Everyone wants one, and lately, it seems like, everyone writes one!
We get it, it’s a way to make money, you dabbled in a bit of nutrition on your PT course, you’re aware a calorie deficit = weight loss and a calorie surplus = weight gain.
But, should you reaaaallllyyyyy be writing and prescribing diet plans to clients?
Unless you’re a fully qualified, registered dietician, NO!
A nutritionist, nutritional therapist, a vegan nutrition specialist, a vegetarian specialist in nutrition are all unprotected terms - technically, anyone can call themselves one of the above.
Studied nutrition on your PT course? Excellent! You’re a nutritionist... Completed a vegan nutrition course via Groupon? Great! You’re a vegan specialist... It’s that simple (sometimes as easy as waking up and deciding to call yourself a nutritionist - which, people have done)
In most circumstances, anyone other than a Registered Dietitian or licensed physician, is legally not allowed to prescribe meal plans. This means that you should not provide a detailed meal plan to your client and indicate that they must follow that meal plan.
So the do’s and dont’s if you’re not a dietitian or physician?
Advise otherwise healthy individuals on better food choices
Provide guidance and structure around meals (serving size, food content etc)
Educate clients on supplements and their uses and REFER to a dietician if need be
Educate clients on the link between nutrition and weight loss / gain and disease / illness
And the dont’s:
Don’t prescribe meal plans, as anyone but a dietician, this is out of your scope of practice (legally)
Don’t prescribe specific supplements and or their dosage to clients
Don’t try to treat disease or illness with nutrition
Doing any of the aforementioned dont’s could have adverse affects on and worsen a clients illness or condition.
Doing such could also land you in big trouble legally and financially.
Let’s take a certain “doctor” for example (whose name won’t be mentioned, although is readily available through a Google search) said “doctor” expressed beliefs of an “alkarian” lifestyle and cancer was often caused by acidic diets. He came to prominence via tv shows, interviews and celeb endorsements of his series of books (which again won’t be mentioned but can be easily searched)
The books recommend a high alkaline diet, one rich in plant based foods, but also containing fish, and moderate intake of carbohydrates, however advised those reading to abstain from acidic foods such as dairy, meat and shellfish. The (now debunked) alkaline craze soon followed with celebs endorsing the diet and bottled waters even being created (the industry is one of the worst for band-wagon jumpers)
Long story short, said individual began treating cancer patients with nutrition (whilst not having any recognised degree or equivalent in the field) he would prescribe an alkaline diet and insist on the use of baking soda flushing instead of the traditional chemotherapy which ultimately led to the regression of both patients (one patient passed, the other patients condition regressed to an incurable stage 4)
Due to this and several other episodes of malpractice, the individual was sentenced to prison time and recently (2018) sued for $105m for such prescription...
So, whilst there are some good courses and content out there covering nutrition and healthy eating, a dietician will go through rigorous and lengthy study, research and academic writing across numerous broad subjects and topics, including clinical trials to achieve their knowledge and qualification. With all due respect, this is often not the case when it comes to a nutritionist or nutritional therapist.
None the less, the information and knowledge gathered from such courses is imperative to your growth as a trainer or coach and when used properly can bring about behaviour change and ultimately goal achieving amongst clients and should not be discredited when used to offer advice, guidance and support!