#66: Creating Meal Plans

Have you ever been asked to make a meal plan for a client? Have you ever tried? And is this even within your scope of practice? In this episode Michelle shares IF, WHEN and HOW she offers meal planning inside her own health coaching business.

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Well hello there health coaches. Thanks for joining me again. I want to know, have you ever been asked to make a meal plan for one of your clients or one of your potential clients and if so, have you ever sat down and actually tried to do it? Yikes, it’s kind of crazy pants. We’re going to get into that in just a few minutes, but I want to talk about meal planning today and creating meal plans for our clients because it’s a topic that seems to come up again and again and again inside of our group. So I thought, let me share with you sort of if I create meal plans when I create meal plans and how I do meal planning in my own health coaching practice and if it’s something that you want to do but you kind of don’t know how, or you’ve never even tried, I’m going to have some help for you there as well.

So I’m curious if you are here with me live, what’s been your experience with meal planning so far? I don’t mean for yourself. I do my own meal plan on like the back of an envelope with a pen and about 10 minutes. That’s different. We’re really good at this I think can creating meal plans for our clients. Have you done it? Have you not done it? Has it been easy? Has it been really hard? Have you charged for it separately or has it been part of a package and if you have any other questions that come up along the way, just shoot them in the chat and I’ll be happy to answer them in just a little bit. By the way, my name is Michelle. I’ve been a health coach with my own private practice for over 10 years. I act as a mentor for my fellow health coaches and I’m also part of the curriculum at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Now I know a lot of you listened to this podcast because you’re trying to get your business off the ground or you’re trying to grow your existing business, right? And I have just the thing for you, whether you’re doing meal plans or not, I want to teach you how to turn your baby, your health coaching business baby into a real full grown full time salary. And I’ve put together a training to do exactly that which you can access for free at healthcoachpower.com/earn it’s a healthcoachpower.com/earn. A lot of coaches tell me, Michelle, I love your no nonsense approach. And if that’s you, you are going to love how I put all the pieces together for you in this training and show you how to earn the income you want. So again, healthcoachpower.com/earn.

So today we’re going to talk about creating meal plans. Of course, and this can definitely take some effort and even some tech savviness. Before we get there, I want to share a slightly different challenge that I came up against this week and I felt so dumb. I felt so dumb. I just thought have to share this with you because maybe one of you will say, oh no, that’s happened to me too. So here’s the thing. I listened to a lot of podcasts and this week I had a podcast going in the car and I was just sitting there waiting to pick up my kids and I thought, hmm, you know what? I’m going to, I have nothing to do right now. I’m going to leave a review for this show because I love this show so much. And as a podcast or myself, I know how much the reviews help. So I picked up my phone and I went to apple podcasts and you know what?

For the life of me, I could not figure out how to write a review at all. Like I finally had to Google it and I felt like I was approximately 90 years old, but I googled it. I figured it out. I got there and I want to show you how to do it because if you are at all inclined to leave a review for this podcast, I want to make it as easy peasy as possible for you. So first you’re going to go to apple podcasts on your phone. I’m just going to show you real quick. And the thing is that even if you’re subscribed to this show, you actually have to search for it. You can’t just go to your library and go to the show that you want to review. You have to go to that little magnifying glass and then when you search for it, it will come up on your screen.

Okay, so type in health coach power community, click on the show when it comes up like this. And then still I was confused. Where do you write a review? You actually have to scroll down to the part where it says ratings and reviews. It’s kind of down there. And at the bottom of that, there’s a little tiny link that says, write a review. It’s really easy to miss. So you’re going to click on that little link. And that’s going to bring you to this screen where you can give stars, write your review and send so easy but difficult to find so now you know.

So you guys ready to get into talking about making meal plans or what? We’ve got one technology hurdle out of the way. Here’s the question that came from Antoinette and I believe she’s here live with us as well, so hello Antoinette. Glad you could make it.

She said I have somebody requesting a 10-day Vegan meal plan. I made sure to inform them that I am not a dietician and that any information provided will be solely recommendations. I plan on completing a health history so I’m aware of any allergies, etc. Do you think this request is outside of the scope of health coaching and what’s the going rate for a 10-day meal plan? Well, I do think that this is walking into a very gray area and it could absolutely be considered going out of scope. I’m going to say mostly because this person is not signed up for coaching with you and they are strictly asking for a meal plan for themselves. And I know, and I’ve done this myself, that you’re softening it by saying it’s just a recommendation of a meal plan, which I don’t know if that matters.

