It’s no secret that there is a lot of conflicting nutrition information out there. You hear it, I hear it, it’s everywhere.
One person is telling you to never eat carbs again. The next is preaching the importance of carbs being your body’s preferred source of fuel.
Someone is singing the praises of intermittent fasting, while someone else claims eating six small meals each day is best.
The nutrition industry is full of myths and misconceptions.
These also translate from general nutrition recommendations to nutrition counseling.
As a registered dietitian and nutrition coach, I hear tons of misconceptions about nutrition and nutrition counseling every day. It’s confusing and frustrating, and I want to set the record straight.
Some of the biggest myths and misconceptions I hear about nutrition counseling include:
- A dietitian will tell me exactly what to eat and make me a meal plan to follow.
- A nutritionist is going to make me give up my favorite foods.
- All dietitians make you count calories and macros.
- Only people who need to lose weight work with nutrition coaches.
- Healthy eating takes too much time.
- Healthy eating is too expensive.
- A dietitian is going to make me eat differently than my family.
- Healthy eating is impossible when traveling.
- A dietitian is going to judge me for how I eat.
- All nutrition professionals are exactly the same.
In this article, I’ll break down each of these ideas and explain the truth to you. No more myths, no more misconceptions, just the truth about nutrition counseling.
1. Will A Dietitian Tell Me Exactly What To Eat?
The short answer here is no. The long answer requires us diving into what nutrition counseling is.
Nutrition counseling is the progress of altering your diet to improve your health. While it is largely about the food, it’s not just someone telling you what to eat to make you eat healthier.
Instead, nutrition counseling is a personalized, team approach, where you and your nutrition coach work together to build healthy habits and a sustainable way of eating that allows you to be your healthiest self.
Yes, some nutrition professionals will provide you with meal ideas, meal plans, recipes, and menus. However, following a meal plan to a T isn’t teaching you how to make your own decisions, incorporate your preferences, and eat in a way that is sustainable over the long term.
Nutrition counseling will teach you more and take you farther than a meal plan ever will.
2. Will A Nutritionist Make Me Give Up My Favorite Foods?
Again, no. If you love ice cream or chips, you do not have to kiss them goodbye immediately upon enrolling in a nutrition counseling program.
While your nutrition coach likely isn’t going to recommend eating these foods all day every day, trying to eliminate your favorite foods from your diet isn’t a sustainable approach to healthy eating.
Instead, nutrition counseling is built to teach you how to fill the majority of your day with healthy, nourishing foods that fuel your body while still including the foods you know and love.
3. Will A Dietitian Make Me Count Calories or Macros?
To be honest, this answer is split. Some dietitians and nutritionists will ask you to count calories, others will ask you to count macros, and some may not ask you to count anything at all.
While different people find success using different approaches, it’s a good idea to think about what approach will work best for you in the long run. Knowing yourself is a key to success in nutrition counseling.
Here at OnPoint, we don’t count calories or macros. Instead, we work to get a healthy balance of different food groups to ensure you are fueling your body and getting the nutrients you need to achieve optimal health.
4. Do Nutrition Coaches Only Work With People Who Need To Lose Weight?
This is a big no! While many people traditionally believe that dietitians and nutritionists focus only on weight loss, there is so much more to nutrition counseling.
Some people work with dietitians to lose weight, others to control medical conditions like IBS or prediabetes. Some individuals want to improve their relationship with food and eat more intuitively, while others want to transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The beauty of nutrition counseling is that it is personalized to you. Your nutrition coach will take into account your background, medical history, lifestyle, activity, mental health, and more to create a program as unique as you are.
5. Is Healthy Eating Time Consuming?
It can be but doesn’t have to be.
Maybe coming home from work and spending time in the kitchen preparing a meal is relaxing and helps you unwind. Maybe it sounds like the last thing you want to do after a long, hard day.
Whichever person you are, you can still make healthy changes through the nutrition counseling process.
Yes, you can spend an hour cooking every night. Yes, you can spend half of your Sunday in the kitchen prepping meals for the week. However, you can also put together quick, easy, healthy meals in just a few minutes each day.
