Interview on Plant-Forward Nutrition with Dr Michelle de la Vega: Past, Present, and Future 

Plant-forward diets are increasingly becoming a popular choice worldwide, with close to 70% of the global population reducing meat consumption or leaving meat off the table.

But what does being plant-forward mean for your health, your clients, and the planet? And how are we changing the game for the better?

Catch Dr Michelle de la Vega, PhD, Research Scientist, and Vice President of Science Education at The Health Sciences Academy in an exclusive interview with Maurice Castelijn, CEO at The Health Sciences Academy:

 In this candid conversation, Dr Michelle shares her personal journey of going vegetarian and then vegan, the challenges she faced, the difference between plant-forward and plant-based, the 10 plant-focused transition levels, and all about the new Advanced Plant-Forward Nutrition Specialist ™ certification. Plus some amazing practical tips that you can apply instantly – along with lots of real-life examples!

Read as you listen or read on the go: Here’s the full interview for you

Maurice Castelijn MBA
Dr Michelle de la Vega PhD

Maurice Castelijn

This month’s theme is Plant-Forward! And what does that mean? I have got one of our wonderful experts on the team with me here today to talk about plant-forward eating and most specifically, what exactly that means. There are a couple of questions that I want to go over that are typically asked by students and alumni alike. Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Dr Michelle de la Vega. Welcome, Michelle!

Michelle de la Vega

Hi, thanks for inviting me!

Maurice Castelijn

Yes! So there are a couple of things that are interesting about plant-forward, but you are a vegan yourself. Right? So, ultimately I think it’s interesting to hear from you, where I guess when you’re doing that… how long have you been vegan?

Michelle de la Vega 

I’ve been vegan for about 12 years, but I was vegetarian before that. So I’ve been plant-based, plant-forward for over 20 years. 

Maurice Castelijn

Over 20 years. There we go! And obviously, you’ve tried things on your own and then a little bit later on in your professional life, you decided that we need to have a bit more of a framework around it. Which is what we’re going to be talking about today. Now, wonderful to have you here. The first question that is really on my mind is your plant-forward journey as an individual. Like you specifically Dr Michelle de la Vega, you have gone through this, right? And the kinds of challenges you faced, maybe you can walk a little bit through your own journey of going plant-based and precisely what that has meant for you. And most specifically, the challenges that were involved in that process.

Michelle de la Vega

Of course! So basically, as I mentioned, I started over 20 years ago now. So I initially went vegan in two stages. The first was 20 years ago, and I basically went from being a meat eater to one day I decided I wasn’t going to eat meat anymore. Completely cut it out of my diet, thought it was a great idea. The first challenge I faced wasn’t nutritional-wise, it was actually my family telling me “Oh, it’s just a phase, it’s just a phase, it’s just a phase. You don’t understand. You’ll grow out of it.” But a couple of months later, I started actually. So what I did is I cut out meat from my diet, and I basically replaced it with cheese pizza. I replaced it with junk food. And at that point, there weren’t many of these plant-based alternatives. So it was literally just Oreo cookies or chips, pasta, that kinda thing. Yeah, it wasn’t a good transition. Well, a couple of months later… I was big into my fitness I was big into running at that point. I noticed that I couldn’t do my training. I noticed that when I would go out for a run, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do what I was doing a couple of months before. I would get lightheaded during the day when I was in college. And I noticed that if I had a spoonful of peanut butter it made my lightheadedness go away so I always had peanut butter with me. Obviously, there were some issues going on. I wasn’t getting the right nutrients because I had no idea what I was doing. I learned how to cook a little bit and started studying a little bit about nutrition but honestly not that much. A few years later, well maybe about eight years later, I decided again overnight to go vegan. And I did something similar I cut out my dairy, I cut out my eggs, I cut out honey and I went pretty strict vegan. And I went basically on a pasta diet, I would say. There were more alternatives at that point but still not a whole lot. And again after a couple of months, I started to not feel great. That’s when I really started investigating nutrition in more detail. And it’s actually when I first came across The Health Sciences Academy because they had a little bit of information about vegan nutrition deficiencies and whatnot around that time. So I started investigating a little bit more, and then I learned what I needed in my body, what nutrients are needed, what nutrients I could be lacking, and basically what foods are those or what supplement I had to take.

