This is a great question. With the right training, and short of being a “Registered Dietician,” (RD) I think a trainer can certainly make dietary suggestions and design meal plans. Saying that meal planning is, “out of my scope of practice,” is not necessarily a given for personal trainers. It all depends on your training in the area of nutrition. If you do not understand nutrition and find it confusing, then yes, it is definitely out of your scope. However, if you do understand nutrition, then it is within your scope. Lets get real here. Nutrition is not rocket science. The most ignorant animals on this planet seem to get their meal planning correct. Having said that, I do think it is unethical and reckless to advise a client to eat high protein diets, take supplements, or participate in any fad, or extreme diet, or make food recommendations when you yourself do not understand what you are saying. But that goes for anything in life. This should just be common sense.
Having said that, I want to expose a little fraud here. I have been a trainer now for 27 years. In that time immense changes have occurred in the area of fitness, exercise physiology, biomechanics, exercise machines, group exercise, etc, etc. While all of those changes have occurred, virtually nothing has changed in the area of nutrition. In other words, if you had gone to a R.D. 27 years ago, and again yesterday, you would have gotten virtually the same recommendations. Again, almost NOTHING has changed with respect to what R.D.’s are recommending. This is not because there is lack of new and good research. It is however because the dairy, pork, and meat industries have maintained a strong hold over the national Food and Nutrition Board, and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the recommendations that they make. Why? Not because they care about your health, but because they want you to continue to consume animal products, and other processed foods, and include them as part of your “healthy” diet. When in fact, the latest research shows that dairy is not only very unhealthy for humans, but it is the most carcinogenic food that one will consume in their lifetime. Milk is for cows. Simple. Additionally, meat, including chicken, fish, and eggs, provide way too much protein, cholesterol, and fats for humans. Animal products also cause heart disease and a plethora of other degenerative diseases. I would suggest reading, “The China Study,” “The Perfect Formula Diet, and visiting drmcdougal.com, and pcrm.org. Learn about plant-based nutrition. The point here isn’t to go vegan, though the research does support the idea that plants provide all of the nutrients and protein that humans need. Rather, the point is that the average R.D.’s continue to recommend diets that are not in alignment with current nutritional research.
Having said all of that, the point here is that, we trainers are certainly capable of reading and learning about proper nutrition, and giving recommendations to their clients. The ADA and R.D.’s, have failed us miserably in educating the public on what a healthy diet consists of. Instead, they have gotten in bed with the food lobbyists and the millions of funding dollars they provide. Furthermore, the ADA works vigorously to pass laws not allowing anyone other than themselves to talk about nutrition, and to convince you that “nutrition” is “out of your scope.” Nonsense! They have tried to create a monopoly on the subject and control their “turf.” We should be free to discuss nutrition with our clients, and I believe it is well within our scope with proper education. This is a simple subject, and the most meek among us can figure it out. Give yourselves a little more credit, and educate yourselves. To say otherwise, is giving the ADA, as well as food manufacturers, more power over our food choices.