• Bari Stricoff, MSc, RDN

Why I Don't Offer Meal Plans

Without fail, I wake up every morning to several messages/emails asking “I’m looking for a 1 month healthy meal plan to lose weight/fat. How much do you charge?”. And every morning, I copy and paste or roughly paraphrase the same sentence into the reply section that states how I do not believe in meal plans, as we are all unique and have individual nutritional needs and goals. Now, I could easily create a 1-month meal plan, roughly 1500 calories with a complete grocery list for about $300.00. In reality, I could really use the money this would generate (hello student loans), yet my code of ethics, integrity and knowledge prevents me from doing so.

In my opinion, weight loss produced by following a meal plan just shows an individual’s ability to follow rules, not their decision-making abilities, nutrition education or coping skills. And by that logic, a meal plan is no different than “a diet”. While I would include a lot of balanced options on a hypothetical meal plan, such as ice cream, anything not present in the plan would essentially fall on the “cannot eat list”. And then I have created an “eat this”, “not that” guideline – which only sets my clients up to fail, as rules around food create unhealthy relationships with food, unsustainable practices, and inevitable low-self-esteem.

However, my real issue with handing out pre-made meal plans to potential clients is the lack of nutritional assessment. How can I provide nutrition recommendations without taking a detailed report of my client’s medical history, family history, any biochemical data (i.e potential anaemia or elevated cholesterol), weight history, normal eating habits, allergies, medications, supplements, gastrointestinal symptoms, etc.? The answer is – I ethically can’t. For example, If I answered every meal plan inquiry with a link to purchase my 1-month meal plan, I could potentially be causing my clients more harm than good. What if this meal plan is too restrictive for them and sends them down a path of bingeing and purging? What if the meal plan is not carbohydrate controlled and they have Type 2 Diabetes? What if they were taking certain medications, such as Warfarin, and I did not advise about vitamin K? Thus, giving my clients the ability to purchase “1200-calorie”, “1500-calorie”, or even “1800-calorie” meal plans would be wildly ignorant and unprofessional.

Furthermore, we know the research regarding diets and how they do not work. We know everyone has different needs and preferences and a “one size fits all” approach does not have a place in the nutrition community.

So, what do I do with my clients looking for a bit more structure to help them achieve their personal goals?

Well, after sitting down with them (virtually, of course), and taking a detailed nutrition assessment, I then ascertain what education they need. We discuss their current eating style, habits and preferences. We engage in evidence-based education, incorporating an anti-diet approach + motivational interviewing. I give my clients the resources and tools to make their own informed decisions to improve diet quality and health, while practicing balance and an “all foods fit” approach! (ps. This is a very vague overview of how I work with my clients, but I think it gets the point across).

So, if you are looking for a quick meal plan to follow, you won’t find it under my services tab! What you will find are appointment options that will ensure individual nutrition counselling sessions that provide nutrition education, improved relationships with food and long-term success! This blog post is not intended to discredit any other professionals that give meal plans, yet this is my opinion on why I do not provide them.

Disclaimer: this article does not pertain to certain conditions that medically require a calorie-controlled meal plan, such as weight restoration for underweight individuals suffering from an eating disorder. However, that is still an individual plan that does not follow a “one-size fits all” approach.

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