Maurice Castelijn 

Wow! So this was in the early days right of THSA. So this was around sort of 2012 kind of period. Incredible! And now I also wanted to touch briefly in terms of the challenges that you faced. Because you said you went vegan, kind of overnight almost. The second time you did it, what did you learn from that?

Michelle de la Vega

I learned more about what my body needed. So again, I was training pretty hard and it was just sports and fitness. And I knew that I had to have the right nutrients, the right energy or else I wasn’t going to make it through my training sessions. So I had to really pay attention to what I was eating and not just eating a diet that was like 80% carbohydrates, which is what I was initially doing. So I had to learn about where do I get my proteins from. That’s one of the typical questions that are always asked. Where do you get your protein from when you go on a vegan diet? And plants too have protein, but it might be different levels, different amino acids, so I had to buy things like that, about what different types of amino acids. I was looking for what different foods have the different types of amino acids. I had to learn about different nutrients that my body might be lacking like B12. I wasn’t sleeping as well as I should have potentially because I was stressed out because of the changes. Or maybe it was because I had nutrient deficiencies such as being with B12, which is important for sleep as well. So I had to learn things like that in order to help me be the healthiest I could be. And mind you, I’m still not on a perfectly healthy ideal vegan diet but I’m closer and I don’t think I’m low in most of my nutrients.

Maurice Castelijn

I can only imagine! If I think about it, you’re a very intelligent person and you’ve studied so many different components around biochemistry and cancer and you’ve got so much knowledge. And even you were struggling with that transition. Especially kind of going cold turkey, so to say, straight over into a vegan approach. That many people out there – I’m talking really about prospective clients for students and alumni – who also have these ideas and will be struggling with very similar challenges. So there are lots of you know, it’s now January and there are lots of different Plant-Forward movements at the moment, right? You’ve got Veganuary. You’ve got Meatless Monday you’ve got all sorts of different health-related movements – related to plant-based, plant-forward eating. Now, in your experience, you must have tried several. So, how sustainable are these?

Michelle de la Vega 

I honestly don’t think that most of them are. Meatless Monday might work a little bit better but unfortunately, Veganuary, which is what it’s based on, started a few years ago now. But January is the start of a new year, a start of new beginnings. So it’s a campaign for individuals usually those that eat meat, but it could be vegetarians as well to go vegan for 30 days for the month of January. Unfortunately, many of the people that try it at the end of the month, don’t stick with it. A lot of them don’t even make the month, they might last a couple of weeks. It’s like a lot of new year’s resolutions. You start off with good intentions. But if you don’t know how to do it properly, it’s not going to be sustainable, unfortunately.

Maurice Castelijn

Well, that brings me to the next question because if you’re thinking about plant-forward dieting… Are all plant-forward diets healthy in your experience? Because you would have try so many different things. And of course, investigated in your later years, for you know, half The Health Sciences Academy and with all of the research scientists and so on that you’ve looked into… You know, there’s this belief that plant-forward diets are healthy. So what is your perspective on this?

Michelle de la Vega

So I have it for both angles. I have personal experience… which I can tell you 100%, from my experience, when I went plant-forward and when I went plant-based it was not healthy. Hence why I ended up getting symptoms and lethargy and whatnot. I also know from a scientist’s viewpoint, that according to the literature, a lot of the plant-based, plant-forward diets are not. It’s one of the reasons why people go plant-forward, it’s for their health, but a lot of people don’t do it correctly. So for example, there are studies that have come out a few years ago that actually have investigated different levels of a plant-based diet. So, a healthy plant-based diet and an unhealthy plant-based diet, and actually show big differences in our health outcomes such as longevity and cancer risk. And those are factors based on a healthy plant-based diet and an unhealthy plant-based diet. So an unhealthy plant-based diet might be something that’s full of pizza, cheese pieces, or alternative burgers or Oreo cookies and such. Things that you generally think of as typical junk food that’s veganised, whereas a healthy diet is more plant-focused and is very much around the whole food being plant-based.

