NASM CNC Chapter 20: Helping Clients Navigate the Real World
NASM CNC Chapter 20: Helping Clients Navigate the Real World

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Chapter Goals:

  • Discuss the main factors for promoting healthy choices while you are shopping for groceries.
  • Find the Techniques for making decisions regarding successful and helpful navigation of different environments.
  • Discuss the methods and techniques for circumventing the roadblocks to successful nutrition.
  • Find the practices for food prepping healthy foods and using healthy delivering services.
  • Find the easy strategies to use for making heathy habits of eating.

The Real-World Challenge

Navigating the real world can be a difficult task and overwhelming for many people. This is because of the many food options we have, the busy lifestyles we live, our crazy schedules, various types of social settings, and the promotions from the media that influence our decisions. With some planning and prep on our part, we can make the whole process of eating healthy a much simpler task. The situations we need to look out for and plan for are things like the grocery store, eating at restaurants, going to parties or other social events, traveling, and also snack times. 

Planning and preparing yourself ahead of time can help you to stay on your goals even in the event of these situations popping up. Here are some of those scenarios and some ways we can help them by planning ahead:

Grocery shopping

Write out your list of needs at the store before going

Select recipes and meals in advance 

Avoid the busiest times of the grocery store

Avoid going when you are hungry


Look at the menu online before going

Call in advance if you have an accommodation you need

Request a substitute 

Know what you will order before you go


Talk to the host before the party regarding some dietary restrictions

Offer a healthy dish alternative of your own for the party

Have a light snack before you go

Set a limit on the amount of drinks you can have


Pack healthy items that are non-perishable

Research the area and the grocery stores along with the restaurants to know before going

Write out healthy meals you can find at those places


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Have a list of your favorite healthy snacks

Prepare your snack in advance for the week

Keep a few healthy snacks around your desk in emergency hunger situations

Grocery shopping

Making healthy food choices can be very hard to do in today’s age of the food mecca grocery stores. The two best strategies to make sure you stick to healthy eating are to plan ahead of time and also to recognize and avoid the major pitfalls that most people are trapped in. 

Planning ahead is as simple as you taking some time beforehand and making a shopping list and then scheduling a time for you to go. It is a good idea not to go when you are hungry, as this can lead to you making some impulse buys that you will regret later. 

Grocery Store Navigation

The grocery stores tend to put things in their groups like the meat with meat and the produce with produce and so on. Sometimes we can eliminate bad decisions by actually leaving out whole aisles and focusing on others that are healthier. 

The shopping trip should be focused on sticking to the perimeter of the store usually, as this is where the more whole, unprocessed foods are going to be. The bad snack will usually be located in the center aisles of the store. 

Shopping List by recipe

This is another way we can breakdown our shopping. This is a 2 step process in which we are selecting meals that we would like to make throughout the week, and then we are breaking those meals down by what we are going to need. This can be done by just knowing the ingredients you will need, or by researching online or in a cookbook for the things you will need to make those meals. Keep in mind that the list should also be organized, as a bad list can lead to you needing to go back and forth many times to find what you need, thus wasting time. 

Recognize and Avoid the Pitfalls of the Grocery Store

One factor that befalls many when they are shopping, is the influence of hunger. You should always avoid going into the grocery store when you are hungry. This can lead to buying things you want, but do not need. The high calorie foods are often bought at times like this. If you have to shop when hungry, make sure to ask yourself if you really need this item.

Nutrition Labels and Ingredient Lists

Reading the labels and understanding the things on them is very high on the list of wise decisions that help consumers make the right choices at the grocery stores. Some of the questions that we should look at regarding these labels are:

  • What ingredients are present in this?
  • What is the first thing on the list of ingredients?
  • What is the nutrient value of this product?
  • What is the serving size, and how many calories are present?
  • How many grams of fat, saturated fat, carbs, fiber, added sugar, and protein is in a serving?
  • Does the product have a lot of sodium and added sugar?
  • Does this product align with my fitness and health goal?

Product Placement at the Grocery

One major pitfall is for people to be influenced by the strategic placement of products at the store. This means that you need to be looking at what is in the products and not so much at what is conveniently right in front of your face, as that is part of the planning by the stores 

Shopping in Bulk at Warehouse Stores

This is a good way to save money. Buying in bulk allows things to be more easily accessible and available in your home. 

Dining Out

This offers many challenges as people navigate these situations.

Dining Frequency and Occasion

The portions at restaurants are most of the time excessive and the meals are made with many extra calories. Because of this, we face a big challenge staying in our diets when eating out.  

Dining at Restaurants

You should make it a goal to look up the menu ahead of time when you know where you will be eating out. This cuts down on surprises and it allows you to look up and know about the food you will be having. Like the grocery, it is smart to not arrive hungry to the place.

Look for the key words on the menu, so you know the preparation method of the food. these are words like braised, creamed, baked, poached, sautéed, fired, and crispy. These words give away important information regarding what you will be putting in your body. 

Ask for your sauces on the side of your dish. This is due to these being some of the biggest forms of hidden calories. 

Use plates for appetizers. This allows you to portion and see how much you are eating, instead of just guessing. 

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Avoid the breadbasket or set a goal to one piece only.

