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What Does a Clinical Nutritionist Do?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

A clinical nutritionist consults with doctors, caregivers, and patients to develop custom diet and exercise plans. He or she educates patients about the importance of healthy diets and how their particular medical conditions require them to meet very specific nutritional guidelines. In addition, a professional might create a grocery list and explain cooking instructions to ensure that patients eat the right meals. Most clinical nutritionists are employed by hospitals and assisted living facilities, but some professionals operate their own consulting centers.

Before meeting with a patient, a clinical nutritionist usually reviews forms provided by the recommending doctor. He or she goes over an individual's medical history, current condition, and any relevant special information about allergies or exercise restrictions. Nutritionist rely on their training and medical knowledge to create individualized plans based on each patient's special needs. They understand that patients with diabetes, for example, should have different dietary restrictions than individuals with heart disease. Similarly, an individual with kidney disease will have different dietary requirements than an individual with gut health issues.

Clinical nutritionists work with medical professionals to determine healthy diet and exercise plans for patients.
Clinical nutritionists work with medical professionals to determine healthy diet and exercise plans for patients.

With the appropriate plan in place, a clinical nutritionist can go over recommendations with the patient and his or her caregivers. The nutritionist explains why a special diet is important, detailing how sugars, cholesterol, protein, and carbohydrates affect overall health. He or she describes which foods to eat, which to avoid, and how to prepare healthy, tasty meals. Nutritionists usually meet with their patients several times during their hospital stays or recoveries to check how they are doing and determine if dietary regimens need to be adjusted.

Nutritionists can help individuals to know what foods to purchase and how to prepare them for optimum health benefit.
Nutritionists can help individuals to know what foods to purchase and how to prepare them for optimum health benefit.

Certified nutritionists can work one-on-one with patients in person or over a video call. Essentially, nutritionists act as coaches and support systems to drive you towards making better, healthy meal choices that will boost your energy and productivity. 

The patient’s responsibility is to utilize the information from the nutritionist and apply it to their daily eating regimen in the form of meal planning, mindful snacking choices, and balanced exercise. Reforming an old lifestyle to which you are already accustomed can be challenging, but maintain perseverance when applying these changes.

Clinical nutritionists can suggest the best plan to make the most out of foods.
Clinical nutritionists can suggest the best plan to make the most out of foods.

A person who wants to become a clinical nutritionist usually needs to obtain a bachelor's degree or higher in nutrition, dietetics, biology, or another subject related to health and diet. In addition, many regions require prospective workers to pass written licensing exams before they can work independently in hospitals or private clinics. Most new clinical nutritionists also pursue voluntary certification to further improve their credentials and their chances of finding work.

A clinical nutritionist will attend continuing education classes to maintain licensing and ensure the best possible service to clients.
A clinical nutritionist will attend continuing education classes to maintain licensing and ensure the best possible service to clients.

In order to maintain licensure and ensure the best possible services for patients, a clinical nutritionist attends continuing education classes and seminars throughout his or her career. It is important for a nutritionist to stay up-to-date on the latest research findings regarding dietary recommendations for specific patient types. Informed, skilled professionals usually have long careers in the field and enjoy many opportunities for advancement. With experience, a nutritionist may be able to advance to an administrative, policy-making position within a hospital or even open his or her own clinic.

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    • Clinical nutritionists work with medical professionals to determine healthy diet and exercise plans for patients.
      By: Monkey Business
      Clinical nutritionists work with medical professionals to determine healthy diet and exercise plans for patients.
    • Nutritionists can help individuals to know what foods to purchase and how to prepare them for optimum health benefit.
      By: Barbara Helgason
      Nutritionists can help individuals to know what foods to purchase and how to prepare them for optimum health benefit.
    • Clinical nutritionists can suggest the best plan to make the most out of foods.
      By: Warren Goldswain
      Clinical nutritionists can suggest the best plan to make the most out of foods.
    • A clinical nutritionist will attend continuing education classes to maintain licensing and ensure the best possible service to clients.
      By: auremar
      A clinical nutritionist will attend continuing education classes to maintain licensing and ensure the best possible service to clients.
    • A clinical nutritionist may advise against eating at buffets, which may tempt a patient to over-eat.
      By: sattriani
      A clinical nutritionist may advise against eating at buffets, which may tempt a patient to over-eat.
    • A clinical nutritionist should stress the importance of aerobic exercise as part of any diet regimen.
      By: Antonioguillem
      A clinical nutritionist should stress the importance of aerobic exercise as part of any diet regimen.
    • Some clinical nutritionists work with residents of assisted living or nursing homes.
      By: Sandor Kacso
      Some clinical nutritionists work with residents of assisted living or nursing homes.
    • A patient recovering in a hospital will likely meet with a nutritionist several times.
      By: Trish23
      A patient recovering in a hospital will likely meet with a nutritionist several times.
    • Vitamin supplements may be recommended by a clinical nutritionist, but they are not meant to be an alternative to eating a variety of healthy foods.
      By: Melpomene
      Vitamin supplements may be recommended by a clinical nutritionist, but they are not meant to be an alternative to eating a variety of healthy foods.