Resources Used and Innovations in Teaching Vegetarian and Vegan Nutrition in Accredited Dietetics Programs in the United States
Keywords:vegetarian nutrition, vegan nutrition, dietetics education, dietetics practice, plant-based nutrition
Background: Vegetarian and vegan diets effectively reduce morbidity and mortality from many chronic diseases and are associated with reduced environmental impact. However, little is known about the role of teaching vegetarian and vegan nutrition in dietetics education in the United States. Thus, we examined the resources and methods used in teaching vegetarian/vegan nutrition in accredited dietetics programs in the United States.
Methods: A cross-sectional, internet-based survey was sent to all Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) program directors in the United States (N = 574). Questions included queries about where vegetarian/vegan nutrition is taught in the curriculum (if at all), instructional methodologies, and the resources
utilized. Overall, 205 program directors responded to our survey.
Results: Vegetarian/vegan nutrition was taught in a variety of courses, most commonly in introductory nutrition courses. The evidence-based resources used most often included the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) Position Paper on Vegetarian Nutrition, the AND Evidence Analysis Library, and peer-reviewed studies. Hands-on
food preparation activities were commonly cited as a useful means for teaching vegetarian and vegan nutrition. Nearly 60% of 183 respondents to the relevant survey question indicated that their programs reviewed flexitarian/semi-vegetarian/low-meat diets. Innovative teaching techniques included stand-alone vegetarian nutrition courses, cu-linary experiences including recipe development and sensory evaluation, student presentations to the community, and asking students to follow vegetarian/vegan diets and then evaluate those experiences.
Conclusions: Many dietetics educators used innovative strategies to teach vegetarian/vegan nutrition. These methods offer novel experiences for students to increase self-efficacy in vegetarian/vegan nutrition that can ultimately improve public and planetary health outcomes in practice.