How Can I Become a Culinary Nutritionist?

Research what it takes to become a culinary nutritionist. Learn about the required education, the necessary culinary arts and food science skills, job outlook and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fitness & Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Culinary Nutritionist?

Culinary nutritionists are experts on the nutritional aspects of food, and they use their expertise to advise individuals and groups on how to maintain health or meet specific health goals, like weight loss or chronic disease management, through a healthy diet plan. They begin by assessing the dietary and budgetary needs of their clients, and then they design meal plans based on their findings. Over time, they monitor their clients' progress and make any necessary adjustments to the nutritional strategy. In addition, they may conduct food-related research in order to advance knowledge in the field.

The table below provides an overview for this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree (minimum)
Education Field of Study Culinary nutrition, culinary arts, dietetics
Key Skills Knowledge of food nutrients, basic cooking skills, communication, motivational skills
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required in most states; some states require certification or registration
Job Growth (2018-28) 11%* (for dietitians & nutritionists)
Average Salary (2018) $61,210* (for dietitians & nutritionists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Experience Do I Need?

A culinary nutritionist needs to have an interest in food preparation and the components of food that provide nutrition. More than chefs or cooks, culinary nutritionists are knowledgeable about fat, calories, proteins, vitamins and other nutrients in food. Recommended high school classes include science, math, communications and health. Having a background in basic cooking skills can also help you excel. Some schools require applicants to have an associate's degree in some sort of culinary arts or food services program before entering the culinary nutritionist program.

What Education Do I Need?

Culinary nutritionists need at least a bachelor's degree to find employment in the field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( License and certification requirements differ in each state, so check your local regulations before choosing a program. A culinary nutritionist program at a college or university teaches you culinary skills and principles of food science. Some schools offer an internship during the final year of study, during which students are able to hone their skills in a practical, hands-on setting. A master's degree or other advanced training may be able to help you obtain a better job.

Culinary nutrition programs teach the nutritional properties of the foods you prepare and how to use those foods therapeutically. As a student, you receive training in biology, food technology, anatomy and physiology in addition to learning basics of food and nutrients. You also learn the basics of special diets, like vegetarian or gluten-free diets.

What Work Might I Do?

As a culinary nutritionist, you prepare food with an emphasis on nutrition. You may work in a variety of kitchen and food preparation environments, such as cruise ships, catering companies, private kitchens, test kitchens, spas and resorts. You could also become a menu planner or food writer. Grocery stores, airlines and schools also employ culinary nutritionists.

Culinary nutritionists promote healthy eating habits and help people modify their diet. They might help diabetic clients reduce sugar in their diet or help a patient with high blood pressure reduce their salt intake. You may incorporate the healing properties of food into the meals and diet plans you prepare. You might also educate groups on the benefits of healthy eating and how to maintain a good balance of nutrients in their diet.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to counsel people on diet, lifestyle and other health-related issues, you could consider working as a health educator. These professionals may find jobs in public health departments or nonprofits that are focused on teaching community members about wellness. For this job, you usually need to have a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, if you would rather focus your career on the culinary arts, you could think about becoming a chef or head cook. These professionals develop menus and test recipes for restaurants and other dining establishments, and they play leadership roles in the kitchen, overseeing staff and general food preparation operations. Although only a high school diploma is required for this job, a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program in culinary arts can boost your job prospects.

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