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From: Mark Rifkin (
Subject:         Re: Vegan Dietetics Major
Date: December 24, 2006 at 3:00 pm PST

In Reply to: Vegan Dietetics Major posted by Ashley Poepke on December 20, 2006 at 1:35 pm:


Congrats on being a dietetics major, and thanks for your question. This is probably the most challenging part of professional dietetics for veg'ns.

There are several parts to your answer:
1) Understand that, according to clinical research (not epidemiological studies), it is possible to be a healthy meat-eater----there aren't many Americans who eat that way, but their numbers are increasing.
It is just as possible to be an unhealthy, fat vegan.

2) proper dietetic practice requires that we focus on the needs of the client, not our own agenda.
You can ask if reducing/eliminating meat/dairy is a goal, but 85% will answer "No"---and some will be offended by the question. Although we may not approve of their dietary choices, our opinion of their choice is, to be candid, not all that relevant.

3) well-trained dietitians assess their client's goals and nutrition needs, then decide which ONE or TWO dietary habits to focus on. If they're trying to lose weight, focus on calories and exercise. Meat and dairy certainly can contribute to weight gain, but are not necessarily the sole or main cause of weight gain. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, it is possible to be a healthy meat-eater. More importantly, making too many recommendations at once is a common mistake that will simply confuse the client. Remember that slow lifestyle change is the best way.

4)they're going to eat meat anyway, but if you focus on "plant-based", you avoid the politics and polarization associated with the "V" word. Virtually all nutrition authorities advocate a plant-based diet or some version of it.

5)If you market yourself as a veg'n dietitian, you will have a verrrry limited market, even if you're in NYC, LA, or Seattle. If you market as a plant-based dietitian, that sounds much more flexible to potential clients.

So ultimately, the answer is yes, you will have to recommend meat/dairy in some form. That was a big challenge for me as well. Once we accept that, life is a lot easier.

Hope that helps,
Mark Rifkin, MS, RD, LDN

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