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What is a Nutrition Coach? How to Become a GREAT One

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Want to know how to become a successful nutrition coach? 

If your answer is yes, you’ve come to the right place. Today, you’ll learn how to become a successful nutrition coach who helps your clients improve their lives while falling in love with what you do. 

In this article, you’ll learn all about how to become a nutrition coach in 2023 and well into the future. 

What is nutrition coaching? 

So what is nutrition coaching?

Nutrition coaching involves teaching your clients to make healthier food choices to achieve their desired health outcomes. Most clients seeking out nutrition coaching aren’t looking to solve any specific health issues but to improve their overall relationship with food. 

Other clients may want to lose weight. Since studies show that nutrition is the most important part of weight loss, clients may be looking for someone to guide them through making better food choices. 

On top of this, recent studies revealed that health and wellness coaching has a direct correlation to improved weight and nutrition behaviors. 

These are all reasons why nutrition coaching is becoming a booming industry. 

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But if nutrition coaching is so successful, what’s the difference between a nutritionist and a nutrition coach? 

Let’s explore that next. 

What is the difference between a nutritionist and a nutrition coach? 

So, nutrition coach vs. nutritionist: what’s the difference?

Let’s start with nutritionists.

A nutritionist focuses on the education of general health and wellness education. The actual term “nutritionist” isn’t regulated. This means that there are no specific certifications or programs a person must complete to call themselves a nutritionist. 

However, a registered nutritionist is different. They must complete a four-year university degree program and have additional healthcare requirements. Most of their recommendations for clients will be research-based and have scientific backing.

On the other hand, a nutrition coach helps clients improve their eating habits and interactions with food. You might have a background as a nurse, in fitness, or health in general. 

To break it down, a registered nutritionist:

  • Completes a four-year program 
  • Comes from a research-based, scientific background
  • Provides nutrition counseling and education to clients 
  • Create unique food plans for clients

On the other hand, a nutrition coach:

  • Improves client’s relationship with food 
  • Might have a health-related background 
  • Doesn’t require any specific certification 

That said, the terminology isn’t that specific these days. You might be a registered nutritionist who works more like a coach to help your clients get the best results. 

Now that you’re clear on what a nutrition coach does, let’s find out if they are profitable ways to build a business. 

Do nutrition coaches make money?

Now, the question you’ve all been wondering: Do nutrition coaches make money? 

The short answer? 

Yes, nutrition coaches make money. But it’s up to you how much you make. A nutrition coach’s salary can range anywhere from five to six figures or more.

Health coaching is now a $7 billion industry. While the average health coach in the U.S makes around $55,000 a year, you can stand to make much more. 

For instance, my student Adrienne, who is a registered nutritionist, built a successful six-figure business while helping people lose weight and improve their health. 

health coach Adrienne website

Or my student Brenda, an integrative nutrition coach, who built a business around coaching women to eat better and lose weight. Today, she helps both individuals and employees at corporations become healthier. 

Brenda Sillas health coach website

So, now that you’re clear on how much you can make, how can you get started as a nutrition coach? 

We’ll talk about that next. 

How to become a nutrition coach online

So, if you want to become a nutrition coach, you’ll need to take some online courses, right? 

Well, not exactly. 

While you do need some education to become a nutrition coach, you don’t necessarily need specialized education to get started. 

But how long does it take to become a nutrition coach? A month? Six months? A year? 

Let’s talk about it. 

How long does it take to become a nutrition coach?

The time it takes you to become a nutrition coach entirely depends on you. 

What do I mean? 

Let’s say you want to become a registered nutritionist. It’ll take you a bit longer to get through a university degree and take all the required classes. If you want to take a shorter route, you could choose to enroll in a certification program

However, choosing an established certification program requires careful consideration, as nutrition coaching isn’t a regulated industry.

If you already have experience or hold a nutrition degree, then you can get started right away. 

Can you be a nutrition coach without a certification?

Technically, yes, you can be a nutrition coach without a certification. Since this isn’t a regulated industry, it’s unlikely that people will expect you to have one. 

Remember that you will need certifications in some health-related industries. To avoid running into roadblocks, keep yourself informed on those.

