As nutrition professionals, there are a variety of strategies we can employ to help create positive change in our clients’ eating and wellness habits. We leverage food journaling, nutrient, and metrics tracking, goal setting, and meal planning to lay the foundation for new habits that will support clients in achieving their goals.
Meal planning is becoming a more common strategy to use with clients who are looking to make changes to their eating habits. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that meal planning is associated with a healthier diet and low levels of obesity for participants. Here, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about creating meal plans for your clients, including leveraging software to streamline the process. Healthie’s new free Starter Plan can help you with scheduling, telehealth, and provide a client portal all for $0. Click here to start your free account today.
What are Meal Planning Services?
Meal planning can include a variety of different tactics, but overall it means laying out a guide for what your clients should eating throughout the week, for each meal and snack. In some instances, more autonomous clients may just need a loose plan outlining food groups, for example, Breakfast: carb, protein, fruit or vegetable, Lunch: carb, protein, two vegetables, etc. From there, you can give example meals but allow clients to make the ultimate decision on what they eat each day. Other clients may want every meal laid out exactly for them, so they have an exact plan to follow and do not have to spend time deciding what to eat.
Meal planning services can be a great way to expand your wellness business. Once you feel confident in your meal planning skills, you can expand beyond just creating plans for individual clients. If you offer group services in your practice, meal plans can be a valuable add-on for group packages and interventions. Offering a meal planning workshop could also be helpful in gathering new leads, while simultaneously building on relationships with current clients. A workshop or webinar allows you to demonstrate the value of your services, gather interest from potential clients, and set clients up with the tools they need to create positive change in regards to their eating habits.
Building a Meal Plan for Clients
When building a meal plan for your nutrition clients, there are a few important steps to take to ensure your plan is customized and effective. Calculating a client’s basic caloric and macronutrient needs will give your an outline of what they should eat each day, at least in a numeric sense. Having nutrient needs at the ready allows you to work backward when planning the meals and snacks for their week.
Be sure to preemptively create a library of recipes to choose from to save yourself time and effort. You can have recipes at hand for different dietary interventions and needs, and can also easily share them with clients at their request. This tool can eventually be leveraged when clients are ready to work on their own and will be responsible for planning or outlining their own meals.
Additionally, before creating the actual meal plan, you must assess your client’s current eating and lifestyle habits. A meal assessment can be a powerful tool to gather the critical information for creating a custom meal plan for your client. When creating a meal assessment tool, be sure to incorporate three areas: lifestyle, food preferences, and goals/expectations for the meal plan. Understanding where your client currently is in regards to their health will help you put together a comprehensive meal plan that will work for your client. Some questions to include in your assessment might include:
- What foods do you like or dislike?
- How much time do you have to cook?
- Do you prefer to prepare food in advance or at mealtime?
- Do you have any cultural food preferences?
- What are your health goals?
- What excites you about having a custom meal plan?
The meal plan you create should match your client’s current lifestyle, not the one you hope they have. Creating lasting change requires the implementation of smaller changes initially, that can be built upon until clients reach their goals. When you have a clear picture of where your client is, you can come up with the steps to get them where they want to be.
Next, you can start to outline your meal plan. To start, a one-week meal plan should be sufficient. If you meet with clients weekly, it gives them time to become acquainted with the plan and identify any issues or changes that need to be made by the next check-in. Our free Starter plan helps with online scheduling and can send appointment reminders, so if you meet with clients weekly , it gives them time to become acquainted with the plan and identify any issues or changes that need to be made by the next check-in. As mentioned earlier, you can create a loose meal plan with a general outline of what to eat, or give clients specific meals and snacks to eat throughout the week. This will depend on your client’s stage of change, their autonomy, and what their ultimate goal is. Be sure to include some variety, to avoid clients becoming bored and restless with the prescribed meals. Tools such as a grocery list and a prep guide can elevate your plan to the next level; grocery lists will save your clients money, make their shopping more efficient, and help keep them on track. Prep lists can be key for clients experimenting with new recipes, or for those who like to prepare their meals ahead of time.
Do I Need a Meal Planning Software?
Meal planning software for dietitians can be a helpful tool to enhance your meal planning strategy and diffusion within your wellness practice. Much of the meal planning software on the market include databases filled with recipes, meal plans, and nutrition content created by other nutrition professionals. You will likely have access to recipes and plans for a variety of dietary interventions and will save many hours searching for or creating content for clients; with meal planning, software, it is already at your fingertips.
With a variety of choices out there, it’s important to consider what features are crucial in meal planning software for your practice. Whichever software you choose should allow you to easily analyze, modify, and change existing content, whether it be meal plans, nutrition recommendations, and recipes, to fit your current client’s requirements. It also may be helpful to have software with a nutrient database and dietary reference values, that will allow you to analyze recipes, meals, and plans to ensure compliance with your client’s macro and micronutrient needs.
Your meal planning software should also be able to interact with other client engagement features, such as food journaling, goal setting, metrics tracking, and chat (our free Starter plan provides all of that and more). Having all of these features in one place allows you to get a comprehensive picture of your client’s eating habits throughout the week, send check-in messages to assess any problems, and evaluate overall progress.
Healthie & Living Plate Rx
Healthie will be releasing a meal-planning feature for dietitians in partnership with Living Plate Rx. This integration enables Living Plate members to:
- Distribute and sell Living Plate Rx Meal Plans directly within the Healthie platform
- Deliver Living Plate Rx Programs to your clients directly within your Healthie account
Integrating both platforms within your wellness business comes with a host of benefits, such as:
- The ability to deliver a seamless, one-login experience for your clients as they benefit from engagement via Meal Plans and Programs
- Leverage Healthie's Programs Report to track the engagement of your Living Plate Rx Programs
- Make it easy to charge for Meal Plans and Programs to add new revenue streams to your business
- Have Programs that are available via Living Plate Rx Prime automatically added to your Healthie account (Getting Started on Programs)
Already a Living Plate Rx member? Email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can verify your membership and set up your integrated account.
Not yet a Healthie or Living Plate member? Still, send us an email, and we will help get you signed up and your accounts integrated, or sign up for our free Starter plan here.
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