What is Nutrition Counseling?
Nutritional counseling is the process of providing advice on healthy living through a balanced and nutritional diet. This type of counseling can be performed by a range of professionals including a family doctor or a certified nutritional counselor. Counseling is generally performed on an individual basis with diet recommendations made specific for each person seeking counseling.
Nutritional counseling involves developing a plan for the patient. In order to do so, a counselor must know the current diet of the patient as well as any medical issues the patient may have. Plans will be affected by things such as diabetes, access to exercise or healthcare, and food allergies. Note that a nutritional counselor must be able to balance the right diet for each patient in order for someone to benefit from the counseling. It also requires numerous visits in order to ensure that a patient is on the right path and to adjust any plan according to desired and actual results.
Nutritional counseling can be beneficial for many. Weight loss is one of the main reasons why people seek nutritional counselors; however, the benefits of such counseling can also help those with medical issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Many people who have diabetes also seek nutritional counseling on a regular basis to help balance their diet and reduce the amount of medications they have to take.
Nutritional counselors help people continue to eat the foods they love; however, they are able to do it in a way that is beneficial to the patient. They help balance the types of food, total intake, and nutritional value to help get people on a healthier track.
What is a Nutritional Counselor?
Nutritional counselors work with a range of clients to analyze and suggest improvements to diet and nutrition, this relationship is often a long one with continued, ongoing intervention. Involvement of a professional in this field is often motivated by a need to improve or prevent a condition, or its symptoms. Their work will often focus on identifying areas of issue or items to remove from a diet as well as other items that can be included – such as additional vitamins to provide nutritional balance to a client.
Nutritional counselors may be called upon if a client wants to control their weight, manage a chronic condition or identify a food based allergy. They can also work closely with psychological services to provide additional help and support to patients experiencing those types of issues. Through patient assessment and individualized planning, the ultimate aim of a nutritional counselor is to provide support and guidance towards a healthy and balanced diet for the benefit of their clients. Nutritional counselors may also provide services in a public health-type role, promoting a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Job of a nutritional counselor can be quite varied, including one-on-one consultations, explaining the impact certain foods have within the body, and conducting research into new areas of health management. Effective nutritional intervention can help to address fatigue, depression, and eating disorders. Teaching clients the role food plays in their psychological health can be an invaluable skill, allowing for clients to live a longer and healthier life.
Why Nutritional Counseling is Important?
When you think of nutritional counseling, associate it with the car of your dreams. Just like your dream car, your body needs the “right” fuel (i.e. healthy foods) to function properly. It also needs regular maintenance (i.e. a healthy diet, regular exercise and a positive attitude) to perform tasks and accomplish goals.
There is nothing more important than a healthy body. In other words, if you put the “wrong” fuel (i.e. unhealthy foods) into your body (the tank of your dream car), or you do not put enough of the “right” fuel in it, it will not function properly (i.e. less power and poor performance). More specifically, if your body (i.e. the engine) does not receive proper nutrients, it can become “sick” and/or die (i.e. sputter, stall and fail).
Nutritional counseling is a continuous process that evaluates a client’s or patient’s eating habits and dietary intake, in an effort to improve weak eating practices, and strengthen the healthier ones. This branch of counseling also educates the masses, through informational materials, support, and follow-ups, with the intention of helping people improve their lives. The main goal of nutritional counseling is to help clients and patients make and maintain positive dietary changes (i.e. a healthy diet). It is also important to note that healthy foods can reduce symptoms and decrease the frequency and severity of psychological disorders and mental illnesses. They can also reduce or prevent the occurrence of drug interactions and side-effects.
In addition, nutritional counseling plays a significant role in the treatment and management of chemical dependencies (i.e. addictions, alcoholism, and substance abuse) and eating disorders (i.e. anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating). Moreover, nutritional counseling is important because it helps people taking psychotropic medications avoid excessive weight gain or losses. In other words, it helps these individuals maintain healthy weights, while being treated for mental health issues. A nutritional counselor evaluates the eating patterns (dietary habits) of clients and patients, evaluates their BMIs, identifies their triggers and areas of improvement, teaches them how to set and accomplish goals, provides non-judgmental support, and helps them maintain new habits and behaviors.
