Dec 8, 2023 • 6 min read

What is a Holistic Nutritionist? 

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Have you seen the title “holistic nutritionist” and wondered, “What is a holistic nutritionist? How is this different from a regular nutritionist? Do I need one?” This article will answer those questions for you. 

A holistic nutritionist is someone who provides dietary and lifestyle recommendations. They consider all aspects of the person and their ability to make changes. This may include social life, stress, economic status, living situation, psychological factors, and more. 

The goal of a holistic nutritionist is to harness the body’s innate ability to heal by optimizing nutrition and lifestyle. They consider each person as a whole, recognizing that the mind and body are interconnected. 

Beware that the term holistic nutritionist is not a credentialed title. Anyone can call themselves a holistic nutritionist regardless of whether they have a degree in nutrition. This differs from a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD/RDN), for whom credentialing is required, though RDs and RDNs could consider themselves holistic nutritionists.

Dietitians and nutritionists alike can practice holistic nutrition. Unlike dietitians, nutritionists (holistic or not) cannot legally provide medical nutrition therapy. This means they cannot make recommendations for managing various disease states such as diabetes or heart disease. 

This guide goes over what holistic nutritionists and dietitians are, how they help patients, how to find one, and what to expect in appointments.

What is a holistic nutritionist?

holistic nutritionist provides nutrition education to their patients with an emphasis on improving lifestyle factors versus just prescribing a diet. 

The term “holistic” (in regards to medicine) is defined as: “concerned with the care of the entire person in all aspects of well-being including the physical, psychological, and social, rather than with diseases and symptoms in isolation, and often using natural or traditional remedies.” 

A holistic nutritionist works with each patient as an individual to identify dietary changes they are willing and able to make to improve their eating habits.

They will also address lifestyle factors contributing to poor food choices such as stress, emotional, environmental, and social factors.

Although a holistic nutritionist will most certainly work with a patient in this way, a “standard” nutritionist may or may not. It typically depends on the nutritionist’s education, experience, and values. 

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How does a holistic nutritionist help patients?

A holistic nutritionist will educate patients on improving their diet to optimize their health. They will assess the current diet of each patient and make recommendations on which foods to include more of, which to limit, and why. 

They also help patients build healthier habits in other areas of their lives. This may include increasing physical activity, managing emotions without food, or practicing mindfulness. 

Most importantly, they will work with patients to help them slowly build new habits and learn how to sustain those habits in a manageable way. 

A holistic nutritionist can work with patients to help them: 

  • Practice mindful eating. Learn how to use all senses to enjoy food. Practice eating when hungry and stopping when full to avoid overeating. 
  • Reduce inflammation. Incorporate foods that contain properties that reduce inflammation in the body, reducing the risk of various diseases. 
  • Meal plan. Get practice putting together meal plans that meet daily nutrient needs. 
  • Fill in nutrient gaps. Perform a diet assessment and offer solutions for any possible nutrient deficiencies. 
  • Learn about healthy eating principles. Learn which foods to include more or less of for optimal health. 
  • Identify possible food intolerances. Get instruction on an elimination diet to help pinpoint foods that may be causing illness or other health issues. 
  • Learn to cook and prepare meals. Get education and resources on how to cook healthy meals. 
  • Lose weight. Implement recommended dietary changes and increase exercise to lose weight. 
  • Reduce disease risk. Get the education and recommendations needed to make dietary changes to reduce the risk of various diseases. 
  • Optimize health. Learn how to incorporate various nutrient-dense foods throughout the day in meals and snacks. 
  • Reduce stress and improve mood. Address stressors that contribute to poor eating choices to make it easier to adopt healthier eating habits. 
  • Involve family members. Educate family members for added support and to reduce environmental triggers that lead to poor food choices. 

How does a holistic nutritionist differ from a standard nutritionist or dietitian?

Imagine this scenario: you go to visit a nutritionist or dietitian wanting to lose weight. The nutritionist then advises you to eat a keto diet. He/she explains what the keto diet is and reviews a handout that tells you what foods to eat, then sends you on your way. 

