionals who are already working as registered dietitians (RD/RDN), registered nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

These programs often include a research component that allows the student to pursue an area of nutrition that interests them for further studies.

Local market stalls Foods provide us with the essential nutrients we need to stay healthy and alive. (source: unsplash)

Nutrition Tips from the Best Nutritionists

The first step in your nutrition studies is to practice what you preach. With some of these healthy-eating tips from the best nutritionists, you’ll be on your way to improving your nutrition health in no time!

The first tip is to eat enough healthy proteins and whole grains. These foods can make you feel full faster and get the nutrients you need.

The second tip is to drink lots of water. Many Americans are overworked these days and we often forget to take a break during our day to drink some water. Consider investing in a cute water bottle or mug that you’ll be proud to display on your desk. This will remind you to drink water throughout your day.

The third tip is to eat fruits and vegetables. Everyone knows they are important but are you really eating enough of them? Consider tracking your fruit and vegetable consumption over the next week to find out how much you really eat.

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