3 Reasons Health Coaches Aren't Meal Planning (and why they should be)
We’ve heard it all before: meal planning takes too long, health coaching clients don’t follow meal plans anyway, I’m not allowed to prescribe meal plans, etc., etc.
All these concerns are valid, but when meal planning is done right, it can help clients achieve their healthy living goals. It can even help them during a time of crisis, too. And contrary to popular belief, health coaches can (and should) share meal planning advice to help their clients achieve their goals. There are some exceptions to every rule, of course, so read on to find out more.
Here are 3 reasons why health coaches aren’t helping clients with meal planning—and why they should start. Read all the way to the end for a super easy solution for creating meal plans quickly, easily, and in a way that’ll help your clients as much as possible!
1. Health coaches believe they aren’t allowed to share meal plans.
This is a perfectly valid concern, and in some states and provinces, it may be true. Most people with a background in nutrition know that prescribing diet plans should be left to registered dietitians, especially in cases of medical concerns (e.g. specialized diets for treating serious health conditions).
However, health coaches can (and should) talk to their clients about nutrition, because when clients are trying to improve their health, it’s a many-fold process.
Just exercising won’t do it. Just getting better sleep won’t do it. Just meditating won’t do it. Just eating better won’t do it. It’s a full-package deal. To improve your health, all those pieces need to be in place. And yes, health coaches will need to talk about nutrition with their clients.
It’s important to know, however, what you can and can’t say, and what you can and can’t do as a wellness professional, from a legal perspective. And in addition to knowing what’s legally allowed, you should also have some training in nutrition before giving advice in this area. Furthermore, check with your certification body to see if there are any limitations involving nutrition advice within your defined scope of practice.
For most certified wellness professionals, speaking to their clients about nutrition will not only be allowed, but encouraged. But make sure that you don’t give your clients medical advice. To protect both your client and yourself, ensure to not do these common sense things: don’t diagnose medical conditions, don’t prescribe diets to treat or cure medical symptoms or illnesses, and don’t prescribe supplements to treat medical conditions.
Here’s an example: during your intake procedure, you find out your client has a seizure disorder. They've come to you because they heard about this diet that can help control seizures. This is where you would refer your client to a registered dietitian, because this is considered medical nutrition therapy, which only registered dietitians are legally allowed to do.
Here’s an example where helping clients with meal planning would be legal and helpful (again, depending on the state/province where you live, and what your certification body says): your client hates having to think about what to cook each evening for dinner, after coming home tired from work. Your client thinks if he/she had a meal plan that told her what to cook each day, and she could prep some food ahead of time, she could eat a healthier diet.
If this client does not have any health concerns, and your certification body and state or province allow it, this is a case where it would be perfectly fine to share a meal plan for your client. It’s important to note that in this case, you’re sharing a meal plan to make the client’s life easier, NOT “prescribing” a meal plan to treat a health condition. Once again, check with your state or provincial laws, as well as with your certification body.
To protect yourself, avoid the use of the words prescribe, diagnose, or treat, as these can land you in legal trouble.
If you take nothing else from this point: check with your province or state and certification body about whether it’s OK to share meal plans with clients. Don't assume.
2. It takes too long to do meal planning
This is also a valid concern. Back in pre-Internet days, it was very time consuming to look through several cookbooks looking for your next tasty meal, write down all the ingredients needed, and put everything together for a weekly meal plan worth following.
Then the Internet came along, and then blogs. Lots of bloggers and helpful people share PDFs of recipes and meal plans. Unfortunately, PDFs are pretty inflexible, and it still takes forever to dig through the sea of information available online.
But we have the Internet now, and awesome software to help along the way. Meal Garden is an excellent option that allows you to choose from several existing meal plans, create your own using the large recipe collection available, or even export your own.
Meal Garden makes it easy for you to share nutrition tips, recipes, and meal plans with your clients, saving you a tonne of time in the process. But even with all of these options, you may still feel like you'll put in the work, but the clients won't follow the plan.
3. Clients don’t follow meal plans
So you’ve tried handing clients meal plans and recipe ideas in the past, but they just end up putting it in a drawer and forgetting about it for the rest of their lives. Enter smart meal planning software.
With Meal Garden, not only can you share awesome recipes and meal plans with clients—recipes and plans tailored for exactly what they want, but you can also easily modify plans to the client’s liking (and they have their own platform, too!) Having these capabilities greatly increases client compliance, because clients can check in with their progress electronically and make modifications as needed.