How often do you hear clients say, “just tell me what to eat!”?
People feel more pressed for time than ever before but still have nutrition and wellness goals they’re aiming for. Trying to figure out what to eat, every darn day, can feel confusing and overwhelming.
Enter: the dietitian with a plan. A meal plan, to be exact.
Meal plans are a great way for dietitians to expand their business and (huzzah!) make more money. Meal plans can be versatile, customizable, and can be used to help people with a variety of dietary needs.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by That Clean Life. Abigail is offering her tips and expertise in this piece so that you can make the most of your meal plans in your business. As always, all opinions are my own.
What is a meal plan?
A meal plan is a personalized eating plan that might include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Or, meal plans can just solve a specific need, such as packed lunches, breakfasts on the go, or slow cooker dinners.
You can meal plan with full recipes included (exactly what TCL specializes in). Or, you can create meal plans with individual foods, such as:
- Breakfast: one cup cooked oatmeal with ½ cup blueberries
- Lunch: Turkey sandwich with avocado, one small apple, 1 cup of baby carrots
- Snack: ½ cup trail mix with chocolate chips
- And so on
Meal plans can be created for a variety of purposes, such as:
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Saving money at the grocery store
- Improved sports performance
- To eat well for a specific disease or condition (such as carb counting for diabetes)
- To learn how to manage a new condition (ex: eating gluten-free for celiac disease)
- To improve overall health
- To save time or energy
Meal plans can also be a framework of “exchanges” to help your clients to eat more consistently throughout the day. Exchanges, such as 1 ounce of protein or one carb exchange are used by people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar as well as by those recovering from disordered eating.
Expert-created meal plans can be a real lifesaver. Abigail says:
“Clients have complex needs that only a registered dietitian can serve. If a client is dealing with a new diagnosis or the diagnosis of a family member, they’re not going to be able to find a free meal plan that suits their needs or suits their family’s needs or caters to all their allergies and intolerances. They really need somebody to sit down with them, listen to their needs, figure out what they like, what they dislike, what they can eat, what they can’t eat, and balance all the macros and the micronutrients and everything else. And that’s your superpower as a dietitian.”
When creating a meal plan, it’s important to consider your client’s needs. While impersonal meal plans are available online for a dime a dozen, a registered dietitian’s expertise can really shine with meal plans that are personalized and evidence-based. You can use meal plans to empower your clients to make strides with their nutrition, wellness, and even financial goals.
And since you’re a business owner, you know that having multiple revenue streams just makes sense.
Is there room in the market for your meal plan?
When it is possible to get meal plans, for free, on a zillion different websites and apps, you may be wondering who would actually pay you for your meal plans. The market might seem saturated.
But the truth is, you have expertise that many people do not: you’re a registered dietitian, not Joe Schmo.
Abigail, co-founder of That Clean Life weighs in on this concern:
“A lot of people just don’t want to figure it out themselves or they can’t figure it out themselves. And that’s why they come to a dietitian. Research shows that people want personalized nutrition and guidance. Your meal plan can offer that. They don’t want a one size fits all approach. They don’t want to just take some meal plan from the internet and try to figure out how to make it work for them”
How to Make Money Selling Meal Plans
Meal plans can fit into your business model in a number of different ways. The right fit, or right fits, depends on who you serve and how your business operates. In this section, we’ll cover the different ways that meal plans can serve your clients, all while boosting your bottom line.
1. Include meal plans as a value-based add-on for 1:1 clients.
Do you ever have clients who tell you “just tell me what to eat”? Nutrition can feel so overwhelming and contradictory that your guidance is a welcome sigh of relief. As you work with clients on a one-to-one basis, a personalized meal plan that takes into account their daily schedule, and food preferences (no tuna or brussels sprouts, if you please!) is an invaluable tool.
Providing high-quality meal plans is one way for you to set yourself apart from your competition.
Abigail shares her tips for providing the right amount of information to your client with their individual meal plan:
“When it comes to providing meal plans for clients, we make it easy here at That Clean Life. We make it so that you can choose whether or not you want to include specific nutrition information or not. This is a really important thing to take into consideration before providing a meal plan to a client: is the nutrition information relevant and should I include it?
For example, if it’s somebody who has a history of eating disorders, maybe providing nutrition information isn’t the best thing to do because you don’t want them fixating on that. And if that’s the case, just leave it off.
