For the love of nutrition
A close look at the profession of a nutritionist
“When it comes to nutrition counselling, it is important to differentiate between nutritionists and a simple nutrition coach”, explains Claudine Mertens, President of the “Association Nationale des Diététiciens du Luxembourg”.
The nutritionist, who has been working in her field for 19 years, advocates this difference with resolve. The profession of a nutritionist (diététicien in French) is a health sector job and is thereby legally regulated by the “Règlement grand-ducal” from 22 August 2003. Unlike nutritionists, health coaches, who are currently popping up all over the place, are not scientists and do not have the required qualifications.
As the sole nutrition specialist, a nutritionist completes a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science. Unfortunately, this degree can only be completed abroad, for example in Brussels and Liège. “Different specialisations are offered after the bachelor’s, in the area of sports, paediatrics, geriatrics, allergies, diabetology, as well as therapeutic education”, says the specialist.
Nutritionists therefore aim to sensitise people and perhaps motivate them to change their diet. But a healthy diet also requires sufficient nutritional awareness, and the groundwork for this is already laid in childhood.
Currently, around 80 nutrition specialists work in Luxembourg, in various areas. Every year, two to three more join them. The objective of nutritionists, as well as that of the “Association Nationale des Diététiciens du Luxembourg”, is to sensitise people and help them start eating better, healthier food. They work in all areas, for example at hospitals, as freelancers, at day care centres, nursing homes, services such as meals on wheels, health treatments in Mondorf, and at the Ministry of Health. The goal and task of a nutrition specialist lies in helping people change their diet, sensitising them to healthy nutrition, analysing eating habits, and taking allergies and diseases into consideration.
Those interested in a career as a nutritionist should demonstrate social competences, since they will be working with people. They should be interested in nutrition, food, and cooking, because that is the main topic of this professional training – which has existed for decades but started experiencing major growth in the last years. This can be attributed to the evolution of the food market, which has significantly changed. Additionally, diseases and allergies are more pronounced today than they were years ago. Among children, the rate of obesity as well as the number of diabetics has increased, but the same applies to adults. People’s eating habits and lifestyles have changed, activities have been reduced. At home, people cook less, frequently prepare ready meals or eat out, and often consume meals that are not balanced and healthy. Nutritionists therefore aim to sensitise people and perhaps motivate them to change their diet. But a healthy diet also requires sufficient nutritional awareness, and the groundwork for this is already laid in childhood.
Even if about 80 nutritionists are currently working in Luxembourg, there is a demand, and the number will probably rise in the next years. A real job with a future. To embark on this career path, it is important to regularly participate in further training. The “Association Nationale des Diététiciens du Luxembourg” requires a minimum of eight hours of further training per year in its quality charter.
The “Association Nationale des Diététiciens du Luxembourg” was founded 32 years ago and aims to present and support the interests as well as the career of nutritionists. “Currently, health insurance providers do not always reimburse patients for consultations”, says Claudine Mertens. A consultation involves discussing the patient’s eating habits as well as the aspects of their lifestyle which influence their nutrition. A nutrition plan is devised, both with recipes and tips and tricks. Furthermore, cooking courses and all types of workshops are offered to make it easier for the patient to adjust or change their eating habits.