Meal plans: either you love them or you hate them. Regardless of what camp you fall into, the truth is that when done right, meal plans can be an incredibly powerful tool in helping your clients and group participants to achieve real results and adopt healthier habits.
But unfortunately, most often meal plans aren’t done right. I hear from so many wellness professionals that pour hours into customizing a meal plan or a group program, only to learn two weeks later that no one is following it.
But the cold hard truth is: It’s not their fault. It’s yours.
Here are the most common mistakes I see being made when offering meal planning as a service, and my best advice for avoiding these mistakes so that you can create meal plans that your clients will love to follow and will keep them coming back for more.
1. You Don’t Conduct a Meal Planning Assessment
When you don’t ask the right questions, it is nearly impossible to create a meal plan that your client will love, let alone follow.
In order to avoid this, you will want to conduct a meal planning assessment before you even think about creating a meal plan. This assessment is where you will interview your client to find out about their current eating habits, their likes, their dislikes, how much time they have to cook and so much more. Collecting this information upfront will allow you to design a meal plan that meets your client where they are currently at in their health journey (not where you think they should be).
Here are some highly- effective, open-ended questions you may want to include in your meal planning assessment:
- What is your current relationship with cooking?
- Describe to me what you currently eat in a typical day.
- What are your favourite foods?
- What are your least favourite foods?
- What are your comfort foods?
- Are there any foods you won’t eat for cultural, ethical or personal reasons?
- How often do you eat out?
- What time of the day do you find it most difficult to eat healthy?
- How much time can you realistically spend in the kitchen?
- Do you mind eating similar meals multiple times in a week?
2. You Choose the Wrong Meals
I know that things like smoothie bowls and homemade veggie burgers with 20 ingredients are delicious and so pretty to look at, but they just aren’t reasonable for the average person in terms of time, money and cooking skills. When you meal plan with recipes that are far too complex, you may end up leaving your client feeling frustrated, disempowered and defeated, which is obviously the exact opposite of what you want.
Remember: You can never, ever go wrong with keeping it simple!
Choose meals that take minimal time, and use minimal ingredients. Be sure to use ingredients that your client has told you they love, and avoid ingredients that they dislike. Incorporate healthier versions of their favourite comfort foods.
Your goal here is to prove that eating healthy can be simple and fun, so that they feel empowered and confident that eating well is something they are fully capable of doing.
3. You Don’t Incorporate Balance into the Plan
One of the most common misconceptions about offering meal planning as a service is that you have to plan every single meal. But unless your client is on a very strict protocol, you will want to incorporate balance into the plan by using flex meals.
Flex meals are meals that are intentionally left unplanned for things like a sushi lunch with coworkers, or a birthday party with friends. When appropriate, flex meals can help your client to maintain a normal social life, which is a key piece of health.
4. You Don’t Include a Grocery List
A meal plan without a grocery list is like a car without fuel. Providing an itemized grocery list with the meal plan makes it much more likely for your client to follow the plan so they can get to where they need to go. When you give them a list, they don’t need to think about a thing. They simply go to the store and get shopping. Having a grocery list ready to go removes just another barrier to executing on the plan.
When you provide a list, be sure to organize the ingredients needed for the recipes on your plan under headings. List the headings in order, according to how a standard grocery store is laid out. For example: list “Fruits” first, followed by “Vegetables”, followed by “Meat, Cheese & Fish”. By formatting the list this way, your client can easily work through the store in order, and save time from backtracking. Also ensure you include quantities on your grocery list, to prevent your client from buying more of the ingredient than they actually need.
5. They Have No Idea How to Follow the Plan
Newsflash: you can’t just send off the meal plan and hope that your client understands it. So be sure to take a few minutes to chat with your client about how you have structured the meal plan, the components you included for them, and how they can set themselves up for success.
Another great way to provide guidance on how to follow the plan is through a prep guide, which outlines kitchen tasks that will guide the person through how to follow the meal plan. A prep guide shows the client what they can prepare in advance and helps keep them organized and on track.
6. You Don’t Check-In or Follow-Up
Once your client receives the plan and you have explained to them how to follow it, be sure to schedule regular check-ins and follow-ups to see how things are going. This will give you a sense of what’s working, what’s not and how you can further improve on the plan for next time.
Remember: A successful raving client is one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools you can ever have, so go out of your way to provide a premium experience! The extra mile is never crowded.
About the Author
Abigail has helped tens of thousands of people from around the world discover how meal planning can positively transform not just their health, but their entire lives. She’s the co-founder of That Clean Life, a powerful meal planning platform that helps wellness professionals’ create beautiful, effective meal plans and programs for their clients.