If you’re unsure about what you can or can not do as a health coach, this post is for you.

There is a lot of confusion that surrounds this issue, so I turned to health coach attorney, Lisa Fraley, to shed some light on the topic.

I know of health coaches that get slapped with fines (of over $2,00) because they aren’t aware of the laws and restrictions that are in the place where they live, so we don’t want that to happen to YOU!

Lisa kindly agreed to be a guest on my blog today to answer a few of the most common and important questions

Okay, here’s my Q and A with Lisa…

1. What is the best way for coaches to help their clients make healthy diet and lifestyle changes and stay within their scope of practice (especially if they live in a red or orange state that has more restrictions)?

In general, in a “red” or “orange” state, the best way for health coaches to stay safe is to focus on offering programs that are not individualized or tailored to each client. (Red and orange states have the most stringent laws).

This can feel challenging, particularly if a health coach is trained as a functional nutrition practitioner or through a school that emphasizes bio-individuality, but in red and orange states, health coaches cannot do bio-individual work, blood tests, or develop individualized nutrition plans for clients.

It’s safer and wiser for health coaches to focus on general education about healthy eating and lifestyles, and conduct programs where no personalization is involved. You’ll need to check with an attorney about the laws in your specific state because what is allowed in one state may not be allowed in another. Generally speaking, group programs or detoxes and non-individualized programs are best.

In addition, be sure to stay away from using the term “nutrition” and do not create individualized meal plans in “red” or “orange” states as those areas (and others!) are reserved solely for registered dieticians and licensed nutritionists.

To find out more about the laws where you reside in the U.S., go to http://www.nutritionadvocacy.org/  

You’ll see a map of the U.S. that breaks things down by color (red, orange, green, yellow) then you’ll want to click on your state to get more specifics about the current laws.

2. Is the answer to question #1 any different if coaches have clients worldwide?

Just as each state law in the US is slightly different, so are the laws of each country. In general, your state law applies where your business is based. However, you do have to respect the laws of other states and countries also. Canada and Australia, for example, have slightly different laws around what their website privacy policies must say, and even California has stricter privacy policy requirements than other states in the US.  It’s important to get clear about the laws that apply in your state based on whatever legal document or policy you are putting into place.

3. Providing meal plans for clients is a confusing issue. Can health coaches offer meal plans if they are not individualized in any way (they would be providing the same meal plan to everyone)?

Yes, in most states, if the meal plans are not individualized, they may be provided to everyone. However, it’s better to call them “healthy recipes” or “5 easy dinner ideas” – and not use the words “meal plans” – to make sure that you aren’t treading into territory that is reserved for registered dieticians and licensed nutritionists.

As a health coach, you can educate and share healthy recipes and food choices – just like healthy cooking websites and cookbooks do – but your focus should be on recipes that apply to everyone. In a “red” or “orange” state, you are allowed to share recipes or meal ideas that fall into the categories of “gluten-free” or “Paleo” or “vegan” or whatnot (just like you can have “Paleo” cookbooks) but you can’t adapt recipes for one of your clients based on their needs or create food protocols based on a client’s blood test results, for example.  You can’t tweak or individualize recipes or sample menus for individual clients.

4. Where are the most important places that coaches need to include their disclaimer? Since there are mini disclaimers and full disclaimers, which one goes where?

Every health coach needs to have what I call a “full” disclaimer on their website that is visible through a link in the footer of the website. This is a robust 3-4 page document that explains what you do and what you don’t do as a health coach, disclaims your liability and says that you are providing education and information through your website, but you are not acting as a doctor or giving medical advice.

You want to be sure your website visitors know that the information on your site does not substitute for their own doctor’s advice, and that they should not stop seeing their doctor based on what they read on your site.  The “full” disclaimer is your base layer of legal protection on your site which is why I align it with the root chakra. It’s your first step to feeling safe sharing the information on your site with the world.

Also, you also want to have what I call “mini” disclaimers on your program guides, handouts, Facebook groups, video and audio recordings, and other types of materials. A “mini” disclaimer is a brief 2-3 sentence disclaimer that you place in the footer of your documents, in the Facebook group sidebar, or state verbally when you are speaking in your video or audios that tells people that you are not giving medical advice or in any way substituting for the care and advice of their doctor.


Speaking of disclaimers, here’s one from Lisa about the information in this post:
**Please note that each state differs slightly, so health coaches should consult with an attorney to get clear about what they can and can’t do in the state where their business is located. The information provided in this post is meant to be general and educational in nature, and is designed to point health coaches in the right direction, but it is not to be relied upon as legal advice since the laws in each state are constantly changing.                                                                                                        


Thank you Lisa!!!

You can find Lisa Fraley at lisafraley.com

Lisa provides DIY legal documents for health coaches (including disclaimers, client agreements, terms of use and much more).

Click HERE << to see the selection of helpful legal resources Lisa provides for health and wellness professionals (affiliate link).

CLICK HERE to listen to episode 8 of The Wellness Business Podcast where Lisa was our guest to talk about: Must Know Legal Tips to Stay Compliant and Avoid Fines.