- A plant-based eating pattern involves avoiding some or all animal-derived foods, like meat, dairy, and eggs. It emphasizes a balance of grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Following a plant-based plan can have many health benefits, but it’s important to ensure your diet is nutritionally balanced.
- Plant-based dietitians are experts in vegetarian and vegan nutrition and can advise how to follow a plant-based diet to meet your goals safely.
The number of people following plant-based diets has steadily grown over the years in the United States. While plant-based diets are linked with numerous health benefits, eliminating or restricting animal-based foods from your diet can be challenging.
Plant-based dietitians help ease the transition by creating a nutritionally complete plant-based eating plan that enables you to feel your best and supports your current life stage, whether you’re a parent, an athlete, or have a chronic condition like diabetes.
This article will summarize the different plant-based diets and how to find the right plant-based nutritionist for you. Consider trying Nourish to be matched with an online dietitian specializing in plant-based nutrition.
What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
“Plant-based” is a blanket term for several different eating patterns where a person avoids some or all animal-based foods. It involves a focus on eating a variety of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Though a plant-based diet is typically associated with being vegan or vegetarian, many different eating patterns fall under this category.
- Vegan: avoids meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey.
- Vegetarian: avoids meat, poultry and fish but does eat eggs and dairy.
- Pescatarian: avoids meat and poultry but eats seafood, eggs, and dairy.
- Flexitarian: practices a vegetarian diet most of the time but might eat animal-based foods sometimes.
- Whole foods plant-based diet (WFPB): minimizes or avoids animal-based foods and excludes refined oils and added sugars.
Plant-based diets are considered healthy and safe for most people to follow. Individuals may choose to follow a plant-based diet for health reasons, animal welfare, or environmental purposes.
From a health perspective, a plant-based eating pattern is linked with:
- Lower body mass index (BMI).
- Reduced risk of heart disease.
- Lower cholesterol levels.
- Improved blood sugar management in type 2 diabetes.
- Lower blood pressure levels.
- Possible reduced risk of certain types of cancer.
What Is a Plant-Based Nutritionist?
A plant-based nutritionist is a nutrition professional who gives advice on how to follow the different types of plant-based eating patterns, such as vegetarian and vegan diets.
However, the “nutritionist” title alone does not represent any specific education, training, or certifications. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, making it important to pay attention to the provider’s credentials.
Is a Plant-Based Dietitian the Same Thing?
On the other hand, a plant-based dietitian must complete extensive schooling and practice hours, pass an exam, and maintain their credential through continuing education. Many have undergone extra training in the field and follow plant-based diets themselves.
Dietitians are trained in medical nutrition therapy, so they are qualified to advise you on a plant-based diet in the context of many different conditions, from diabetes to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to eating disorders.
Look for a nutrition professional with the registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential to ensure you are meeting with a provider who has the proper training to guide you through a plant-based diet safely.
Benefits of Working with a Plant-Based Nutritionist
While a plant-based diet can come with many health benefits, it takes careful planning to ensure you get all the nutrients you need. Plant-based eating patterns, especially those excluding all animal-derived foods, may be low in protein, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B12, and iron.
A plant-based dietitian will work with you to optimize your diet and ensure you eat enough protein and meet your micronutrient needs. They also can help you manage any existing vitamin or mineral deficiencies you may have.
In addition, plant-based nutritionists help with specific concerns, such as how a plant-based diet may help improve cholesterol levels, how to be a vegan athlete, or how to follow a vegetarian diet during pregnancy safely.
6 Tips for Finding the Right Plant-Based Nutritionist
There are some considerations to keep in mind when searching for a plant-based dietitian to ensure they are the right match for you, like their experience, credentials, insurance coverage, and availability.
1. Ask About Their Experience and Expertise
Not all dietitians are experts in plant-based nutrition, so look for a provider who has experience in this area. Within the plant-based nutrition specialty, dietitians have additional areas of focus, such as:
- Pregnancy nutrition.
- Infant and child nutrition.
- Gastrointestinal conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Sports nutrition.
- Eating disorders.
- Bariatric surgery.
It can be helpful to understand your provider’s experience when deciding whether they will be a good fit. For example, if you have a history of an eating disorder, you may want a non-diet provider with intuitive eating training to help you on your plant-based eating journey.
2. Look for Nutritional Certifications
Since many people claim to be nutrition professionals online, it’s important to check your provider's qualifications before establishing care. Ensure they have a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential.
If you’re unsure about someone’s credentials you can ask for more details.
3. Determine Goals and Objectives
When scheduling your first appointment with a plant-based dietitian, make sure they know your specific concerns and what you hope to get from the visit. It can be helpful to send any recent lab work or pertinent information from your medical record in advance.
Taking these steps before the visit can help your dietitian make the most out of your time together, best meet your needs, and address your concerns.
4. Read Reviews from Previous Clients
While it should not be the only factor to base your decision on, it can be useful to read the reviews from previous clients your plant-based dietitian has worked with. This can give you an idea of what to expect at your first appointment.
5. Consider Insurance Coverage and Payment Options
When selecting a plant-based nutritionist, it’s best to choose a provider who accepts your insurance and to have a conversation with them about any out-of-pocket costs associated with the visit.
Insurance does not always cover nutrition counseling for plant-based diets, and some specialist providers may not take insurance.
Try Nourish to simplify finding a virtual plant-based dietitian. We work with you to maximize your insurance benefits and avoid surprise out-of-pocket fees. 94% of our patients pay $0 to see a dietitian through insurance.
6. Make Sure Their Schedule Accommodates Yours
The frequency you’ll need to see a plant-based dietitian depends on your specific needs. Some people only need one visit, while others prefer ongoing counseling and support.
If you hope to have regular appointments with your provider, make sure they have room in your schedule to take on new clients. For example, if monthly visits help you stay motivated, a provider who books out months in advance may not be the right fit.
A plant-based diet is rich in minimally processed grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Depending on the plan, it involves avoiding some or all animal-based foods, like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs.
Plant-based dietitians are experts in this field and can guide you in starting or maintaining a plant-based diet while considering your medical history and lifestyle.
How a Dietitian Can Help
Whether you’re interested in a plant-based diet and feel unsure where to start or have been a vegan for many years, a plant-based dietitian can optimize your diet to include all the nutrients you need while helping you meet your health goals.
Consider booking an appointment with a plant-based dietitian through Nourish for evidence-based guidance on following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish
- Covered by insurance
- Virtual sessions
- Personalized care