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Published: June 8, 2024

How to Become a Holistic Nutritionist: Steps and Benefits

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Food plays a role in everything from weight loss to chronic disease, and many illnesses stem from issues relating to diet. Holistic nutritionists teach clients about the role diet plays in health and how to take control of their health through what they eat.

These health professionals typically provide several services, and they tailor their offerings to individual client needs. Nutritionists aid their clients in understanding how food and supplements are digested and assimilated in the body, which helps explain why they make certain recommendations. Anyone looking for assistance in changing what they eat to improve their health can benefit from seeing a holistic nutritionist.

How to Become a Holistic Nutritionist

The first step to becoming a holistic nutritionist is having an interest in nutrition and a desire to help others live their healthiest lives. After that, the path varies from person to person.

Get Education

Holistic nutritionists often begin by obtaining a college degree in nutrition, food science, or a related field. Having this initial education can provide a foundation of knowledge to build upon as you go further in your career. A college degree is required to sit for some certification programs, though not all.

If you’re interested in becoming a holistic nutritionist, a credible nutrition, health, certification program, or wellness coaching program that meets your needs ‒ including budget, time commitment, and curriculum ‒ is a great place to further your education. IIN’s Health Coach Training Program offers a deep dive into the science behind wellness concepts, including nutrition as well as the holistic approach to whole-person wellness.

Earn Certification

After you’ve obtained a basic education in health and nutrition, it’s time to gain certification. To become a certified nutritionist (holistic or otherwise), you’ll need to pass the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists administered by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). Some regions also require further certifications, so be sure to check the requirements for your state or country.

Gain Experience

Once you’ve completed your program, BCNS certification requires applicants to complete 1,000 hours of supervised work experience. Additionally, completing an internship helps new nutritionists break into the field; figure out what they want to specialize in; and learn in real time, through experience with real people.

Focusing on a niche in addition to the holistic aspect of holistic nutrition can allow you to differentiate your skills and attract clients. Niches can include helping clients use food to combat chronic conditions, educating parents on how to best fuel their children's growing bodies, and working with athletes to optimize their performance.

Why Become a Holistic Nutritionist?

Becoming a holistic nutritionist offers many benefits, both for yourself and for others. Many holistic health coaches are entrepreneurs, running their own businesses and working for themselves. By becoming your own boss, you can take charge of your career and future ‒ and even gain financial independence. If you’re looking for flexibility in a career that helps others make positive changes, becoming a holistic nutritionist might be right for you.

To Help Others

Holistic nutritionists have the opportunity to educate their clients in the best ways to fuel their bodies, whatever those might be. The main purpose is to improve the lives of clients ‒ help them achieve their wellness goals, make healthy life changes, and generally improve their nutrition. Many people find it hard to take the first step in changing their health – holistic nutritionists can help.

To Educate Yourself

As a holistic nutritionist, not only will you educate others on nutrition, but you’ll expand your knowledge of nutrition for yourself as well. You’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned to your own life and health.

To Create a Community

Leading clients through health issues relating to nutrition can be challenging, but as a holistic nutritionist, you’ll provide a safe space to offer guidance on their journey. As you gain experience with clients, you’ll build a community of people who can rely on you for advice and – more important – assistance in their struggles with their own health.

For Career Flexibility

Being your own boss isn’t easy, but it does provide much more flexibility than working for someone else. Holistic nutritionists don’t have to own their own business, but many do. Holistic nutritionists also find work at places like:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Health clinics
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Schools
  • Health clubs and gyms
  • Private practices

What’s It Like to Be a Holistic Nutritionist?

Holistic nutritionists focus on a comprehensive approach to nutrition, working with clients to help them develop strategies to live more healthfully. They provide guidance and accountability and can assist in many aspects of their clients’ lives, as nutrition touches on not just physical health but mental and emotional health as well.

Holistic nutritionists can work with medical professionals like doctors and dietitians to improve lives, and their strategies for doing so come in many forms. On any given day, holistic nutritionists may provide any one of the following services to their clients:

Doing Intake Evaluations

In the context of holistic nutrition, intake evaluations are performed when nutritionists first meet with clients. They act as an introduction, to gauge client needs and wellness goals. These evaluations can include clients’ previous experiences with nutrition, their lifestyles, and their dietary requirements. Questions like these help to determine the direction of the relationship and how the nutritionist can best help.

Giving Whole-Person Health Advice

Holistic nutritionists also demonstrate how things beyond food feed their clients. Primary food is one of IIN’s transformative concepts, and it explores the idea that what feeds you as a person isn’t just food but all aspects of your life. This includes relationships, career, spirituality, physical activity, and environment. They’re all just as important as the food we eat.

Designing Meal Plans

Holistic nutritionists often work with clients to make specific, evidence-based meal plans that address their specific health and wellness concerns. They consider client dietary restrictions, how much time their clients have to cook, preferences, budget, skill level in the kitchen, and more. Some holistic nutritionists will go with their clients to the grocery store and show them how to choose the best options while remaining budget conscious. Some will even take it one step further and prepare meals for their client.

The Bottom Line

Holistic nutritionists focus on the dietary aspect of whole-person health. To be called a nutritionist – holistic or otherwise – certification is needed. Holistic nutritionists undergo the same level of training and education as traditional nutritionists. Whether they refer to themselves as holistic nutritionists is purely a matter of personal choice.

While there may be some skepticism surrounding the term holistic, the practice is based in science. Holistic practitioners consider all aspects of health impacted by nutrition and incorporate those into their treatment plans for clients.


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