Maurice Castelijn 

So you mentioned plant-forward and plant-based a number of times in your past sentences. I’ve been listening very carefully and you keep saying plant-forward and plant-based but what’s the difference between plant-forward and plant-based?

Michelle de la Vega

So plant-based is a dietary approach that is focused on consuming mostly plant, without consuming animal products. So an individual on a plant-based diet would be considered vegetarian or vegan. So, they’re not going to be consuming animal foods. They might be consuming eggs and dairy but not the meat of animal. A plant-forward dietary approach is one where it is again focused on consuming more plants but might not completely get rid of eating all animal products. So someone that has a diet that is say 80% based on plants, but might have chicken a couple times a week or might have fish twice a week would be a plant-forward diet. So it’s composed of more plants than a typical like Western diet. But may also have some animal products in there as well. Some animal meats in there too.

Maurice Castelijn 

Excellent, very good clarity in terms of those two. Now, what exactly does that mean in terms of the certification that you’ve been working on? Over the past two years, I believe if not longer. That is all about plant-forward nutrition. So how is this Plant-Forward Nutrition training different from others you’ve investigated?

Michelle de la Vega 

There are a couple of different ways. One is that we have what we call our 10-Level Client Nutrition Framework ™ or 10-Level Plant-Forward Client Nutrition Framework ™ which talks about 10 different levels of being plant-forward. So for example, a client might want to limit it or decrease the amount of red meat and chicken in their diet but you know what, they still want to have fish and get omega 3 fatty acids through fish. They like consuming fish or they might want to have poultry one or two days a week. Then we can help that client with this framework to help them go through those first levels, in order to reduce consumption of processed meat, reduce consumption of red meat, reduce consumption of poultry, and maybe have a little less fish as well. But at the same time and importantly, consuming more plant whole food, plant foods in their diet. So it’s a transitional way. It also can help an individual that wants to go completely vegan and remove eggs, dairy, and all animal foods from their diet. So it really depends on what the client wants and their goals, their personal goals.

Michelle de la Vega

I see! So how is this connected to these other disciplines you mentioned like weight loss, gut health, etc? Can imagine sleep, stress. So what are these connections?

In addition to that framework, it also just doesn’t go through that framework, because as I mentioned too one of the personal challenges I had when I was going through it was people didn’t accept that I was going plant-based. They didn’t accept that I was going vegetarian. “No, it’s just a fear.” I heard that a lot. “It’s just a phase! It’s just a phase!” It wasn’t a phase for me. This is twenty years later and I’m still living this lifestyle. So the (Advanced Plant-Forward Nutrition Specialist ™) certification incorporates these other areas such as how to communicate with others. Oh, Christmas dinners are coming up, Hanukkah, New Year… All these different celebrations, birthdays… How do you get around that? How do you communicate with others that are going out for dinner at a restaurant or want to have a big gathering? Everybody else eats things that you’re no longer eating? Or how to cook in the kitchen? I also had to learn how to cook, how to organise things, how to go shopping on a shopping trip and things like that. Whether a plant-based diet is suitable for everyone, how it can help with weight loss or how it can help with gut issues. But at the same time if done wrongly can increase those issues initially. So it factors into all those bits and pieces as well.

Maurice Castelijn

I see! So how is this connected to these other disciplines you mentioned like weight loss, gut health, etc? Can imagine sleep and stress. So what are these connections?

