Low energy. Stress. Trouble sleeping. The feeling that you aren’t living life as it’s meant to be. Issues like these have caused many people to turn away from quick fixes, band-aid solutions, and fad diets in favor of a more holistic approach.
While a holistic health journey often involves a lot more than food, it’s hard to deny how what we consume impacts both our body and mind. So if you’d like to start your journey to better health—or help others to do so—take a moment to explore a holistic diet.
What Is a Holistic Diet?
It would be nice if everyone agreed on the definition of a holistic diet, but this just isn’t the case. Some people use the term to refer to a diet that prioritizes whole and unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed meats, eggs, and nuts. In other words, “whole foods.”
However, rather than the types of foods themselves, some professionals–like holistic nutritionists–use the term “holistic diet” to refer to a way of eating that benefits the whole body. This is the definition we’re going to focus on.
What Does a Holistic Diet Prioritize?
The term holistic can hold multiple interpretations practically, and many facets are rooted in evidence-based research.
A holistic diet looks at an individual’s specific nutritional needs. This includes the macronutrients—carbohydrates, fats, and protein—as well as micronutrients like vitamin C, iron, and zinc. Of course, not everyone needs the same amounts of these nutrients, so this diet focuses on your specific needs and how they relate to other components of a holistic diet.
This may involve selecting specific foods to consume or adding natural supplements to one’s diet. It may also involve thoughtfully combining foods to increase nutrient absorption, like adding vitamin C-rich oranges or peppers to a bean dish to increase iron absorption.
2. Where Food Comes From
In today’s world, it’s easy to passively eat a meal without ever thinking about where your food comes from. But a holistic diet aims to change that.
Not only do holistic diets encourage eaters to learn the differences between labels like organic, non-GMO, and carbon-neutral, but they also push consumers to develop a sincere connection to their food producers.
By identifying where your food comes from, as well as connecting with farmers to explore how food is grown and maybe even growing some of your own food, you may develop a greater appreciation for your food and its ability to power your body. This appreciation and awareness has the potential to improve people’s relationship with their food.
3. Associations with Food
One of the best things about food is its ability to connect us to other people, memories, and our unique life stories. Cozy up with a bowl of dal and perfectly cooked rice, and you may be transported to afternoons spent in your grandmother’s kitchen. Or maybe eating a juicy tomato ripe from the summer sun brings back memories of the first year you grew a garden.
Steer yourself toward foods that invoke positive memories from the past. Regardless of the nutritional value these sentimental foods provide, the images they provoke–and the sense of wellbeing we feel while consuming them–could have a positive impact on our health.
4. Relationship with Food
With diet ads reaching out from seemingly every direction, it can be difficult to have a healthy relationship with food.
As Dr. Amy Sapola says about the messages we get from diet culture: “It’s good for you. It’s bad for you. I’m a good person. I’m a bad person because of what I eat.” Instead, a holistic diet can help individuals connect with their bodies and make peace with food. “I think there’s a lot of power in being able to listen to yourself,”* says Sapola.
A holistic diet may focus on stopping and asking yourself what your body really wants and needs, so you can provide it with what it’s calling for. By making a conscious effort to listen to your cravings at any given time, you can mindfully enjoy food choices – even if it is a salty, crunchy snack. This allows one to relish in eating a healthy quantity without bingeing.
Additionally, a holistic diet may implement some parts of intuitive eating, such as eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. While this may sound like common sense, it goes against the advice of many modern diets which are more about rigidity and predetermined portions of food.
5. How Life Impacts Diet
Holistic wellness recognizes that many different components impact one’s health, and these segments often impact each other! With that in mind, holistic nutritionists realize that other areas of holistic health can influence the food that individuals choose to eat.
For example, if someone is struggling to get to bed at a decent hour, they may find themself reaching for salty snacks throughout the night. And stress from a job or family may cause digestive issues that can prevent someone from getting the calories and nutrients they need.
So if you aim to explore a holistic diet, realize that you’ll likely be looking at a lot more than what you put on your plate!
“Food is the on-ramp. Food is the gateway. Clients come to see me because they want to lose weight, or because they’re fatigued, or they’re dealing with some chronic illness, or their hormones are out of balance. Then we end up having this deep philosophical, spiritual conversation. Body, mind, and spirit.”*
Julie Pelaez, Board-Certified Holistic Health Coach
Dive Deeper Into Holistic Nutrition
As the world catches on that many aspects of health are interconnected, an increasing number of individuals are seeking out information about holistic health and wellness. And those people will need professionals to turn to!
If you’re interested in helping others along their health journeys, a formal education could be a great place to start. Escoffier’s Holistic Nutrition and Wellness programs introduce students to topics including holistic nutrition, cooking for special diets, and health coaching techniques.
To learn more about holistic health, read these articles next:
- How to Start a Career in Holistic Health
- Is Getting a Degree in Holistic Nutrition and Wellness Worth It?
- Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: What Is the Difference?
*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.