Online Master's of Holistic Nutrition: guiding others to healthy choices

By Kay Easton

Holistic nutrition professionals believe in a "whole person" approach to optimum health, with both the professional and the individual as partners in the healing process. Those trained in holistic nutrition generally recommend whole, naturally grown foods as the best source of nutrients. According to the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board (HNCB), "the philosophy of holistic nutrition is that one's health is an expression of the complex interplay between the physical and chemical, mental and emotional, as well as spiritual and environmental aspects of one's life and being."

Career variety for grads of holistic nutrition master's degree programs

Holistic nutrition professionals are employed as dietitians, nutritionists, nutrition consultants, natural chefs, fitness experts, teachers, speakers, weight loss coaches, researchers or writers for health-oriented publications. They can also work for nutrition centers, spas, retreats, sports teams, and health product manufacturers or stores.

Regardless of the career path, most holistic nutrition professionals are educators, providing information about the health benefits of making positive nutrition and lifestyle choices. And, as Western medicine begins to acknowledge the importance of dietary choices to health and well being, more mainstream health care professionals, such as nurses or doctors, are choosing to increase their knowledge of holistic nutrition. Good nutritional choices have a proven record in controlling diabetes, heart disease, allergies, high blood pressure and obesity.

Online Master of Holistic Nutrition: program coursework and skills

Educational programs include the Master of Science in Health and Nutrition Education and the Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition. Online master's degree programs in this field are designed for students who want to earn while they learn, or study wherever and whenever it is convenient for them.

Master's degree programs in holistic nutrition generally require 60 units to complete in approximately two years; a research thesis may also be required. Typical coursework can cover the following:

  1. Macronutrients (such as carbohydrates, protein and fats)
  2. Micronutrients (such as vitamins and minerals)
  3. Physiology and anatomy of digestion
  4. Holistic nutrition and health counseling
  5. Developmental nutrition
  6. Nutrition and mental health
  7. Superior foods and nutrition
  8. Applied research

Other possible topics include kinesiology, phytochemicals and herbology. The goals of holistic nutrition degree programs include preparing graduates to do the following:

  • Understand how eating behaviors and food choices can affect client health
  • Evaluate client food intake and eating habits to create nutritional strategies to improve client health
  • Explain how changing behaviors can positively impact client health
  • Be familiar with natural and organic foods
  • Help clients create healthy and interesting menus
  • Assist clients in selecting nutritional supplements, if necessary

Following the completion of online Master of Holistic Nutrition degrees, students can also continue their educations by enrolling in online holistic nutrition doctoral programs.

Holistic nutrition career salaries, employment projections

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that increased public interest in nutrition, including greater awareness of obesity and diabetes, should lead to more job opportunities for dietitians and nutritionists. The BLS predicts average job growth in these careers from 2008 to 2018, with about 5,600 new openings and an estimated growth rate of 9 percent. Job seekers with advanced degrees or specialized training should have the best employment opportunities.

The BLS doesn't track salaries specifically for holistic nutritionists, but dietitians and nutritionists in general earned $54,340 as mean annual wages in 2010, and in related occupations, registered nurses made $67,720, while medical and health services managers earned $93,670.

Experts agree: holistic nutrition a healthy idea

Anti-aging nutrition and sports nutrition have recently been in the media. Many believe that holistic nutrition can minimize some of the negative effects of aging. Canadian author, speaker, vegan and professional Ironman triathlete, Brendan Brazier, addressed the U.S. Congress on the "significant social and economic benefits that could be achieved by improving personal health through better diet."

David L. Katz, M.D., director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, agrees. In a Huffington Post article he said, "Good food is among the best medicines we have. Good nutrition, like good health, is best viewed holistically." As more everyday citizens and health care professionals recognize the benefits of making better dietary choices, graduates of online Master of Holistic Nutrition programs could be of great assistance.

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