Michelle de la Vega

Okay, so for example, let’s talk about gut health. So when an individual initially goes or their client is going to go vegan, they’re going to increase their fibre intake because they’re going to be eating a lot more plants. Well, unfortunately, when an individual increases their fibre, especially if they do it quickly… like overnight or over a couple of days, then it can lead to gastrointestinal distress. Which is not something an individual wants to go through. So how do you help an individual get over that, to overcome those symptoms to reduce the risk of those symptoms even happening in the first place? It’s about that slow transition of increasing fibre, for example. On the other hand, individuals with gastrointestinal conditions are ready, a plant-based diet may be able to help reduce those symptoms. So it’s related in both ways.

Maurice Castelijn

I understand! Yeah, I understand. So it is really interconnected. Like most of these health disciplines that we have within The Health Sciences Academy, this kind of Plant-Forward Nutrition is bringing it more focus, right? More focused on the journey. Now you mentioned those 10 Levels, and of course, I’ve seen them you know, but for those that haven’t… Give us briefly, you know, you mentioned you cut out certain parts. Could you also see it as a framework that a professional could use with a client? So for example, you could say to a professional, sorry, professional could say to a client… “Where are you currently? Let’s try and understand exactly what your current state is. Where do you want to go next? Maybe you don’t want to go for like Level 10. But you may want to go for like a Level 6 or 7 or something as you were describing, and how do you get there?” So it’s also a framework of communication, and helping that client with transformation is how I understand it. Right?

Michelle de la Vega

Exactly. So that’s exactly what the framework is about. It’s first understanding where a client is at, and where they want to go – like you mentioned. And initially the ‘why’ as well. So ‘why’ of why they want to go to the level they want to go to is super important to understand. Because it’s going to help an advisor or a specialist in this area know how to communicate best with their client. So for example, an individual who wants to go to level five and remove eggs, might be wanting to do so for health reasons. Whereas another individual that wants to go to Level 9, might be doing it for animal welfare or environmental reasons. So, the reasons are gonna help a professional communicate and understand their client better. So, what those levels are briefly is the first one is phasing out processed meat. The 2nd Level is going to be about phasing out animals. Then we go into the 3rd Level, which is about phasing out two legged animals. The 4th Level is about seafood – so fish and shellfish, the 5th Level is about eggs, the 6th Level is about dairy, and then we have hidden ingredients is going to be in Level 7 things – things that we don’t typically think of. The 8th Level focuses on supplements. While that’s generally talking about supplements or ingredients in supplements that we may be taking… it also talks about a couple of supplements that might be needed to be added to the diet. 9th Level is about product of labour such as bees and migratory beekeeping. And then Level 10 is creating a process or creating a program for lasting change. So, like we mentioned before about Veganuary or meatless Mondays… this is about more than just a 31-day change – it’s to have this be a lifestyle of increasing plants in the diet.

Maurice Castelijn

Brilliant! I love it! I love the way you explained that as well. Now, in your words, why is plant-based nutrition knowledge a must-have for Nutritionists of the Future?

Michelle de la Vega

One for the health aspects – it’s one of the biggest reasons why people are interested in this space right now. We know and we’ve always been told that plants are healthy for us, that we need to consume plants. But what type of plants? Is it a variety or is it okay to have broccoli every single day? Like I’m having my two servings of broccoli every day and that’s fine. It’s about variety. It’s about understanding the different nutrients that are in the different foods, it’s about making it interesting, and not just having the same thing every day so we don’t get bored with it. And it is integrated with all these different systems as well. As we mentioned before about weight loss, we’ve got gut health, about stress levels, about our sleep… It’s interactive with all these different areas including things like disease risk and cancer risk as well.

Maurice Castelijn 

Now, if we’re thinking about opportunities… Because obviously people might be thinking “Okay, so why should I care?” Right. So here’s a couple of interesting things that you you shared with me… I’ve written them down. So you mentioned that the plant-based food market alone has been predicted to hit over 162 billion in the next decades. You also mentioned that over 70%, as a very surprising fact, 70% of the global population has either started reducing meat consumption or is actually stopping meat consumption altogether. You mentioned that a plant forward diet might be 4x times more impactful than recycling for the planetary health and eight times more beneficial to the environment, than using things like LED light bulbs and so on. So if you’re thinking about making an impact to the planet, there’s huge impact that collectively we can make by being more plant-forward. You also mentioned that over 21% of children in the UK alone between the ages of 5 and 16 follow a plant-based diet. So, teenagers are interested and adopting plant-based diets! So, it feels like there has always been a movement but it feels like it’s getting a lot more traction now. Now, why exactly is that you think?

