Meal and Program Planning in the Applied Nutrition Science Diploma

Meal and Program Planning in ELA’s Applied Nutrition Science (ANS) Program

By: Erin Hanley, RD, Applied Nutrition Science Diploma Instructor

When most people think of nutrition programming, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a meal plan. Meals plans are a great tool to help clients achieve their goals, but did you know there are other ways to program for a client and teach them how to eat more healthfully? In ELA’s Applied Nutrition Science Program we teach our students about various programming methods, including meal plans, and how to choose the right one according to client needs!

Meal Planning

Meal plans can be very specific, or they can be quite general depending on what the client’s goals are. If a client just wants to generally improve eating habits, increase recipe knowledge, or just have more structure in their week, a more basic plan that just outlines meals and recipes can be created. If a client has very specific goals, a more detailed plan that is individually calculated for energy and macronutrient needs can be offered. Both types of meal plans have their place and we teach our students how and when to offer each! We integrate an engaging meal planning workshop and major meal planning assignment into our program to give students the experience and practical skills to develop exceptional meal plans. We also give our students exclusive access to meal planning software that can assist in plan creation!

Healthy Plate Model

The healthy plate model is a flexible tool to improve meal balance and increase awareness of portion sizes. The great thing about this model is that there is no calorie counting or specific meals to follow so it allows the client more freedom to choose without getting caught up in numbers! A standard sized plate is used to judge portioning with ¼ of the plate being quality protein, ¼ of the plate healthy carbs, and ½ the plate vegetables/fruit. A big part of the healthy plate model is also teaching clients to listen to hunger and fullness cues. Students in the ANS program will learn about the best food choices to make when using this model and how to implement it with clients.

Healthy Habit Building

Healthy habit building is another method of assisting clients with their healthy lifestyle goals. Our behaviour is shaped through what we habitually do, and changing habits can be tough! When a client has many habits they want to change, the best method is to tackle them 1-2 at a time instead of changing everything at once. In the ANS program we teach our students about behaviour change research and how to apply it to helping clients reach their goals. By slowly shaping old habits into newer, healthier habits, we increase the chances of long-term behaviour change success!

In nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and it’s important to tackle each case individually based on client goals and needs. Whether it’s providing a calculated meal plan or working with clients to slowly shape habits, all are methods that students learn to implement in the interest of client success!