The word recommendation is still implying like, here’s what I’m telling you to do. It could be construed as giving personalized nutrition advice as a registered dietitian would, like a prescribed meal plan. And I know, I know it’s a gray area, but I think, like I said, it’s outside of a coaching relationship. Um, and it’s a one to one arrangement, meaning that you’d be making this meal plan for like just this one individual person. And that’s where it kind of gets into tricky territory. So ethically speaking, because you know, as health coaches, we’re not trained, at least I wasn’t, I don’t know what school you went to, but for the most part, we’re not trained to create a perfect, this is what you should eat, meal plan, let’s just not part of what we’re supposed to be doing. Um, yes, you can make a recommended meal plan.

I’m going to tell you about some ways that I use meal planning in my business, but like a, here’s what you should eat, follow this meal plan, kind of getting into some tricky territory there. Ethically, but also legally and I am not a lawyer at all. You guys, if you have any questions, you should definitely, definitely speak to a lawyer. But I’m the topic of legal matters. It does also very much depending on what state you live in. If you’re within the United States, I don’t even know what goes on in other countries. I imagine there’s also different sets of rules, but inside the United States when it comes to giving personalized nutrition advice and certainly this type of meal plan, if you are in a red state, that would be a very clear, no, like Florida or Ohio. If you’re in a green state like New York, it’s much more possible.

Right. Definitely falls on like the safer side of the tracks. And if you’re on an orange state, I’m not really sure, but I would say you probably need to be very careful. Now if you don’t know your state laws and you don’t know what color your state is, red or green or purple or rainbow, a very good resource for you is www.nutritionadvocacy.org I’ll say that again. It’s www nutrition advocacy.org they have a map right on their home page and you can click on it and you can see what’s up with your state and from there again, consult a lawyer and your particular situations. And that being said, I promise you that if, when and how of how I make meal plans. So for starters, I am in a green state so just keep that in mind. I have a little more leeway here.

I make meal plans if I’m running a group program. Yeah. Because what it’s for a group, a sort of by definition, it’s not personalized advice and you don’t have to worry that it could be interpreted that way. It is, I always say like this is a sample meal plan and that they can use or are they cannot use. But either way I find that it’s super useful for clients to see, oh like this is how I can cook once and eat twice, or oh, this is the kind of breakfast that I could make in advance. And for some reason seeing it on a little grid, they’re like, oh, I get it. I get how my week can be put together. So a lot of people really love having that as a reference. Do they follow it? Not really sometimes, but really they don’t follow it.

It’s really up to them. But for my group programs, yes, I make meal plans, I provide recipes, I give them shopping lists. So if you’re doing any kind of like detox program or 10 days of gluten free or whatever kind of thing you might be doing, um, that’s something to consider for sure. The other way that I use meal planning in the past, I have made meal plans to be used as lead magnets. Do you know what I mean? When I say lead magnet, think of Freebie, it’s a something like a weight loss meal plan for women over 40, something like that. They give an email address and download my meal plan for free. Great. So I’m building my mailing list. They get something of value. I know I’m attracting in this case if, let’s say I was trying to target women over 40 who want to lose weight, I’d be attracting the right people.

Now again, this is not a customized meal plan or an any way prescriptive to an individual, right? Cause that’s just a Freebie for everybody. So again, that’s pretty safe for me to offer. So what about private clients? If I’m in a one to one coaching relationship with a client, there have been times that I have provided meal plans and I still say the same thing. It’s a sample meal plan and it’s nice. It really is. You can customize them. If my client hates cucumbers and I won’t include cucumbers, you know, can really be matched to their needs. If they have four people in their family, a meal plan can be sized to feed four people. It’s a wonderful thing, but I really do prefer to stay in the role of coach. Like I’ve done it and I just want to let you know that I kind of don’t like doing this in a one to one relationship because I feel like my skills really lie in the coaching and less so as like a service provider.

Like, oh here, here’s your monthly meal plan from me that I made for you. I don’t like how that feels. I like to maintain a certain, I don’t know, certain coach aura about me. No, I’m not going to sit down and make your meal plans for you. I’ll teach you how I’ll empower you to do it yourself. So these days between that and the potential legal issues, I’m really more likely to give my clients recipe books or links to recipes rather than a quote meal plan, if that makes sense. So let’s see what we have here.

Antoinette says they want me to tell them what to eat. I’ve never done this outside of my own diet.