Michelle de la Vega 

I think it’s because a couple of different reasons. I think one is people are more concerned about their health now. We know that with the obesity epidemic, it’s getting more and more people are increasing and that’s more of a risk of people looking for different ways different angles to increase their health, lower disease risk, lower obesity risk… Or help themselves decrease their fat content. As well as we’re a lot more thinking about our planetary health. So how does it affect our planet? We’ve been talking for the past few years about global warming and how we’re at a tipping point now. So a plant based diet may be able to decrease the effect of this and slow it down a little bit. It’s not going to prevent because it’s already started but a plant-forward diet can help slow that down. As you mentioned as well some of those statistics that for example, a plant-forward diet is more impactful than recycling or changing lightbulb… and it’s also been related to things like flying and whatnot to car usage.

Maurice Castelijn 

That’s really incredible! And I think collectively, you know, there’s a huge opportunity because more and more people… if you’re looking at either vegetarian or vegan-related produce, you see a lot more appearing in the supermarkets, online. Very novel products with very different types of ingredients, focusing on that whole kind of nutrition aspects and talking about addressing things like nutrient deficiencies, and any kind of other risks that you may run. So, there’s a lot of new information that’s coming out, be it through products, be it online. But there’s also a lot of misinformation that’s getting out there, right? Could you share maybe one or two snippets of misinformation? Like things that you keep coming across that are worth noting? And those are things that clients of professionals will most likely be reading and hearing about and perhaps even adopting?

Michelle de la Vega 

Yeah, one of the big ones is gonna be protein, I think. Especially for those that are interested in personal fitness and being athletes. So where do they get their protein from? Because the myth is that you can only really get protein from animal products… which is no longer necessarily true. So all of our plants, everything that we eat, everything that’s alive, has protein. The amino acids may differ between them. So for example, the meat from a cow has a different amino acid composition than a piece of broccoli or a kiwi fruit or an orange. So it’s looking at the specifics of the protein and the amino acid contents and not just a big overall picture. So it is possible to build muscle, to bulk, even on a plant-based diet and there’s a number of famous athletes that have done so. A number of bodybuilders, a number of endurance athletes that are rising and doing really well health wise and performance wise on a plant-based, plant-forward diet.

Maurice Castelijn

Okay… well so that’s one aspect. That’s the protein side of things. That’s definitely something I hear a lot about as well. And where even if I put something on LinkedIn recently, I can’t remember what it was… And you have some conversations around “Oh, yes. But plant-based is not at the right direction. And you know, we shouldn’t be forced to eat plants” And I just wanted to reinforce here that The Health Sciences Academy is diet agnostic. And yes, we are plant-forward, there’s a lot of benefit in adding more or reducing certain types of animals you know, as you said, like four-legged, two-legged animals, fish, etc, from your diets. Whether or not that’s relevant for a person… that is where a professional has to come into play. That is where a Nutritionist or a Dietitian, a Personal Trainer, or even a Medical Doctor, a GP (General Physician) or anybody else that operates with food… like a Chef and so on, will need to know about but often lack the knowledge. So you’ve created this Certification together with loads and loads and loads of inputs from the entire team, but you know, you were driving the production of this new certification. Who will benefit the most from this particular training?

