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What does a Nutritionist do?

A nutritionist is responsible for the promotion of nutritional health and well-being and prevention of nutrition-related health problems of people via improvements in the food and nutrition system. Nutritionists are not involved in illness management, i.e. therapeutic interventions in individual clients, patients or communities, as that is part of the scope of practice of a dietitian.

Nutritionists are usually limited to advising the general public about correct eating habits for health. A nutritionist can provide an advisory service to state-subsidised institutions supplying the public with information on good health and the prevention of nutrition-related diseases. Alternatively, they can be food service managers and compile menus and catering services for industries, government departments, orphanages or old-age homes.


What qualifications do I need?

To legally practice nutrition in South Africa, you have to be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). The four-year integrated Degree in Dietetics or Nutrition as well as a BSc (Med) Hons Dietetic degree are recognised for registration. Registered nutritionists are governed by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (Board for Dietetics and Nutrition). Should you wish to be considered for registration as a nutritionist, then you will have to apply to the HPCSA, who will assess your qualifications against the requirements.

What subjects do I need?

Physical Science 
Life Sciences
Consumer Studies


Where can I study?

Nelson Mandela University
BScDiet- Bachelor of Science in Dietetics

Stellenbosch University
BScDiet - Bachelor of Science in Dietetics

University of the Free State
BScDiet - Bachelor of Science in Dietetics

University of Limpopo
BScDiet - Bachelor of Science in Dietetics

Where can I get more info?

Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) - www.hpcsa.co.za
Nutrition Society of South Africa (NSSA) - www.nutritionsociety.co.za
The Nutrition Institute - www.thenutritioninstitute.co.za


Interview with a Nutritionist




Why did you choose this profession?  
My love for seeing people experiencing good health and happiness, as a result of witnessing people suffering through ill health and disease. 

What training did you undergo?
I achieved a Clinical Nutrition Diploma through IAN in Australia, Health Coaching Certificate through Zest 4 Life, UK, and a Functional Medicine Certificate through IFM in the USA. Currently, there is no NT qualification available in SA, but health coaching is available with Health Coaches Academy.

Describe a typical day
My morning starts off with admin: checking emails, ordering supplements, paying suppliers, social media posts, then onto online consulting with my clients. I’m currently home based due to lockdown, but when that lifts, I hope to work 1/2 days at a nearby health clinic too. After an initial consult with a new client, I work out a health protocol for them, have a few follow-up consultations to support them in implementing the recommended lifestyle changes. I also offer food demos and workshops where we get to prepare foods that benefit health.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Seeing the improvements in my clients’ health, which can have a big impact on their lives and the achievement of their goals.

What don’t you like?
Being bogged down with admin; it can be quite consuming and not income generating.

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
I’ve worked in this field for over 10 years now. Being self-employed can be much harder than regular employment. You need to be disciplined so you are able to ride out the quiet times. You have to always be re-inventing yourself and keeping up to date with new trends, new studies, new supplements in order to stay current. 

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Running health retreats at various beautiful locations around the country and having my food and recipes featured on TV and in Food & Home magazine.

What are your future goals?
To continue to instill the value of good health and lifestyle medicine to all in our country, and to spread the message, that when it comes to our genes, prevention is better than cure. What we do in our youth impacts our health destiny. 

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
A caring empathic nature will be most supportive in this field, along with being a good listener and really ‘hearing’ what your clients’ needs are. Sometimes people just want to be heard.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?
If you plan on working in private practice, decide who your target audience will be, then set up some health packages and programmes that you can sell to your clients. This will make your life so much easier. Be open to giving free talks and demos in your community to get yourself out there. Or go the social media route of promoting your business online.

Your job in three words
Passion for health


Interview date: May 2021