Yeah, no kidding. People do want us to tell them what to eat. It’s sort of ingrained in their head that they need some outside person, group book, whatever, to tell them what to eat.

And you can, let’s say you did that, I’m sure you know this is, you know, as I do that it does not really going to serve them at the level they need to be served. They really do need to learn to know for themselves what to eat and what they like and what they’re craving, what their intuition tells them. So even sometimes what people want isn’t necessarily what they need. So just that’s something to consider. Um, Claudia says totally agree. I’d rather give some ideas about meals to clients, but ultimately they need to know how to plan meals themselves. That’s what we’re really going for in the end. Right. So I think, you know, you could argue it either way, that it is helpful to provide meal plans to a client because then like I said, it illustrates to them how they might do it for themselves, etc.

But you really can get into some tricky legal territory. So that being said, let’s talk about the how, whether you’re going to make a meal plan for an individual because you’re going to green state because that’s what you’re going to do. That’s great. A group, you’re going to use it as a lead magnet or some other option that I have not mentioned in this episode so far. How I spent years running group programs and every time I ran one of these group programs, I needed three weeks of meal plans. Okay, that sounds so bad. Just three. I don’t know if you have ever sat down to do this, but uh, I have done it many times and it is the most gigantic pain in the butt ever. First you need recipes. You cannot publish somebody else’s recipes to use in your business without permission. And it’s really not cool to do.

So I always created my own recipes and tested my own recipes and took photos of my own recipes. And that is a significant undertaking that sit down, put together that meal plan. Okay, this meal on Monday, this meal on Tuesday, it’s looking good, except some of my recipes were portioned for two servings and some of my recipes were portion for six servings and maybe my client needed four servings. So I had to do all kinds of crazy math to make it work. And then it had to do more math, right? Cause I want to be able to provide a shopping list that they can just grab and go to the store with. I always create a shopping list. So now I’m tallying up ingredients, adding up all the amounts, oh boy, two tablespoons of olive oil for that one, one tablespoon file, a quarter cup of olive oil, uh, adding it all up and you want to know how many mistakes I made.

Like a million, the worst. So these days when I make a meal plan, if I make a meal plan, I always 100% of the time I’m using that clean life. It solves pretty much every problem that we’ve talked about so far in this episode. So first you need recipes and that clean life just like I open it up and boom, there’s a whole bunch of recipes that I can use and they’re all great and they’re all tested and they already have wonderful photos better than anything I could take and you can add your own recipes and you can modify their recipes. They have like vegetarian and dairy free and gluten free, whatever you need, they’re always adding more. So I think it is one of the best tools I have ever come across as a health coach. If you need a meal plan for just one, one individual, great, you just set it to one, one serving and all that.

Math just happens in the magic of the computer and there you go. Yeah, output, a perfect shopping list and you don’t have to add anything up so there’s no errors. It’s so much easier. I will never make a meal plan by hand again and I’m only telling you about that clean life because I have personally used it. All the health coaches I know adore using it. In fact, I originally heard about it from one of my mentors, Dr. Aviva Romm and I thought, well, if she’s using it, you know that’s good for me. I am an affiliate because I love this product so much. You guys have to check it out. If you are interested in doing meal plans for anything we’ve talked about today, go to healthcoachpower.com/tcl you want to look for their business plan. You can sign up as an individual like if you just wanted to use it to make your own meal plans, but it doesn’t have the features that you would need in order to make meal plans for your group programs, for your clients, etc.

If you sign up and you use my link, by the way, that is an amazing way to support me and support this podcast. I will be very grateful. So again, that is healthcoachpower.com/tcl it stands for that clean life. Alrighty, whooo. There’s my spiel on new plans. You guys go forth and conquer and never sit there for hours. I probably spent maybe 40 hours just making those three weeks of meal plans for the programs that I ran in the past. Oh, what a time saver, but let’s move on to some other questions. Okay, so again, if you’re here with me live, shoot me a little note here in the chat. Let me know what you’d like to talk about today. I got a couple up my sleeve.

I’m going to start with this one from Addie. Addie said, hi coaches. I’d love to hear what you all offer in the way of accountability. I’m new to seeing clients and as of right now I let my clients choose their level of accountability. I don’t ask for check ins or anything like that, but I let them tell me what they need right now. I texted a couple of clients each day and one every other day. I don’t mind doing this since it’s what they’ve asked for. I was just thinking it could get time consuming as I get more clients and I think accountability sets me apart from other programs, so I don’t want to stop doing it. Just wondering how others manage it.

