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Dietary Aide Career Guide

Those who have a passion for healthy eating but don’t have the educational background to be a nutritionist or dietician may enjoy getting a job as a dietary aide. Dietary aides work with registered dietitians and other staff to plan and prepare healthy meals for patients and residents. 

These individuals play an important food service role for those living in healthcare facilities, long-term care facilities, and more. They are responsible for preparing meals, snacks, and drinks while following often strict protocols and procedures. A dietary aide may also assist with educational programs or help teach specific classes that deal with nutrition and healthy eating choices. 

Occasionally, these aides may also serve meals, prepare future menus, set up/take down dining areas, and assist with kitchen maintenance and cleaning. They may also track expenses and take inventory of kitchen supplies and food.

Sample job description

Because of our commitment to patient and resident satisfaction, [Your Company Name] is one of the best companies to work for in the [Your Location] area. We’re searching for an experienced dietary aide to join our team and help us with our nutrition-focused dining services. The dietary aide ensures that the resident meals are properly prepared and apportioned according to the resident’s diet specifications, facility procedures, and prescribed dietary and sanitary regulations. You will be responsible for assisting the cook in the preparation of meal service to the residents and guests. You will also be responsible for the delivery of prepared food to all parts of the building as well as performing custodial duties in accordance with current regulatory standards and the established policies and procedures of the facility.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Prepare and serve well-balanced meals to residents/patients
  • Assist certain residents with eating when needed
  • Help clean dining hall and the kitchen area
  • Work closely with the registered dietician, chef, and other staff to plan menus
  • Educate patients and residents about nutrition and well-being
  • Comply with state and local food safety regulations
  • Ensure proper maintenance, safety, and functioning of all equipment

Education and experience

  • High school diploma required
  • One year of food service related experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Patience and compassion
  • Excellent communication skills 
  • Strong organization skills 
  • Ability to stand and by physically engaged while working
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Desire to learn more about healthy eating and nutrition

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience working in a fast-paced care facility 
  • Experience working with menu planning and dietary knowledge
  • Experience writing and creating menus and meal planning
  • Experience working with patients and/or residents in a food service setting

Typical work environment

Dietary aides work in assisted living or rehab facilities. They often spend hours on their feet, may possibly need to lift 50+ pounds, and need to deal with temperature fluctuations in their work environment. They may also be required to comply with a specific dress code. While many dietary aides are full-time employees, some work part-time or as needed.

Dietary aides usually have varying hours and need to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. Flexibility in hours and days is needed for dietary aides as there aren’t many holidays they can take off. You should expect to stand for extended periods of time, and occasionally lift heavy items.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a dietary aide vary widely, because the patients and residents they serve depend on them at all regular meal hours. Dietary aides need to be flexible with the shifts they can work.

Available certifications

Dietary aides need to have a food handlers permit or license. Certification varies by state. The below certifications are part of the standard license permits.

ServSafe Food Handling. This is the most common type of food handling license. The training program is required for nearly anyone who works with food. In this course, it teaches how to properly manage food and at what temperatures the food has to be stored at safely. ServSafe Alcohol and ServSafe Workplace also offer additional training to reduce risk in alcohol serving and to reduce workplace sexual harassment. However, most places won’t require this.

National Restaurant Association. This organization ensures that food managers are aware of the recent regulatory necessities for food handling in all situations. Each facility will have a person assigned to this association to keep up with the regulations. Dietary aides may be required to check-in and learn these regulations on an annual or quarterly basis.

Career path

The journey to becoming a dietary aide begins with obtaining a high school diploma and then entering the food service field of work. An associate’s degree in a related field, such as dietetic technology may be preferred depending on the tasks you’re assigned.

Students who aspire to be dietary aides can learn about meal preparation, nutrition standards, and how to supervise others in food preparation. Related coursework includes principles of nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, food systems management, and more. 

Those wishing to be considered for this position need to have strong attention to detail and great communication skills. A strong desire to help and serve others is also another desirable quality of a dietary aide.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-1031

2020 Employment73,000
Projected Employment in 203080,800
Projected 2019-2029 Percentage Shift 11% Increase
Projected 2019-2029 Numeric Shift7,800 Increase

There will be an increased need for dietary aides in the coming years as people retire, and the number of residents and patients increase and need dietary care.

Dietary aides play an important role in operating an efficient dining experience for residents and patients.