Program Director - Michael Paalani, DrPH, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHES, EP-C

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MS Plant-based Nutrition

The first online Master of Science (M.S.) degree program in plant-based nutrition in the school of public health at Loma Linda University. This is a competency-based program developed in direct response to the increasing demand (registered dietitians and other health care professionals) for a graduate curriculum focused on plant-based nutrition. Over the past few years, there has been a steady increase in the number of people turning to plant-based diets or plant-based food choices for a variety of reasons which makes it critical to train registered dietitians and other health care professionals seeking to promote plant-based diets for the prevention of chronic diseases, health, and longevity. 

If you are looking to complete your RDN, check out our Master of Public Health in Nutrition program.

This one-of-a-kind program in the United States aligns with the core legacy of vegetarian nutrition at LLU. It can also serve as a stepping stone for the PhD in Nutrition, focused on plant-based nutrition research at the LLUSPH or any other PhD Nutrition program. It is aimed to provide evidence-based didactic and research training to registered dietitians and other health care professionals on plant-based nutrition for the health of the individual, population, and the planet. 

This program is completely online (combines synchronous and asynchronous classes) with didactic training in nutritional science with a focus on the role of plant-based diet patterns, plant foods, and nutrients with respect to promoting health, preventing disease, and sustaining the planet, along with the evidenced-based approach to applying the principles of plant-based eating for the health of the individual and population. The program culminates in a research project with a publishable manuscript or a written report.

The program provides background experience for those interested in research careers in academic or industry settings, provides advanced training in plant-based nutrition for physicians and other health professionals who want to apply this in their practice, is a stepping stone to pursue a PhD, trains health educators who want to promote health and prevent lifestyle diseases, and prepare those that want to work in programs on environmental sustainability.

This is not a coordinated program. It is for dietitians that are seeking a graduate nutrition degree focused on plant-based nutrition. The School of Public Health offers a coordinated Master’s program in public health nutrition. For more information about this program please visit the MPH in Nutrition program page.

A legacy of vegetarian nutrition of 50 + years at LLU

Pioneers and leaders in vegetarian nutrition research at LLUH. Our researchers have contributed to growing the science in this field from the early days of establishing the adequacy of vegetarian diets to on-going research on the role of plant-based diets, plant foods, and plant nutrients for health promotion and disease prevention, to more recently growing the research in the area of sustainability and planetary health.

Currently, the faculty in the nutrition program at LLUSPH are recognized as leaders in scientific inquiry and research related to vegetarian and plant-based nutrition.

From the Program Director

This MS program is designed to provide students with advanced training in nutritional science with an emphasis on plant-based nutrition, through both course work and non-course activities.  The program offers a variety of courses in nutritional science with an emphasis on the role of plant-based dietary practices in human health and the environment.  The program prepares students for careers in the field of nutrition, promoting plant-based nutrition for health in health care facilities, wellness industry, food service, educational institutions, for a leadership role in academia, government, or food industry, and careers involving evidence-based communication of plant-based nutritional science for the health and well-being of the individual, population and the planet.

The M.S. degree requires a minimum of 48 units and includes research, culminating in either a publishable manuscript or a written report. This is considered a non-thesis MS program. A written comprehensive examination is required.

The Online MS in Plant-based Nutrition

Program details

Individuals who may benefit from the program

Individuals who hold a baccalaureate degree in science, or registered dietitians, physicians and other health professionals who desire to apply evidenced base for plant-based diets in their practice, those who want to pursue a PhD in nutrition, working professionals that need a graduate degree in nutrition that is online, health educators who want to communicate the health benefits of plant-based eating for health promotion, students motivated to promote sustainable diets, and those interested in lifestyle nutrition.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the program, the graduate should be able to:

  • Demonstrate grasp of the science of nutrients essential to analyze the role of plant foods in supporting and optimizing human health and longevity
  • Employ research skills to interpret data on nutrition and apply it to health promotion and intake requirements across the life cycle
  • Develop evidence-based food guidance for plant-centered eating for optimizing health and preventing disease
  • Evaluate the impact of plant-based diets on planetary health, ecology and the environment
  • Communicate nutrition concepts effectively to individuals and populations

Educational Effectiveness Indicators

  • Comprehensive examination
  • Research paper or Final written report
  • Oral presentation of research paper or final written report

Admissions Requirements

  • BS in biology, nutrition, or equivalent field, or health professional degree (MD, DDS, etc.) from a regionally accredited institution
  • If undergraduate degree is not science based, then besides the listed pre-requisites additional pre-requisite courses may apply
  • Three reference letters
  • GPA of 3.2 or higher


  • Organic Chemistry
  • Human Physiology
  • Human Nutrition or equivalent


  • NUTR 506 - Nutritional Metabolism or nutritional biochemistry or equivalent

Culminating experience (Non-thesis)

The MS Nutrition program requires that students complete a culminating research activity (NUTR 694- Research) carried out under the supervision of the program faculty. The deliverable will be either a publishable peer-reviewed manuscript, or a written project report. Students will also present their work in an oral presentation to their program faculty.

Meet your program director

Michael Paalani, DrPH, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHES, EP-C

Program Director

Michael Paalani, DrPH, MS, RDN plant-based Nutrition program director