That’s a great question. Addie. This comes up fairly often and I don’t know how you said you’re new to seeing clients. Yeah. In the beginning I think we all want to over-deliver. Oh yeah. Text every single day. That’s really not scalable. But you already know that. Yes, you can do that for two clients, three clients, but you can not be doing that for 10 clients, 20 clients, you’ll lose your damn mind.

Right. So I personally have a rule where I do not text my clients at all. No way, because you’ve all done it right? Where you accidentally send the text of I love you. That’s meant for your husband, your mom, but you accidentally send it to somebody else. The other day I meant to send my husband, uh, there’s pork chops in the fridge, but I sent it to my neighbor. Luckily she wrote back and said, that sounds delicious. But I thought, oh my gosh, I cannot open the door for that to accidentally happen when I’m just quickly texting on the phone. Cause that’s what you do. So I never, never, never use text. Email. Yes. So the way that I like to approach it is that it’s available. You can reach out to me between sessions. I am absolutely here to support you, but I’m not chasing you down.

I’m not like showing up on your door going like, how’s it going? How’s practice? What are you going to have for lunch? What do you think you’re going to do? Go to the gym today and go to Yoga. Like, ah, I’m here and it’s their job to take the initiative and reach out to me. Most of the time they don’t. They don’t because people are busy and they know I’m there so they feel like they have that line to me, but they just don’t take advantage of it. So that’s great because then I’m not spending all that extra time with them and we’ll talk about what they need to talk about during their sessions. Sometimes they do take me up on it. Just today I got an email from one of my clients look can get a little haywire is then you have all these random emails from people that come in at random times and sometimes I’m like, oh, did I send her that recipe?

I can’t remember. And I had to go dig through your inbox for stuff. So I’ve actually been trying to keep all of my client communications inside my client management tool. So I use practice better. Many of you know about that. Um, and that way all of our messages, all of our notes are in one place. They can always refer back to it. I can always refer back to it and I’m feeling like that’s working really well. So that’s the tool. But just in terms of like providing accountability, just be careful. It can very easily turn into, what does that called a my, my brain is not working like it relationship, somebody helped me out. What is it called? When you have a relationship that codependency, that’s what you don’t want. You don’t want to create a codependent relationship. You want them to really stand on their own two feet and say, I need help, I’m going 

to get it.

I know where to get it. Let me initiate the conversation instead of you playing mom and like checking in on them. So that’s just me. Maybe I’m a little tough. That’s how I roll, but good question. Thanks for asking Addie.

Here’s another one I’ve got a question from Maria. Maria says, do you need liability insurance to work with someone for free as a practice client? I’m in the price comparison stage with the insurance and I may hold off until my website is live and I’m actively seeking clients.

I believe I a whole episode, I can’t remember what number it is called, something like uh, LLCs and bank accounts and something else. Oh my. You know, all the things that we think we have to have set up, signed and ready to rock before we start seeing any clients. The answer is no. You don’t need, you don’t need any of that.

I’m not saying it’s not smart to do some of this stuff up front, but no, to answer your question, Maria, you do not need, it is not required by any governing body that you have liability insurance to work with somebody for free or for if they’re paying you again, yes, probably a good idea. No, not required. And there’s just so many things like that, but I like to drive this point home. You don’t have to register your business with the state. You don’t have to set up your LLC. You don’t have to set up anything to work with your first practice clients or even paid clients. The reason I’m saying this is because it’s so easy to let that hold you back. Like suit Maria saying, oh, I may hold off until my website is live. Well, what is that going to be? And then her web designer goes off on vacation and she doesn’t get the website done and then she’s still not seeing any clients in six months have passed.

What if you just started? What if you just started in perfectly, you don’t have all the tools set up. Maybe you don’t have every t crossed and every I dotted, but you just started doing the work. I cannot recommend that highly enough. All the rest will fall into place in its own time.

All right, here’s a question from Keith. Not Very often that we get a male voice in these parts, so hello Keith. Thank you for joining us. This is what Keith had to say, does anyone have any thoughts on working with people struggling with anxiety or depression? It’s a sticky area for obvious reasons, so he has two main questions. He says, number one, how to go about positioning it in a way that is legally okay. I’m not looking to work with people who have serious clinical depression, more just feeling depressed and or anxious.

