So you have set your eyes on the wonderful world of Nutrition, but what do you really know about it other than the obvious? Like, where does one begin forging a career on it? Or even the more overlooked one, what does a career in Nutrition actually entail?
In this article we will address this and other questions so that you get a rough idea what nutrition is all about and more specifically in a Kenyan context. The nitty-gritty of all these will be discussed later in individual articles.
Hopefully by the end of this you’ll have learnt a thing or two about Nutrition enough to make an informed career decision and also to counter absurd stereotypes such like “Nutrition is just about food”.
Nutrition vs Dietetics – What’s the Difference?
What is Nutrition?
Think of Nutrition as a science that studies the nutrients found in our foods, how the body uses these nutrients and the relationship between diet, health and disease.
What is Dietetics?
Dietetics is the application of the science of nutrition in the development of diets including the selection and preparation of foods, in the context of health and disease.
What is the profession in Nutrition/Dietetics called?
An individual professionally trained in Nutrition is typically called a Nutritionist, while the one in Dietetics is called a Dietitian (Dietician).
What is the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian?
The exact differences between these two tend to be country specific, since every regulatory body has their own rules and regulations.
But generally speaking, the term Nutritionist is used as an umbrella term for many of the professions concerned in nutrition, including that of Dietitians.
In most countries however, the Dietitian profession, as well as its title, is more regulated than that of a Nutritionist.
This is because one of the roles of most Dietitians is to diagnose nutrition-related conditions, plan diets for various medical conditions and in some countries even legally prescribe prescription-only medicine.
Due to this, in most countries it is necessary to have a degree (B.Sc. or M.Sc.) in nutrition and dietetics to work as a Dietitian.
Nutritionists that are professionally trained and registered do as well handle some of these roles depending on the country in question. However, due to its broad scope, it’s unregulated in most countries and as such, anyone can call themselves a Nutritionist as long as they’re providing information about food and healthy eating.
Since we can’t discuss the specifics for every country, we suggest anyone reading this find out more by visiting the regulatory body of Nutritionists/Dietitians of their country. For those in Kenya, we’ll discuss these in the next questions.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll only use the term “Nutritionist” to refer to all Nutrition related careers.
What kind of work do Nutritionists do?
Professionals in the field of Nutrition apply their skills and knowledge in:
- Development nutritional therapies to address various health issues.
- Conceptualization, design and implementation of nutrition programs for health care, education and other institutions.
- Health Promotion/Public awareness campaigns related to Nutrition.
- Ensuring Food safety in the food supply chain.
- Research in diet and health.
- In the food manufacturing/processing industry to improve the quality of foods.
- In emergency relief and developmental projects.
Where do Nutritionist typically work?
- Hospitals and other medical facilities
- Food Industry
- Research Institutions
- Private Practices/Consultancy
Education & Training
Who can study Nutrition?
Anybody really. It doesn’t matter what your gender, age or nationality is, you just need the passion for it.
Nutrition has traditionally been labelled a female oriented career but truth of the matter it’s for anyone just like any other career.
What does one have to study to start building a career in Nutrition or a related field?
There are many courses out there, but the widely known one is a degree (B.Sc. or M.Sc.) in Nutrition or Dietetics, or both.
The exact name varies depending on the country/university, for instance in Kenya the undergraduate degree in most universities is a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics.
There are also graduate/post-graduate nutrition programs such Applied Human Nutrition, Human Nutrition and Clinical Nutrition just to mention a few.
In some of these programs one can also specialize in various fields such as Public Health Nutrition, Obesity and Weight Management and Sports/Exercise Nutrition.
You can find a comprehensive list of Nutrition Programs offered in Kenya in the following links:
Is there a regulatory body for Nutritionist and Dietitians in Kenya?
Yes. It’s called the Kenya Nutritionists and Dietitians Institute (KNDI).
What does KNDI do?
KNDI provides for training, registration and licensing of nutritionists and dieticians in Kenya. It also provides for the registration of the standards, and practice of the profession.
Basically what this means is that for one to practice as Nutritionist or Dietitian in Kenya, one has to be registered with the body.
The registration typically takes place while you’re studying for a Nutrition program in any one of their accredited institutions. You can find more information on the body by visiting their site.
We’ll discuss the the exact procedure/requirements of becoming a registered Nutritionist/Dietitian in Kenya in the next article.