What Is Holistic Nutrition?

When it comes to holistic nutrition, health isn't just about what you eat — it's about your body, mind, and spirit, too.
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Updated on March 22, 2024
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When it comes to nutrition experts, there are a lot to choose from: nutritionists, certified nutritionists, registered dietitians, registered dietitian nutritionists, holistic nutritionists — the list goes on. It can be hard to know who does what exactly.

We spoke to holistic nutritionists in the field to find out what sets their practice apart.

What Is Holistic Nutrition?

The fundamental philosophy behind holistic nutrition is that health is a whole-person equation. It factors in a person's emotions, mind, environment, lifestyle, genetics, and spiritual well-being, as well as their body.

"Holistic nutrition focuses on the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and spirit," says naturopathic herbalist and holistic healthcare practitioner Julius Cermak. "The goal of holistic nutrition is to support and optimize the body's innate healing abilities."

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What's the Difference Between Holistic Nutrition and Conventional Nutrition?

There are two key differences between holistic and conventional nutrition: the approach to the patient and the credentials required.


According to Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, conventional nutritionists and dietitians focus mainly on how food and diet affect the body. Holistic nutritionists zoom out and look at the bigger picture.

"When I work with a client, I consider all aspects of their lifestyle and health in addition to their nutrition and activity," explains Sabat. "Getting a complete picture of what is going on with a person allows me to address the underlying issues, as well as help with basic nutrition."


While there are strict licensure guidelines for registered dietitians, many states don't require any specific credentialing or licensure for nutritionists. Currently, no states require licensure for holistic nutrition professionals.

"In some states, anyone can call themself a nutritionist, regardless of their educational background, which can result in a lot of misinformation, unfortunately, especially on social media," says Catherine Cabano, who founded a holistic health consultancy company.

"Since the title 'holistic nutritionist' doesn't require specific credentials, it can be a bit of an uphill battle to be taken seriously amongst other medical professionals," adds Cabano. "Your credibility will ultimately come down to your education and work experience."

How Do I Become a Holistic Nutritionist? 2 Steps

Though there is no official path to becoming a holistic nutritionist, you can make sure you have professional credibility by doing two important things: earning a bachelor's degree and completing a certification program.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's in Nutrition or a Related Field

Many colleges offer degrees in nutrition and healthcare that can give you the necessary expertise to provide high-quality nutrition guidance.

An accredited degree program will also help you qualify for licensure as a nutritionist or registered dietitian in states that require it.

Best Degree Options for Aspiring Holistic Nutrition Professionals

Step 2: Complete a Certification Program

There are now a handful of organizations that offer certification for holistic nutrition professionals, including:

How Much Do Holistic Nutritionists Make?

In the U.S., traditional nutritionists earned an average base salary of $52,280 in February 2024, according to Payscale. Earnings range between about $44,000 and $77,000 depending on your location, experience, education, and work setting. Salaries for holistic nutritionists may be slightly lower or higher.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that conventional nutritionists and dietitians earned a median salary of $66,450 in 2022. This figure can also vary by occupational setting. For example, nutritionists working in outpatient care earned a median salary of $75,860, compared to $64,310 for professionals in nursing homes and assisted care facilities.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Holistic Nutritionist?

The timing varies from person to person. Many holistic nutritionists start out as licensed nutritionists or registered dietitians, which typically requires about four years of college education and two years of graduate study.

"I received a traditional nutrition degree and have become a holistic nutritionist over the years from pure experience alone," explains Sabat. "I found out early on that the traditional dietetics approach to helping people just doesn't do enough."

Others may invest more time into certification or coaching programs, which often require a certain number of practice hours along with coursework. The NANP board certification exam, for example, requires students to have 500 contact hours in the field.

"Becoming a holistic nutritionist is a difficult process," says Reda Elmardi, RD. "Most programs require several years of study — though there are many distance-learning options available, making it possible to pursue a holistic nutritionist degree without leaving home."

According to Elmardi, becoming a holistic nutritionist takes a considerable amount of experience and training. But it can be worth it — especially if you attend a high-quality school.

"Those who desire to become holistic nutritionists should attend accredited colleges that offer rigorous programs and coursework in numerous areas of nutritional science," advises Elmardi.

Note: The insights on this page were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed March 16, 2024.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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