Health A-Z

ArabiaMD Staff
Last updated Feb 4, 2019

What Is a Nutritionist?

A nutritionist is a practitioner specializing in health improvement through diet and nutrition. They provide tailored and holistic care, listening to the needs and understanding the lifestyle of their patients or clients to produce individual advice and care planning. There is overlap with a registered dietician’s skills, and a nutritionist may also be a qualified dietician. Nutritionists may come from all walks of life, and will often have a background in other allied healthcare disciplines, or in a sport. They are experts in understanding the macronutrients – proteins, fats, carbohydrates and so on, and micronutrients – vitamins and essential elements – present in food and the way each works on the body. Nutritionists have a good understanding of the specific nutritional needs that may improve health and wellness, especially in the face of certain illnesses.

In the community, nutrition centers cater to a lot of people with weight loss goals, providing general and group advice on eating the right foods to lose weight and stay healthy, and monitoring these goals. Some nutritionists specialize in sports nutrition, and have expert knowledge in the nutritional needs of people with high-calorie expenditure and muscle-building goals. Different calorific outlay creates different needs in the bodies of active people like runners, body-builders and athletes so nutritionists often work closely with people on physical training regimes.

What Does a Nutritionist Do?

A nutritionist works with individuals or groups of people with similar needs to promotes healthy living through healthy eating.

People’s dietary needs can vary greatly, and a nutritionist can be consulted for various reasons. They can help with weight loss plans and monitoring, which can be individualised or done in a group setting. They can advise and create healthy eating plans for people with illnesses that can be improved through healthy eating. Nutritionists will be up-to-date with dietary and weight loss fads and be able to appraise the health benefits of these and their appropriateness for individuals.

An appointment with a nutritionist will involve an assessment of the individual’s dietary requirements, general health, and specific goals. Identifying goals and creating timely targets can help focus efforts, nutritionists may use criteria like ‘SMART’ - criteria to ensure goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. They will create plans for achieving nutritional needs while meeting the specific goals of the individual, whether that is a weight loss programme or healthy eating for general wellness and combating illness.

Regular appointments with a nutritionist can help achieve goals through reinforcement of healthy eating plans, assessment of weight and health, and through practical adjustment of the diet plan. Diet plans are only good if people can stick to them in practice, and everybody is different, so plans may need to be adjusted according to the compliance of the individual. This can depend on the individual’s ability to accurately report their progress or barriers, so a nutritionist will use objective assessment of weight and appearance to confirm progress. Some people prefer individual sessions, whereas others benefit from group activities with others who have similar needs or goals, and peer support can play a big part in improving health through good nutrition.

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