December 9, 2021

Maybe you’ve heard the term “nutrition coach” — or been given a recommendation to find one — but you’re unclear about what this role entails. Is it the same as a dietician, or a health coach?

Whether you’re searching for a nutrition coach or interested in making this your career, it’s important to know what a nutrition coach actually does.

Nutrition coaching is a specific niche of the larger health and wellness education market
that shows promising projected growth over the coming years. Here’s what the job entails, how it differs from other related professions, and what you’ll need in order to make it your career path.

Are Nutrition Coaches, Nutritionists, and Registered Dieticians the Same?

To those with little to no background knowledge in the field, the terms “nutrition coach,” “nutritionist,” and “dietician” might sound interchangeable. But each role focuses on distinct outcomes and includes different educational requirements.

  • Nutrition coaches are focused on educating their clients about making smarter food choices in order to achieve specific health outcomes. They work with clients from the general population who are not looking for treatment for particular medical conditions. There are no specific academic or professional requirements for nutrition coaches. They may hold any number of certifications or degrees from various training programs.
  • Nutritionists help treat specific health issues by focusing on food choices. They may range from not having any background education at all, or they may be certified through the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists which requires a master’s or doctoral degree, passing exams, and many hours of supervised practice.
  • Registered Dieticians also help treat injury, illness, and disease, and they may provide specific services for those who struggle with eating disorders. However, they must meet specific academic requirements outlined by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and must pass an exam in order to be credentialed.
A smiling nutritionist with a measuring tape around her neck works at her desk with a pen and paper and laptop

How Do Nutrition Coaches Help Their Clients?

Nutrition coaches promote clients taking personal responsibility for their health and well-being, by focusing on wellness from a holistic standpoint — body, mind, and spirit. While nutrition coaches don’t treat disease, they empower clients with the knowledge they need to make the best food choices for their unique situations.

Therefore, nutrition coaches are major contributors to the field of preventive nutrition — the science of using dietary interventions to delay, reduce, or even eliminate health complications from illness and disease. Coaches use tools like dietary assessments to collect information on the client and make recommendations based on their desired changes and outcomes.

A young adult is eating a healthy breakfest with bananas and apples in a cafe

Nutrition coaches also teach clients about the basic principles of nutrition science. This includes lessons on optimal macronutrient and micronutrient intake, appropriate portion sizes, food group classifications, and how to read food packaging labels. They might also provide specific strategies or meal plans for healthy, sustainable weight loss or peak physical performance.

Types of Nutrition Coaching

There are a variety of specialties that nutrition coaches can pursue, offering access to a wide array of clients with different interests.

Helping Clients With Weight Loss

One of the most common reasons people decide to see a nutrition coach is to lose weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. obesity prevalence is 42.4%. Scores of people set out on weight loss journeys only to wind up feeling defeated because they can’t seem to lose that excess weight. Many times, it’s a nutrition-related issue and they simply need to make different choices in their diets. This is when seeking out a nutrition coach might be beneficial.

There are myriad fad diets that promise fast results, but these often come with a hefty price tag in terms of sustainable health and well-being. Nutrition coaches can help clients find the right combination of calories, macro and micronutrients, vitamins, and more in order to lose weight in a healthier way.

Assisting Athletes With Performance Goals

Athletes are naturally concerned with the relationship between food and body — specifically, what they eat and how it impacts their physical performance. With a host of health-related misinformation prevalent today, athletes can find it difficult to determine what they should be doing to improve their performance. This is where sports nutrition coaches can step in.

Nutrition coaches who specialize in sports nutrition are uniquely qualified to examine an individual athlete and determine where they need the most support from a dietary perspective. They take into account the athlete’s current state of health and performance, future goals, age, body composition, and various facets of the sport, including impact, intensity, duration, and more. Then they can help create diet plans that will properly fuel them — making adjustments along the way based on changes in their training routine or competition schedule. Just be sure to review your coach’s qualifications and references before making a long term commitment.

A nutrition coach writing and working with a client as they sit down

Supporting Women in Pre and Postnatal Wellness

For women who are pregnant, trying to conceive, or have just given birth, a nutrition coach specializing in pre and postnatal nutrition can help foster their overall wellness — as well as the health of the baby. Some women come to nutrition coaches to find the right dietary plan for each trimester of pregnancy. Others may have weight loss-related goals after having a baby. And those who are breastfeeding might simply be looking for guidance on what they should be consuming for both their and their infant’s optimal health.

Pregnancy brings with it changing hormone levels, increased caloric needs, extra vitamin and mineral requirements, and more — things that pre and postnatal nutrition coaches can make recommendations about. Again, review the nutrition coach’s education and credentials to ensure you’re working with someone credible.

Nutrition Coaching Requires Thorough Training

As the science behind nutrition becomes more accessible to the mainstream, many clients seek out nutrition coaches to teach them about making healthy choices in their day-to-day lives. While a nutrition coach doesn’t necessarily require a specific type of degree in the way that a Registered Dietician does, they absolutely need the knowhow to educate and empower their clients.

Not only must nutrition coaches be well-versed in the foundations of nutrition, they need to be able to translate their food knowledge in a way clients can understand. Escoffier’s programs not only help prepare students with a comprehensive education in wellness and nutrition, but also how to help their clients self-actualize their potential through practical lifestyle applications.

A nutrition coach is filming a video on her phone with cucumber, tomatoes, and other vegetables

Since the fundamentals of nutrition are not generally included in school curricula, many people grow up never learning what to look for in terms of nutrient-dense food options.

Explore how a degree or diploma in Holistic Nutrition and Wellness from an accredited institution like Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts can help build specialized knowledge about health-supporting ingredients and running a nutrition-related business — equipping graduates with the skills they need to thrive in the field.

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