We live in a society with a diet industry worth billions, constantly producing new wellness trends.
But a never-ending stream of wellness fads and health-food offerings doesn’t mean we know what to make of it all. And what we see on Instagram isn’t necessarily what’s right for us. The body’s relationship to food is complex, and we’re best off getting professional advice before changing our diet to adapt to a trend or diet we’ve never heard of before.
Several professionals can help us navigate the world of nutrition. Doctors can give us medically-sound advice on what foods we should consume, and a dietician or nutritionist can help us make plans to implement those foods in our diets. A nutrition coach can motivate us to actually stick to that plan.
Let’s explore what nutrition coaching is and how these professionals help their clients achieve better health and wellness by reaching their dietary goals.
What is a nutrition coach?
Nutrition coaches act as guides to clients who want to improve their diets. Usually, these coaches don’t diagnose or prescribe plans for underlying health conditions that a doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian would tackle instead.
Nutrition coaches encourage clients to make choices that support their overall health. And while these coaches aren’t medical professionals, they do have a solid knowledge of nutrition science, physiology and behavior change, to provide informed advice and guidance. Nutrition coaches are versed in macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates), metabolism function, energy usage, and more.
What does a nutrition coach do?
Nutrition coaches focus their practice on educating others and holding them accountable to meet their goals. They help clients understand how their bodies process certain nutrients and track their progress.
A client seeking help from a nutrition coach may want to lose weight, change their body composition, or improve their mood and energy levels. They may be pursuing these changes at the recommendation of a doctor or mental health professional or simply looking to better their quality of life. To guide clients toward these goals, nutrition coaches:
- Help clients determine their caloric needs
- Encourage healthy eating habits and more frequent workouts
- Motivate clients as they undertake lifestyle changes
- Guide clients toward foods that support their goals (and that they also enjoy)
- Help clients read and understand the nutrition labels on their food to navigate the grocery store
- Educate clients on different food groups and macronutrients, so they’re empowered to make the best dietary choices possible
While nutrition coaches may be very knowledgeable, some types of advising fall outside of their scope. And sometimes, the line between what nutrition coaches can and cannot do is thin. Remember that nutrition coaches aren’t healthcare professionals, therapists, or personal trainers, so they shouldn't:
- Create meal plans
- Recommend cardio exercise
- Treat eating disorders
- Add or remove foods from a client’s diet
- Prescribe “cleanses”
- Recommend medication
- Treat medical conditions (even if related to nutrition)
- Diagnose clients’ conditions
- Recommend diets (like Keto, veganism, low-carb, etc.)
Nutrition coaches can support clients in any of these pursuits — but only if someone else has prescribed it, as their role is more one of support.
Nutrition coach vs. nutritionist: key differences
Coaches of all types motivate clients, guide them toward their goals, and help them overcome related obstacles. Nutrition coaches are no different; they just work with dietary goals. They aim to help their clients gain a better relationship with food and understand the power of nutrients.
Nutritionists, on the other hand, focus on treating specific health conditions and crafting a diet that supports an individual’s well-being. Nutritionists are healthcare professionals who can create personalized nutrition plans tailored to dietary goals for athletes, people of certain groups, or those struggling with dietary restrictions.
Nutritionists also aren’t dietitians. Registered dietitians are another category of professionals who guide clients toward their nutrition goals. They’re certified to treat clinical conditions and often have a higher level of education than nutritionists. After completing their studies, dietitians must receive accreditation to practice.
These varying levels of education contribute to how specialized a treatment you can receive.
You should also check with your local laws on requirements around what titles you’re allowed to use with different educational backgrounds.
The difference between a nutrition coach and a health coach
These two coaches work toward the same end goal: wellness. Health and nutrition coaches just have different approaches.
Nutrition coaches focus on dietary changes, while health coaches take a general approach. A health coach might support clients battling bad habits that negatively affect their bodies or who need to adapt their lifestyle to a chronic disease or food allergy diagnosis, meaning nutrition is one of many areas they provide support. Nutrition coaches work on very specific topics instead of a broad spectrum of health issues.
How to become a nutrition coach
If you think you’ve just found your calling, we couldn’t be happier for you. Doing what you love while helping others is the dream.
While nutrition coaches don’t need formal training or certification to practice, we recommend going in prepared. As we mentioned above, nutrition coaches need to know as much as they can about the effect of nutrients on the human body.
If you want to go the extra mile and become a certified coach, programs like the Certified Nutrition Coach Certification (NASM-CNC) and the Precision Nutrition Certification (PN1) offer those opportunities. You could also get a degree in the subject or pursue the kind of certification a dietician or nutritionist might for a stronger foundation. There’s no such thing as being over-prepared.
Interested in providing coaching services?
The first step to becoming a nutrition coach is deciding to become a coach, period. And we’re here to help with that.
At Practice, we’re happy to provide more information on what this career entails and how to be great at it. We also offer all the tools you need to keep your business running and help you handle messaging, invoicing, scheduling, and more. We also provide content on improving your practice and coaching templates you can use to guide clients in a session.
There’s no better day than today to pursue your passion. Get started today.