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How to sell healthy eating

By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD

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It can be tough to change your own diet, let alone get clients to take advice about good nutrition. Now it's time to get smart and employ the same clever tactics used by food marketers to help your clients build a healthy diet.

Follow these four guiding principles (taste, knowledge, convenience and skill) and you'll feel rewarded as your clients develop better eating habits. You can share the ideas in as little as a few minutes at the end of an exercise class or in more in-depth counselling sessions with your clients.

1. Taste

“Healthy food doesn't taste good.” Heard this before? Well, try a banana, topped with reduce-fat vanilla dairy custard and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. This healthy snack is truly a party in your mouth and shows that good nutrition can be tasty.

Taste, texture and other food sensations are arguably the most important factor influencing food choice. Fat, sugar and salt make foods taste good and harder to resist. However, food companies have become much better at making low-fat foods taste nice. Sweet foods including ice cream, yoghurt and custard all now have attractive fat-reduced versions, as do savoury products like crackers, cooking sauces and frozen dinners.

Recognise that cravings for fatty, salty snacks like potato crisps often won't be subdued with a recommendation to eat a piece of fruit. It's a healthy idea, but creates too much compromise in taste to work. Suggest a low-fat savoury cracker bursting with BBQ chicken flavour and you might have some winning advice.

Aim to convince your clients that only a small compromise in taste can deliver substantial calorie savings, which will deliver faster fat loss results. If you hear them saying, “This tastes pretty good for a low-fat cracker”, you've got them hooked.

And remember, perception of taste changes as taste buds learn to prefer lower fat food. The sensation of full-cream milk can be unappealing creamy, after a few short weeks drinking skimmed milk. At this stage, and after seeing some changes in body shape or fitness, an apple may suddenly become more desirable. Until then, take dietay change in small steps.

More ideas to provide a positive taste experience:

  • Offer samples of tasty, nutritious foods at gym reception.
  • Get your clients write down their favourite low-calorie treats, and share the combined list with every one. Better still, hold a healthy lunch or BBQ where clients bring a plate.

2. Knowledge

Your clients may know a lot about food, but not always the most surprising facts and figures that will give them a jolt to make changes. For maximum impact, the nutrition information you offer clients must be novel, immediately useable and easy to share with friends. Saying that bananas are good for you is simply old news to many people, but maybe not how good bananas taste when topped with vanilla custard, Dairy custard has surprisingly little fat in it.

Here are some facts that often raise eyebrows:

  • Macadamia nuts contain around 70% fat, so a100 gram palm-full serve packs a whopping 70 grams of fat.
  • Choosing a MacDonald's salad at lunch, with tasty dressing, can cut calories by more than 100% over a regular burger option.
  • Switching to diet soft drink will eliminate eight teaspoons of sugar for every can you drink. For visual impact, fill a small glass with eight teaspoons of sugar. Ask when you'd ever put eight teaspoons in a cup of coffee.
A touch of humour also helps clients to remember your messages. For example, if spot reduction of body fat was possible by exercising specific body parts, then very big people who chew bubble gum all day would have skinny heads. Television advertising uses humour to make their messages memorable. Try it too.

Ideas for sharing nutrition knowledge:

  • Check food labels for fat and calorie contents and make direct comparisons between foods to show why one food is much better than another.
  • Monitor online newspapers or news sites for breaking nutrition news you can talk about during training sessions.

3. Convenience

Vending machines and charity chocolate boxes provide easy access to high-calorie foods. Convenience often wins over a walk to get a healthier alternative. You could rally people sign a petition to remove these temptations. You can also employ the principle of convenience to make healthy eating choices easier.

Your goal is to make healthy food the obvious first option in every situation your client faces. Nutritious alternatives may not always be eaten, but having them on hand will boost the average number of times they are consumed.

Ideas to make healthy eating more convenient:

  • Fill the eye-level pantry shelf with healthy snacks; fruit, muesli bars, rice crackers, etc.
  • Always place left-overs in the fridge at the front of shelves where you can see them.
  • Offer new clients a basket of healthy supermarket foods or fresh produce as a bonus for signing up.
  • Buy three water bottles; one for home, one for work and one for the car. Place a stick on them that says, “Drink Me!”
  • Make a positive rule to never leave home without carrying a piece of fruit.
  • Keep snacks in the desk draw at work or car glove box.
  • Provide menus from local resturants with the healthy options highlighted

3. Skill

Clients may have enough knowledge, but lack confidence in how to build a healthy diet. Check their skills for shopping and preparing nutritious meals, particularly if they have little previous experience with dieting.

Ideas to up-skill your clients for healthy eating

  • Collect a selection of food labels and share your label-reading tips.
  • Set food label guidelines. For example, choose foods with less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams and more than 3 grams of fibre per serve.
  • Get your client to plan one week's meals and shopping.
  • Ask your supermarket for an isle diagram showing food sections. Use this to map out a healthy shopping list that avoids the tempting lollies isle.
  • Substitute a personal training session for an excursion to the supermarket to show what healthy options should fill the trolley.
  • Buy beginners cook books for a pound or two at a discount book shop and give them to your culinary challenged clients.

Combine for better results

Combine these principles for added effect. Here's an example:

"Try this low-fat, diet chocolate mouse (client tastes it). At a surprisingly low 65 Calories and less than two grams of fat (boost knowledge by showing nutrition information panel), this is an acceptable (and convenient) option to keep in your fridge to satisfy a chocolate craving. I've already put it on this shopping list you, along with many other healthy and tasty eating options, so you'll feel confident (and have the skills) to build a healthy diet."

Try these principles, which will help turn your dietary advice from simple suggestions into real solutions.



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