Michelle de la Vega

Honestly, I think everyone can really benefit from this training. Including nutrition professionals already and not because only it’s because it’s taking an individual through this framework that’s going through, to be completely vegan, but as I mentioned, can go through the different levels… But it’s helping an individual integrate more plant foods into their diet, and how to put more plant foods into a nutrition program in general. Personal Trainers can also as I mentioned, either for endurance or for bodybuilding, weight gain, for muscle gain, rather, so it can help improve in performance. People that are interested in planetary health and the environment. So it can help with those angles as well to reduce that environmental impact from our food. Individuals who are Chefs or may work in the health food industry, for example, to help with meal planning, and developing recipes, and individuals that might be interested as well… that want to go plant-based for their own interests.

Maurice Castelijn

Good! And you’ve got even a corporate wellness space, right? So there’s a lot more talk about more plant-based options for a healthier workforce…

Michelle de la Vega

Yes, at conferences and whatnot, they’re adding a lot more different plant options on the diet rather than just having meat options there and healthier options which is important.

Maurice Castelijn

Yeah! I think also that stopping the spread of misinformation by having the right information – that’s evidence based, and that has been the result of years and years of inputs and research and practice focused, claim materials and so on. They’re part of it. So you’ve got influencers, bloggers, you know, anybody who’s putting information about plant-based eating or as you said, more like plant-forward approaches out there…. that often look at it only from one angle. Either, “it’s a bad thing to do. So, no, definitely not and nobody should be forced to do so.” Or “It is the only thing to do and everybody who is not kind of jumping on the bandwagon is not part of society. You’re not joining and supporting each other including the planet and so on.” So, there’s a bit of that pressure, from either sides, and I think what I’ve seen from what has been produced is that the emphasis is to make it a little bit more objective, I would say. And to have a component of teaching, but really seeing when applying it with clients in practice, that it differs, that it has to be client led, as opposed to led by the profession. Because the professional may have a certain preference, based on their own experience, or a certain type of diet or approach that they subscribe to. This, I feel gives you a way to communicate a lot more broadly a lot better. That’s my take on it. So from your perspective, why is this special? Why is this different from everything else that you find out there?

Michelle de la Vega

I think one of the big reasons is because of the Framework that we have… because of that 10 Level Plant-Forward Client Nutrition Framework ™. It’s because it really does work with a client in order to help them reach their personal goals. So it personalises the program for them. Not like “Okay, I’m vegan. You need to go vegan, Maurice. Because I’m vegan, so you as my client, if you don’t go vegan, then you’re just gonna end up having poor health and whatnot.” Or the other angle being “Oh, I’m an omnivore. I eat meat so you know it’s fine. You’re fine with eating meat. You don’t need to add more plants into your diet.” So, like you mentioned, it’s not just taking my preferences or the professionals preferences. It’s really focusing it on personalising it for the client.

Maurice Castelijn

Yeah! That’s what I personally love about it! Where it gives you that framework for communication and transformation rather than something that there’s only one way to get to sort of adopt something. To become either vegan vegetarian or anything else that sits in between… to have a very structured step-by-step framework, that also I would say de-risks the approach along the way. Because you mentioned at the beginning, the various challenges that somebody may face when they adopt a different type of diet. And by having the right tools and the right approach and the right client materials and so on, available to you… that clients in theory, I don’t know how it is in practice, I have not gone through it myself yet… but in theory should have a more enjoyable experience that is also more lasting with their transformation. So what is what is your practical experience with that’s approach, Michelle?

Michelle de la Vega

I agree! I think that focusing on the nutritional deficiencies and making sure our client can be healthy through the process is just one aspect of it. In order to enjoy it, that’s going to be just as important for them in order to like their cooking… maybe they don’t like to cook, maybe they want to find different ways, different products to order out so they don’t have to cook all the time or maybe they do want to experiment in the kitchen. So again, that personalisation comes in, but it has to be something they enjoy. If you’re forcing the client to do something they don’t want to do, it’s not going to be sustainable. They’re not going to enjoy doing it. It’s not gonna last. It’s not going to make those health changes to meet their goals that they want to meet. So it has to be something that is based on both their goals and what they want to do and how to motivate them and help them reach their goals for whatever reasons that they want to go into it. But also have to be based on a process that’s kind of going to work and actually help them to get to that through different methods and the frameworks to go through it.