Nutritional counseling can provide patients and clients with the following emotional and physical health benefits:
- A youthful vitality and zest for life
- A healthy weight
- Healthy immune system function
- Enhanced athletic performances
- Anti-aging properties
- Increased activity
- Reduced fatigue (i.e. tiredness)
- Healthy teeth and gums
- Improved concentration and moods
- A lower risk of heart disease, cancers, age-related diabetes, and gallbladder disease
Where Does a Nutrition Counselor Work?
Nutritional counselors work in a variety of settings, including a health care facility, nursing homes, or even as an entrepreneur forming personal nutritional consultant business. The majority of professionals in this field work within hospitals in the state and local levels. Additionally, some nutritional counselors work in the university or other academic settings.
Other counselors work with athletes in order to help them perform at their peak. The work week can vary, depending on where a counselor work, and can include nights and weekends.
What are the Requirements to Become a Nutritional Counselor?
Many nutritional counselors are also registered dietitians, while some may have earned certificates in nutritional advising. Your level of education requirements would be dependent upon what environment you desire to work within. A 4-year degree in either dietetics or nutrition can help to provide the nutritional counselor with additional expertise.
State requirements vary when it comes to the educational background required in order to become a nutritional counselor. In some states, anyone can call themselves a nutritional counselor, without any additional educational background. If you already know what company or setting you wish to work as a nutritional counselor, check with the individual requirements, which can help you to take the steps needed to achieve your career goals.
In addition to the more traditional 4-year school route, some nutritional counselors obtain nutrition consultant certificates which are available from a variety of organizations:
- Registered Dietitian (RD) – Commission on Dietetic Registration
- Certified Nutritionist Specialist (CNS) – Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists
- Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) – Clinical Nutrition Certification Board
Licensure requirement very for each state. More states require dietitians and nutritionists to be licensed before providing individualized nutrition counseling. State licensure requirements may include supervised practice and the passing of an exam. Some of the topics addressed may include the role micronutrients play in healthy functioning, weight control diets, biology, chemistry, and how food choices can impact the physical and mental health of an individual. .
What Skills are Required for a Nutritional Counselor?
Nutritional counselors need to be passionate about the helping clients to obtain the best health and wellbeing possible through the use of food as medicine. Nutritional counselors will need to be able to work with clients from diverse backgrounds, understanding the role culture may play in the health behaviors of your clients. Additionally, they should be able to have a logical approach to addressing the nutritional needs, while still maintaining the ability to communicate complex nutritional processes to clients in “everyday” language.
If you are pursuing the career path of nutritional counseling, you should have a solid foundation of nutritional knowledge including the biological and social sciences, be optimistic and hopeful, and respectful. Additionally, a sense of humor can be of great use when working with clients.
What is the Salary for a Nutritional Counselor?
Due to the variety of educational requirements and employment settings, salaries of nutritional counselors can vary greatly. Counselors who are self-employed, their income may vary depending on the number of clients and hours worked. As of May 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dietitians and nutritionists make an average of $62,330, or $29.97 per hour. Some dietitians and nutritionists can make upwards of $87,360, but it depends on a lot of variables. Nutritionists employed by ‘Merchant Wholesalers’ earn the highest mean salary of $82,280.
What is the Job Outlook for Nutritional Counselors?
The growing population, with the increase in the obesity epidemic that is present in society, the need for professionals dietitians and nutritionists is expected to increase by at least 11% by the year 2028, adding an additional 8,000 positions to the field, which is deemed to be faster than average. Additionally, if you obtain specialized training in the areas of senior health needs, diabetic and weight management, your outlook may be higher.
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