Australians are generally quite health-conscious people. They love sport, the outdoors, and exercise.

Plant-based diets or diets that reduce meat intake - such as vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, and flexitarian - are popular in Australia, as are other diets like Keto and Paleo.

Dietary requirements and intolerances are also common, for example gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, and fructose-free.

But Australians also love to drink alcohol, eat meat pies and chicken parmigianas (with chips), and takeaway food like fish and chips, pizza, and burgers.

With the introduction of food delivery apps such as UberEats and Deliveroo, it makes it all too easy to get takeaway delivered rather than making yourself a healthy, balanced meal at home. 

And even if you’re on a diet that you believe to be healthy, if you’re cutting out certain food groups, like meat or dairy products, you may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals the human body requires.

You need to be careful and ensure you have the knowledge required to substitute these food groups with alternative options in order to keep your body healthy.  

There may come a point when you realise that your diet is impacting your physical and mental health. If you don’t feel 100%, it could mean that you’re not getting enough essential nutrients.

But it can be hard to narrow down what the problem is. And with all the different diets that exist out there, there is a lot of conflicting information that can be difficult to sieve through and determine what is best for you and your body.

That is what nutritionists are for! 

A home cooked meal is healthier than ordering takeaway.
Nutritionists can give you recipes and meal plans. Source: Unsplash.
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What Is A Nutritionist?

If you’re interested in becoming a nutritionist in Australia, it’s important that you understand exactly what it is that nutritionists do.

Especially as a nutritionist’ work can be quite varied and diverse.

A nutritionist is an expert who provides people with evidence-based advice on matters of food and nutrition, and their impacts on health.

They are specialists who use food and nutrition to promote health and wellbeing. Nutritionists help people live a healthier lifestyle and achieve health-related goals.

Nutritionists work with individuals, communities, and the population as a whole in both the private and public sector.

They provide specialist advice and services across a range of sectors such as private practice, hospitals, government health departments, schools and universities, nursing homes, fitness centres, the food industry, and non-government organisations.

It’s important to note that there is a distinction between a  nutritionist and a dietitian. The main difference is that unlike nutritionists, dietitians can provide nutritional advice to treat a wide variety of diseases and health conditions.

Dietitians are able to work clinically with people who have conditions such as diabetes, food allergies, and gastrointestinal disorders, and they offer nutritional advice to assist them in managing these conditions.

Here are some of the necessary skills and attributes you must have to become a nutritionist:

  • Knowledge of human nutritional science
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to build and maintain relationships 
  • Motivational skills
  • Advocate for healthy living
  • Interest in food preparation 
  • Passionate about helping others

Your tasks and duties as a nutritionist may involve the following: 

  • Consult with individuals and groups about their dietary habits and assess potential nutritional deficiency.
  • Create and implement a personalised eating plan or meal plan.
  • Monitor clients' progress against planned goals and milestones.
  • Adjust prescribed diet plans as necessary based on the assessment of nutritional needs and client response.
  • Keep up to date with developments in the field of nutrition. 
  • Educate individuals, communities, and the public about the importance of good nutrition.
To become a nutritionist, you should study a nutrition degree
Employers prefer to hire people who have studied a nutrition degree. Source: Unsplash.

Professional Qualifications Needed to Become a Nutritionist

While there are no formal prerequisites for becoming a nutritionist in Australia, the majority of employers prefer to hire those who have tertiary qualifications in the field.

To become qualified, you should consider undertaking a nutrition degree or study health science more generally.

The Bachelor of Nutrition Science is an undergraduate degree that takes 3 years to complete full time.

This degree will give you key skills in nutrition, readying you for a variety of roles in the public health and nutrition industries. It is offered by 6 institutions in Australia. 

A Bachelor of Nutrition Science is not the only qualification that will be accepted by future employers.

You could also undertake a Bachelor of Health Science degree. This degree prepares you for a career in the health industry more generally. You may then have the option to specialise in a particular area of interest, such as nutrition.

Once you have completed your studies, it is strongly recommended that you apply to the Nutrition Society of Australia’s (NSA) Register of Nutritionists.

The Australian government does not regulate professional nutritional practice and there is no legal protection of the title ‘Nutritionist’.

Thus, the NSA Register of Nutritionists distinguishes nutritionists who are properly trained from those who are not. This allows its members to recognise and encourage high standards of professional training in nutrition.

The most important thing is that you undertake a course that is recognised by the NSA Register of Nutritionists so that you meet the minimum eligibility for registration.

The NSA course requirements are: an appropriate qualification in science at Bachelor level or equivalent which includes studies in human nutrition and at least one other related subject area. 

If your undergraduate degree is not recognised, you will need to have a combination of postgraduate studies in nutrition science and relevant work experience to be eligible to register.

Please note that self-employment is not considered relevant work experience as the NSA is unable to validate the quality and hours of work performed. 

Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods
Eat fresh whole foods and different coloured foods. Source: Unsplash.

The Best Nutritional Tips

There are a number of reasons why people may struggle with eating healthy food.

You may not know how to cook, you may not have time, or you may lack the motivation to cook and/or eat more healthy foods. If that’s the case, it can be tempting to resort to buying packaged foods or getting takeaway delivered. 

Nutritionists can provide you with useful tips, nutritious recipes, diet plans and motivation to help you change your eating habits to healthy eating habits.

Here are some of the most useful tips from the Australian Dietary Guidelines on how to enjoy a healthy diet:

  • Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups (vegetables, fruit, whole grains/cereals and whole wheat, meats/alternative and dairy/alternatives) every day: eating a varied diet is important for our health. Did you know that colourful foods (like fruits and vegetables) are particularly nutrient dense? They contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with few calories. And different coloured foods contain different nutrients - so try to make your plate look like the rainbow. 
  • Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugar and alcohol: these foods tend to be packaged, processed or commercial foods. Try to avoid sugar sweetened food and junk food. Choose to eat mostly whole foods or minimally-processed foods as they have most of their original nutritional value and limited fat, salt and sugar. 
  • Drink plenty of water: water makes up 60% of the human body so it is vital we drink enough of it. Experts recommend we drink eight 240ml glasses (or 2 litres) or water a day. Drinking lots of water has the following benefits:
    • carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells, boosting energy
    • flushing out bacteria and toxins
    • aiding digestion and preventing constipation 
    • normalising high blood pressure
    • stabilising the heartbeat
    • protecting and cushioning tissues, joints, organs and the spinal cord
    • regulating body temperature

Try and get your two and five per day. That is, two servings of fruit and 5 serves of veggies.

You can occasionally indulge in sweets, sugary drinks and fast food.

Moderation is key to a balanced diet.

Try to eat less of these foods and in small portions. And don't forget to combine all this with physical activity. 

These are just a few tips to get you started.

Nutritionists will have plenty more dietary tips up their sleeves to get you eating well and help you live a healthy lifestyle.

If you’re looking for a nutritionist, it’s highly recommended that you find a qualified person that has undertaken a nutrition degree accepted by the NSA. A qualified nutritionist can offer you invaluable advice.

Healthy eating has numerous health benefits such as:

  • Disease-prevention such as cardiovascular and heart disease
  • Preventing other chronic diseases and health problems
  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

If you want to know how to make the right food choices and how to eat healthy, seeing a nutritionist is certainly the way to go!

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Alison

Ali is an Australian writer, community manager and art curator living in Paris.