Green Jobs: what does a Plant-Based Nutritionist do?
A plant-based nutritionist helps people follow a healthy diet through vegan foods or show them how to increase their consumption of plant-based produce if they aren’t following this type of diet already. A nutritionist creates, analyses and shares scientific nutritional advice, backed by evidence, to encourage people to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle through plant-based foods.
With the demand for vegan food expected to reach $74.2B by 2027, and four out of 10 consumers wanting to further reduce or avoid meat-based products in their diet, there has never been a better time to become a plant-based nutritionist.
What are the job responsibilities?
- To support individuals and sometimes bigger communities to make healthy lifestyle changes in relation to the food they eat, with a focus on cutting out meat and dairy.
- To develop and carry out educational initiatives to promote healthy, plant-based eating.
- Help to create new food menus at schools, care homes, or workplace cafeterias
- Writing reports and research papers on new findings on plant-based nutrition and diets
- Offering expertise on the benefits of plant-based diets through the media, press, webinars, podcasts or social media
- Give specialist guidance to maternal, infant, or elderly groups on how to eat plant-based to improve their health for instance through strengthening bones and reducing salt or sugar intake, or to athletes to improve their performance
- Depending on the profession’s level, helping to write policy
Holly Roper, Health and Nutrition Communications Officer at the meat-alternatives producer Quorn says: “A job in sustainable nutrition is not only rewarding but incredibly fun! You get to lead the way in helping to create products that are both good for people and planet, and work with fantastic organisations and thought-leaders who have sustainability at the very core.“
What qualifications do you need?
To get into a nutritionist role it is normally expected that you will be registered with the Association for Nutrition (AfN). To be registered you need to have at least an undergraduate degree in nutrition science with honours. You can also study undergraduate courses that have been accredited by the AfN in a range of areas including animal nutrition, public health nutrition and sports nutrition. After graduating from an AfN-accredited course you can apply for registered associate nutritionist registration. If you don’t have an AfN-accredited course, you can study for an AfN-accredited Masters or apply for registration by showing a portfolio that proves you have a suitable understanding of nutrition. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to register using a portfolio after 31 December 2025.
Some major food organisations also offer sandwich placements for students in the penultimate year of an AfN programme. Getting some work experience while still studying at undergraduate level is a great way to set yourself apart from other candidates in the job market.
Nusrat Kausar is a dietitian with more than 13 years of experience and knows a lot about what a career in nutrition or dietics involves. She says: “Make sure you read around different areas in nutrition, and really find out what nutrition is about to figure out if it’s the right career for you.
“A good way to do this is by finding people that work in the plant-based [field] and asking if you can shadow them.
“You should be following people in The Vegan Society and The Nutrition Society, reading the EAT-Lancet report is also a good place to start. It’s of course tricky to focus on plant-based nutrition when you first start but you can specialise.”
What is the salary like?
The salary depends on where you work, the starting salary for a nutritionist ranges from between £15,000 to £25,000 in the public sector and £20,000 to £25,000 for the private sector. Senior nutritionist roles such as a chair of public health for instance will get you between £45,000 and £80,000 in the U.K.
As a plant-based nutritionist it is likely that you will be self-employed due to the role being more specialised. If you work with individual clients, you can expect to receive between £45 and £75 for a first consultation and between £30 and £50 for follow-up appointments. Standard charges for creating recipe analysis can come to between £15 and £30 while for a diet analysis report charges can be between £30 and £50.
Depending on if you work with individual clients, for an industry, writing and research, or local authorities, your pay will be based on either how many hours or days you work or on the scale of the project you may be completing.
Where will you be working?
Nutritionists work in both public and private sector organisations in a range of areas including public health, the Government, research, food policy development, sports centres or professional bodies, weight loss organisations, international aid, client groups and the food industry.
What’s the career progression like?
You can only earn your registered nutritionist title after doing three years of experience out of five, so it is likely that until then you will be a registered associate nutritionist, working in a team where you will be supervised by other nutritionists with more years of experience.
Becoming a registered nutritionist in the UK means you must be able to prove your knowledge in one or two specialisms such as: animal nutrition, food nutrition, nutrition science, or public health.
Once you’ve become a registered nutritionist you have more freedom to focus on a plant-based specialism by working independently through client and group appointments.
If you are looking to follow a plant-based nutritionist path, after reaching a registered nutritionist level, undertaking a specialised course in vegan nutrition is useful. The University of Winchester is the first UK university to offer an eight-week online course in this area, which is targeted at health professionals. It is taught by Dr Shireen Kassam, who is a Consultant Haematologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at King’s College Hospital in London. She has a specialist interest in the treatment of patients with lymphoma, as well as how to use plant-based foods to prevent and manage chronic diseases. The course was created by 18 experts and health professionals from across the country who all have an interest in how plant-based nutrition can improve our health.
Once you become a registered nutritionist, you can also enter a more senior level in the NHS, in academic research and commercial areas.
Your role could let you work in community projects globally. Studying for a PhD could also allow you to become a research assistant or senior researcher at an academic centre. You could also head a department or team of nutritionists and advise the government on topics related to nutrition.
A range of AfN-endorsed conferences, networking events and courses take place regularly with several professional nutrition organisations such as The Nutrition Society or the British Nutrition Foundation, which can also help you with career development.
Is there a demand for this job?
The competition for nutritionist jobs is usually quite high and employers don’t always hire on a regular basis.
However, with more people continuing to switch to eating more vegan and vegetarian foods, the demand for nutritionists that can advise people on how to follow healthier plant-based diets will only increase. By encouraging this increase, becoming a plant-based nutritionist is a great green career path follow.
As Nusrat says: “With nutrition being introduced into the medical curriculum for doctors, the importance of diet and lifestyle is being recognised again. Nutrition is going to take off.
“There is going to be a lot of change [in food], and with Public Health and the BDA saying plant-based diets are the future, by working in public health both nutritionists and dietitians will be leading this change.”
Holly adds: “Now more than ever, we need Registered Nutrition professionals to utilise their skills within the food industry, to help create a better tomorrow.”