NUTRIscope- Rakshita Mehra
Name: Rakshita Mehra
Academic Qualification: BSc Home science from Delhi University (2017-2020)
MSc (food and nutrition) from Amity university (2020-2022)
What do you do?
I am a Clinical Dietician and Nutritionist having more than 2 years of experience. I am the Founder and Director of Nutrishala - Paathshala of Nutrition, where we assist people in accomplishing well-being through customized diet plans. I am also an Author and Nutri writer, as many of my articles have been published in reputed newspapers and magazines.
Why did you choose this profession?
I chose Dietitian as a profession because of my passion for health and nutrition. I have a genuine interest in the science of nutrition and how it affects overall health and well-being. I want to help others make informed decisions about their diet and lifestyle to optimize their health. I have a desire to make a positive impact on people's lives. By providing evidence-based nutrition guidance and support, I can help individuals manage chronic conditions, prevent disease, and improve their quality of life. Moreover, I enjoy experimenting with recipes, creating balanced meal plans, and helping others develop a healthy relationship with food.
How one can become a dietician in India?
Pursuing a bachelor's degree in nutrition or dietetics/food or nutrition science/Home science is a common route for becoming a Clinical Dietitian. With the rise in competition today, a Postgraduate diploma or master's in foods and nutrition/clinical nutrition or nutrition and dietetics is a must. After completion of the degrees, one can opt for hospital internships or job roles to gain more experience in this field. However, I would like to highlight that no 3-6 months course will make anyone a nutritionist or dietitian. It is a paramedical field and is constantly evolving. It requires a legitimate science background and experience.
What training, knowledge, or abilities are required for this field?
For this, proper education and accreditation are required. A minimum of a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics, or a related field is typically necessary. Dietitians usually need to complete a supervised clinical internship or practicum as part of their education. This hands-on experience provides exposure to various aspects of medical nutrition therapy, including working with patients with different health conditions and collaborating with healthcare teams. Dietitians must have a strong foundation in Medical Nutrition Therapy. This includes understanding the nutritional needs of patients with various medical conditions. Effective communication and counseling skills are crucial for dietitians. The field of nutrition and dietetics is continuously evolving, and dietitians need to stay updated with the latest research, guidelines, and advancements.
What distinguishes a nutritionist from a dietitian? What does being both consist of? What does being registered actually, means?
The terms 'nutritionist' and 'dietitian' are often used interchangeably, but they can have different meanings depending on the country and regulatory bodies involved. In India, both nutritionists and dietitians typically hold a bachelor's degree in nutrition or dietetics. However, dietitians in India generally undergo a more regulated and structured education and training program. They typically complete a four-year bachelor's degree followed by a two-year master's in dietetics or nutrition and dietetics, and then a supervised internship or practical training in a hospital or clinical setting. Nutritionists may have a bachelor's degree in nutrition or a related field but may not have completed a formal internship or practical training. In India, there are professional associations for both dietitians and nutritionists. The Indian Dietetic Association (IDA) is the main professional body for dietitians in India. Dietitians in India can become members of the IDA and use the title 'Registered Dietitian' (RD) if they meet the association's eligibility criteria.
What guidance would you provide a person thinking about this career?
Take the time to thoroughly research the field of dietetics to understand the scope of practice, potential career paths, and the roles and responsibilities of dietitians. This will help you determine if it aligns with your interests and goals. Seek opportunities to gain practical experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics. Look for internships, volunteer positions, or part-time jobs in healthcare settings, community programs, or research projects related to nutrition. This hands-on experience will provide valuable insights and help you develop essential skills.
Connect with professionals already working in the field of dietetics. Reach out to dietitians for informational interviews or mentoring opportunities. Attend professional conferences, workshops, and events to network with other professionals in the field. Building connections can provide guidance, support, and potential job opportunities.
A genuine passion for helping others and a desire to make a positive impact on people's lives can greatly enhance your motivation and job satisfaction in this field.
