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Health and Nutrition Counseling Tips: How to Engage your Client
  • Most health educators feel they need to “cover” all the material they know or all the material the client needs know. Short-term memory can rarely store more than seven independent items at one time. For most individuals, the more items you include, the less they remember.

How to teach so that your client remembers

  • Limit teaching objectives (1-3)
  • Ask yourself, “What effects or outcome do I want for the learner?” and most important, “What will the learner DO with the information?”
  • Suppose you are teaching “Managing Cholesterol
  • What are “must include” vs. “nice to include” topics?
  • Write one topic on a post-it note or index card.
  • Place your post-it notes or cards in order of importance (most to least important)
  • Examine the topics. Feel free to move or remove topics
  • Select the three most important topics

How do I choose teaching topics?

  • Assess your audience. If your client has already been diagnosed with high cholesterol, then “What is high cholesterol?” may not be as important as “What foods can I eat now?” or “How do I take my cholesterol medication?”
  • Ask yourself how many of the topics focus on what the client needs to DO versus what the client needs to KNOW. Most of your content should focus on the DO.
  • Allow the client to select a topic that is important to him/her. If one of your topics is “What foods can I eat?” then write 1-3 sub-topics and ask the client to select one. Examples of sub-topics: “Foods I can eat occasionally” and “Foods I should eat more often”

How do I begin the presentation?

  • Use ice-breakers that generate interest, “Wow, I did not know that! or “Really?”
  • In a group setting, I may use true/false statements, facts and myths and multiple choice trivia. For example, “Which of these foods contain a hidden source of fat that can raise cholesterol levels? Steak, Salmon, Bran muffin? – Visit the American Heart Association for trivia questions.
  • Ask questions that allow you to determine what is important to your client. For example, “Why do you think people get high cholesterol?” “What does having high cholesterol mean to you?” or “Tell me more about….”

How to help clients retain information?

  • Connect what the client/learner already knows with new information
  • When I teach about foods with soluble fiber, I tell my audience to visualize the consistency of oatmeal after it has been cooked to illustrate the action of soluble fiber on dietary cholesterol.
  • When I teach about foods with cholesterol, I use FACE. If the food started with a “face” then it has cholesterol – beef, chicken, pork – they started with a face.
  • Connect learners with information they relate. When discussing taking medications, I offer the following tips; “Some people find that setting the alarm on their cell phones, remind them to take their medication.” “Save the name and dose of your medications under ‘medications’ in your cell phone contact list.”

How do I include interaction?

  • Together with the client make a list of foods he/she enjoys. Ask client to circle foods that can help lower cholesterol levels
  • Provide client with a menu. Have client circle or check healthier options

How do I help client translate information into action?

  • The following questions will help client interact with the newly learned information and increase retention.
    • In what ways will this information help you in your life?”
    • What was the most valuable part of this exercise/activity/talk?”
    • What will be one of the changes that you will make after this session?
  • Summarize in writing what the client has agreed to DO. For example: Client will buy olive oil and use 1 teaspoon when cooking chicken
  • If client has difficulty selecting goals, provide a short list and ask client to choose 1-2 action goals
  • Help client overcome challenges. Ask questions using “what” and “how”
    • “How are you going to add more foods high in soluble fiber into your meals?”
    • “What foods will you select when you eat at your favorite Italian restaurant? Give me two examples.”




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