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Career in Holistic Nutrition: Job Duties and Responsibilities

Holistic nutritionists focus on how food and diet affect a person's emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. They go beyond the basic knowledge of which fats, proteins, carbohydrates and other nutrients are necessary for optimum health and include herbology (the study of natural herbs) to give their clients a natural alternative to modern medicine. They advocate eating 'whole' or natural foods that are minimally processed and minus any artificial additives or preservatives.

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Holistic Nutrition Job Duties

Holistic nutritionists are well-versed in the preparation of unprocessed foods and may either train or consult with their patients on how to prepare healthy meals. Based on their belief that each person has different nutritional requirements, they devise diets to meet their clients' individual needs. Their treatment plans may also include physical practices such as yoga or acupuncture. Due to the nature of the work, many holistic nutritionists are self-employed and build their own client base through self-promotion and marketing, though some may coordinate their efforts with other health care professionals or institutions.

Skills and Responsibilities

Like other nutritionists, holistic nutritionists must develop active listening and critical thinking skills. Good communication skills are essential as well. Since most holistic nutritionists are self-employed, they also must know how to operate a business. They need to have good administrative, organizational and computer skills to run a successful practice.

Career Options

Holistic nutritionists usually work as consultants, either in an integrated clinic or as solo practitioners. They may also work in school or corporate settings. Some holistic nutritionists choose to specialize in areas such as holistic sports nutrition, home nutrition or family nutrition therapy. Other careers in holistic nutrition include research, teaching and working for a supplement manufacturer or whole foods company. Writing nutrition guides or working as a chef are other career possibilities.

Required Education

There are many degree programs available to those interested in careers in holistic nutrition. Most nutritionists hold a bachelor's degree in a health-related discipline, and some may even hold a master's degree in a related field. Holistic nutrition education programs focus on natural healing, exercise, diet and philosophy in the promotion of human health. The National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP) formulates standards for holistic nutrition education and maintains a list of recommended programs (www.nanp.org).

Training

Training programs for holistic health practitioners may be as short as three weeks or take as long as three years. Many programs incorporate real-life situations and projects into daily learning. Subjects covered within a holistic nutrition curriculum may include herbology, culinary arts, medicine, massage and nutrition. Holistic nutrition students also learn digestive physiology, metabolism, biochemistry and how to do lifestyle evaluations. Before employment, many students choose to intern at an institution or a business where they can apply their holistic nutrition skills in a hands-on environment.

Certification

There are currently no generally accepted minimum academic standards or licensing requirements for those who practice holistic nutrition. However, several organizations offer voluntary certification.

The Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board of the NANP awards certification to applicants who pass a national exam (www.holisticnutritionboard.org). The American Naturopathic Certification Board offers certification in nutritional wellness (www.ancb.net). The American Association of Drugless Practitioners also offers certification to holistic nutritionists (www.aadp.net).

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