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What is Holistic Nutrition Anyways?

What is Holistic Nutrition?

Most of us associate the word “holistic” with hippies, strange herbs, and being barefoot. But as it turns out, the father of holistic nutrition was no hippy at all. He was a lawyer and a politician, who also studied medicine and chemistry.

In the mid 1800s Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was lying on his deathbed. It was two months before his death that his most famous work was published – a brilliant essay, not about politics, but about food. He titled it: The Psychology of Taste.

This man of science was the first to believe that food was far more than a fuel source. He penned the famous words, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” He also wrote, “Cooking is one of the oldest arts and one that has rendered us the most important service in civic life.” And – “The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star.”

Jean showed us that food can manipulate our moods, thoughts, and actions. It touches all aspects of us, which is why changing our nutrition can literally change our life. It was a message he felt was important enough to be his last.

I often get asked what the difference is between what I do as a holistic nutritionist and what a dietician does.

What exactly is Holistic Nutrition?

Traditional dieticians often work within what I call a measurable worldview. This involves counting calories, grams of fiber, recommended daily intakes, and very specific, measurable things. Dieticians put people on very restricted and specific diets based on a fixed set of recommended daily allowances of certain nutrients.


Holistic nutrition weighs the immeasurable, such as how food makes us feel in addition to its nutrient and caloric value. Our aim is to pack as many nutrients as possible within a healthy calorie intake, as opposed to eating anything we want within a calorie limit. Our bodies are fueled through nutrients, not empty calories. We aim to make every calorie count.

Here are five general points that I always consider when working with a client. These areas are not addressed through a traditional dietician.

1.     Healing properties of food.

Besides the measurable properties of grams and calories, I also look at the effect that a certain food will have on our system. Whether it is soothing, warming, cooling, healing, etc. Some foods make us feel energized while others have a more lethargic effect. The goal is to use food to help us feel the way we want at all the right times.

2.     An Enjoyable Eating Experience.

Food MUST taste good. It’s the only way we will stick with good nutrition and learn to love eating well. Here we aim to strengthen our relationship with food. Eating should be an enjoyable experience with a variety of tastes and textures and rich colors. The great news is that healthy food DOES taste good. It’s a pleasure to eat and prepare. Sometimes it just takes a good holistic nutritionist to show you how.

3.     Origin of Food

Here we consider how our food was grown and the impact it has on our environment. We look at things like packaging, organics, and farming practices. We consider the quality of our meats and fish, how they were raised and how they lived. We want to eat in a way that supports not only our bodies, but also our environment.

4.     Personalized Nutrition

I look at the personal needs of each client. How many calories do they need? What are their nutrient deficiencies? Do they have any absorption issues? What foods would best support their activity level? What are their personal food preferences, tastes, and cultural traditions? Every single person is different, and a healthy diet is never a one size fits all. Recommended daily intakes are not accurate for people with special needs, digestive issues, or other health concerns. I look at you as an individual.

5.     Whole Foods

Holistic nutritionists favor whole foods directly from nature. Real fruit over fruit juice. Whole grains over processed white bread. Fresh fish over canned tuna. Our goals are not limited to just weight loss, but overall health and wellness. Above all, we want our clients to grow strong in body, mind, and spirit.

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Mat Robar

Holistik Health is your one-stop shop to reading up on the latest trends in alternative medicine and health, from Moringa to Chia Seeds, we cover it all!

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thanks for the explanation… but one correction–Brillat Savarin wrote the Physiology of Taste (not Psychology)

  • Your view of a Registered Dietitian is extremely narrow and inaccurate. I’d love to know what you are basing your statements on. Do dietitians work with clients to count calories? Sure. If that’s what the client wants and needs to achieve their PERSONALIZED goals. Do they work with clients on planning healthy whole food choices that align with their beliefs about the food system? Yup, if that’s what works for the client. The difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian is that the public can trust that a dietitian works from an evidence-based foundation and as a licensed practitioner is beholden to practice with specific standards and ethics that are accountable to their clients.

    All the power to you for talking about what you can offer your clients. But you immediately lose any credibility when you decide to slag another profession without having all the facts.

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