Great, you’re feeling super excited about having a plan to lose weight. Then, you start the diet and realize you don’t feel good eating all of these high-fat foods. Plus, you now have to cook two different meals for yourself and your family, and you don’t get to enjoy any holiday treats. 

This nutritionist or dietitian wasn’t taking you into account as a whole person; they were only making recommendations based on your desire to lose weight, or really anyone’s desire to lose weight.  

Visiting a nutritionist or dietitian who practices holistic nutrition would look a lot different. You and a holistic nutritionist would collaborate in building a plan that works for you and your lifestyle. 

Recommendations would likely include ideas for adapting your current diet to make it healthier and lower in calories while still appealing to you and your family. You might discuss ways you could still indulge in occasional holiday treats and how you could fit exercise into your busy day.  

As the scenarios above show, there can be a difference in how holistic and non-holistic practitioners work with their patients. 

Although a holistic nutritionist is likely to take this approach (treating the person as a whole and considering lifestyle factors), it doesn’t mean that other dietitians and nutritionists don’t. There are many dietitians and nutritionists who do the same without using this term. 

There are also differences between Registered Dietitians (RD/RDN) and nutritionists

To become an RD or RDN, one must have a degree in nutrition, complete 1,000 supervised hours in an internship or coordinated program, and pass a national licensing exam. To become a nutritionist, in most states, requires nothing but a self-designation. 

So, when it comes to finding a nutrition expert, make sure you’re working with someone qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy. Take the time to find someone who is the best fit for you. Read profiles and ask for discovery calls or free consultations when possible. 

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When should I see a holistic nutritionist?

There are many benefits to working with a dietitian. Seeing a holistic nutritionist can be beneficial at any stage of life. Although, I strongly advise seeing one sooner rather than later. 

There are so many avoidable illnesses that stem from poor eating habits. Working with a nutrition expert to optimize your diet is the best way to reduce the risk of diseases, cancers, obesity, and other health concerns. 

Contact a holistic nutritionist to help you change dietary and lifestyle habits. If you know you could eat better, but you’re struggling to make it happen, seek help from an expert. There are often underlying causes that need to be addressed first. 

If you’re unhappy, angry, or lonely, you may turn to food to manage these emotions. You need someone to help you identify the reasons for your poor eating habits and develop alternatives to satisfy these emotions. 

When you see a holistic nutritionist, they are more apt to ask questions that uncover the underlying issues of your poor eating habits. Once you address these issues and start making lifestyle changes, it becomes easier to improve your eating habits. 

How much do holistic nutritionists cost? Does insurance cover appointments?

The cost of seeing a holistic nutritionist is quite variable. Expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $200 per consultation. The pricing depends on where you live, the experience of the nutritionist, and the type of visit. 

Initial consultations with a holistic nutritionist typically last 60-90 minutes and are priced higher. Follow-up visits aren’t quite as pricey because they tend to be shorter (30-60 minutes).

Insurance may cover holistic nutrition appointments if they are with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD or RDN). Nutritionists without this title are typically not covered by insurance. 

Learn more about costs and insurance coverage with these guides:

How Zaya Care helps you book registered dietitians covered by your insurance

Here at Zaya Care, we’re dedicated to helping people find holistic dietitians based on their preferences, needs, and insurance.

When you request an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians, we’ll check your insurance so you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay, if anything at all.

It’s worth noting that 90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for nutrition care with a registered dietitian as we are in-network with many major carriers.

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Vanessa Imus is a Registered Dietitian of 12 years, a mom of 3, and a travel enthusiast born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She specializes in weight management and bariatrics but has extensive dietitian experience in nutrition writing, media work for brands, and corporate wellness. She runs Integrated Nutrition for Weight Loss offering nutrition coaching programs and personalized meal plans for weight loss. Vanessa is passionate about helping others optimize their health and lose weight by using evidence-based nutrition strategies.