I am the first to recognize the advantages and disadvantages of consulting a nutritionist, especially if you are vegan. Conservative attitudes toward vegetarian diets are still prevalent in many diet programs. Many mainstream dietitians stick to the variety and moderation approach to nutrition. For some, low-fat diets, and especially vegan diets, tend to challenge those two parameters.
On the other hand, dietitians have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the science of nutrition. Dietitians need to take a variety of courses in physiology, chemistry, and biochemistry, basic to the science of nutrition. The specialist’s vegetarian nutrition receive additional training to successfully address the needs of vegetarians.
Sadly, many irresponsible people call themselves nutritionists for just reading a manual or visiting a couple of websites. There are a variety of certification programs that allow you to obtain a nutritionist degree with minimal training. Here are some reasons why you should consult a nutritionist if you are vegan.
The importance of the nutritionist in the vegan diet
Another thing that distinguishes nutritionists is that, in addition to nutrition, they know about food preparation for diets. In addition to science courses, nutritionists receive courses in food science and food preparation. However, these specialists are not necessarily gourmet chefs.
Other health professionals may have read about nutrition but are unaware of food products and their preparation. For example, the doctor at a clinic where I worked only recommended using vinegar instead of salad dressings. The truth is that there are many non-fat alternatives that could be used to improve the taste of food.
Another doctor recommended that all his patients replace margarine in their diet with olive oil. The solution, in this case, was not to use olive oil as a replacement but to reduce the consumption of margarine.
I am not saying that only registered dietitians are knowledgeable about nutrition and food. There are many people with degrees in nutrition who have chosen not to practice as registered dietitians. Also, there are well-trained people in other fields who are very knowledgeable about diets.
Find a Dietitian
If you decide to have a dietitian as a nutrition counselor, can you find someone who knows and supports your vegetarian diet? Well, there’s a good chance you will, but you’ll have to hone your detection skills a bit first. That’s especially true if you want advice on a good vegetarian diet.
The first step is to generate a list of specialists in your area. You can check the Yellow Pages under nutrition, dietitian or weight loss. Depending on where you live, you may have a long list or you may not even find one. In social networks there are support groups that have a lot of very useful information.
What to ask?
One way to evaluate the vegan nutritionist’s experience is to ask how often they see their vegetarian patients. Although you can find information on your own, you should not stop consulting a specialist. I particularly have a lot of experience in vegetarianism, but I don’t work as a consultant to design vegetarian diets.
At some point you will find a positive answer to your question “do you know about the vegan diet?” Only a professional who is fully informed about it will answer you directly, many will try to cover their ignorance about it.
You may want to question your counselor a bit about their knowledge of particular foods. If you use a lot of Asian vegetables, or prefer whole grain foods like quinoa and kamut. If your nutrition advisor knows about these foods, their preparation and nutrient content, then your search is over.
You will also want to know what the professional’s way of working is like. While most offer personalized treatment, find someone who works with your food and lifestyle preferences. Only then can you come up with a menu pattern that’s right for you. There is no point paying someone who is just going to give you a standard vegetarian diet.
Finally, when all is said and done, you have to be comfortable with that person. After all, this is the person you are going to confess your deepest and darkest dietary secrets to.