Two industry experts share advice on how to best educate your members on proper nutrition in 2023 and beyond.
Every year, around 38% of adults in the U.S. set New Year’s resolutions. Of those, the top three most common goals set are health related — exercising more, eating healthier and losing weight.
It’s encouraging that people want a healthier lifestyle. But most people bail on their resolutions before the end of January, and only 9% see them through until succession. As leaders in the health and fitness industry, you are perfectly positioned to help people surpass their resolutions. A key to this is educating them on proper nutrition.
Today, people are getting hit with a plethora of nutritional advice from books, the internet and social media, and much of it is bogus.
“It really is the wild, wild West out there when it comes to nutrition,” said Jessica Bachman, the director of nutrition education at Stronger U. “One of the biggest challenges is that people with some pretty impressive letters behind their names are touting questionable approaches. And they often contradict each other. So, it’s hard to sort through it all.”
Bachman elaborated the best way to filter misinformation is to remember what we know is true about food and nutrition. Encourage your members to focus on eating primarily whole foods such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Recommend these, along with plenty of protein and healthy fats in amounts that support maintaining a healthy body weight.
“If anything suggests you can’t eat something or you must eat another thing, or promises unbelievably fast results, you can be pretty sure it’s not entirely true,” said Bachman. “There likely are some small truths and parts of whatever they promote that may be accurate. But often the benefits of their claims are way overblown what is possible.”
Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, the founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness and the author of Unapologetic Eating, agreed. It can be confusing to identify what’s true when it comes to nutrition advice.
When looking at research, Rumsey stressed the importance of remembering nutrition studies often have a lot of limitations and that researchers have biases.
When looking at nutrition research it’s important to consider:
- What was the population they studied? Who was not represented? Also, was it a human study or in rats or animals?
- How long did the study run for?
- Did it control for structural and social determinants of health that impact health, like socioeconomic status or discrimination faced? Did it control for the impacts of weight stigma, weight cycling and healthcare inequalities?
- Was a causal mechanism identified or is it just correlation?
- Where did the funding for the study come from?
- Are the authors using the words “significant” when they mean statistically significant? There is a big difference when it comes to nutrition and health outcomes.
- If it was funded by someone with a profit interest in the outcomes it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t trust the results, but it’s a good reason to give the study methods and conclusions further scrutiny.
Ensuring your members have a solid understanding of the nutrition basics will help allow them to make healthy choices that support their goals and optimize their health.
“These basics include understanding energy balance and the role it plays in weight management; knowing the macronutrients, where to get them and how to select them in the amounts appropriate for them; understanding the role and importance of micronutrients and how to eat a variety of foods to get them all in; and finally, how to manage hydration,” said Bachman.
If you don’t have a registered dietitian on staff, Bachman recommended visiting The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture websites. Both offer free materials to help support education your members.
When educating members on proper nutrition in 2023, it’s important to remember what works with one person won’t help everyone.
“Registered dietitians are often notorious for the phrase ‘it depends’ when it comes to educating people on specific nutrition guidance, but it truly does depend,” said Rumsey. “What works for one person or group of people to reach their goals — or their definition of health — might not be what works for another.”
Overall, many people are planning to prioritize their health and well-being and could use help on proper nutrition in 2023. Helping your members navigate true and effective education can help them achieve their goals in the coming year and beyond.
“Nutrition plays a crucial role in every single area of your life,” said Bachman. “Eating well and in the appropriate amounts impacts your feelings, confidence, energy levels, sleep and really everything. A lot of people think of nutrition as a bunch of numbers and something to focus on solely based from its impact on weight and body composition. But nutrition is so much more than that. Food fuels our lives in so many ways.”
Five Nutrition Tips from Jessica Bachman
- Aim for at least five fruits or veggies every day.
- Reduce snacking and only eat a snack if you are 100% sure you are actually hungry. Take a second and honestly ask yourself to rate your hunger before you eat. We eat for so many reasons other than hunger, and if we do that too often, it becomes challenging to maintain health.
- Include lean protein with every single meal. It fills you up and supports the building, repair and maintenance of all the tissues in your body.
- If you want to change your weight or body composition, tracking your food intake is the most efficient method to get there. You’ll increase your awareness and learn where you can make some changes to improve your eating habits.
- Hiring a nutrition coach can be a life-changing decision. Even if you feel like you know it all and have been successful in the past, having access to a coach and an expert for accountability can be exactly what you need to make changes that will last a lifetime.