Personal Trainer Factsheet
Helping Clients Understand Food Labels

Coaching and educating clients to make appropriate healthy food selections

Ask any qualified Fitness Professional and they will tell you that most of the results their clients’ gain are obtained from behaviours that are learned and then consistently adopted outside of their personal training sessions. This is especially true when it comes to food choices and here the Personal Trainer’s focus should be on coaching and educating clients to make appropriate healthy food selection.

This fact sheet aims to provide a helpful resource for practicing Personal Trainers to use with their clients in order to educate them on healthy food selection and how food labels work AND can be used as research material by learners currently on personal trainer courses or fitness instructor courses. A key aspect here is assisting clients in understanding how to shop well.

A two pronged approach can be especially beneficial navigating clients towards choosing foods that are as close to nature as possible and devoting time to their shopping, looking closely at food labels to make conscious choices.

Did you know that in order for manufacturers to sell their food and drink they need to provide a food label?

Food labels should;

Take a look at the example shown below. In this case it relates to a small loaf of white bread and as you can see it’s packed with information.

To begin with it may seem a little daunting and time consuming for your client if you ask them to start scrutinising food labels. As their Personal Trainer remember you are the expert so a great place to start is to task your client with keeping their food packaging and bringing this along to your personal training sessions. You can then offer instant nutritional guidance and feedback meaning that before you know it your client is equipped with the knowledge to make healthier choices.

As well as the label on the back most foods also contain a label on the front of the products packaging, similar to the example shown below.

The most popular way of showing this information is using the traffic light labelling system. This aims to provide a quick glance speedy method for the consumer to understand how much energy, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt is in their chosen product.

Many of the clients you work with will be aiming to lose weight or aspiring to follow a healthier lifestyle. Opting for mostly green food choices with occasional amber options and limiting red ones can aid this process greatly.

Red = High, Amber = Medium, Green = Low

Traffic light food labels show by colour coding if  food has high, medium or low levels of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.

Encourage Some Detective Work

All is not necessarily what it seems so help your clients be on the lookout for clever marketing tricks.

For example, the use of a strong green background on the food label can promote a feeling of green for go or a healthier option. However in reality this may not necessarily be the case!

Equally language such as organic or natural may be perceived as a healthy alternative. But take cakes, biscuits and pies for example, let’s face it they’re not going to equate to a healthy choice even if they’re organic and should be seen as an occasional choice or ‘treat’ regardless.

Look Closely at the Ingredient List

If you really want to find out all the facts and truly understand what you are eating or drinking the ingredients list is a must read. After a little practice habits will automatically change as the mind becomes programmed to making informed choices about food selection.

  • Ingredients appear in weight order, heaviest first!
  • Foods ending in ‘ose’ or ‘ol’ are typically related to sugars
  • If you don’t know what a particular ingredient is or can’t even pronounce it be a little bit suspicious and take the time to find out. You can then make a knowledge based choice about whether or not you wish to eat it.

Food Labels Can Help You…

  • Understand and keep a check on what you are eating and facilitate a way of seeking out healthier alternatives.
  • Get to grips with sugar content. As this offers no nutritional value and can appear in many unsuspecting products become a sugar label checker every time you shop.
  • Make healthier choices where the principles of following a balanced diet are also adopted. For example selecting higher fibre carbohydrate options, reducing saturated fat and sugar levels and eating protein from a variety of meat, fish, dairy and pulse based sources.
  • Compare similar products to make the best selection for you.
  • Gain knowledge and understanding of what quick fix foods such as ready meals really contain.
  • Reduce or monitor fat, sugar and salt consumption.
  • Think about what you are eating (ingredients list) and whether you are happy making that informed choice.

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