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From: Mark Rifkin (
Subject:         Re: job opportunities for vegan RDs?
Date: July 4, 2008 at 1:16 pm PST

In Reply to: job opportunities for vegan RDs? posted by Meredith on May 14, 2008 at 1:58 pm:

Hi Meredith,

Thanks for your question, and sorry about the delay in my reply.

The only jobs in vegan nutrition are two basic categories:

1) vegan non-profits, such as a vegetarian/animal rights organizations or websites
2) counseling vegans and vegan-wannabees.

Opportunities counseling vegans/wannabees are limited because the small size of this population: about 1.4% of the US pop is vegan, and perhaps that same amount are wannabees, for a total of about 3%. That’s too small of a client base to ensure a reliable income. Perhaps the problem is reduced in certain cities, such as Washington, DC, Seattle, Portland, LA, and NYC, but I doubt a dietitian who only sees vegans & wannabees could survive in even these locations.

Therefore, we need to expand the client base to people with no vegan interests. This is a definite challenge to our vegan values, but consider the following

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) FACT: Most of those who are not already vegetarian are going to eat meat anyway, but if we focus on the positive, we can promote the vegan agenda without making it obvious. For virtually every major disease, the appropriate therapy is more fruits, more vegetables, more beans and more whole grains. Therefore, if you are successful in encouraging “more” of these instead of “less” meat and dairy, this will automatically mean fewer animals suffering.

5) FACT: Many people are politically opposed to the “V” word. However, if you focus on a "plant-based" concept, in which plant foods dominate, but do not exclude the possibility of small amounts of lean animal protein, you avoid the politics and polarization associated with the "V" word.

6) 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.

Mark Rifkin, MS, RD, LDN

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