People often view industry dietitians as though their sole purpose is to help promote the sales of a brand’s products. I am here to tell you that could not be further from the truth! In rounding out my dietetic internship, I completed my elective rotation within industry and learned the vast amount of opportunities in that space for nutrition and dietetics professionals.
1. Educating other health care professionals. Physicians are often tasked with staying up to date on the research of a number of health related topics. The majority of people’s interactions with the health field is with their physician, and they often come with a number of nutrition-related questions.. Registered dietitian nutritionists have the opportunity to spread nutrition knowledge to other health care professionals who are not trained in nutrition. Therefore, providing other health care professionals with tools and resources to have these conversations with their patients, as well as refer to an RDN when needed.
2. Product innovation. In order to create products that will benefit the target population, research is used to identify nutritional gaps. Once identified, the specific nutrients currently lacking in the diets of the target population can be incorporated into new or current products. Research can also be used to see what consumers are looking for in products.
3. Working with external organizations to inform consumers and accomplish public health goals. We all have seen various logos and health claims on products, but did you ever think how they got there? Companies have to work very closely and diligently with government entities such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure ingredients are, for example, certifiable organic. It is also imperative for industry to work with farmers who support their mission in sustainability practices, as well as having high quality, safe and nutritious crops. Forging cross-sector collaborations and private-public partnerships can help accomplish common public health goals.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate! I’m talking about external and internal communication, which are both equally important. It is a critical skill to be able to successfully communicate nutrition information about unique offerings each company and product holds. This is what helps educate consumers and health care professionals about ingredients or products available in the market. And just as important is helping to share nutrition information with fellow employees. Everybody is working on various projects, but all towards common business and public health objectives. Therefore working on interdisciplinary teams can help stimulate new ideas, enhance project advancement and stimulate a supportive, fostering environment that promotes nutrition and healthy lifestyles within the company.
Above are just some of the unique roles RDNs can have in industry. I truly believe that in order to improve the population’s health status we need to have a systemic change within food industry. In my experience, I learned there are a myriad ways to do this, which gives me hope and excitement for the future in our field!