But there are some cases where certain nutrients are important like sodium. So in that case, you might want to include it so that your client knows that. Plus, it might be a good educational opportunity. So it all comes down to your personal assessment in choosing and being aware of when it’s good to provide nutrition information. And when it’s not such a good idea.”
2. Create general meal plans that can be sold on your website.
Ready to make money in your sleep? Having products that are available anytime have the potential to serve your clients, not to mention your bank account, 24/7.
Creating general meal plans that can be purchased through your website is a fantastic way to do this.
(Hint: If you’re not sure where to start with this, consider creating an ebook with your favorite recipes.)
3. Create customized meal plans as a standalone service.
Do you have clients who love to cook, but they get overwhelmed or bored coming up with their own menu options?
Like a meal kit, meal plans can provide your clients with enough guidance to be successful.
Customized meal plans can be more time-consuming to make (less so, with the right tools) but can be lucrative if your audience is big enough and they’re priced right (more on pricing in a bit).
4. Include meal plans in your group courses and programs.
Meal plans can be a value-add for your group courses and program, whether or not you also work with people individually.
It’s important to understand that a meal plan that is targeted to a group should be tailored to your audience, for example, breastfeeding moms, but your buyers are going to realize that the meal plan won’t include every single one of their unique preferences, like dairy-free.
Even so, is it easy to make a meal plan to satisfy the needs of a group? Nope! But Abigail shares some tips for making this work better:
“I often get asked, how do I create a program that’s going to satisfy the needs of everybody in the group? And that is very hard. It’s a very valid question. With meal planning for group programs, you’re trying to create more of a general plan. And then you can provide a list of substitutions and advice on making swaps to encourage the participants of your group program to adjust things as needed.”
Plus, if you work with people one-to-one in your practice, the group programs can be a way for your clients to get to know you before making the move to becoming a client. Or, they might hire you for personalized meal plans if you offer that.
5. Cooking demonstrations
Do you offer cooking demonstrations? Meal plans and recipe books might be just the right add-on to make your services even more valuable. They can also be a way to keep you and your business on the top of your clients’ minds to encourage them to work with you again.
6. Use a meal plan as a lead magnet
Meal plans can also serve you and your clients as a lead magnet on your website. This means that in exchange for your potential client’s email address, you give them a free meal plan, usually saved as a PDF.
Since clients often need to get to know a professional before deciding to work with them, a meal plan gives your clients a taste (ha!) of who you are as a dietitian and how you can help them.
As a member of your email list, they’ll get updates as you post new blogs, have events, or share news, getting to know you better. And then, when they’re ready, they can decide to become a client.
So while this freebie isn’t generating revenue directly, it is helping your readers to become clients.
If you’re newer to blogging, please check out this post with examples of RDs who are rocking the blogging game: The Best Nutrition Blogs by Dietitians (and Why They Work).
Before you begin: ask the right questions
Now that we’ve convinced you that as a dietitian, meal planning can be an important value-add for your business, where to begin?
Abigail walks us through the process.
“With one-on-one clients, the way it typically starts is with your assessment. Dietitians go through the assessment with clients during their initial appointment or ask for a form to be filled out in advance.”
- Cultural considerations
- How often they eat out
- How much they enjoy cooking
- Health concerns
Basically, you’re trying to learn all of the things that you’re going to need to know before you create a plan because if you don’t have the right information, you won’t be able to make a meal plan that suits the client’s needs and goals.
Pro-tip: embed these questions in your electronic health record to save you – and your clients – time and energy.
Now that you know what your clients need, how do you make their meal plan? Let’s go!
3 Ways to Actually Create Your Meal Plans
Now that you have the details about your client’s needs, it’s time to dive into logistics! How to actually make the plan?
In this section, we will be discussing the various ways that RDs can create valuable meal plans for their audiences, starting with: delegation!
1. Purchase pre-created meal plans
You may be able to find other RDs that have already created meal plans that you can purchase so you don’t have to recreate the wheel.
Another potential bonus? You may be new to an area of practice. Using a pre-made meal plan may help you as you learn more about this area of nutrition.
Pro tip: be sure to look into the terms of the sale – does it just allow you to use it with 1:1 clients? Or does it also allow you to resell on your website? Be sure the terms and conditions match what you need.
On RD2RD we have a collection of expert meal plans that you can start using today! A few of our favorites are:
2. Create the meal plans yourself
To put your toe in the water, you can create your own meal plans. You can keep this simple or complex, but you’ll quickly see that this is an exercise that is labor-intensive. Hey! This is why people want to pay you to make them.
