February is National Nutrition month and a good opportunity to look at the changes that have occurred, predict where the industry is going and consider ways to capitalize on interest in nutrition information.

If you want to sell supplements, consult a pharmacist experienced in nutraceuticals for advice on how to be safe when it comes to deciding which products to sell. Also, this professional is aware of the potential for interactions between prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and supplements and can offer your club an edge by offering member consultations.

THE LOW CARB DIET SCENE — WHAT'S HOT, WHAT'S NOT?

The low carb diet scene continues to stir controversy thanks to the release of the newest “why diets work” reports that fly in the face of information in best-selling books, testimonials and marketing by companies with much to gain from selling products that emphasize this nutrition perspective. Low carb diets precipitate weight loss, but since it's impossible to lose more than two pounds of fat a week members who avoid carbs are losing water and calorie-burning lean mass and setting the stage for regaining lost pounds. It's overconsumption of calories, particularly saturated fats and simple sugars, which sets the stage for obesity. Instead of putting emphasis on the glycemic index focus on the more sensible glycemic load — the index that combines glycemic index and food serving size.

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

Exercise and support for lifestyle change continue to be strategies that make a difference between people who do and don't succeed in the long run. Folks who focus on diets vs. exercise ignore the biochemistry of nutrition. Heightening awareness of this message will put you in good steed as emerging information about the role of how food choices influence our health through interactions with our genetic makeup become mainstream.

COMMUNITY ACTION

Because a newspaper story can do more than paid advertising to promote interest in club membership this may be the time to ask staff to get involved in volunteer efforts that support good nutrition and physical activity in budget-strained public schools. You will see heightened media attention on issues described in Kelly Brownell's book, “Food Fight.” Witness, for example, the Sundance Film Festival's prize-winning Supersize Me, which describes the weight gain of a filmmaker who put on 30 pounds eating the fast food diet children crave. Current statistics predict today's youth will lose limbs and experience blindness in their 30's and 40's if they continue the lifestyle that supports obesity. Get your PR team to hype stories with pictures that describe your efforts in GET BONES programs for youth and seniors. Put your advertising dollars into PR-promoting efforts like healthy snacks at youth-oriented programs in and out of the clubs and hire teachers to do after school nutrition workshops for kids at your facility.

Ronda Gates, M. S., has been developing and delivering health promotion programs and products since 1978 under her business umbrella LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates. To learn more about Ronda visit www.rondagates.com.

MONEY-MAKING NUTRITION STRATEGIES

Consider these options to fulfill the demand for up-to-date nutrition information:

  • Schedule education evenings with programming such as a pharmacist that can advise members if their prescriptions and supplements interact.
  • Find someone in your community who can translate the latest nutrition research by providing workshops such as supermarket scavenger hunts.
  • Work with a chef eager to create awareness about his low-fat restaurant menu by providing tastings at your club.
  • Contact the local juice bars to find out if samples can be provided for club events.
  • If you have food service at your club ask the cook to turn the government-required information about the nutrition content of menu items into tent cards so members can learn more about what they are eating.
  • Stock high profit margin nutrition-related books that can be purchased from a publisher at 55 percent to 60 percent off retail price in units of 10 or more.
  • Purchase subscriptions to reputable nutrition or health-related newsletters and file them in a notebook that's accessible to staff and members.
  • Purchase handouts that can be branded with the club logo for distribution in classes or stacked near exercise equipment or by the front desk.
  • Create a bulletin board that has articles about nutrition and healthy eating. Assign a staff member to change the board weekly.
  • Contract with a degreed nutrition educator to provide coaching to your members on or off site.
  • Host workshops for athletes that focus on performance-oriented nutrition strategies and highlight the results of these members in local papers.