What does a Dietary Aide do?
An old English proverb advises, "Don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork." Eating well is more than a luxury--it's imperative for good health. Making the right choices can be difficult, however, especially when age or a medical condition impacts our needs.
Dietary aides, not to be confused with dieticians, are entry-level nutrition planners committed to ensuring their clients eat enough of the right things, whatever their circumstances.
What is a dietary aide?
A dietary aide is a nutrition professional typically working in a nursing home, school or patient care center. These pros help plan meals to ensure students or patients have access to healthy, enjoyable food that fits the institution's budget.
Unlike dieticians, dietary aides rarely work directly with clients and never provide individual counseling. Instead, these experts work within nutrition guidelines already set by the school or medical associations overseeing their institutions' nutrition goals. In some cases, dietary aides actually work in the kitchen, assisting with meal preparation.
How do I become a dietary aide?
Because dietary aides' responsibilities are much more limited than those of clinical dieticians, they tend to enter the field much faster than their more highly trained peers. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track dietary aide training and career information, Livestrong.com notes that these professionals tend to be high school graduates who train on-the-job in as little as one week.
While formal education is not required, college courses in nutrition and food science through a local community or career college can help. Earning a voluntary credential, like the Certified Food Protection Professional (CFPP) certificate, can also boost your employment potential.
What do dietary aides earn?
Because dietary aides are required to have minimal training, their earnings are more on par with food service professionals than with clinical dieticians and nutritionists. According to PayScale.com, dietary aides are often paid an hourly wage rather than an annual salary.
Are dietary aides in demand?
Because official sources like the BLS do not track dietary aides' career outlook, it can be difficult to say whether or not they are and will continue to be in demand. Note, however, that as baby boomers age, the number of patients in geriatric or nursing centers is expected to grow, which will likely boost overall demand for dietary aides working in these types of institutions.
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