What Is a Holistic Nutritionist?

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What Is a Holistic Nutritionist?
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When you want to make beneficial changes that support your well-being, experts can help you get there. A holistic nutritionist helps people who want their diets to center around optimal nourishment for their bodies, whether they have a medical condition or are interested in eating in a natural, well-rounded way.

Find out what a holistic nutritionist does, the benefits of working with one, and who can benefit most from seeing one. We’ll also delve into what makes a holistic nutritionist unique from other nutrition experts. 

What a Holistic Nutritionist Does

Holistic nutritionists focus on the body as a whole, incorporating diet and lifestyle changes that strive to optimize clients’ health. They may use supplements and nutrition to get their clients’ bodies on the right track. 

Holistic nutrition considers the whole person; practitioners provide strategies that optimize an individual's health based on their unique needs, rather than just managing symptoms and disease. The holistic nutritionist partners with their clients to create a plan for optimal wellness, and counts on feedback from clients to make adjustments.

“Each piece of your body is interconnected. It only makes sense that healing your body requires more than just looking at a specific piece, as seen in most conventional medicine practices,” says Paulina Lee, MSHS, RD, LD, functional dietitian, and founder of Savvy Stummy, LLC. Lee uses functional testing and aims to understand her client's top pain points to get to the root cause of their health concerns.

How Are Holistic Nutritionists Different Than Other Nutrition Specialists?

Holistic nutrition differs from other nutrition specialists, such as traditional nutritionists and dieticians, because it focuses on all aspects of a person’s lifestyle and habits, not only what they eat.

“Holistic nutrition is an approach to eating that takes into account the entire person — body, mind, and spirit. This means considering not just what they eat, but also their lifestyle, environment, and any other factors that may impact their health,” explains Holistic Nutritionist and Ph.D. candidate Krutika Nanavati.

Holistic nutrition is not a fad diet or a quick-fix solution to weight loss. It’s a way of eating that recognizes and respects the uniqueness of each individual and works to promote overall health and well-being, according to Nanavati. Holistic nutrition acknowledges that all aspects of your life are interconnected and that optimal health can only be achieved when you are balanced.

How Are Holistic Nutritionists Trained?

Not all coaches and practitioners using the term "holistic nutritionist" are qualified. Some may not even have credentials, depending on where they live and which titles are protected. A few schools and programs offer in-class, virtual, and self-study formats to earn designations. 

“The specialty school I attended is a licensed program with a board exam to graduate. The curriculum consisted of 282 hours of in-class education plus a minimum of 50 hours of mandatory practicals and 10 live case studies. Courses included Fundamentals of Nutrition, Anatomy and Physiology, Nutritional Symptomatology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Pathology and Nutrition, Nutritional Literature Research, and more,” explains Certified Holistic Nutritionist Melissa Boufounos.

Others are licensed and registered dietitians, some of whom received a master’s degree or higher. “Most dietitians spend years learning the basics and science of nutrition, then complete internships with master's programs for one to two years. Other holistic nutritionists may have completed holistic nutrition certifications from online schools or practitioner programs that may only be a few months long,” explains Lee. 

Why You Should See a Holistic Nutritionist

“There are many different types of people who can benefit from seeing a holistic nutritionist. Some of the most common are those looking to improve their overall health, lose weight, or manage a specific health condition,” says Nanavati. 

Holistic nutritionists use various techniques to help their clients reach their goals. They may recommend specific dietary changes, supplements, and other lifestyle changes.

If you’re seeking a whole-body approach to wellness while learning to adopt healthy habits, you should consider seeing a holistic nutritionist. Holistic nutrition may be worth trying if you have specific health concerns and haven’t found relief.

“Those who have tried anything and everything, especially through conventional medicine routes, and have not found any relief in symptoms or answers to their mystery health concerns may also benefit from a holistic or functional professional,” says Lee. 

Who Shouldn’t See a Holistic Nutritionist

If you prefer conventional medicine or are not ready to commit to changing your current diet, a holistic nutritionist may not be suitable for you. Those who prefer a more scientific and research-backed approach to nutrition advice may also want to skip holistic methods.

Holistic nutritionists will ask you personal, in-depth questions about your health concerns, current diet, and other lifestyle factors. If you’re not comfortable with this level of detail and transparency, you may not enjoy seeing a holistic nutritionist. 

It may still be worth seeing a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist to see whether working with them can improve your health outcomes. You may find that working with a traditionally trained nutritionist can increase your comfort level about sharing details about your lifestyle and eating habits. 

How Much Do Holistic Nutritionists Cost?

The cost of a holistic nutritionist will vary widely based on their credentials, your personal needs, and where you live. Each holistic nutritionist can set their own rates.

The costs also differ depending on whether you’re paying for an initial consultation, single visits, or a specific package your holistic nutritionist offers. Visits can range from $100 to $200 per hour. One certifying body, The Edison Institute of Holistic Nutrition, suggests holistic nutritionists charge between $90 and $120 an hour. 

Insurance may cover some holistic nutrition services. To qualify for insurance coverage, your practitioner will likely need to be certified by a recognized governing body that ensures proper education and regulation. Check with your insurance provider to make sure. Make sure to ask the holistic nutritionist whether they file insurance claims if the provider is covered by your plan. Many of these practitioners work independently or for themselves and may not bill insurance agencies.

Find a Holistic Nutritionist

Find a nutritionist that you feel comfortable with and whose style and advice resonates with you. Expect a personalized program and partnership with a client-centered approach. 

To find a credentialed and board certified nutrition professional, you can search databases such as the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. You can search using your zip code and what type of professional you want, including board certified holistic nutritionists. 

When you’ve found a holistic nutritionist, interview them to see if you want to work with them. Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • What is your training background and certifications? 

  • How long have you been advising clients?

  • What brought you to the field of holistic nutrition?

  • What is your philosophy surrounding holistic nutrition?

  • What is included in your nutrition practice, including tools and resources for clients?

  • Do you use any measures for helping clients stay accountable?

  • Will I need to take any tests, complete health screening, or provide health data if we worked together?

  • If we were to work together, what would that partnership look like? 

What to Expect Once You Hire a Holistic Nutritionist

When you hire a holistic nutritionist, you will likely be asked to fill out various forms related to your current diet, lifestyle, and health concerns, including any symptoms you are experiencing. These intake forms may be very detailed and ask personal health questions that will guide your care. 

Next, you will likely work with your holistic nutritionist to create a set of goals to work toward and a personalized nutrition and lifestyle plan that will help you achieve them. The plan will likely include short- and long-term goals with actionable advice to help you move in the right direction straight away.

Some holistic nutritionists might ask you to provide a food journal, lifestyle routine, sleep schedule or other tracking so they can gain a realistic picture of your current habits. This list can inform your nutritionist about what improvements can be made or what you’re already doing well.

If you have health concerns that have gone unaddressed, despite trying to make changes on your own or using conventional methods, and are open to a whole-lifestyle approach, a holistic nutritionist could be exactly what you need.