March 23, 2021
Last Updated:
May 6, 2021

Nutrition Coaches: What They Do and Why They're Important

People everywhere are beginning to understand that what we eat affects us in ways we’d never thought of before. What we eat is absorbed into our blood, organs, tissues, and cells and influences our moods and actions. It also plays a major part in our overall health and well-being.

But food is a complex issue. Different people have different nutritional needs, and the rise of allergies and sensitivities further complicates the issue. What’s good for one may be uncomfortable – sometimes deadly – to another, so it has become critical to understand what food is right for you and your needs. This is an IIN core concept called bio-individuality.

People who understand the power of food and who can advise others on how to eat what’s right for them have become more important than ever. Nutrition coaches empower their clients to make informed decisions about food and nutrition.

The field of nutrition coaching is always expanding, and it’s become much more common for companies to hire nutrition coaches, especially in the corporate and private sectors. Nutrition coaches can now be found in private practices, fitness centers, nursing homes, restaurants, health food stores, schools, and just about anywhere food is created, purchased, or consumed.

What Nutrition Coaches Do

Nutrition coaches look at the big picture of a client’s life and incorporate nutrition into it. Nutrition coaches are advisers and nutrition authorities who help others feel their best through personalized nutritional advice that meets their clients’ unique goals and needs. These coaches work with clients to help them discover how to fuel their bodies, live healthy lifestyles, and find the best meal and diet plan that works for them.

Coaches also explore and explain how things feed you beyond what’s on your plate. Another one of IIN’s core concepts is nourishing yourself with primary food, the areas of your life that impact your short-term and long-term health just as much as the food you eat, such as your relationships, career, spirituality, physical activity, and environment.

Whether working with clients one-on-one or in groups, in underserved communities or the corporate world, nutrition coaches contribute to improving health outcomes.

Differences Between Nutrition Coaches and Dietitians

While they have similar objectives, nutrition coaches and dietitians help clients in different ways and are qualified to do different things. Dietitians are state-licensed practitioners who can make nutrition recommendations to patients based on medical histories and needs. Dietitians learn about medical nutrition therapy and nutritional counseling, eventually working to tailor these parameters to the individual. Once they meet certification requirements, they receive the designation of registered dietitian (RD).

Dietitians often work in inpatient hospital settings and provide nutrition education to people who may have recently had surgery, are in cancer treatment, or have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, like diabetes. They also commonly work in private practices, where they can provide similar services for those with medical nutritional concerns as well as people seeking general nutritional counseling.

Differences Between Nutrition Coaches and Nutritionists

Nutritionists are also similar to nutrition coaches, but with some key differences. Nutritionists, like dietitians, are practitioners who can make nutrition recommendations based on a patient’s health history. They assess the health and nutritional needs of their patients, provide dietary advice, and recommend lifestyle changes or supplements.

Nutritionists can work in public health, social service programs (like SNAP and WIC), hospitals, rehab facilities, nursing homes, and schools, including colleges and universities. They may also work within a group of doctors in a private practice group, or even open their own practice.

How to Become a Nutrition Coach

Nutrition coaches typically begin their careers by obtaining a degree in nutrition or food science. This builds a stable, reputable foundation for their continuing knowledge to grow upon as they get farther into their career.

Although many nutrition coaches have a bachelor's degree, it’s not required to enroll in a nutrition coaching program – there are several paths you can follow to beginning a nutrition coaching journey. All it takes is an interest in nutrition and a desire to help others live their most healthy lives.

Nutrition coaches focus on whole-person nutrition, exploring all areas of a client’s life to help them develop healthy eating habits. If you’re interested in becoming a nutrition coach, seek out a credible nutrition, health, or wellness coaching program that meets your needs, including budget, time commitment, and curriculum.

To become a nutrition coach, you should:

  • Enroll in a nutrition, wellness, or Health Coach Training Program.
  • Choose a niche audience for your nutrition coaching work post-graduation, such as working with athletes to optimize their performance, helping clients use food to combat chronic conditions, or educating children on how to best fuel their growing bodies.
  • Find the settingk where you will thrive. This could involve conducting virtual coaching or in-person coaching at a school, corporate office, hospital, gym, wellness center, or doctor’s office.

How Much Money Can You Make as a Nutrition Coach?

Until recently, the only path to full-time health coaching was to set up a part-time practice while balancing a full-time position elsewhere, hustling day and night, and eventually going full-time in an independent practice after a lot of work. While the part-time to full-time route is still the most popular way to build a nutrition coaching practice, there are alternatives for those who don’t want to jump in with both feet right away.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average online nutritional health coach salary is $47,349 per year, or around $23 per hour. Working with or for established companies can affect this rate, as they typically have a set budget for the position(s) they’re looking to fill. ZipRecruiter reports top earners bring in $83,000 per year. Part-time pay is slightly less than the average – essentially, you get out what you put in.

Is It Worth It to Become a Nutrition Coach?

While dietitians and nutritionists can recommend specific dietary plans and supplements, nutrition coaches mentor clients on integrating changes into their lives the best way possible, including how to take recommendations from health professionals and implement them in functional ways. Besides this, there many benefits to becoming a nutrition coach, including:

  • Earning an education to understand the many aspects of wellness and nutrition and learning how to coach clients to gain this understanding
  • Creating a flexible career on your terms
  • Supporting the larger healthcare system and filling the voids that traditional healthcare services leave behind
  • Learning how to supply your clients (and yourself!) with all the tools needed to sustain long-term lifestyle changes to optimize nutrition

Nutrition, wellness, and Health Coaches are the future of healthcare and are using core concepts taught at IIN to change their clients’ lives. Nutrition coaches have more full-time opportunities than ever, so don’t feel like you’re limited to starting with a part-time private practice. It’s likely that businesses are recruiting full-time positions near you now.

IIN created the field of health coaching. But nutrition and health coaching roles are becoming so common and important that there are now many training programs to choose from. Finding the right training program is all about your goals and what works for you. Take a free Sample Class to get a taste of what you’ll learn in our online Health Coach Training Program.

Author Biography
Katy Weniger
IIN Content Writer

Katy holds a bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing and advertising from Rider University. After jobs in the field of finance, she wanted to transition to an industry that focused on helping others be their best selves, and discovered IIN.

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