What is a Nutrition Educator?

Cassie L. Damewood

A nutrition educator teaches the benefits of healthy food consumption and how to improve eating habits. He normally bases the bulk of the information he imparts on fundamental scientific facts. His teachings also include emerging food and nutrition theories. Interesting breakthroughs in the safety and effectiveness of ingesting supplemental vitamins, minerals and other dietary aids are additional topics that are regularly part of a nutrition educator’s curriculum.

Nutrition educators try to inform the public about the impact of eating habits.
Nutrition educators try to inform the public about the impact of eating habits.

If a nutrition educator works in a clinical setting, he may have regular opportunities to participate in or observe the effects of nutrition on healthy as well as unhealthy people involved in clinical trials. He is normally permitted to ask questions of the trial administrator and use the knowledge to enhance his own nutritional studies. The educator frequently documents his observations to reference in later trials or experiments.

Nutritional educators may work with chefs who are preparing menus.
Nutritional educators may work with chefs who are preparing menus.

A nutrition educator may also spend his career in a traditional classroom setting. He may be in a food educator rotation at a culinary school or be part of a college or trade school staff that teaches classes to aspiring dieticians, nutritionists or food service managers. Some elementary and middle schools hire nutrition educators on a contractual basis to participate in seminars and health fairs.

Nutrition educators may have tips on how to get children excited about healthier eating habits.
Nutrition educators may have tips on how to get children excited about healthier eating habits.

Long-term care facilities and retirement homes commonly call upon nutrition educators to teach their residents the benefits of eating fresh and healthy foods. To spike interest in his presentation, the nutrition educator often devises clever productions that encourage his audience to participate in food tasting and preparation. This participatory approach is also popular if the educator is called upon to inspire chronically ill children to adopt better eating habits.

Nutrition educators can make recommendations on what food growing children need.
Nutrition educators can make recommendations on what food growing children need.

Aside from educating people on diet and nutrition, a nutrition educator often may conduct his own research, in either a formal or an informal setting. His interest in food and nutrition may lead him to observe peers’ or associates’ eating habits and incorporate his findings into an anecdotal article for submission to a professional journal as well. He may also team up with other industry professionals to study common nutrition-related topics and develop related services and educational programs.

Good organizational abilities and polished communication skills are key to being a successful nutrition educator. The job normally entails simultaneously managing several projects and speaking to groups that are quite diverse in their ages and interests. Self-motivation and flexibility in scheduling are also important traits for a nutrition educator.

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics. One year of inpatient experience is a standard prerequisite. Some jobs also require some experience in counseling or outpatient services.

Nutrition educators help people to decide on the best foods to eat depending on their dietary needs.
Nutrition educators help people to decide on the best foods to eat depending on their dietary needs.

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Discussion Comments

candyquilt

@alisha-- What @ddljohn said is right. Basically in a nutrition educator program, you learn the basics of nutrition, the science behind it, planning a diet and so forth. In nutrition consultation, you learn how to apply that knowledge to help in disease management.

It sounds like a degree in nutrition education is right for you. And once you finish, if you feel like you want more schooling or if you want to study how nutrition applies to various diseases specifically, you can continue with training in nutrition consultation.

Regardless of whether you want to stop after a nutrition educator degree or not, I highly recommend that you get certified in it. It will be difficult to find jobs without a certification. Those who are certified or board licensed are generally trusted more in the field.

ddljohn

@alisha-- As far as I know, they're both dietitians, but nutrition consultants have to get additional training. I don't think you can be a nutrition consultant without being a nutrition educator first. You first get certified in one and then can get training and certification in the other.

I'm not sure about income but nutrition consultants generally work in clinical environments, mainly in hospitals. But nutrition educators often work freelance or with academic institutions. Overall, this career as a nutrition educator can be taken in different directions and incomes vary.

Nutrition educators who are registered and or licensed and who keep up to date with nutrition and health research can and will get farther than those who don't keep up with new knowledge on nutrition. My dad has a friend who's a nutrition educator and people pay a lot of money to go to his seminars and to have a diet and exercise plan made by him. He's really good at what he does and he really cares about people and goes out of his way to help them. And he's doing well for himself because of that.

discographer

I'm interested in studying nutrition, although I haven't decided on the exact program yet.

Studying to be a nutrition educator is definitely an option. I love learning about nutrition, foods and vitamins. I also love helping people so I think this would be a great combination of my interests.

While reading about nutrition education programs however, I ran into another career field called "nutrition consultant." It sounds the same as a nutrition educator to me but many academic institutions actually have separate programs for these, so I guess they're not the same.

What is the difference between the two? And how are the employment opportunities and compensation for them differ?

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