A day in the life of a dietitian

12 Aug 2019
by Elisabeth Cresta, Caroline Day, Harriet Smith

We profile three student dietitians and a freelance dietitian to find out more about their areas of study and work and what their typical day involves.

Three student dietitians Elisabeth Cresta, Caroline Day, Harriet Smith BSc Nutrition and Dietetics students at King’s College London and co-founders of Fight The Fads

Elisabeth Cresta, Caroline Day and Harriet Smith are three student dietitians in their third year of a four-year degree in BSc Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College
London. Together, in January 2015, they launched Fight The Fads, a myth-busting group who debunk nutritional nonsense in the media and set the records straight with regular posts on www.fightthefads.com (@ fightthefads).

We each decided to study nutrition and dietetics for different reasons, however, we were all aware of the important role a dietitian plays in promoting evidence-based nutrition, particularly at a time when social media is awash with misinformation. Our hope was that by embarking on such a challenging four-year degree at King’s College London, we would be equipped to put out evidencebased science and help the public make informed choices in relation to their nutrition and diet.

In January 2015, we launched Fight The Fads (FTF), a nutrition media platform, aiming to address and correct misinformation in the media and thus help to remove the fear and confusion surrounding nutrition. FTF is for us a part-time and often full-time job alongside our studies! We post on our website (www.fightthefads.com) and social media @Fightthefads. Towards the end of last year, we launched our YouTube channel. This started with a Festive Daily calendar debunking a myth a day for the lead up to Christmas.

We work on a variety of projects including King’s Wellbeing campaigns, interviews on King’s Radio and more recently our government petition to legally protect the title ‘Nutritionist’. Since launching FTF, we have had the chance to work with practising Dietitians and other healthcare professionals.

No one day is the same in the day of a student dietitian, but we can say that a typical day would probably look like this:

7am Wake up, check our Twitter feeds and respond to emails. We eat cereal with milk or eggs on toast for breakfast but that all depends on how much time we have. When we can, we squeeze in a quick 30-minute run!

9am Travel to university, listening to music and recollecting our thoughts. Travelling time is usually around 30 minutes and we tend to walk to university to incorporate some steps into our day!

9:30am Arrive at university

10am – 1pm We usually attend lectures on Nutrition and Health, Applied Nutrition or Therapeutics on Nutrition and Dietetics. When we don’t have morning lectures, we are either working in the library or from home.

1pm Lunch time. We tend to prepare our lunches the previous day as it saves time and money and allows us to stay on budget. We prefer light meals as we have more work to do after lunch. Three of our favourite packed lunches include chilli con carne with wholemeal rice, a hearty salad with chicken or wraps with hummus and roasted vegetables. When it’s not raining, we head out for a quick walk.

2pm – 4pm We usually attend lectures or a cooking practical. If we don’t have classes, you can find us in the library going through lectures or at the gym doing a cardio workout.

4pm – 4:30pm Days often get very hectic and an obligatory coffee break is always a good way to relax.

5pm – 6:30pm We use this time to have our FTF meeting, where we plan our weekly schedule that includes simple administrative tasks such as updating our website and other social media, brainstorming on new projects and drafting new blog posts. More recently, it has involved a lot of editing and filming for our YouTube channel. Often, we use this time for meetings with other dietitians/bloggers or attending talks (organised by the British Dietetic Association (BDA) or our university Nutrition and Dietetics Society).

7pm Travel home. This is a chance to phone friends and family.

8pm Arrive home, make a list of things that need to be completed the next morning. Make dinner and relax. Some weekdays we eat out, head to the cinema or gather at a house and cook. It’s all about balance!

Freelance dietitian
Helen Bond BSc (Hons) RD, MBDA
Helen Bond explains what her day-to-day job involves, including her role as a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA)

Helen Bond is a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic
Association. She has nearly 20 years’ experience working in the NHS, in PR, within the media and across the food and pharmaceutical industries.

As a freelance dietitian, I wear many hats at work. It often feels like I have multiple jobs – with lots of different bosses – which all need regular attention. Juggling clients and project work, whilst also trying to respond to media requests makes time management a challenge, since every day, or even every hour of the day, might not be the same as the last. I never quite know what the day has in store for me. Most of the time, I’m working at home in Derbyshire, but other days I’m in London at media briefings or client meetings, presenting at regional conferences, or at the radio studios preparing for an interview. I love the variety of
work and the flexibility being a freelancer gives me.

What is a typical day in my life as a freelance dietitian?

5am I’m an early riser rather than a night owl, so I’m up at dawn, raring-to-go mentally. Once I’ve had a cup of tea, I head outside to my home office, which can be a little chilly, but it helps keep my work and home life separate. The early morning hours are peaceful, so it’s a great time to clear the ‘heavy-duty’ work, such as article writing, out of the way. 

6:30am I swap my dietitians hat for my mum’s hat. I get the kids up, fed and off to school.

8.15am Trainers on and a morning run with friends and the dog. It’s easy to get consumed with work when you are self-employed and not leave your office for hours, but after this I feel better both mentally and physically.

10am A quick shower and I’m back in my office scanning the daily newspaper to catch up with the latest news and health headlines. I also check my emails and handle any pressing concerns that might otherwise distract me from work for the rest of the day. Email provides a means of quick response which is essential for public relation assignments, media quotes and client queries.

12pm I live by my own advice and take time away from my desk to eat lunch.

1pm If I have a client deadline for an editorial, I’ll focus on that. Otherwise, my afternoon might involve answering emails, researching topics for brands, conference calls about PR campaigns, new product development or website content. If time allows, I can pop on a load of washing or two!

3pm Reading time. Nutrition is an evolving science and, as a BDA spokesperson, I’m often required to provide comment when new research emerges and on topical issues. It’s crucially important to stay up to date with the latest studies, government initiatives and dietary guidelines.

4pm I catch up on my social media accounts to interact with fellow freelancers, tweet nutrition snippets to my followers and write down ideas that pop into my head for blogs.

5pm Office hours over, I have an hour before picking up my youngest. I usually take this time to switch from my love of chatting about food, to my love of cooking food with no distractions. No phone, no computer, just me and my Aga! Then I’m on Mummy duty again.

8pm Now and again, I jump into BDA twitter chats or an evening webinar.

10pm Waking up earlier means I need to go to bed early. I usually head up after the News at Ten headlines. I wear a lot of different hats, and despite some stresses and challenges, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything else. Being a freelance dietitian is very enriching. I’m constantly learning and growing as a dietitian and there’s never a dull moment!