Everybody has their own food preferences, likes, dislikes, intolerances and allergies. Some people are omnivores, some people are vegetarians and some are vegans. All personal choices and preferences for any number of reasons.
What do you do as a nutrition practitioner? How you put aside personal nutrition preferences when working with clients?
This is the question my colleagues and I have been wrestling with as we go further into our second year of our nutrition studies and we start to observe clients in clinic. There are quite a few vegetarians and vegans on my course who have very passionate beliefs. How they will work with clients who don’t want to give up meat, who believe that eating meat is a part of a healthy diet?
On the flip side, what about the meat eaters who work with vegetarians and vegans? There is a lot of evidence that meat has important vitamins and minerals, some of which can’t be obtained from plants. A long term vegetarian or vegan may not be interested in that information, especially if they’ve chosen this dietary model for political, religious or ethical reasons.
So what do you do?
Right now, it seems to me that there are a number of routes.
1. Present the facts to clients in a neutral and respectful way and understand their reasons for their food choices. This will help understand if there are any areas where your clients may or may not be flexible.
2. Explain where you’re coming from (if necessary), again, in a neutral way, sticking to the facts.
3. Use the experience to develop the tools in your practitioner’s arsenal. If you’re a vegan / vegetarian, learn how to optimise a meat eater’s diet – the right omega-3 sources, the best balance between meat and green vegetables. And on the other side, it’s equally important to understand the best ways to optimise a plant eater’s diet – the best vitamin b12 supplements, the best sources of complete plant protein and the sources of fat for this group.
4. Specialise in working with vegetarians and vegans. I’m not sure if it’s possible to only work with omnivores, but if there’s a will there’s a way.
Above all, respect is essential.