How do I streamline the process? Use the best software.
3. Use software like That Clean Life
That Clean Life is our top-choice meal planning software for a few reasons.
Not only does it allow you to create custom meal plans quickly, but also, the products include professional photos, easy-to-follow recipes, and the PDF downloads can easily be branded to match your business.
That Clean Life has an ever-growing library of new recipes that you can sort through to find exactly what your clients need. Gluten-free? No problem. Vegetarian? They’ve got you covered.
In addition, as a member of That Clean Life, you have access to their pre-made meal plans and recipe guides. Just tweak, add your branding, either export as a PDF document, print or share it with your client through a link. Easy peasy! You can even set clients up to do their own meal planning if you prefer by providing them with a collection of hand-picked recipes and a blank meal plan.
4. Task an intern
Making a meal plan might be a great project for an intern to tackle. You can teach them how you help your clients by providing them with this task.
If you’ve never had an intern in your business before, or are looking for ways to optimize the process, check out our comprehensive blog post for all of our best tips, tricks, and products: Precepting Interns as a Private Practice Dietitian.
Now that the meal plan is made, how are you going to sell it online? And the juicy question: what are you going to charge?
Pricing your meal plans
What is the trend? There are no trends! Pricing for meal plans is a very wide range…
That Clean Life conducted a survey of more than 1,000 health professionals and analyzed their pricing for meal plans. You can check out the results here.
“I always encourage dietitians not to get too hung up on pricing. Take a look at your personal goals, and your business expenses, and choose the pricing that is right for you, because I can tell you that there is no standard price.”
Consider how a meal plan fits into your business.
A basic one-to-one nutrition package with a custom meal plan might range from $400-600. Longer, individualized programs can be upwards of $3,000.
You may consider selling a meal plan on your website. Pricing there can be anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on what is included in your product.
Psst…Don’t forget to check out Pricing Your Meal Planning Services and Programs. You’ll find out exactly what others are charging!
Marketing: get the word out
Once your meal plan is posted, are you done? Nope! You have to keep marketing yourself and your services, including your meal plans.
One way to promote your meal plans is by sharing testimonials from clients who have had a meal planning experience with you or have used one of your recipe books. Share those testimonials on your website and on your social media!
Abigail adds another excellent marketing tip: show behind the scenes how you make meal plans so that for those dietitians offering custom meal plans, it helps your audience to understand that it isn’t a “one and done” service.
“Show yourself meal planning, behind the scenes. Look at how you create your unique plans, whether that’s a meal plan or a recipe book, or how you’re teaching a client. Show what that looks like and what you take into consideration. People love to see behind-the-scenes looks because they feel like they’re kind of getting the inside scoop and it’s like, oh, that’s how you do it. That sounds really cool. I wanna work with you.”
You may also consider writing blog posts to your target audience and include links to your meal plan within.
One more marketing idea for selling your meal plan? Host a webinar or cooking demonstration that provides value to your ideal audience. A free webinar is an opportunity to provide value by teaching your audience 2 to 3 things. They also get the chance to virtually meet you and learn how you support your clients. At the end, be sure to let your listeners know how to get started working with you.
Are meal plans shortcutting your clients?
One of the reasons that people might be against meal plans is because they have the perception that a meal plan doesn’t allow clients to learn how to eat well, on their own.
The truth of the matter is that meal planning can be a teaching tool. Clients may or may not follow your meal plan to a T, but it offers the opportunity to teach about balancing meals, eating for their individual goals, and working through the creation of the habits and behaviors that make healthy eating sustainable.
It isn’t just about the food or the meal plan, and that’s how we can help as dietitians. We get to help our clients put all of those complicated pieces together in a way that they can actually be successful in their real life, even though they’re busy.
Key takeaways: how to sell meal plans
Sometimes the way to get a job done right is to use the best tool. Time is your most precious resource; use your time to create a business that you love. Selling meal plans online can be a cornerstone of your dream business.
That Clean Life is a comprehensive, user-friendly tool designed specifically for registered dietitians. Use That Clean Life to create delicious, nutritious custom meal plans. TCL includes an ever-growing library of recipes that have been tested and beautifully photographed. You can use their software to make meal plans, eBooks, and other products that are tailored to your client’s individual needs and preferences.
Thank you Abigail, for sharing your wisdom and expertise with us here, and on the RD2RD live show.