What do you want people to understand right now about a dietitian job?
Right now, it's important to understand that the role of a dietitian is crucial in promoting health and well-being, particularly in light of the growing global focus on preventive healthcare and nutrition-related diseases. Dietitians take into account an individual's unique health status, medical conditions, lifestyle, and preferences when developing dietary plans. They work closely with clients and patients to tailor recommendations that are practical, sustainable, and aligned with their specific needs and goals. Dietitians help individuals establish healthy eating habits, manage weight, improve energy levels, enhance sports performance, promote mental health, and optimize overall health outcomes.
What do you want people to understand right now about a dietitian job?
For me, this field has been more rewarding than challenging, and I am grateful to God for this. One of the most fulfilling aspects of being a nutritionist or dietitian is the opportunity to make a positive impact on people's lives. The blessings and love received from the patients top the list of rewards. That feeling of watching your patient become happy, healthy, and fit is very special. Being able to educate and empower individuals to make informed food choices and adopt healthy lifestyles is immensely rewarding.
What does a regular work week look like in your professi
"My regular work involves preparing diet plans for patients, usually 5-10 plans per day. I book consultation video and phone call schedules. On alternate days, I visit a Gut and Liver clinic to provide my services there. Follow-ups with patients, content creation for social media, giving lectures to aspiring dietetics students, conducting live sessions, and writing articles are some more highlights of my regular work week.
What about your job is the most difficult?
As such, I haven’t faced any difficult situations; however, the complexity of medical conditions can be counted as a challenging part. To debunk myths, change people's perceptions towards certain foods, and even inculcate new habits, it may sometimes become difficult with a few patients. Also, the rise of random individuals becoming nutritionists, health coaches, or dietitians has made this field unethical. This is a paramedical field that requires extensive years of study and demands hands-on experience in hospital setups. People cannot call themselves Clinical dietitians or nutritionists if they have only lost weight themselves or have completed just a 3-6 months nutrition course. Quacks like these promote misleading information, products, and trends, which ultimately take a toll on people’s lives.
We have heard that taking vacations in a patient-centered operation can be a little challenging. What are your views on it?
I think sometimes it is okay to take a break from this hustling life. Life is short. Patient-centered operations prioritize providing consistent and continuous care to patients. However, when a dietitian takes a vacation, there is a need to ensure that patient care continues seamlessly in their absence. This may require proper planning, coordination, and collaboration with colleagues to ensure that patients' nutrition needs are met, and any ongoing treatment plans are followed. It is still important for dietitians to take time off to rest, rejuvenate, and maintain their own well-being. Effective planning, collaboration with colleagues, and open communication with patients can help minimize any potential impact on patient care and maintain the continuity of services.
Is consultation the only option available in this field, or are there other options?
No, consultations are not the only option available in the dietetics field. The field of dietetics offers a range of career options beyond traditional one-on-one consultations. Clinical dietitians can work in hospital setups or clinics. Dietitians can work in community settings, such as public health departments, non-profit organizations, or community health centers. Dietitians can work in food service management, overseeing the nutritional quality and safety of food in settings such as hospitals, schools, or corporate cafeterias. Dietitians can pursue careers in research, working in academic institutions, research organizations, or industry. Dietitians specializing in sports nutrition work with athletes and sports teams to optimize performance through nutrition. Dietitians can work in corporate wellness programs, providing nutrition education, wellness coaching, and developing workplace wellness initiatives. Dietitians can work in media and communications, serving as nutrition experts for television, radio, print publications, or online platforms. Dietitians can work as health content writers and spread authentic nutrition insights.
What is your opinion about the RD exam? Is it necessary to qualify for this exam for practicing as a dietician in India or its just one choice?
In my opinion, it is a choice for the individual to pursue an RD internship and exam. It is not compulsory for everyone to go for it.
You always eat healthy?
Typically, no. Eating something that doesn't harm your body much, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, French fries, or baked fries, is okay sometimes. The body also needs cheat meals occasionally. Knowing the portions and the method of eating is the pinnacle of a dietitian's expertise and can make food gourmet.