Either way, most nutrition coaching certifications don’t teach you how to coach, as that’s a skill you learn when you coach (assuming you have the right background and experience in helping people achieve their goals with the help of the right nutrition). My philosophy is to learn by doing so that you offer a relatively lower price on your coaching for your first few clients. When you coach them, you learn how to coach.

And it’s a win-win for your clients, too, because they get to work with you for a lower rate. 

How much does it cost to become a nutrition coach?

So, the million-dollar question: How much will you spend trying to become a nutrition coach? 

Again, the answer depends on you. 

Let’s say you decide to get a degree in nutrition to back up what you already know. While an associate’s degree might cost you anywhere from $5,000-$30,000, a bachelor’s degree in nutrition could cost you as much as $80,000.

Certifications can also be relatively pricey, ranging anywhere from $900 to $5,000. 

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If you have experience or a background in the field of nutrition, there’s no reason why you can’t get started coaching right away. 

After all, most people want to know that you can get results. If you have testimonials and evidence of your coaching success, they won’t care as much about your credentials. 

But if you DO want to get certified, where do you start? Here are my top certification program recommendations. . 

Best nutrition coach certification programs 

What are the best nutrition coaching certification programs? 

Here are my top recommendations based on online reviews and recommendations. Note that I haven’t tried these programs myself–make sure you do your research before enrolling!

1. Certified Nutrition Coach Certification (NASM-CNC)

National Academy of Sports Medicine 

NASM’s program focuses on nutrition coaching, science, and behavior change. The course is a continuing education course, even though there are no prerequisites to enroll in the course. The course consists of three parts and a final exam and you have one year from the start of the course to complete it. 

Price: $629

2. Level 1 Nutrition Certification

Precision Nutrition 

Precision Nutrition is a peer-reviewed program, which focuses on science-backed behavior change coaching and nutrition. This program is self-paced, but if you follow the teaching plan, you’ll complete it in four and a half months. 

Price: $119/month for one year 

3. eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate 

Cornell University

The eCornell Plant-Based Nutirition Certificate is for you who wants to focus on a plant-based diet. The program focuses on everything from the fundamentals of nutrition and the metabolic system to how nutrition affects diseases like cancer. This is a six-week long program. 

Price: $1,260

4. Health Coaching Certification Program 

Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) 

The IIN program can be completed in six or 12 months. The program covers everything from health coaching more generally to nutrigenomics and biohacking. 

Price: $6,995

These are the top certification programs. But how do you eventually grow your nutrition coaching business, though? 

Let’s take a look. 

How to grow your nutrition coaching business

Now that you know how to get your business started, you’ll need to tackle how to grow it.

While a coaching business is an excellent first-time business if you’re a new entrepreneur, they take, just like any business, time and energy to grow. 

That said, you can grow your business in the right way… Or the wrong way, which will take you way longer to grow. 

Here’s an overview of the best way to grow your nutrition coaching business from scratch and find paying clients.  

How to get nutrition coaching clients 

The first thing you need to do to attract nutrition coaching clients is to create a unique nutrition coaching package

To do this, spend some time thinking about your ideal client. Think about their current struggles and challenges, and work those into your offer. 

For example, let’s say your ideal client is a woman in her mid-twenties who’s trying to improve her relationship with food. She may have a history of yo-yo dieting or trying all the newest fads to lose weight, only to fail each time.  

As a nutrition coach, you’ll help her make better food choices and encourage her to heal her negative feelings toward food. 

Or, if you want to work with people already in the fitness space, you might help them see how to improve their macros to reach their fitness goals. 

While each program is different, they both promise a transformative result. 

Now you might be wondering, how much should I charge if I’m new to coaching? 

If you’ve never coached anyone before, I recommend that you start with a three-month package priced at $1,500. 

A lower-priced package gives clients a good deal and gives you time to fine-tune your coaching offer. 

To learn more about creating and offering your first coaching package, check out this quick YouTube video.

Now that you’ve created your coaching package let’s explore how to attract the right kind of clients. 

How to become a great nutrition coach

First, let’s tackle the question: 

What does it take to become a great coach? 

In this short video, I walk you through what coaching really is:

Your clients don’t really care about the number of PDFs you send them or how often they talk to you. 

What great coaching comes down to is:

Can you help your clients get results? 

And I don’t mean you do the work for them. They have to believe in themselves to get results! 

But do you have a methodology for helping them? Do you focus on helping them overcome their roadblocks? 

