Nutritionists Know Something Doctors Don’t Know (Neener neener neeeeener!)

This morning I was flipping through the latest issue of VegNews magazine, and came to a segment in the Q&A section, Ask Laura, that resonated with me:

Dear Laura, My doctor is concerned that since I’ve given up meat, I might not get all the vitamins I need. What should I tell him?

Columnist Laura Hooper Beck replies:

First, I question a doctor who thinks meat is chock-full of vitamins. Have you checked this person’s diploma? You might want to make sure it’s not written in crayon on the back of a Chuck E. Cheese menu. That said, most doctors know as much about nutrition as Octomom knows about birth control. They understand the theory but not the application. My last doctor thought the reason I had a cold was because I wasn’t eating enough chicken wings. True story. Most doctors receive very little education about diet in general and know next to nothing about veganism. For advice that doesn’t involve a prescription for prime rib, seek out a trained professional, like a vegan-friendly registered dietician or nutritionist.

Why I mention this…

In this previous post, I talked about gaining a lot of weight in college due to following a vegan diet that lacked in actual nutrition because I had no money for groceries and a mediocre meal plan.

I went home one weekend to visit my family doctor to help understand why I was so unhealthy since “I don’t go to McDonalds all the time or anything!” I was naive enough to believe that eating a diet that contained no animal products automatically made it healthy.

I met with the doctor and explained to him that I don’t go out eating cheeseburgers and fried chicken all the time, and then said “I’m vegan*, so I feel like I eat better than most people.” To which my doctor replied, “What’s vegan?”

This was a man in his late 40’s or early 50’s, who had gone to med school and been a practicing family doctor for the past several decades. And I – 20 year old college junior – had been the first person in all of that time to spring the word VEGAN on him?!? WHAT!?

(*Before everyone gets all huffy and puffy, I was a strict vegan at this time, so I’M GOING TO USE THAT WORD, okie dokie? Please write if you need to check my references and credentials of my life between the years 2000-2005.)


I could not – and to this day, still can’t understand how someone in the medical profession didn’t know what “vegan” meant, or had never even heard the term. And, what do you think he told me when I said I didn’t eat animal products or byproducts? “Well, maybe you need to get more protein and dairy.”

Say it with me now: AHHHHHHHHFBHBGHDBHBDH!!!!!!!!

My point is this: Doctors do wonderful things and help many people. But they are NOT nutritionists. And unfortunately, many (not all, but many) simply don’t know enough/anything about plant-based diets. Many doctors and nurses only spend THREE CREDIT HOURS on nutrition while in school. THAT’S IT. Some institutions spend even less time on the subject.

For those of you considering a transition to a veg-diet, or even if you are looking to take better control of you health and you’d like to know more about eating larger amounts of whole, plant foods, I encourage you to talk to someone directly in the field of nutrition. There is a LOT to be said about vitamins, omega 3’s, toxic colons, dioxins and antioxidants, etc etc… and you’d do best to spend your time and money with someone that specializes in knowing all about these things.

That said, I am starting to acquire folks interested in being Case Studies for my nutrition program, so if any of you are interested in working with me, it’s a win-win for the both of us. Please contact me!

14 thoughts on “Nutritionists Know Something Doctors Don’t Know (Neener neener neeeeener!)

  1. great post! i think it’s a common misconception that doctors must know everything about health, and not to question their recommendations. as soon as you start asking questions about your diet and well being, you are taking control of your health. don’t just rely on your doctor! talk to anyone you can who might be versed on the subject, and compile your own knowledge base.

    • I think this is an example of giving someone the benefit of the doubt because they wear a Dr. Coat. Now, don’t get me wrong – doctors go through expensive schooling, and are very intelligent. But when it comes to this topic, the best nutrition advice came from folks that weren’t family doctors. Unfortunately, that’s the direct line of communication for many people so it stops there. I LOVE that food issues have become almost “trendy” – it’s getting a lot of folks to have really great conversations about what they eat, why, where it comes from, etc… and the knowledge to seek out sources beyond just the family Doc.

