There has been a lot of attention in the media recently on vegetarian diets, vegan diets, and the movement towards plant-based eating, as well as initiatives like “meat-free” Monday. It’s important to point out though that switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet should be done carefully with the input of a doctor or dietitian if necessary.
I am a vegetarian dietitian who follows a largely vegan diet, but I would never recommend or prescribe this to anybody, because eating in this way is a personal decision I have made and it is entirely separate to my professional interactions with patients and the public.
- “There is not a situation in which a dietitian would ‘prescribe’ a vegan or vegetarian diet.”
There are some rare metabolic conditions, diagnosed at birth, which require an extremely low protein diet and therefore people with these conditions are advised, by metabolic dietitians, to follow an exclusively vegetarian diet in order to live healthy lives. Aside from these conditions there is not a situation in which a dietitian would “prescribe” a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, part of a dietitian’s job may be to support people if they do make the decision to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet in order to make sure that they get adequate protein, iron and vitamin B12 in particular.
[Unlike dietitian, the term ‘nutritionist’ is not a protected title and therefore people should be careful about which ‘nutritionists’ they seek advice from. The Association for Nutrition has a voluntary register, and everybody listed on it has completed rigorous scientific training and is monitored in order to make sure they comply with an ethical code of conduct. It is likely that any ‘nutritionist’ prescribing a vegan diet is not a member of such a register.]