Nutritional counseling analyzes various health needs in regard to diet. A nutritional counselor provides dietary information based on individual situations and needs to help improve overall health.
Our counselors also helps people to set achievable health goals and teaches various ways to maintain these goals throughout a lifetime.
Benefits of Nutritional Counseling include:
- Increased energy
- Healthier lifestyle
- Better sleep quality
- Reduced symptoms of disease
- Improved emotional stability
- Increased happiness
- Possible increase in longevity
- Strengthened immune system
- Decreased chance of disease
- Improved concentration
Nutritional counseling can be beneficial to people of all ages and backgrounds, ranging from pregnant women, to vegetarians, to the elderly and people with different medical conditions. Others who may benefit include those with:
- Poor nutrition and eating habits
- Digestive complications
- Organ problems
- Fitness goals
- Heart diseases
- Eating disorders (may require additional treatment)
Nutrition Counseling Process
A nutrition counselor typically works with you over a period of days, weeks or months to identify and implement any changes needed to help you improve your health.
1. Asses dietary habits – Nutrition counseling begins with an assessment of your typical food intake using a variety of methods. The nutrition counselor can then use the food records to analyze actual energy and nutrient intake. The 24-hour recall method requires people to list all the foods and beverages they remember consuming during the previous 24-hours. The nutrition counselor can use that to estimate energy and nutrient intake, but it may not be accurate since people tend to over- or underestimate intake of certain foods. A food frequency questionnaire requires clients to estimate how often they consume certain food groups (ex. dairy products, fruits, vegetables, grains and cereals, meats, or fats) in a typical day, week or month. Daily food records involve keeping a written record of the amounts of all foods and beverages consumed over a given period of time. Three-day food records kept over two weekdays and one weekend day are often used.
2. Identify changes needed – The initial dietary assessment and interview provide the basis for identifying behaviors that need to be changed. Sometimes clients know what dietary changes are needed, but may require help making those changes. Other times the nutrition counselor can help educate a person on the health effects of different dietary choices. The nutrition counselor and client work together to identify and prioritize needed changes and determine how to make the changes.
Making dietary change is a gradual process. You may start with one or two easy changes the first few weeks (switching from 2% to skim milk or eating yogurt instead of skipping breakfast) and gradually make more difficult changes over several weeks or months (replacing fatty meats with leaner ones or eating more vegetables). Each individual’s background is considered when making dietary changes, incorporating a client’s ethnic background, religion, group affiliation, socioeconomic status and world view.
3. Identify barriers to change – The client and nutrition counselor work together to identify potential problems that may hamper making dietary changes such as inconvenience, food preferences, cost, social gatherings or lack of time/knowledge. For example, changing eating behaviors may mean involving others, purchasing different foods, planning ahead for social events, or bringing special foods to work.
4. Set goals – The nutrition counselor and client together set goals that focus on the behaviors needed to achieve the desired dietary change, not on an absolute value, such as achieving a certain body weight. For example, someone who is trying to prevent weight gain associated with certain medications, may have a goal to increase the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains consumed each day. Such changes would help prevent weight gain while emphasizing the needed behavior, rather than the actual weight.
5. Find support – Family members are encouraged to attend nutrition counseling sessions with the client, especially if they share responsibility for food selection and preparation. Although the individual must make food choices and take responsibility for dietary changes, having the support and understanding of family and friends makes success more likely.
6. Maintain changes – The biggest challenge for the nutrition clients is maintaining dietary changes over the long term. Self-monitoring, realistic expectations and continued follow-up can help maintain dietary changes. Self-monitoring involves regularly checking eating habits against desired goals and keeping track of eating behaviors. Keeping a food diary on a daily or periodic basis helps the individual be more aware of his or her eating behaviors and provides a ready tool to analyze eating habits. Sometimes a simplified checklist to assure adequate intake of different food groups may be used.
Individuals and nutrition counselors should not expect perfect dietary compliance—slips inevitably occur. The goal is to keep small slips, such as eating a few extra cookies, from becoming big slips, like total abandonment of dietary change. The counselor can help the client identify situations that may lead to relapse and plan ways to handle the situations ahead of time. Nutrition counseling is an ongoing process that can take months or years. In follow-up nutrition counseling sessions, the individual and counselor analyze food records together and problem-solve behaviors that are especially difficult to change. Follow-up counseling also allows the opportunity to reevaluate goals and strategies for achieving those goals.
If you want to develop or improve health eating habits or discuss nutritional concerns, schedule an appointment with one of the iTherapy counselors.