  2. I had similar nutritional issues when I was vegetarian. My blood sugar would go all wacky from lack of protein (animal or non) and I would get shaky and grouchy. I even had a driving mishap in a parking lot and ripped the bumper off my car in a low blood sugar state! That pricey repair made me reassess what I was doing, to say the least.

    • When you first alter your diet, a lot of times that means NOT eating some things, but not always knowing how to replace them – so sometimes, you just don’t. (Not YOU personally, of course, “you” in the broad sense, anybody.)

      Even now, sometimes I am so busy in the day several hours go by and I have forgotten to eat, and it hits me all at once and I’m a whiny, starving, ravenous jerk. Haha.

      I wish you didn’t get into a fender bender of sorts, but I hope you’re feeling healthier now, no matter your diet!

    • Jenn – I’ll be officially doing the case studies in another 2-3 months, but we can get together anytime to discuss what that means, and of course just to say hello.

  3. Ive been a vegetarian for a year now (was a vegetarian when I was younger but gave it up for some reason in college) and I’m pretty tired of being looked at as a freak or just being made fun of by friends or family. for some reason my dad doesn’t get it at all and keeps sending me pictures of meals he makes with meat that I used to like. they barely eat any fiber at home and my mom was just in the hospital for diverticulitis! they just don’t get it. I feel so much better eating only fruits and veggies, though I can’t say that I’ve really lost any weight. the funny thing is when my husband was at a dr’s appt and mentioned that I was a vegetarian and that at home he eats vegetarian with me the dr quickly assumed that all we ate was pasta and that he didn’t think it was a good idea. umm ok. is that really what a dr thinks a vegetarian is, a pasta eater?!

    I would love to help out in any way, so if you need case studies let me know!

    • That is so cool of you to offer yourself up, haha! It can be really frustrating when people who have NO KNOWLEDGE OF NUTRITION AT ALL try to tell you how to eat. I have found, so many times, that when I talk to people about what I eat, they ask a huge list of questions (“Where do you get protein/calcium/etc…”) and, not to be a jerk, these folks are usually not very fit or healthy themselves.

      I will start my case study work in another 2-3 months so I may call on you then! Thank you 🙂

  4. A good primary care doctor is comfortable with issuing referrals to specialists… nutritionists, allergists, dermatologists, etc. However, people are struggling to get even basic health care. (It’s unfortunate that dietary education isn’t part of basic health care.) And you’re totally right… when it comes to nutritional issues, there’s so much lacking. When I was in middle school, my doctor handed me the 1200 calorie a day spreadsheet for losing weight. Something is better than nothing… and doctors really do have the best intentions… but no wonder most people think eating healthy is restrictive, boring and tasteless with no variety. It was geared towards the average, middle-aged caucasian with no discerning taste. No options for vegetarians or people of varying ethnic backgrounds. I’ve never been able to stay on that diet for more than 3 weeks at a time… just makes you feel like you’re denying yourself everything. Hopefully, our health care system will begin to provide more benefits for wellness programs. Until that day, we’ll have to seek out our own answers… and read blogs like this for ideas and education. 🙂 I’m learning a lot already!

  5. Yes, ma’am! After I had my son, the doctor told me “You’ve lost a lot of blood. To regain all that iron, you need to take pills (that have a zillion yucky side effects) amd eat steak several times a week.”. I decided that a better plan (and weight-loss idea!) would be to go the Asian route and do as many dark leafy greens as possible instead of pills or red meat. What do you know? My six week checkup showed my iron levels were normal, and I’d shed 20 pounds. Next baby, I will work with a vegan-friendly nutritionist (or maybe just become one? What program did you sign up with?) because the biggest thing I learned here was that my doctor did a lovely job of catching, but not much else.

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