As a dietitian nutrition coach, calorie counting can be an educational tool for your clients. It’s certainly not right for everyone, since keeping a food log can lead to obsessive food behaviors, however, it can be a great way to gain insight on one’s eating patterns and help your clients develop a better understanding of food!
In this article we discuss ways to help your clients transition away from calorie counting and practice more sustainable healthy eating skills. However, before we get into it, allow me to introduce myself! My name is Tony Stephan, and I’m a dietitian business coach. I help RDs make more IMPACT and more INCOME through nutrition coaching. Before becoming a dietitian business coach, I was a dietitian nutrition coach. I served thousands of nutrition coaching clients over a time span of 12 years. My successful nutrition coaching business is what led me to where I am today. Now, let’s chat about transitioning away from calorie counting so everyone can enjoy their food for the long-haul!
Encourage Balance vs Strict Calorie Counting
Transitioning away from counting calories can be tough at first. Clients will be used to having concrete targets to meet every day! Instead of calorie counting, shift the focus to what a nutritionally balanced plate looks like. With endless variations of meals and snacks, it can take time for clients to grasp this skill and build balanced meals without your expert guidance.
One thing that can make it easier for your clients is reviewing the plate method. The plate method is a simple visual tool used to build balanced meals without calorie counting. Half of the plate is filled with non-starchy vegetables (and maybe some fruit), one quarter of the plate consists of lean protein, and the other quarter would provide starches or complex carbohydrates. Fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds, butter, sour cream, or avocado would be incorporated as well; however, these probably wouldn’t take up a large portion of the plate.
Use Hand Measurements vs A Food Scale
When first counting calories, people often invest in using a food scale and other measuring utensils to get a solid idea of the macro distribution of their food. Putting away those measuring tools for good may feel daunting at first, but it is possible for you and your clients to have success and achieve their health goals without strict measurements. Using hand measurements is a great way to estimate portion sizes without being strict or obsessive. Check out these approximate serving sizes below!
- the palm of your hand (4 oz) = useful for seafood, meats, and poultry
- 1 closed fist (1 cup) = useful for starches, complex carbohydrates and grains
- 1 thumb (1 tablespoon) = useful for fats like almond butter or olive oil
- 1 handful = useful for servings of nuts
- 2 handfuls = a serving of non-starchy vegetables
It would be up to you, the dietitian nutrition coach, to figure out the appropriate combination of hand measurements for your clients’ needs!
Keep A Food-Mood Journal vs A Calorie Counting Log or App
Instead of tracking macros and calorie intake with a food log, consider asking your clients to use a food-mood journal. Basically, clients would track the time of their meals and a general summary of what it was (ex: oatmeal with fruit and yogurt at 8 a.m.). They would also keep track of their mood, hunger/fullness, energy, and satisfaction levels before and after meals. Journaling these other factors still provides insight into their health and overall nutrition status. It would also provide you room to provide expert nutrition feedback while empowering your client to become more in-tune with their body. It’s a win-win if the end goal for your client is sustainable healthy eating (which it always should be, right?)!
If you are a dietitian looking to start your own nutrition coaching side hustle or build a thriving 6-figure business, you’ve come to the right place. I’m proud to be a part of the movement of dietitian entrepreneurs who are making more IMPACT and more INCOME! In the Dietitian Nutrition Coaching Certification, we teach our students how to set their dietitian nutrition coaching business up for success.