Holistic nutritionists: What do they do & how are they different?

by | Jul 5, 2019 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

With so many different types of nutritionists available to advise on your health, it’s no surprise that holistic nutrition is an option. It’s not always clear exactly what this means, however, which can make choosing an appropriate practitioner especially challenging.

Today, we’ll review the facts so you can cut through the noise and discover what sets holistic nutritionists apart from conventional nutritionists,and registered dietitians

Some background on credentials

Like conventional nutritionists, holistic nutritionists don’t necessarily need a degree that is accredited by any official certifying body in order to practice holistic nutrition privately or through an employer. If the establishment employing either type of nutritionist doesn’t require a certain amount of training or credentials, someone calling themselves a holistic nutritionist may have little to no education or experience. They might even be misinformed about nutrition basics.

Even if a holistic nutritionist does have some sort of degree or certificate, it’s difficult to know what that means. There are various programs offering everything from 6-month certification programs online to bachelor degree programs at universities that focus on holistic nutrition. Do your research and ask questions about the kind of training and schooling your holistic nutritionist has been through. What kind of designations do they put after their title and what do they mean? Where did they go to school and how extensive was their training? Did their school require field work to earn their degree? How long have they been practicing in the real world? 

Should you choose a holistic nutritionist over a conventional one? 

If you’re one to gravitate toward natural therapies, herbal remedies, essential oils, homeopathic treatments, and believe strongly in a link between diet and disease, seeing a holistic nutritionist might be in your comfort zone – but be careful. Since there is no governing body regulating certifications of holistic nutritionists, we recommend defaulting your search to the most highly regulated and trained nutritionists, Registered Dietitians and/or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists first. Then you can make sure your RD or RDN has the holistic knowledge and advice you’re seeking to incorporate into your wellness plan. 

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists with holistic knowledge

Once you narrow your list to RDs and RDNs, you can start to refine it further by practitioners that have an understanding of holistic practices and can advise how best to educate and counsel you on your wellness with holistic spin on your specific nutritional needs and principles. 

What exactly is a Registered Dietitian or a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist? 

The designations Registered Dietitian and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist are actually interchangeable and are given to food and nutrition experts who meet the strictest of educational requirements. They have to complete their Bachelors of Science in Nutritional Sciences at an accredited college or university and complete a one year internship, followed by a rigorous exam. Then they can obtain their license to practice and the license must be maintained by continuing education courses throughout their career. Some RDs and RDNs go on to earn their masters and PhDs to broaden their expertise. 

What do RDs and RDNs have in common with holistic nutritionists? 

Both types of practitioners focus on the treatment and prevention of disease through nutrition education. While holistic nutritionists may incorporate some non-western methods of nutrition into their practice, RD and RDN licensing is regulated by the United States government with their education rooted in guidelines around the food guide pyramid. 

With the extensive training, schooling, and regulation achieved by professionals who hold their RD/RDN, there’s likely to be some familiarity with alternative methods. They may even be formally educated as an enhancement to their overall education. 

Holistic nutritionists: The bottom line

What it boils down to is this: Some holistic nutritionists legitimize themselves through years of successful consultation with their clients and may have education to back it up. But no holistic nutritionist education program or certification is as rigorous or extensive as a full RD/RDN degree. Holistic nutritionists are not required to maintain anything but passion for their work and interest in holistic nutrition unless the party employing them for their services makes it a requirement. And even then, their certification can be as random and unchecked as a business card or handwritten receipt. 

Noom brings you RDs and RDNs with deep knowledge & experience

When it comes to nutrition, meal planning, and weight loss goals, Noom only consults with RDs and RDNs on how to provide the most comprehensive support to its customers. We work with professionals that have a broad range of expertise in nutritional counseling – so no question goes unanswered and no preference (such as holistic nutrition) is dismissed. That just one of the ways we meet you where you are in your journey and help you succeed on your chosen path. Come see what we have to offer!