Nutrition and dietetics is a relatively young profession. The task of planning and preparing family meals was traditionally assigned to the women of the household, although the relationship between nutrition, a balanced diet and the health and well–being of the family was not, for a long time, fully understood. As awareness grew, food planning assumed greater importance, not only within the factories and public eating places began to apply this knowledge when catering for their wards, employees and customers. In the late nineteenth century, hospital workers were employed to teach patients how to prepare food, thus bringing a new profession into existence.
The status of the industry has risen considerably over the years. Today, trained to function in a number of specialized areas, the broad aim of the dietician or nutritionist is to help promote good health through correct eating habits.
Fields of Work
The profession of nutrition and dietetics has a wide range of applications.
This is one of the best known functions of the profession in hospitals and clinics, as dietitians on the staff assist in the treatment of patients. Large hospitals often provide scope for further specialisation, e.g. food administration, therapeutic and outpatient clinic work, teaching, research, etc.
Nutritionists form an important section of the staff of all development and welfare programmes such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), run by government and non–governmental organisations. Nutrition is an integral part of public health.
In schools, colleges, office, factory and military canteens, dieticians are required to plan and prepare nutritious and balanced meals for a large number of people on a daily basis.
This covers a vast area in the commercial sector, including food product manufacture, and catering and restaurant services, where nutrition and dietetics professionals perform a variety of tasks ranging from product development and promotion to menu planning and preparation.
Research and Development
R & D merits an essential place in the field, from the standpoint of both health care provision, as well as the commercial food services industry.
In an increasingly health conscious era, books, articles, promotions and even television programmes on good dietary practices are in great demand at every level, providing full–time employment for many.
The teaching of nutrition and dietetics, in schools, teaching hospitals and colleges is another important functions of this profession.