Balance your calories from drinks and from desserts. 

Limit your alcohol to a certain number of drinks.

Enjoy your company. Focus on the people you are with rather than the food that you are having. 

Meeting friends at the Bar

Set a limit on your drinks.

Start your drinking with a glass of water or some other drink without alcohol.

Avoid drinking when you have not eaten recently.

Choose an appetizer from the bar that has protein and has vegetables. 

Choosing Healthy Lunch Options

Preparing food in advance for lunch is most of the times going to be easier to follow the nutrition plan you have than it is to buy food out. You should pay attention to the nutrient density of your food choices and make a meal that matches the MyPlate recommendations also. 

Social Eating

This includes the events for families, holidays, and other social parties that we gather for. This is an important thing to have for your overall health and happiness, and we should have some things to look out for, so we stay in our healthy nutrition plans also. 

Holidays and Parties

You should try to talk to the host of the event and inform them of dietary restrictions you may have or allergies. 

It is a good idea to offer to bring a dish that you make for the party so that you are ensured you have an option that fits you.

You should eat light on the day you have the party, as it is common to eat a lot at some big events. Have some ideas for light meals you can have the day of. 

Like with most situations, set a limit to the amount of drinks you are going to have, so you can control those empty calories from alcohol. 

Monitor the size of your portions just like you do with most other meals and eating times. 

Prioritize the foods that are best for you, instead of every single thing.


Prior to travel

Make lists of the healthy foods that you can pack and keep as snacks for the traveling. It is always better to have options with you since you do not know what the place you’re going will have. When you arrive, you should get an idea of the things available at the restaurants and at the grocery store nearby. This can be done in advance also. 

Dining at Home

This includes cooking at home, ordering takeout food for yourself, and using meal prep. 

Meal Prep

This is overwhelming for many people that try to get this started. This is not near as intensive as it sounds. Some benefits of meal prep are going to be not worrying if you have food ready, having more time to do things other than cook, and just having meals already ready for you. 

Meal prepping isn’t done every day, unless that person wants to do it that way. It is usually done for the whole week in some form. 

Meal Prep Guidelines

You should decide the type of meal prep that is best for you and your lifestyle.

Budgeting and scheduling time for meal prep works best to relieve stress.

Invest in the proper equipment and tools to make the prepping of meals a fun and easy process.

Stock your food pantry with the staples of cooking.

Choose a menu for the week or other time frame that you will be prepping for. 

Deciding What to Prepare

This is one of the hardest parts of meal prepping as it is just intimidating choosing something you will eat multiple times.

You should use new recipes and try different things when starting out.

Find the sources of the macronutrients you want to focus on an that meat your goals.

Food Safety Guidelines

Improperly handling food and storing food increases your risks for illnesses. You should know all of the basic guidelines in this chapter under this part. 

Meal Delivery Services

Using meal prep and delivery services has streamlined the process of prepping meals and trying new recipes. These services give us the ingredients and instructions in the proper amounts. 

This is a great option for people that are busy and unable to find the time to do all of the other processes of meal prep. Or maybe if it was too daunting of a task, this works to help simplify and make it easier in the future for someone that is starting. 

Healthy Snacking

Snacking and Weight

Some studies show snacking as a part of weight gain, and others show that it does not necessarily equal weight gain. 

The Pros and the Cons of Snacks

A lot of people use snacks as a form of a buffer between the big meals for the control of hunger. But it is important to know that we can optimize these to help us meet our nutrient needs when done right. People can see weight gain if they snack on very high energy dense foods, mindlessly snack on things due to being bored, or when practicing late night snacking of high calorie things. These three things will see a weight gain occur. 

Snacks should be planned out so that they do not lead to weight gain and are accounted for in our diet plans. 

Healthy Snacks

The ideal snack combines both high fiber carbs, and some lean protein source for the proper promotion of satiety. This gives the most benefits for being healthy and preventing useless calories. Nuts are one of the more popular options that are associated with weight reduction due to the meeting of those requirements.

Mindless Eating

This is the act of eating without even really thinking. It usually happens when someone eats when they are busy, and it is attributed to gaining weight. Here are the common situations in which someone mindlessly eats:

  • When the tv is on in the afternoon or evening.
  • When they are driving
  • While at the computer or playing games
  • Watching a movie in the theatre
  • At social events or parties

Creating Healthy Habits

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model

People must first be motivated to make changes; coaches should increase their motivation by discussing the benefits of it. These benefits are the usual ones like energy is increased, improvements in body comp and weight, and nutrition status and health profile changes. Then a client should be put toward cooking resources in the situation where they do not know how, or simply need ideas and help with it. Third, the model says a trigger or cue will set of the behavior if those other two factors are there. So, if a client has motivation and they have the ability to cook, they will have the call to action set off by some trigger. 

Small Steps to Success

Simple and easy changes slowly accumulating will lead to more success in the long run and is the way to make actual change.

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Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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All content published on PTPioneer is checked and reviewed extensively by our staff of experienced personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and other Fitness Experts. This is to make sure that the content you are reading is fact-checked for accuracy, contains up-to-date information, and is relevant. We only add trustworthy citations that you can find at the bottom of each article. You can read more about our editorial integrity here.

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