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Individual Nutrition Counselling & Education - The Essentials

Individual Nutrition Counselling is an education process by which an individual can consult a health expert with specialised nutrition training to alleviate or treat nutritionally based conditions. This expert is usually a nutritionist or dietitian who is skilled and qualified to give the nutrition guidance needed by the individual. Personalised nutrition plans are prepared for the individual only after a complete assessment of the client's health, age, gender, body type, energy and fitness levels, workout routine, goals and lifestyle habits. Individual Nutrition Counselling and Education involves a two-way interaction between the client and a nutrition expert. It is an educational process, where the dietitian imparts specific information that allows the client to achieve their desired nutritional/ lifestyle goals. This process is usually conducted in an outpatient or private practice setting.

Since nutrition is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for one and all, Individual Nutrition Counselling and Education can be taken up by anyone to facilitate this process.

For example people looking to:

  • Lose or gain weight

  • Build muscle and improved athletic performance

  • Improve immunity

  • Fine tune food choices for a healthier lifestyle

  • Understand how many calories they need to be eating

  • Understand how to get the nutrients needed from the right sources

  • Deal with disordered eating

  • Improve and maintain good health and fitness with improved mood and relieve stress

  • Manage medical conditions - Heart disease, Hypertension, Diabetes, Thyroid conditions, Kidney and liver disease, and other medical conditions that can be treated with nutrition therapy in the outpatient or private practice settings.

Through the process of an Individual Nutrition Counselling and Education a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist works with an individual to assess his or her usual dietary intake and then identify areas where change is needed. There are so many details in our life that impact what we eat, how much we eat and why we eat. A dietitian, being a trained counselor, can interpret the results of the nutrition assessment, identify individual nutrition needs and goals, discuss ways to meet those goals, and agree on next steps. They can provide in-depth nutrition plans to help the client reach their fitness goals and make positive changes in their health and well-being thus making a difference in their life. Dietitians are facilitators of specific lifestyle changes that are decided in partnership with the client for the best possible outcome for the client.

Individual Nutrition Counselling and Education is a partnership. Both the dietitian and the client have certain roles and responsibilities for the success of any nutrition counselling and education process. The dietitian and client need to work together to identify areas where change is needed, prioritize changes, and problem solve as to how to make the changes. The process usually begins with an interview, which provides the basis for identifying habits and behaviors that need to be changed. This initial consultation is followed by regular follow ups at intervals to review how things went between appointments, while working towards smaller, achievable goals. Follow ups help to review progress and setbacks or barriers. In case of any setbacks the dietitian can help strategize around those setbacks so the individual can get back on track and continue moving towards their goals.

Role of the Dietitian in Individual Nutrition Counselling & Education:

  • Listen to people with an open mind and use the information to help him/her with their nutrition, healthy habits and lifestyle.

  • Probe effectively, asking relevant questions that enable clients to explore more fully any relevant issue about their dietary patterns.

  • Maintain good verbal and non-verbal communication and motivate the client positively.

  • Assess the clients health needs and fitness goals.

  • Identify nutrition problems and barriers if any and provide practical solutions .

  • Apply evidence based nutrition knowledge to develop an optimal nutrition plan that promotes healthy eating while also strengthening the client's motivation.

  • Take into consideration clients potential health or weight problems, family life, stress levels, sleep patterns, energy levels, exercise, time constraints, travel and lifestyle habits.

  • Counsel the clients on any nutrition issues or changes needed in behaviors around food with focus on better/improved dietary habits.

  • Develop meal and nutrition plans, after considering all the assessments done while also taking into account the client's dietary preferences, cooking patterns and budget.

  • Evaluate the effects of meal plans and change the plans as and when needed.

  • Keep themselves updated with the latest food and nutritional science and evidence based research.

  • Document client records and monitor progress effectively.

Role of the Client in Individual Nutrition Counselling & Education:

  • Find a qualified nutrition expert in your local area who is qualified to deal with the specific nutrition based issue you are dealing with.

  • Interview the nutritionist or dietitian on their method of working, client confidentiality, disclaimers and disclosures, if any.

  • Consider involving a family member in the nutrition counselling process initially and periodically as a part of the support system for your personal change.

  • Provide all nutrition, lifestyle, health and other relevant details that the dietitian will require to assess, in order to make an effective personalised nutrition plan.

  • Understand that making dietary changes is a gradual process and there are no quick fixes.

  • Be willing to make some changes in lifestyle and dietary habits as needed for the best possible outcome for you.

  • Be committed to the personalised nutrition plans and guidelines that are decided with the dietitian.

  • Self-monitoring, realistic expectations, and continued follow-up will help the client maintain the positive nutrition/lifestyle changes and be able to reach their goals faster.

Through Individual Nutritional Counselling and Education, basic health needs are met and specialized information is given to fit the individual’s personal lifestyle. It helps determine which foods will meet the individual requirements, which can help lead to improved overall health and wellness through optimal nutrition. Individual Nutrition Counselling and Education is a process, where changes are seen over time. Yet, the positive outcome of this process is often transformative and life-changing.

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