Planning ahead, shopping smart, and preparing a bit in advance can all go a long way in helping you eat healthier without spending hours in the kitchen. Your nutrition coach will help guide you to the approach that is best for you and your schedule.
6. Is Healthy Eating Expensive?
Again, it certainly can be but absolutely does not have to be.
Here at OnPoint, we meet you where you are at. This means your eating habits, your cooking skills, and your budget.
We don’t expect you to buy all specialty, organic products from a high-end grocery store. We work with a wide variety of clients on a wide variety of budgets to make the changes they need for their health without breaking the bank.
7. Will A Dietitian Make Me Eat Differently Than My Family?
Nutrition counseling isn’t prescriptive. It isn’t a diet plan where you have to eat specific foods at specific times to be successful.
Instead, nutrition counseling is a personalized solution that allows you to eat the foods you want, and the foods you are used to eating. This means you can keep your family dinners and not have to eat “diet food” while your family enjoys a home cooked meal.
Instead of completely changing what you make, your dietitian may suggest making some simple ingredient swaps or adjusting your portions. However, you don’t have to kiss your family dinners goodbye.
8. Is Healthy Eating Possible When Traveling?
If you couldn’t guess this answer by now, it’s yes. Healthy eating is not some magical, mythical, unattainable thing that can only be done with endless time and money in your own kitchen.
While cooking at home does provide you the ability to prepare your own meals and control what goes into them, very few people eat 100% of their meals at home. We understand this.
Instead of waiting to start counseling until after a trip or after your busy work travel schedule calms down, start now. Your dietitian will help you navigate eating on the road, eating in hotels, going out to dinner, and more so you can travel confidently.
9. Do Dietitians Judge People For How They Eat?
This is one of the biggest myths I hear. So many people assume that dietitians eat perfectly and judge anyone who doesn’t.
I will tell you here and now, ice cream is my favorite food, and I don’t say no to pizza night with my family. I understand that food is fuel for my body, but also something that brings me pleasure and allows me to connect with those around me.
Dietitians do not eat perfectly, and we do not judge you for not eating perfectly either.
In fact, when someone describes their diet as perfect or shows me a food log that is pristine, it’s a little bit of a red flag.
Here at OnPoint, we believe in a well-rounded, well-balanced diet. All foods and drinks fit, and we want you to enjoy the ones you love.
10. Are All Nutrition Professionals The Same?
This question is one I hear so often that I wrote a few posts just about this topic.
The answer is that no, not all nutrition professionals are the same.
Some are dietitians, some are nutritionists, and yes, there is a difference. Unfortunately, some nutrition coaches are qualified, and some are not, so it’s important to pay attention to their education, training, and credentials.
Curious about how to find the best coach? Learn more by reading How To Find the Best Nutrition Coach for You.
Aside from credentials, there is variation in the approaches that nutrition counselors take.
Some take a more rigid approach and focus on tracking, counting, and physical progress. Others take a more holistic, intuitive approach and focus on listening to your body and improving your relationship with food.
Learning more about your potential counselor and their approach to nutrition counseling before getting started will pay off in the long run.
Is Nutrition Counseling Right For You?
If you started reading this article a little unsure about nutrition counseling, what it is, and what it isn’t, I hope you feel a little more solid in your knowledge now.
If you started thinking nutrition counseling might be right for you but were scared you would have to give up your favorite foods, follow a meal plan, and spend hours in the kitchen, I hope your view of nutrition counseling has shifted.
As I said before, nutrition counseling is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s personalized to you, your body, your goals, and your lifestyle.
If you’re ready to learn more about our approach to nutrition counseling here at OnPoint, check out The Client Experience At OnPoint Nutrition: What You Can Expect.
Liz has been reading nutrition labels since she learned how to read. Growing up with severe peanut and tree nut allergies she learned that it’s important to know what you are putting into your body. She made her first big lifestyle change as a freshman in high school, when she decided to become a vegetarian. However, it wasn’t until she took a food class in Italy as part of a study abroad program in college that it clicked in her mind that she wanted to make food and nutrition her career. Liz graduated from Penn State University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition, as well as a bachelor's degree in Marketing. She completed her dietetic internship with Aramark in Philadelphia, and her master's degree at Northeastern University shortly after.