Vegan Nutrition with Dina Aronson, M.S. R.D.

Dina AronsonDina Aronson, MS, RD is a vegan dietitian whose specialties include chronic disease prevention, vegetarian/vegan nutrition, and lifestyle management. She is the founder and director of, a nutrition consulting company. Active in many vegetarian nutrition organizations, Dina was the recipient of the American Dietetic Association's Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award in 2002.

1. I am a vegetarian who is transitioning into becoming a vegan. Nutrition has always been an interest of mine. I am looking to go back to school for a masters in nutrition but I was told that the holistic degrees are not honored in the mainstream market. My only concern with a non-holistic college is that they will not educate me enough on vegan/vegetarian nutrition. Could you please share a little bit of your journey with me and any advice you may have on which vehicle I should pursue? I admire what you do and I hope to someday help people the way you do on such a large scale. Thank you for your time.
2. I have the ambition to become a dietician, and I was wondering where you went to school. I have been searching for a school with a program that is vegan friendly. I would appreciate any help you could give me.
I don't have a degree in holistic or alternative medicine, but I have many colleagues who do, and they are very respected in their field. It is not necessarily true that holistic degrees are not honored in the mainstream market. It may be true in some cases, but holistic medicine is gaining more and more popularity and respect. For the most part, large hospitals tend to refer their patients to registered dietitians, rather than holistic nutritionists. But so many people seek their own holistic practitioners these days, especially when their Western treatments have failed them. There are also tremendous opportunities for writing, if that's something you're interested in. Growth of magazines, journals, and books on holistic medicine is penetrating the mainstream.

There are several universities that are well-respected yet take a holistic approach to healing. The most popular one in the US is Bastyr University, in Seattle. Visit their web site and give them a call to see if they might be right for you.

I went to Cornell (undergraduate) and Tufts (graduate). Their curricula were essentially mainstream, and no, I didn't learn a lot about vegetarian nutrition at either school. However, what was so particularly indispensable was my education on interpreting the scientific literature. If you understand how to find and critically analyze research studies, you don't need a class on vegetarian nutrition. In addition to the standard nutrition, clinical therapies, biochemistry, and food science courses, I took advanced courses on the scientific method, research design, science and popular press writing, statistical analysis, epidemiology, public health, government nutrition (like, how the FDA and USDA come up with their guidelines), and many others. These classes didn't focus on vegetarian or alternative nutrition, but, because of these classes, I am now armed with the tools I need to educate myself and others on important nutrition topics. It is also valuable to gain an understanding about how most people view and approach nutrition therapy, so I can strategize the best way to present my information.

If you do go the traditional route and become a Registered Dietitian, you will be in good company. There are several dietetic practice groups within the American Dietetic Association (the accrediting organization for dietitians), including Vegetarian Nutrition and Nutrition in Complementary Care. Members of these groups offer resources, support, and guidance on natural approaches to nutrition, and make for an excellent group of colleagues.

I wish you the best of luck and success!

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