Do you have an interest in nutrition, food, or helping others? Many dancers inquire about the road to becoming an expert in nutrition for dancers. This article will share tips for you to consider if interested in blending your passions for dance and wellness.
Dancers are artistic athletes. This unique combination requires nutrition education to not only maximize strength and endurance but also to sustain a well-balanced lifestyle without the risk of burnout. For this reason, dancers should seek qualified information. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are a dancer’s ideal source for meal planning and nutrition-related information.
What exactly is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
Most people don’t realize that a Registered Dietitian (RD) differs from that of a “nutritionist” or a “health coach.” In fact, the term “nutritionist” is not regulated. This means that any person, regardless of their education and experience, can claim to be a nutritionist.
An RD, who may also be referred to as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), is a licensed food and nutrition expert. The “RD” credential sets these experts apart from other such professions, enabling them to practice legally in a variety of settings. To earn the RD (RDN) credential, one must complete specific educational requirements along with supervised practice hours in order to attain licensure.
All dietitians are nutritionists; however, not all nutritionists are dietitians.
It’s important to decipher between these individuals as licensure allows Registered Dietitians to be board-certified practitioners who can legally educate individuals and groups. Here is a chart to further breakdown the differences and similarities between these two titles:
A certified nutrition specialist (CNS) is another popular credential that you may see individuals have behind their name. Certified nutrition specialists are typically health professionals that started out in another area within the medical field such as a physician or an advanced practice nurse. A master’s or doctoral degree is needed by those who wish to pursue this certification. Registered dietitians with a graduate degree may choose to obtain this credential as well, but it is not necessary for practice.
*In certain countries the term “nutritionist” is credible and used for those performing the same roles as a Registered Dietitian. It is always helpful to look into the governing body of food and nutrition in your country to determine the proper path of study!
Why go for the RD license?
Dietitians have the freedom to work in a plethora of settings whether it be in a hospital providing medical nutrition therapy or focusing in a more intimate setting such as working with professional dance companies or professional sports teams. Services provided by licensed dietitians are also more likely to be covered by insurance companies, which allows for a broader audience to work with.
The Benefits of An Evidence-Based Background
As a warning, a dietetics degree includes several years of schooling and a substantial amount of science-based courses. These are the framework of any collegiate dietetics/nutrition program. While some may hesitate over pursuing such a science-focused path, realize that your interest in nutrition requires a deep understanding of the body and how it functions both physically and mentally. When you’re able to connect the principles of biochemistry and anatomy to how a dancer nourishes their body, the otherwise intimidating coursework becomes exciting and bearable.
Typical coursework includes:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Food Science
- Lifecycle Nutrition
- Medical Nutrition Therapy
- Nutrition Counseling
- Public Health / Community Nutrition
- Food Systems Management
- Nutrition Genomics
- Practicum in Dietetics
Why attend a college with a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which oversees the profession, creates educational standards for all dietetic professionals. This ensures that all dietetic professionals practice under the same code of ethics. It also ensures that all dietetic students nationwide are learning the same principles and receiving the same quality of education necessary to succeed in the professional world.
So if you’re looking to pursue the path to an RD license, then you’ll need to apply to a college that specifically has an accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). The Academy has a search engine that makes finding schools with the DPD accreditation simple. Check it out here: https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend/accredited-programs/didactic-programs-in-dietetics
DICAS and The Dietetic Internship
Upon completing your collegiate-level coursework in nutrition, you’ll then become familiar with DICAS, the Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Service. This is the application required to pursue a Dietetic Internship. The Dietetic Internship is a year-long supervised experience required in order to sit for your state’s board certification exam.
Choosing An Internship
The Dietetic Internship is often the bridge between your academic studies and your professional career. This experience allows you to become familiar with a variety of settings, including but not limited to hospitals, outpatient clinics, food service management, research facilities, and schools.
Realize that not all internships are the same. While any internship can prepare you with experience in clinical nutrition, food service management, and community nutrition, some have a more specialized curriculum. Therefore, it’s important to consider the following factors before applying to your dietetic internship of choice:
- Are you interested in a more specialized area of focus? If so, look for a program that offers flexibility in creating your own personalized project or “specialty rotation.” For example, opportunities may exist for you to shadow a private practice dietitian for an entrepreneurial experience. Keep in mind that these programs may require more legwork as dietetic interns are expected to locate dietitians to shadow.
- Consider the cost. Most intern positions are unpaid and may incur financial stipulates like daily transportation fees. To help, look for in-state programs or schools that offer tuition waivers such as the ability to hold the position of a Teacher’s Assistant.
- Does your internship include coursework towards a Master’s Degree? Beginning in 2024, a Master’s degree (in any subject) will be required in order to register for the CDR dietetic board exam. You can attain a Master’s degree in any subject from Nutrition to Psychology, Business, etc.
Can I dance in college while studying dietetics?
No matter which DPD school you choose to attend, coursework in dietetics is rigorous. Nothing is impossible, but balancing multiple areas of interest will require exceptional time management skills and dedication.
Throughout your schooling, dietetics is likely to be your prime focus. However, staying engaged in activities outside the wellness sector is great for both your wellbeing and your resume. If you can manage to keep up your grades while participating in volunteer or work experiences and continuing your passion for dance then go for it! Rachel danced part-time throughout her studies and was able to return to dance on a more full-time basis at the completion of her internship. Kylie was able to work as a Resident Advisor in the dorms and hold leadership positions in the dietetic student association. The bottom line? It’s all possible!
Continuing education in the ever-evolving field of dance science and medicine
One of the biggest factors setting dietitians apart from other nutrition-related practitioners or coaches is the requirement for continuing education. In order to maintain professional licensure, RDs must complete educational requirements throughout their professional practice. Since nutrition is an evolving science, this continued education ensures that dietitians remain up-to-date on nutrition research, guidelines, and recommendations.
Article written with the help from Kylie Mignone. Expert reviewed by Rachel Fine.