The holiday season is difficult for everyone. Your clients will be surrounded by so much temptation at their workplace, home, and holiday parties. While it may be good job security for your clients to gain a few pounds, you still want to give your clients the best advice to remain healthy.

If you are a registered dietician, then you have a leg up. Otherwise, lacking this qualification can make your scope of practice seem a bit fuzzy. Most personal trainers are not qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy, yet avoiding the topic can prove to be a disservice to your clients.

Here are ways I help my clients survive the holidays:


Colors All Around

It is difficult for many to think of avoiding foods that look so tempting. Instead of focusing on elimination, steer your clients towards what IS healthy for them to eat. If they focus on loading up on loads of nutrient dense fruits and veggies, then there will be less room in their bellies for crap.

Different colors provide a wide variety of benefits. Encourage your clients to play around with a mix of produce to absorb a large spectrum of micronutrients. You may consider doing a group event with your clients to the local farmer’s market or grocery store to show them how to choose great ingredients. I always tell my clients, “The mo’ colors the mo’ betta!”

Teaching your clients about nutritional benefits of foods are within your scope of practice as a personal trainer and good knowledge to pass on to give you credibility. Below is a list that reflects the benefits of a varied diet:


Contains lycopene and anthocyanins. These have the potential to reduce the risk of cancer as well as reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Fall foods include cranberries, pomegranates and radicchios.

Blues and Purples

This hue is full of anthocyanins. This antioxidant can not only reduce the risk of cancer, but also reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Overweight individuals tend to be more at risk for this type of reversible diabetes. While you can’t promise that eating these types of foods will cure any disease, they can have a positive impact on the health of your clients. In the fall, look for date plums, grapes and crowberries.

Yellows and Oranges

The fall is thriving with these fiery-colored ingredients. You walk in the store and see pumpkin fill-in-the-blank. Find carotenoids in this produce to work as an antioxidant for your eyes and for your body to naturally convert to Vitamin A. Think pumpkins, sweet potatoes, acorn squashes, and persimmons.


You thought I forgot, didn’t you? As a fitness professional, you probably know that these foods reign in the kitchen. Consuming greens will fill you with vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids. My faves in the fall are brussel sprouts, swiss chard, and broccoli.

Here is a full list of available fall produce.

Recipe Swap

You will find that with your newbie clients,  their idea of what is healthy can be quite skewed. To guide my clients towards healthier meals, I coach them to make their plate half comprised of fruits and veggies. When discussing this with them, most only think of salads as a way to accomplish this goal. So boring!

Do you have tasty recipes choked full of nutrients that you like during the holidays? Share away! While you can’t prescribe specific foods, you can always suggest recipes for your clients that are exploding with flavor and nutrients. Consider using fruits and veggies that are in season (as listed above) to also make eating healthy more affordable.

43306299 - young woman with blanket sleeping at night in bed

Snooze Time

During the holidays, most are working more to meet those year-end deadlines, attend parties, buy gifts, and try todo it all. The problem that happens when we sacrifice sleep and have a spike in stress is our cortisol levels increase. This will throw your hormones off balance. For your clients, this can potentially make them feel hungry when they aren’t.

When people have a lack of sleep they also tend to make poor food choices due to these false signals. Hello, boost in caloric intake! Encourage your clients to get 7-8 hours of rest each night to keep their hormones in check. Meditation is also a great way to reduce stress from the day even if only for 5-10 minutes.


Actions Outside The Scope Of Practice For Personal Trainers

While most of you are in the industry with a good heart to help your clients, some actions go beyond your qualifications as a trainer. If you feel that you have someone who needs more specific nutritional direction, it is best to have a registered dietician on hand to refer them to. This can work to your advantage, as this referral can also send clients your way who need exercise in their lives.

Here are things you want to avoid:

-Completing nutritional assessments to determine specific nutritional needs.

-Coaching those that require preventative/restorative health care (diabetes, cancer, etc).

-Evaluating and consulting for nutritional care standards.

-Prescribing the addition or elimination of specific foods.

What other ways do you help to keep your client’s diet on track during the holidays?



Christine Oakes

Christine Oakes is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Health Coach, NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and 200RYT certified yoga instructor . She currently operates her own fitness company offering personal training, bootcamp and yoga classes in the Mountain View, CA area. Christine has had a love for being active since childhood and believes that true fitness comes from a balance of strength, nutrition, flexibility and a dose of fun. Learn more about Christine at