You never skip your work out
No, I work out to keep myself fit and healthy, and not just to compensate for overeating. My workout schedule is flexible and, most importantly, fun. It is not something I force myself to do. Whenever I do not feel like working out, I give my body a rest day and rejuvenate myself.
You are always well-maintained with your work and personal life
No, ups and downs are everywhere, whether professional or personal. However, I am trying to manage the balance between both. I keep my professional and personal life separate. There are times when I am well-maintained professionally but very messy personally.
Healthy meals can never be tasty
Definitely no. The Rajma Chawal cooked by my mother is the best thing on this earth. And everyone will agree to this. Healthy eating doesn't have to be bland or boring. Choosing the right cooking techniques can make a significant difference in the taste of healthy meals.
What kind of diet did you eat while you were growing up? You always used to eat well, right?
No, as I belong to the 1990’s club, I have an inclination towards homemade food and certainly do not crave a lot of junk food. However, nobody’s diet is perfect in any manner. We are always finding our inner balance in nutrition and diet. In childhood, we enjoyed our favorite foods just like other kids, but today I am more mindful about what I am eating and the portion sizes.
Do your friends and family members think you're comparing what they eat when you go out with them? Do they ask you for guidance or suggestions or do you offer them?
Not really. Every individual is different, and hence, their food habits and eating patterns are different. I do not believe in any type of comparison, and I respect everybody’s choices. Generally, I give little guidance to everyone, irrespective of family or friends; however, if the requirement is for proper supervision, then I generally advise a proper consultation with a medical professional or dietitian.
Do you feel burnt out surrounded by patients or clients most of the time?
No, I am highly grateful to them. Without them, I am nothing. However, it's essential for healthcare professionals to prioritize their own well-being and self-care to ensure they can continue providing quality care to their patients or clients.
Would you suggest this career to someone else if their main goal is to make money in it?
Yes, making money is an art. If you make the effort in the right direction, the money will automatically find its destination.
With so many slimming products or supplements coming up in the market or people opting for crash diets over a balanced diet, do you feel like your industry is becoming more commercialized?
The field of nutrition and dietetics has indeed witnessed an increase in the commercialization of slimming products, supplements, and crash diets. This proliferation can create challenges and concerns in promoting evidence-based, balanced approaches to nutrition. While the commercialization of the industry may have some negative impacts, it's important to address these issues and advocate for science-based practices. Encouraging individuals to seek reliable sources of nutrition information, consult with qualified dietitians, and critically evaluate claims and promises made by commercial products is crucial. Empowering individuals with accurate knowledge help them make informed decisions about their health. Qualified ones, be vocal.
" What one should be aware of before entering this profession?"
Before entering this profession, let me tell you that this is a medical field. By following all the ethics, proper qualifications with lifelong learning, and clinical experiences, one can improve patients' lives. Entering the profession of nutrition and dietetics can be rewarding and impactful. By being aware of these aspects and prepared for the demands of the field, you can embark on a fulfilling career dedicated to promoting health and well-being through nutrition.
Lastly, what message would you like to give to the future aspirants and general audience?
To future dietitian aspirants and the general audience, I would like to emphasize the power of nutrition and diet. Nutrition is a powerful tool for disease prevention, management, and promoting optimal health. Aspiring dietitians, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on people's lives through your knowledge and expertise. Stay committed to evidence-based practice and prioritize scientific research and guidelines. For the general audience, I encourage you to seek guidance from qualified dietitians, prioritize your health, and make informed choices that support your well-being. Remember that small, sustainable changes can have a big impact on your overall health and quality of life.
What else would you like to tell about yourself?
Behind the role of a dietitian, I am a simple and hardworking person, consistently putting in the effort and determination required to achieve my goals. As a dreamer, I have a creative and imaginative spirit, constantly envisioning a brighter future and working towards making my dreams a reality. I love ticking off items from my bucket list.