You can see that there are so many answers here, but only an RD should give out a meal plan. As personal trainers we are limited in our scope with regard to giving nutrition information. I’ve found over the years that many people know they need to eat healthy, but they need more help creating healthy habits–and changing their behaviors.
I have the ACE Health Coach cert and it definitely gave me tools I needed to understand behavior change and help clients make healthy, long-lasting lifestyle changes. The cert. helps you with clients to set goals, education, motivation, support and creating their program. (both with exercise and guidance in nutrition–no meal plans but you can review journals and make general recommendations). You understand what stage of change clients are in, and how to progress them to the next stage. As a coach, you educate, promote, and support clients in their efforts to eat healthy and exercise. I’ve enjoyed this cert and use it in conjunction with my personal training. It has helped me and my clients a lot.
Good luck to you– I know the nutrition piece can be a grey area. I also think a degree in psychology would be beneficial! 🙂
Hello Dianne Della Ratta,
I have the health coach cert and am working on the nutrition specialty cert. We have six months to complete the health coach cert. Yes, we need to still stay in our scope of practice; but, clients will always ask about food and it is good to know more, to keep the conversation going, which is part of the change process, right?
Natalie aka NAPS 2 B Fit.
Hi Dianne, I recently completed the ACE Weight Management Certification. It was very broad, covering topics from childhood obesity to understanding behaviors and habits, it provided a good foundation to think about how weight management can be addressed. As others have said, while it is beyond scope of practice for trainers to prescribe meal plans, I think we can inform clients on healthy behaviors as well as counsel them on FDA guidelines on healthy eating and nutrition. Several of my clients follow diets on their own, including Weight Watchers. Also, asking clients to keep a log of what they eat can help those that do it well tremendously. There are many free apps that can do this, and it will allow you to see what they are eating and guide them toward healthier alternatives.
Nutrition is a sticky subject in our industry. While the potential revenue could be attractive, we don’t really have much wiggle room in our scope of practice for nutrition consultation. I don’t think there are issues with us explaining the current available guidelines and giving examples. But creating menus and giving specific food recommendations is still out of our scope. And the only legitimate source of such services are Registered Dieticians. I help clients understand the nutritional information on food packaging. I help them with meal timing and counting calories. I give them examples of foods with specific nutrient content and on understanding the “food groups”. But I never tell clients “eat spinach” or any similar direct food choice instructions.