Written by: Yara Al Khouli, November 2023
When you hear the word “dietitian”, do you picture a white-coated professional in a sterile clinic, helping you eat well while you’re sick? Or do you imagine a fitness professional at the gym, helping you sculpt your body to perfection? But have you ever thought of a dietitian working in a food company?
As you may know, dietitians in the clinical setting or in the gym can play a crucial role in bridging the gap between clients and their goals. By counseling clients and guiding them toward tailored nutritional goals, dietitians can help people make informed choices about what they eat.
HOWEVER, dietitians are not just limited to clinical settings or gyms. They can also work in the food industry where they can directly improve food products to be more nutritious, meeting the nutritional needs of people in the community. In fact, according to T.R. Kirk, dietitians in food manufacturing are a powerful force, working to make our food healthier and our lives better on a national level (Kirk et al., 2007).
How can dietitians participate in product development/ improvement?
Dietitians are the ones who can match knowledge about food with different nutrition needs, making them the perfect candidates to bridge the gap between the two. By teaming up with manufacturing staff, dietitians can help develop the nutrient content of different food products, matching them with the nutrition recommendations for healthy eating guidelines (Kirk et al., 2007). They aim to meet different goals, such as lowering the fat, sodium, and sugar content of certain food products, while also enriching the nutrient content of other products to meet the nutrition needs of customers who have nutrient deficiencies (Kirk et al., 2007). This could involve fortifying food with vitamins and minerals or enriching the protein and caloric content of food.
What are functional foods? Does the dietitian recommend them?
Health Canada defines functional foods as “similar in appearance to, or maybe, a conventional food, is consumed as part of a usual diet, and is demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions” (Health Canada, 2017). From this definition, dietitians have a very important role in developing functional foods and making them as functional as possible for the ultimate goal of reducing the prevalence of disease and nutrient deficiencies (Thomson et al., 1999).
What role do dietitians in industry have in maintaining sustainable food systems?
Dietitians in the food industry have a powerful position in the food system where they can invest in management systems that help reduce food and packaging waste (dietitians of Canada, 2020). Being aware that 50 million tonnes of food is wasted in Canada each year, despite 60% of it being avoidable (Blair, N., 2022), dietitians in the food industry can innovate creative plans to make the most of the avoidable food waste by incorporating them into food manufacturing. In fact, one of the main objectives of Remix is to reduce the waste of fruits and vegetables by creatively incorporating upcycled produce into their snack production.
Is marketing one of the dietitian’s responsibilities?
Dietitians definitely have a role in improving marketing most importantly, labeling and advertising (Kirk et al., 2007). For example, dietitians are consulted to make sure the nutritional claims on the label are justifiable and match with the laws and regulations (Kirk et al., 2007). In other words, the dietitian has an important role in presenting the nutritious content of the product in an ethical and legal way.
Remix Snacks is founded by two dietitians!
Two dietetics students at McGill University refused to let the issue of food waste go to waste. They put their nutrition-educated minds and creative hands to work, creating a healthy snack using imperfect fruits to make high-fiber, high-protein snacks. After testing small batches in their apartment kitchen, they scaled up production to three kitchen facilities. Today, Remix snacks are sold at over 400 grocery locations, with the goal of shaping the food industry with healthier choices and reducing food waste. The promise of Remix is to commit to simple, good-tasting snacks that are good for you and the environment.
Blair, Nicole. “Food Waste in Canada Statistics for 2022 - Made in CA.” Made in Ca, 14 Sept. 2022, madeinca.ca/food-waste-canada-statistics/.
Health Canada. “ARCHIVED - Policy Paper - Nutraceuticals/Functional Foods and Health Claims on Foods - Canada.ca.” Canada.ca, 2019, www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-labelling/health-claims/nutraceuticals-functional-foods-health-claims-foods-policy-paper.html.
Kirk, T. R. et al. (2007). Nutritionists in industry can play a key role in helping to achieve Health of the Nation targets for nutrition. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: The Official Journal of the British Dietetic Association, 20(3), 202–207. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2007.00768.x
“Sustainable Food Systems: Dietitians’ Roles.” Dietitians of Canada, July 2020, www.dietitians.ca/. Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.
Thomson, C. et al., “Position of the American Dietetic Association.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol. 99, no. 10, 1999.