What Is Holistic Nutrition?

For holistic nutritionists, health isn't just about eating your macros. It's about your body, mind, and spirit, too.
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Meg Embry is a writer at BestColleges covering all things career and education related. An award-winning journalist and editor, she has lived and worked in Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States....
Updated on September 14, 2023
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  • Holistic nutrition is an emerging nutrition sub-field that takes a big-picture, integrated approach to a client's health.
  • Holistic nutrition professionals are not yet held to credentialing or licensing requirements.
  • Aspiring holistic nutritionists should consider pursuing degrees from accredited programs, as well as extra credentials and certifications.

When it comes to nutrition experts, there are a lot to choose from: nutritionists, licensed 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 includes the emotions, mind, environment, lifestyle, genetics, and spiritual well-being of a patient, as well as the body.

Holistic nutrition focuses on the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and spirit, said Naturopathic Herbalist and Holistic Healthcare Practitioner Julius Cermak. The goal of holistic nutrition is to support and optimize the body's innate healing abilities, promoting wellness and preventing disease.

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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 dieticians 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, explained 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. And currently, no states require licensure for holistic nutrition professionals.

In some states, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, regardless of their educational background. Which can result in a lot of misinformation, unfortunately, especially on social media, said 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, said Cabano. Your credibility will ultimately come down to your education and work experience.

How Do I Become a Holistic Nutritionist?

Though there is no official path to becoming a holistic nutritionist, you can make sure you have professional credibility by doing two important things:

1. Earn a Degree

Many colleges and universities offer degrees in nutrition and healthcare that will 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.

2. Complete a Certification Program

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

How Long Does It Take to Become a Holistic Nutritionist?

The timing varies widely from person to person. Many holistic nutritionists start out as licensed nutritionists or registered dietitians — which typically requires about four years of postsecondary education.

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

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. 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, said Reda Elmardi, RD.

It takes considerable experience and training to become an expert. Those who desire to become holistic nutritionists should attend accredited colleges that offer rigorous programs and coursework in numerous areas of nutritional science.

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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