That’s what it takes to be a coach.

How to get paying nutrition coaching clients

Now that you have a nutrition coaching package, you need to find paying clients. 

My advice? 

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small and work your way up from there. 

Instead of getting overwhelmed with branding and marketing, pick a few marketing strategies to start with. These strategies should align with your ideal clients and help you connect with them easily. 

Here are a few strategies I recommend to new coaches: 

Podcasts 

Podcasts are a great way to find your ideal nutrition clients. There’s generally a low barrier of entry, as anyone can start a podcast. 

To use this strategy, either start your own podcast or reach out to fellow podcasters in your niche and ask to be a guest speaker.

Now, I know what you’re thinking:

“If I’m just getting started as a nutrition coach, why would anyone want to have me on their podcast?”

Even if you don’t have much experience, remember, you ARE qualified to speak. You’ve helped people get the results you’re promising, and you have the testimonials to prove it. 

So put yourself out there! Look for coaching podcasts by doing a quick Google search on nutritional podcasts and related industries. 

Once you put together a list of podcasts that align with your message, reach out to them by sending a short email. Explain who you are and give a few short reasons why you feel that you’re a great fit for their show. 

Use your network 

Making good use of your network is another way to find paying nutrition clients. And, before you tell me that you don’t have a network – let me assure you that you do. 

Your network is all your friends and family and everyone they know too. Even if your distant cousin Nancy isn’t interested in becoming a client, maybe someone she knows will. 

Studies even show that 46% of coaches find paying clients through referrals and word of mouth. So even if it’s slow going at first, don’t give up. Your network may surprise you. 

I actually found my first few coaching clients with my local network (this was back when I started my first coaching business as a career coach). I asked a few coworkers I had helped in the past if they would be interested in my career coaching package. 

It worked! And I had my first paying clients. 

Relevant Social Media Channels 

Use social media to build relationships with your audience. These social media platforms are a great way to find thriving communities and ideal clients.

Just think, your perfect nutrition coaching clients could be on: 

  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • TikTok
  • Facebook
  • YouTube

Several of my students found their first paying clients on the platforms I mentioned here. (And I did too… My first client to my digital advertising consulting business came from a Facebook group for entrepreneurs).  

Find out which platform works for you and master it before moving on to the next. 

To find out how you can find more coaching clients, check out this short video:

Next, let’s take a look at how you can scale your business from a few clients to six figures and beyond. 

How to scale with group coaching programs

Once you’ve done a few rounds of coaching, it’s likely that you’ll want to start scaling your business. If you’ve only been working with clients one-on-one up until now, group programs should be your next step.

Why? 

These are a great next step from your one-on-one plans. You can take the methodology you’ve been teaching and apply it to a group setting.

Group coaching programs make it possible for you to:

  • Help more people achieve their goals 
  • Fine-tune a killer product that sells
  • Invest more time in other aspects of your business

Even if you’ve been enjoying teaching your clients individually, you can only sell so many private coaching packages before you’ve maxed out your time. 

But group coaching programs let you maximize your time to help more people while scaling your income.

To create a group coaching program, combine the information you’ve been teaching your clients into a series of videos and PDFs. Clients who enroll in group coaching programs can engage in self-study and use group calls to support their progress. 

Introducing group coaching programs into your offerings doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of private coaching completely. 

I recommend offering a mix of sessions to clients. For example, you can offer group coaching for $4,000 and offer private coaching sessions for $10,000. 

This way, you still maintain the intimate feeling of working one-on-one with private clients, but you open up your coaching to more people too. 

No matter your business goals, group coaching is a great way to scale your business and make the best use of your time.

And once you’ve successfully scaled your group program, you can start thinking about online courses. These are the next step of scaling your business where you leverage a digital product, help far more people than you can do on your own, and make more money in the process.

Get the Ultimate Guide

for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

In addition to or alternatively, you can move to a business model where you train other nutritionists to coach your clients. You may or may not coach them, too, but this way, you don’t rely on your own capacity. 

And that’s how you grow your business!

Over to you

Now you’re equipped with all the information you need to become a nutrition coach with a thriving business. 

Once you get your business off the ground, you can grow and scale by attracting new clients and expanding your audience. 

Now over to you! Do you have any questions about how to become a nutrition coach?

Let’s chat in the comments!

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

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