Nutrition is the branch of life science that studies way different foods and eating habits meet human needs for proper health and development. Proper nutrition can yield a number of benefits, including longevity, maintenance of healthy weight, improved immune system functioning, prevention of chronic diseases, and quicker recovery from injury and illness.
Nutrition is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important for mothers and children. Adequate nutrition is essential for mothers to have safe pregnancies, and helps ensure proper prenatal health. After children are born, nutrition is critical to their healthy development, both physical and cognitive.
The study of nutrition includes both the health impacts of diet on individuals as well as the impacts of the food system on populations at larger scales. Thus, nutrition is important to the fields of human health and the life sciences, direct healthcare provision, and even broader discussions of public health and its relation to social and economic development.
Because nutrition intersects with so many areas in the field of healthcare and beyond, an educational background in nutrition can lead to a wide variety of career opportunities. If you want to work directly with individuals in need of dietary advice, you can become a dietician, nutritionist, or wellness consultant. If you prefer to work in a context that goes beyond individual patients, students with a background in nutrition can work in jobs like public health nutritionist and food safety auditor.
In addition to being wide-ranging, nutrition is a fast-growing field, as interest in the linkages between food and health increases. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dietician and nutritionist jobs are projected to increase by 11% between 2008 and 2018 - much faster than the average for jobs throughout the economy. These jobs also typically require only a bachelor’s degree, making them relatively accessible compared to jobs requiring a degree from medical or nursing school.
At the end of the day, an education in nutrition is an opportunity to become an expert about something that everyone cares about and pursue a career that can make a big positive impact on people’s health.
Absolutely - online learning about nutrition isn’t limited to food recipes. Leading online learning platforms make it possible to learn from world-class universities on a flexible schedule from anywhere in the world. And, despite providing the same level of education as their on-campus counterparts, including ample opportunities to interact one-on-one with faculty and collaborate with fellow learners, these courses often have significantly lower tuitions.
Because learning about nutrition is a topic that anyone can benefit from, you don't really need any special experience or skills to learn about it. However, if you're working towards a career in the field of nutrition or looking to advance your career, you may find that previous experience or classes in biology, psychology, anatomy, agriculture microbiology, biochemistry, or public health can be helpful. Previous work as a nurse, nursing assistant, fitness trainer, counselor, or other role that may involve teaching patients to eat a healthy diet can also help prepare you to study nutrition.
Anyone who has a passion for encouraging people to take control of their own health may be best suited for a role in nutrition. An interest in a holistic approach to health can also be beneficial. You'll need to be a person who is a great motivator, as well as someone with excellent interpersonal skills. That means you'll need to be a good listener and a good communicator. Because you'll likely work with multiple clients at a time, you'll need to be a good organizer and great at time management.
Any topics related to the human body or health sciences are good to study along with nutrition. This might include anatomy, physiology, biology, microbiology, and chemistry. Because you'll need to motivate people and persuade them, you may also consider learning about psychology. You may also want to learn about more specific topics within the nutrition line of study, like geriatric nutrition for older people or pediatric nutrition for children.
People who work in the nutrition field most commonly work in health care settings, like hospitals, doctors offices, nursing homes, and clinics. You may work in a school, hospital, or corporate cafeteria, or you may even find yourself working in a lab or at a research institution. Some people in this field even go on to work for state and local government agencies.