Nothing is more frustrating than hearing from your client that they haven’t been following their plan in between appointments. This brings up all kinds of insecurities for practitioners…
“Did my plan suck?”
“Am I good at this?”
“Should I give them a refund?”
“Should I even be seeing clients?”
Clients not following their plans is a common problem, but not all practitioners have it. In fact, some practitioners create incredible meal plans their clients love to follow, like That Clean Life member, Tina Gravalos, CNP.
Tina is a Holistic Nutritionist with a “no fuss approach to better health.” She’s known for her practical, food-first approach to wellness and her clients love her for her realistic health plans that they can actually follow.
We chatted with Tina to learn how she makes her clients successful. She had a lot to share so buckle up and get ready to re-think your approach to meal planning.
Step 1: Assess Their Needs
Creating a meal plan based on your client’s unique needs means more than just getting the calories, macros, micronutrients, and minerals balanced. Tina takes the time to really get to know her clients and fully understand their needs when it comes to cooking and eating.
Her thorough assessment includes how much time her clients have to cook, what their skill level in the kitchen is and other questions that help her fully understand her client’s relationship with cooking and eating.
"I use the Meal Planning Assessment form from That Clean Life. It’s such a great tool that asks all the right questions needed to make the best-customized plans for my clients.”
Download our free Meal Planning Assessment Tool to use with your own clients here.
Step 2: Find Recipes Your Client Will Love
Once Tina has a thorough understanding of what her client needs from a meal plan, she sets out to find the perfect set of recipes for them.
Beyond nutrition, the biggest factors that go into selecting recipes for her client’s plans are:
- Number of ingredients
- Accessibility of ingredients
- Ease of preparation and clean up
"I’m all about being realistic and making things as easy as possible for my clients to follow. I’m also all about going back to basics. Keeping it simple like having a protein, healthy fat and fiber eat each meal. I usually look for recipes with 10 ingredients or less that take about 30-40 minutes to make. Anything over that, I try to limit, depending on the client I’m working with.”
Tina uses That Clean Life to find the perfect recipes, which saves her time compared to scouring the internet for recipes that fit her client’s needs.
"Based on how much time a client likes to spend in the kitchen, I’ll add a time filter. My go-to is usually 30-40 minutes or less for most people. To take their budget into account, I like to group ingredients together. For example, in the 'include ingredients' filter I’ll type in broccoli and pick a couple of recipes that include broccoli. Same thing with other veggies, spices and protein sources like chicken, turkey, and legumes. This also gives clients the opportunity to get familiar with batch cooking and trying out new ways to use ingredients.”
Step 3: Build a Realistic Plan
Many nutrition professionals make meal plans that include way too many recipes thinking that it adds more value when in fact, it does the opposite making the plan too hard to follow.
Tina sticks to three to four different breakfast recipes for the week because she knows most people don’t have time to make a whole new recipe every morning. She schedules lots of variety at dinner and always uses leftovers for lunch the next day, which her clients love.
"I find that leftovers help clients be more successful on their wellness journey. We live in a society where everyone is constantly go-go-go. Leftovers help with compliance, too. Sometimes giving clients a new recipe for every meal can be overwhelming, time consuming and expensive. I give a new dinner recipe for each day that carries over into lunch the next day or even longer.”
This approach keeps her client's shopping list super simple, saving them money and reducing food waste.
"The simpler you make the plans, the more likely your clients are going to follow. I always tell my clients that the meal plans I make for them don’t have to be followed 100%. They are there for guidance and sort of like a roadmap to show them how to create balanced meals that are going to help them feel nourished throughout the day. If they want to make the same meal for a few days, go for it! If they want to make a meal on Monday that is scheduled for Thursday, that’s ok too. This way, your clients won’t feel restricted. Focus more on the foods you want them to eat vs. foods you want them to eliminate. Word your protocols in a way that shows the abundance of delicious and nutritious foods to consume. It makes these foods look much more appealing.”
Step 4: Check-in to See How They’re Doing
The best way to prevent an awkward follow-up where your client tells you that they haven’t been following their plan is to talk to them between appointments. Checking in with your clients will give them accountability and a chance to express if something isn’t working for them.
"I do weekly check-ins through Practice Better. I get clients to use the food journal by either uploading photos of their meals or writing in what they ate. I review their week and make my comments. This allows me to see how they are incorporating their meal plans into their lives. It also lets them know that I'm there with them every step of the way. I find this also helps with compliance. I'm their personal cheerleader!”
Don’t worry about “bugging” your clients in-between consultations! They will appreciate you reaching out and showing them how much you care. Often these personal touches are the difference between a client liking you and loving you.
Step 5: Follow-Up, Tweak, and Improve
When Tina works with clients, she schedules follow up visits every two or six weeks, depending on what program her clients are on. Along with their follow-up visit, she includes a new meal plan. This allows her to slowly incorporate one change at a time and help her clients build healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
"Going back to basics is where it’s at! Instead of giving your clients everything you want them to do all at once, break it down for them in phases. Start with small changes they can implement like start drinking warm water with lemon in the morning or incorporate a new veggie every week using it in different ways.”
Tina encourages her clients to follow their meal plan in a way that works for them in-between their visits. During a follow-up, she will ask them questions about what they liked, didn’t like, and if there were any barriers to their success.
"I find that six weeks is a good time frame for someone to get into new healthy habits. I also structure my meal plans in a way that allows my clients to continue using recipes from the initial meal plan and using ingredients from those recipes to whip up new ones until we meet again.”
We asked Tina what piece of advice she would give to nutritionists struggling with their client compliance and her advice didn’t surprise us one bit...
"Keeping it simple and really listening to the needs of your clients is the best advice I can give.”
If you’re not sure whether your client likes the plan, ask them! If you see them struggling with their meal plan or protocol, ask them what they are finding difficult and listen to their answers. Your job as a practitioner is to create plans that your clients can follow. The success of your business depends on the success of your clients, so ensure that you are communicating well and meeting their needs.
Want to keep up with Tina? Follow her on Instagram here.
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