Maurice Castelijn

Excellent! Nicely said! Very good. So, just before we wrap up, could you maybe share a couple of your top tips for going plant-forward? Because, as part of the training, there’s so much but, for people who have been considering this either for themselves or how to better implement it with clients… Do you have sort of maybe a couple of things you can share on that?

Michelle de la Vega

So, one is gonna be: Be terribly careful with nutritional deficiencies and other health challenges. For example, gastrointestinal disturbances that we’ve talked about. There’s something called ‘Vegan insomnia’ which might occur for individuals when they first go vegan and brain drain, lack of energy, either overeating or under eating might happen. Stressed related to “Oh my God, what am I going to do now in the supermarket? I’ve to walk in and read all these food labels. What am I going to do?” And to really personalise that and get the information for the client. Another one is to go to basically the right information. So I’ve gone through a lot of information on the internet. I’ve talked to a lot of people, both, that eat meat and a lot of people that are hardcore vegan. And the information that is given out by the general population is questionable a lot of the time (to say it nicely). So you really have to make sure that they’re getting quality information and quality knowledge. So that they can have this lifestyle, this dietary approach be something that’s healthy for them and sustainable. To understand why a client is going for this… so for example, one of the top reasons I mentioned is about health reasons. But there’s also ethical reasons and animal welfare reasons and environmental reasons, religious reasons as well, which is often not considered. So if an individual has religious reasons, that really needs to be taken into consideration while they’re transitioning to a more plant-forward diet. And there’s gonna be periods of stress, of difficulty, of hardship and communication. So really helping a client understand how to communicate, how to make it so that it’s less stressful for them during this transitional period. For example, going out for dinner with friends or going out for a restaurant, “You know what I know that we have a reservation, I’m going to call the restaurant and see if they can make something for me” instead of showing up and being “Oh my God, there’s nothing that I can eat. All they’re gonna give me is from lettuce and tomato on a plate. And I don’t want to have that for dinner while everybody else is having a great fantastic meal.” So it’s about that preparation and planning, and knowing how to pre-prepare for them and not be completely stressed out last minute.

Maurice Castelijn

Yeah! And especially around the planning, there are lots of guides and practice materials and so on inside the training as well. Right?

Michelle de la Vega

Correct. Yeah. So for example, we have things like ‘How do you prepare for a family dinner whether it’s at a relative’s house?’ Or ‘How do you prepare for going out for a restaurant or going to a work conference?’ So, different situations that an individual may encounter when they’re becoming more plant-based.

Maurice Castelijn

I agree. I think this is wonderful! Because especially that’s stressful time, being around others that may not necessarily either see your preferred approach (in terms from a client’s perspective). Or they may have very different perspective maybe reservations or be it on whatever grounds can be total personal experience, it can be because they think it’s a fad… Maybe they’re concerned about your health… it can be anything. So by coming prepared, and by having a clear communication framework, to help convey what kind of foods or what kind of ingredients and so on would work, I think is wonderful! Because that’s often highly stressful parts. And that’s when people give up, don’t they?

Michelle de la Vega

Correct and knowing when to have those conversations. So for example, if you’re in the middle of a dinner party and someone starts pushing back “Oh you need to have meat, you need to have protein, you need to have this or that” and to be like “You know what? That’s a great question! Why don’t we talk about that after dinner?” Let’s call someone and say “Hey, how’s it going with you?” Change the conversation a little bit and make it more positive about it… Rather than having that conversation in the middle of dinner table, so it’s about knowing when to have those conversations as well. You can’t win all the battles.