I also feel very clear that I’m not helping someone to cure depression but rather build the habits and that are more conducive to happiness and inner peace. I’m right there with you, Keith. So far. I like what you’re putting down. Second question, how to go about positioning it in a way that potential clients understand and relate to it. I don’t know that people always identify with the labels so maybe they don’t think of themselves as depressed. So, if you say something like I help people who are depressed, they’re going to say that’s not me.

I understand your question. You say focusing on symptoms make sense. But it can be hard to nail down concisely or put together an elevator pitch type thing. I like that. An elevator pitch type thing. We all need one of those. Well listen Keith, um, so two things. I think you are correct when you’re saying that in terms of like the legalities of this and this goes for everybody.

You can not say that you’re going to cure anything. Uh, so you just want to make sure that you are always saying something like what you said here. Uh, build the habits and lifestyle that are more conducive to happiness and inner peace. That’s cool. I mean, again, I’m not a lawyer but I’m pretty sure that’s cool. Whereas saying I’m going to help you get off all your medications and cure your depression top to bottom, not cool. I think you already have your answer there, number two. But how to position it in a way that your potential clients understand what you are getting at. Um, I think this is where you have some work to do. So this is exciting. Um, so the first thing that came to mind for me is, are you looking to work with people who are diagnosed with something meaning like they probably are on a medication.

So they’re, they’ve reached that level where they have gone to a doctor, the doctor has written off a prescription for Zoloft or something and so they do kind of know that they have this defined problem because if so you probably can use those words of depression or you could even say things like, are you taking Zoloft? Right? Like that sort of thing is going to resonate and will attract you to the right people. You will also need to make sure that they are in the ones who are taking a low dose of Zoloft and probably not the ones taking a very high dose and need much more psychiatric care. Then you could probably be a part of at this point. Um, or maybe you could, who knows, but you have to kind of figure out like what level are these people at? Do they, like you said, maybe they don’t even know.

They don’t know. They don’t identify as like I have anxiety or I have depression, in which case using those words are really turned them off. So you need to figure out who you’re targeting within this group and then you have to decide what are you going to help them do. Like if it’s somebody who’s taking medication is your goal to help them get the best results so they’re on the medication and you’re going to help them feel the very best they can while they continue to take the medication. Something along those lines would probably be pretty cool as opposed to like promising to get them off the medication. If you’re talking about some people who are just feeling more like anxious and depressed in life, but they’re not diagnosed with anything, what are you promising them a better mood perhaps and improved mood or a light into mood or something like that.

So you know, you’ll phrase these things differently depending on who you’re targeting. And then something that we do inside my program, healthy profit university is that we do interviews, we do market research because you’re really hitting the nail on the head here. When you say, I don’t know that people identify with the labels and how will they understand that you are putting yourself out there for them if you’re not speaking their language. So why did you decide who you want to work with? An awesome thing to do is to actually interview people who fit into that category and ask them about their problems. You’re not selling anything, right? This is just like, tell me more about x, y, z. Why is that a problem for you? What would success look like? We got a whole list of questions, but the point is that you want to get them into a deep conversation about it.

You want, you don’t want to accept their like top level question like, oh I don’t know. I just want to lose five pounds. You know you want to really get in there. Why do you want to lose the weight? Or why do you want to have a better mood? Why does it matter? Um, and get them to the point where they’re sharing their emotions, sharing again, like why it matters to them and that’s where those magic words will appear. How do they describe themselves? Do they describe themselves as depressed? Maybe they say, I just feel down and out. Maybe they say, I just feel stuck in a Rut. So if you hear like two, three, four people say the same thing, you’re like, oh, that’s a great term for me to use when I’m speaking to this audience. So Keith, I think you have a little bit of homework to do there figuring out who you’re targeting and then really getting to know them and talking to them so you can speak their language. All right, one more question. One more question. I’ve got one more minute. So let’s do it.

This one’s from Katherine. She says, I have a question for the IIN grads out there. I’ve reached the module where they open up the IIN website offer. I already have a WordPress website. Up and running. Is there any advantage in going for an IIN website? Are there any special features that would make it worthwhile or shall I just stick with what I’ve got?

Catherine, this is a very easy one. Thank you. Thank you for throwing me a softball stick with WordPress. The IIN sites stinks from everybody who has ever talked about it in our group. I could not imagine why you would want to leave WordPress, which is the industry standard, and move over to a platform that IIN provides. So No, don’t make that move. You got this girl. Don’t worry about it. And thanks for asking.

All right you guys, that’s it for today. I will be back next week. So keep asking great questions and I promise to keep answering them. Take care.