3 Reasons Your Nutrition Clients Need a Coaching Approach vs. Consulting

Health Coach
Health Coaching / Natural Nutrition

3 Reasons Your Nutrition Clients Need a Coaching Approach vs. Consulting

Coaching vs consulting
Use Coaching in Your Nutrition Practice to Maximize Results for Your Clients and Your Business!

Are you a nutrition practitioner who uses consulting vs coaching?

This article highlights the differences between using a coaching approach vs consulting when working with your nutrition clients. It explains why for nutrition practitioners (& often the clients!), the coaching approach works best.

For the practitioner, here are 3 key benefits of using a coaching approach:: 

  1. Retaining clients 
  2. Generating more revenue 
  3. Getting better results for your clients

The Consulting Approach

Do you like being told what to do? Most people don’t. Chances are, you like to have a say in your own choices. As a nutrition practitioner, when you act as a consultant, you are essentially imposing your choices upon your clients.

Many nutrition program graduates have been taught the consulting approach. Does this scenario sound familiar?

The nutrition practitioner conducts an initial assessment, and based on the results and the client’s stated priorities, formulates a plan and a set of recommendations for the client. In a follow-up session, the practitioner presents these to the client. In this very common scenario, the client has limited or minimal involvement in the creation of the plan. The nutrition practitioner acts as a consultant. They are the nutrition expert, and their recommendations are based on their own expert knowledge and what they feel is best for the client. But what about what the client wants and what works best for them?

The consulting approach is often called the “one and done” approach. Clients may come for that one follow-up session to get their recommendations and plans, but often are never heard from again.

Why is that?

Think of the experience from the client’s perspective.  

The client meets with the nutrition practitioner, often a complete stranger, and immediately is asked to either complete or review an assessment intake or questionnaire with a lot of personal questions. They then may be asked follow-up questions related to their answers, and for the client, it may begin to feel a little like an interrogation. Because the client doesn’t really know or may not feel completely comfortable with the nutrition practitioner at this point, they may leave out a few pertinent details in the assessment because they are embarrassed or fear they may be judged. The nutrition practitioner, who is acting as the expert, may then make recommendations or give direction for what they think the client should be doing between the initial session and a follow-up session.

The Client is Told What to Do

How does this work for me?

At this point, the client may be feeling overwhelmed with all of the new information and recommendations they received in the session. How will this work for them? They may not feel very confident in their ability to make the recommended changes or even think they are necessary.

In the follow-up session using the consulting approach, the nutrition practitioner lays out the plan they have created for the client. The practitioner is doing most of the talking. They may ask the client how things went in the interim between sessions or answer any questions the client may have. Going forward, the client is expected to be able to implement the plan.

Below is an example of the consulting approach in a nutrition practice:

Scenario One

John is a busy account executive who has sought your services for meal planning. Based on his food preferences you have created a two-week meal plan and a grocery list and in your follow-up session, you go over the program and recommendations with him including some lifestyle changes for stress management you thought might be helpful for him to incorporate. He seemed very stressed in your first meeting! John took the information that you provided to him but never booked another session. When you sent him a follow-up email, John replied he would get in touch if he needed additional assistance.

Coaching vs. Consulting: The Two Are Different, but Each Has Its Place

Consulting works well in situations where the client needs answers, for example, how to properly set up a business, or when and how to expand a business. It also works well in situations where the client does not have the time or the expertise to perform certain tasks and hires a consultant to do them, such as building a website or creating social media. 

Coaching has proven to be more effective for obtaining better outcomes for the nutrition client. The benefit for the nutrition practitioner is increased client retention and revenue. These three reasons are why nutrition practitioners should use the coaching approach in their nutrition practice instead of consulting.

Behaviour Change Takes Time.
Coaching is the Best Approach for Facilitating Behaviour Change

In most cases, in order to achieve their goals, clients will need to make changes in their current behaviour. They will need to stop performing certain behaviours that have contributed to their current situation and build new ones that are more aligned with their stated values and goals and the outcomes they desire.

Consulting is not about facilitating behaviour change, that is not its core function. A consultant acts in the capacity of being the expert. They look for what’s wrong and then solve the problem, providing the answers for what they think are the best options and recommendations for the client. 