Maurice Castelijn

Exactly, exactly! And to deal with all of that pushback, whilst you know that client or you personally are going through that transformation. I think that’s great! Very good. So in summary, I’ve made a couple of notes while you’re sharing some top tips. So you said making certain to be careful of these nutrient deficiencies or any kind of other health-related challenges. Then you mentioned ‘Vegan insomnia’, like getting the right information. So that’s especially working with a professional, you then have a personalised approach. You also mentioned making certain to trust, knowing which resources and what kind of information to trust… because there is a lot of misinformation out there. And actually, there’s even more misinformation on this topic. You mentioned about knowing why a client or you personally are doing this for health ethical reasons etc. And, you know, understanding and using the different levels as part of communication. You mentioned to try and enjoy the process, but at the same time, learn how to deal with potential pushback or challenges that you may face… including when you plan for it better by calling a restaurant beforehand, telling about your preferences or maybe, you know, sitting with people around the table and so on. It makes it a lot smoother and it allows you to bed it in better that transformation. So, okay… I think that’s great! I think that’s all the time that we have for this. So just wanted to say a huge thank you very much Dr. Michel de la Vega. I look forward to learning more about this, especially in the month of January… which is all about Plant-Forward with The Health Sciences Academy. And we’ll speak to each other again real soon. So thank you everybody, for listening. And thank you, Michelle, for answering all these questions. Thank you!

Want to learn more?

Join the CPD-certified webinar on Plant-Forward Nutrition Strategies to Support Your Clients with our CEO, Maurice Castelijn, and Chief Science Educator and UCL Doctoral Researcher, Alex Ruani — LIVE on Friday, 13 January at 3:00 PM UK time. 

We will equip you with vital know-how underpinning plant-forward nutrition client practice, alongside insights about adequately building personalised plant-focused dietary plans that clients love and can keep up with.

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[CPD Certified Webinar] Plant-Forward Nutrition Strategies to Support Your Clients

Plant-based eating appeal is on the rise, with personal and planetary health being the key motivators. More of us just seem to want a healthier planet whilst feeling healthier ourselves.

But what is plant-based eating – and what is it not? Does it allow for some animal foods… or is it about going entirely vegan?

In this webinar, we put an end to this debate by revealing our groundbreaking 10-level framework for transitioning from plant-rich, to plant-based, to possibly plant-exclusive, in a way that respects each of your client’s needs and self-determined goals. We will also show you impactful strategies to support your clients’ interest in eating more plant foods and how facilitate plant-forward eating behaviour change, the right way.

We’ll also answer the question: Are all plant-food diets healthy?

Although research has related plant-based diets with health advantages and overall disease risk mitigation, going exclusively plant-based (especially when done wrong) carries dangerous risks – from gastrointestinal disturbances to 'vegan insomnia', tiredness and brain drain, to overeating or undereating, panic about shopping/food preparation, harmful dietary insufficiencies, … and the list goes on.

So, what’s the right way of helping a client mitigate these problems? How might you support a smoother plant-eating transition without fears and unwanted complications?

Completing this CPD-certified training will equip you with vital know-how underpinning plant-forward nutrition client practice, alongside insights about adequately building personalised plant-focused dietary plans that clients love and can keep up with.

Here’s an overview of what you’ll discover in this special CPD certified webinar:

  • From planetary health to human health: learning about the World Health Organization’s ‘One Health’ model
  • What is plant-based eating, what is it not, and how to put an end to this debate with a ‘plant-forward mindset’
  • Importance of transitioning from plant-rich, to plant-based, to possibly plant-exclusive in a way that respects your clients’ needs and self-determined intentions
  • Plant-based gone wrong: uncovering the dangerous physical and mental health risks of going exclusively plant-based – and how to prevent them
  • Advantages of becoming an Advanced Plant-Forward Nutrition Specialist™ and integrating plant-eating behavioural-change strategies into your work with our NEW Level 5 Certification

How to proficiently support your clients’ plant-forward dietary enhancements by applying the groundbreaking 10-level nutrition client framework (which is proprietary to The Health Sciences Academy and validated by world-leading researcher Dr David Katz and the True Health Initiative – to be revealed for the first time in this exclusive webinar)

Remember you have the option of claiming your smart CPD certificate when you complete this webinar!

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