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What it’s really like to be a nutritionist

Home cooking or dining out, most of us love food as it’s a central part of how we live and connect with other people. With new fad diets hitting the headlines every other week, sometimes it’s hard to know what foods are good for us. Enter nutritionist Jess Kempler.

Jess studied a Master of Human Nutrition at Deakin University and now works on food and nutrition policy at the Department of Health and Human Services. We asked Jess what sort of challenges she faces when it comes to advocating a healthy diet aligned with the government’s Australian Dietary Guidelines – and what inspired her to become a nutritionist.

Find out more about studying Deakin’s Graduate Diploma of Human Nutrition online.

Why did you decide to become a nutritionist?

‘I decided to study nutrition to gain a better understanding about my relationship with food, specifically about how my experiences with food growing up shaped my habits and eating preferences,’ Jess explains.

‘What really motivated me was my desire to learn how to eat in a way that really nourished my body, and not just ‘fed’ my body. As I worked through my degree I realised that nutrition was a field that I really enjoyed being a part of and could dedicate my career to.’

What does an average day look like for you?

‘Each day is so different! My team and I develop and help to implement healthy eating policies in schools, universities and community sports facilities, just to name a few.’

‘I could be helping other government departments make sure their work aligns with the Australian Dietary Guidelines, offering support to external agencies who run healthy eating initiatives in the community, or responding to ministerial requests.’

What do you love most about your job?

‘I love the fact that my job allows me to help communities be healthier; I’m helping to make a healthier future for the next generation of Australians. I also love that my job allows me to keep up to date with the latest nutrition research and evidence, as well as healthy eating initiatives.’

‘I get to learn about a topic that I find fascinating every day, which is really awesome. I also do some part-time teaching for nutrition subjects at Deakin, and I really enjoy the opportunity to give back to the university where my adventure with nutrition began.’

'What really motivated me was my desire to learn how to eat in a way that really nourished my body, and not just ‘fed’ my body.'

Jess Kempler,
Deakin alumnus

What are some of the challenges of being a nutritionist?

‘One of the most challenging things about being a nutritionist is the amount of myths around food and nutrition,’ Jess says. ‘Celebrity chefs, superfoods and fad diets can result in people putting themselves at risk by believing a set of principles about food which may not be entirely accurate.’

‘Social media fuels this, with new fads popping up all the time. It’s difficult for nutritionists and other health professionals to provide consistent messages about a healthy, balanced diet in this landscape.’

What skills do you need to be a nutritionist?

As well as a solid understanding of evidence-based nutrition and the ability to think critically – so that you can separate fact from fiction – Jess says ‘you need to be a good communicator and be able to translate complex ideas into engaging language that people understand’.

‘Sometimes you need to be persuasive, as healthy eating might not be top of the priority list for some of the people you work with. One of the most important skills in my job is the ability to build and maintain good relationships.’

What school subjects and university qualifications fit this job?

‘One of the most important things to consider when choosing your degree is to select one that will allow you to register with the appropriate professional body. In Australia, this is the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA). Courses that major in nutrition are a good starting point!’

‘Chemistry and biology were probably the most helpful subjects for me at school, but looking back I think that Health and Human Development would have been beneficial, too. I also volunteered at a nutrition organisation during my studies, which helped me get a job there.’

Interested in pursuing a career as a nutritionist? Find out more about studying Deakin’s Graduate Diploma of Human Nutrition online.

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