It’s a model that is typically found in healthcare and is often used in nutrition consultations. But in this model, there is no support for clients to build the new behaviours that will bring them their desired outcome, and so many clients struggle to implement these recommendations. And because change can be difficult, many clients, even those who start with the best intentions, may lose motivation and fall by the wayside. The practitioner may never hear from them again.  

Why is Coaching the Best Approach for Nutrition Practitioners?

A Coach Helps Clients to Clarify Their Vision and Goals

Coaching is different from consulting. Its reason for being is to help clients facilitate behaviour change. Using the coaching approach, the Coach partners with their client, taking the client on a journey of self-discovery to help the client clarify their vision and to establish their goals and the action steps needed to achieve them. 

Coaching is a collaborative process where the client sets the agenda based on their priorities and then finds their own answers and chooses the options to implement that is right for them.. With the support of their Coach, the client works to build the new behaviours that will lead to their desired outcome. The Coach facilitates this process, keeping their clients on track, and holding them accountable. 

In other words, Coaches do not tell their clients what to do or what they should want. That is for the client to decide. The Coach’s role is to support them on their journey.

This approach is completely opposite to the consulting approach. 

The example below highlights how the coaching approach works in nutrition practice.

Scenario Two:

John is a busy account executive who sought your services for meal planning. In your initial coaching session, you take the first 10 minutes to get to know John and begin to build a rapport so that he feels more comfortable talking with you. In your conversation, you discover John has limited cooking skills and doesn’t understand how to read labels, but he is interested in learning how. You also discover that John often feels stressed and wants to find ways to better manage his stress. During his assessment conversation, even though he had not indicated this in his intake questionnaire, John discloses that he has digestive issues including gas and bloating and sometimes goes two or three days between bowel movements. He also has issues with insomnia. He would like to work on all of these things.

You collaborate with John to establish his personal vision for his overall health and wellness and what he would like his ideal outcome to be. Once his vision is established, and based on what his vision and priorities are, you recommend a coaching package that would provide John with the support he requires to make his vision a reality. John signs up for your twelve-week package.

The difference between coaching & consulting is obvious.

coaching clients vs consulting
Coaches Collaborate with Their Clients

In the following weeks, as you work together, John’s confidence has continued to grow with each success; he’s learned to read labels, attended a batch cooking workshop, and created his own menu plans that help support healthy digestion. He signed up for your stress management group meetings where he has learned new techniques to help him manage his stress. Even his sleep quality has improved! Now John is looking at other health and life goals he may want to work on and has decided to renew his coaching package. He has also referred a colleague for your services.

Downsides to a Consulting Approach

In the first “one and done” consulting scenario, you (the nutrition practitioner) act as the expert and provide John with your very best recommendations and meal plans based on your expert knowledge. But he never came back. Is it perhaps he didn’t like the meals you recommended? Maybe. But it’s more likely that John didn’t respond because he wasn’t invested and had no input into the very transactional process. It’s a very common scenario, especially for nutrition practitioners who are just starting out. This means they are constantly scrambling to look for new clients to fill their practice calendar.

Coaching Is a Benefit to Your Clients

In scenario two, you (the nutrition practitioner) use the coaching approach. You take the time to develop a rapport with John and in the coaching session, using your coaching skills, you and he discover what it is that John really desires, and that extends beyond meal planning. With that discovery, you are able to tailor a coaching program for John that will provide him with the support he needs to attain his goals. It’s a longer-term commitment than the “one and done” in the first scenario. And because John will receive the support that he needs to attain his goals, he will see better results, and you have increased your client retention and revenue for your nutrition practice.

As a practicing Coach, you will find that often when the client is successful in one area of their life it gives them the motivation and confidence to work on others. Their success as a client becomes your success as a Coach. And they will often refer others, so your client list continues to grow!

Invest in yourself and take your nutrition practice to the next level!

Get better results for your clients, increase client retention, and generate more revenue.

Learn How to Effectively Coach Clients and Maximize Results for Your Clients and Your Nutrition Business!

In the Introduction to Wellness Coaching Program, you’ll learn to build a deep connection with your clients and help them achieve the long-lasting results that they want and deserve! We teach you practical coaching skills, including motivational interviewing, and take you through an entire coaching session flow showing you how to conduct an effective coaching session.

Visit Introduction to Wellness Coaching ( for more program details.

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