Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to good nutrition, programming should be customized to match the unique needs of each client. NNM provides four techniques for implementing customized healthy eating programs that take into consideration individuals’ bodies, histories, interests, and goals:
- Cooking and Prepping
- Meal Planning
- Varying a Diet
- Visiting a Registered Dietitian (RD).
Personalization is critical for those seeking to adopt healthier eating habits. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) 2020-2025, just issued, provide accessible dietary guidance and a reasonable starting point for the majority of Americans. The DGA may be thought of as the funnel’s top, while the funnel’s bottom (the tiny hole) symbolizes a realistic, individualized dietary plan.
Thus, which strategies work best for narrowing the funnel? Adapted from the National Nutrition Month website, here are four step-by-step techniques that your clients may follow throughout the month (and beyond) to develop personalized and long-term good eating habits.
Week 1 Objective: Plan the Week’s Meals
Planning a weekly supper plan is a critical practice for healthy eating. Ten minutes of weekly preparation eliminates the energy required to make judgments late at night when you are weary and hungry. Additionally, it assists in the creation of a weekly shopping list. “Theme Nights” can help with planning; for instance, consider Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Slow-Cooker Wednesdays, Stir-Fry Fridays, and Take-Out Saturdays, with Thursdays and Sundays reserved for leftovers.
Tip: Place a whiteboard or chalkboard with the days of the week in the kitchen to serve as a reminder to make a weekly meal menu.
Week 2 Objective: Experiment with a New Fruit or Vegetable
Diversifying your diet will help you consume more nutrients and antioxidants, thereby boosting gut health and reducing overall inflammation. Encourage your clients to broaden their horizons by putting a “new” fruit or vegetable on their shopping list (based on the weekly menu). Additionally, shopping groceries exclusively from a predetermined list might help reduce impulse purchases, which typically contain less healthy meals.
Tip: Try uncommon fruits and vegetables including dragon fruit, star fruit, blooming kale, rainbow chard, baby bok choy, rainbow carrots, purple potatoes, and jack fruit, as well as herbs like dill, coriander, and rosemary.
Week 3 Objective: Experiment with a New Recipe
Your clients are aware that they should eat better but often lack the knowledge necessary to do so. While broadening their palates with new meals, encourage children to experiment with new dishes, particularly ones that use veggies as the primary component.
Tip: When attempting a new dish, gather the family around the table and eat together (or a group of roommates). Sitting down and connecting while eating with family or friends has been associated with a cascade of healthy behaviors.
Week 4 Objective: Consult a Medical Professional
NNM advises consulting a registered dietitian (RD), who is a health expert who is qualified to assess nutritional status and provide meal plans. Fortunately, advancements in telehealth have made obtaining professional assessment and advice as simple as a few clicks. Uncertain where to begin? Consult your primary care physician first, since they can write references for registered dietitians and other health and fitness experts.
Tip: Encourage your clients to conduct an honest self-assessment to identify which of the following is the most significant obstacle to reaching their goals: fitness, diet, medical/health condition, or behavior adjustment.
Adopting healthy habits during National Nutrition Month may resemble New Year’s resolutions, in that many people use the first of the year to spark motivation for improving fitness and nutrition. However, by February 1st, motivation has waned and old habits have been restored. Thus, the critical question is how your customers can sustain a relatively healthy eating pattern—through March and beyond—when life pressures overwhelm and sap motivation. Willpower alone is not the solution; nor is the solution contained in a motivating post or quotation.
Rather than striving for perfection, tell your customers that the solution is to gradually acquire new habits and aim for improvement. Additionally, it entails abandoning the notion that nutrition is dichotomous (one thing or the other). Food, diets, and eating habits are neither inherently “good” nor “bad.” Nutrition is a continuum, as some meals are more nutritious than others and certain lifestyle choices have a more positive impact on overall health than others. Individuals just glide up and down this scale, occasionally ingesting the optimal quantity of healthy meals and occasionally consuming an excessive amount of less nutritious foods. As a health and fitness practitioner, your objective is to encourage your customers toward the “more nutritious” end.
The final stage is to instill in your clientele a development mentality. According to Carol Dweck’s book Mentality, persons with a “growth” perspective (as opposed to a “fixed” mindset) accept difficulties, persevere in the face of setbacks, welcome effort, and learn from criticism.
You may assist your customers in developing a development mindset to facilitate positive behavior change by encouraging them to:
- Concentrate on the process, not the end
- Consider difficulties and effort as a road to mastery.
- Take inspiration from the accomplishments of others
- Avoid identifying themselves solely based on their outcomes.
- Be willing to fail, to be incorrect, and to restart while remembering the lessons learned