You probably already use this skill in everyday life, and if you don’t, you have been planning on starting to do it.
But when it comes to helping your clients, are you legally able, willing, and set up to share meal plans? As a wellness professional, it’s important to know the different legal and practical issues surrounding how you work with your clients.
Most people who hire health coaches do so because they want to make overall changes to achieve a healthier lifestyle. A health coach is someone who guides clients in setting healthy lifestyle goals, and guides them in achieving them. And if a client is making changes to their health, then nutrition and exercise, along with many other factors, will play a large part in the change-making process.
As a health coach, you will need, at some point or another, to discuss nutrition with clients. But there are things you are allowed to do and things you are not allowed to do when it comes to nutrition. These things will depend in large part on the state or province in which you live, so it’s always wise to do some research prior to engaging in nutrition talks with clients. You will also need to check with your certifying body to understand what its stance is on your scope of practice when it comes to nutrition.
For the most part, health coaches who wish to discuss nutrition with their clients should make sure that they have some training in nutrition, and that they respect the laws of the state or province in which they live, and stay within the scope of practice of their certifying body.
Here are some generic dos and don’ts of discussing nutrition with clients if you are not a registered dietitian.
Speak to your clients about what changes, if any, they wish to make with their nutrition.
Complete a thorough intake form to discover any health conditions. If health conditions are present that can be affected by diet (and there are many of these), refer to a registered dietitian.
Talk to clients about the power of meal planning for saving time and money, and discuss recognized sources for information for meal planning, including meal plans approved by registered dietitians.
Claim to own a title you do not have (e.g. if you’re not a nutritionist or dietitian, don’t claim to be one).
Don’t assess or treat medical conditions.
Don’t use the terms assess, treat, or medical nutrition therapy when discussing nutrition with clients.
Don’t claim to be able to cure or treat any diseases or conditions.
In other words: do your research, use common sense, and ask questions when you’re not sure. If you do decide to share generic meal plan advice with your clients, search out meal planning software that includes meal plans approved by registered dietitians.
This ensures that you are sharing scientifically-backed information and that your clients will receive the advice they need. But the most important thing to remember is: be humble enough to refer out when your client requires advice outside of your expertise.