How Much Do Nutritional Psychologists Really Make? And How Do I Become One?

A Guide to the Field of Nutritional Psychology: Education, Salary, and More

Note: This guide was written by the developer of the field of Nutritional Psychology, and reviewed by The Center for Nutritional Psychology (the founding organization of Nutritional Psychology), with the purpose of providing individuals with accurate information reflecting the state of the field. Nutritional Psychology was first defined in 2005, taught in university courses in 2008, and The Center for Nutritional Psychology was founded later in 2015 to foster NP’s growth and set the foundation for the field. Due to the source of the information provided in this article, it is considered an accurate reflection of the history, development and direction of the field of Nutritional Psychology.

What is Nutritional Psychology?

NP is the area of study examining how dietary intake patterns affect mood, behavior and mental health. Nutritional Psychology examines the psychological, behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, interoceptive (sensory), and psychosocial changes we experience in relationship to our dietary intake patterns.

Each Nutritional Psychology element is defined here in more detail:

Diet and Psychological element: The relationship between our dietary-nutrient intake patterns and our psychological moods, emotions and affect (e.g., resilience, flourishing, creativity, negativity).

Diet and Behavioral element: The behaviors, reactions, and choices in which we engage that result from thoughts and emotions influenced by our dietary intake and food environment (e.g., increased reactive behavior or changed dietary behavior patterns).

Diet and Perceptual element: Our interpretation of food-related information stemming from our society, familial, and cultural dietary environment (what foods we are exposed to and how that influences our choices).

Diet and Interoceptive element: The internal physiological sensations we experience in response to our dietary intake patterns (discomfort, pain, energy, fatigue, craving and wanting).

Diet and Cognitive element: The relationship between dietary-nutrient intake and our cognitive functions and capacity, including memory, attention, learning and appetite control.

Diet and Psychosocial element: Examining the role that family, culture, community, society, and socioeconomic status play in relationship to our dietary-nutrient intake patterns.

All mental health professionals can benefit from understanding the elements of Nutritional Psychology, and when taken together, these elements form conceptualization in the Diet Mental Health Relationship.

 

How can I become a “Nutritional Psychologist”?

The formal title of “Nutritional Psychologist” does not yet exist. The first academic training in Nutritional Psychology resided in the John F. Kennedy University in the Continuing Education department from 2008 through 2020. This program provided academic training to hundreds of mental health professionals, nutritionists and dietitians, students, nurses, and counselors in the field of Nutritional Psychology. Those completing the program are trained in providing psycho-educational tools that assist clients in understanding of the diet-mental health relationship (DMDHR). The next-generation curriculum in NP is in development and will be available through The Center for Nutritional Psychology in 2021.

What is the scope of practice for those trained in Nutritional Psychology?

The intended scope of practice for Nutritional Psychology is dependent on the accompanying certification or license of practitioner (Nutritionist, LCSW, LPCC, MD, Licensed Psychologist, etc.). It is a subset of information and tools designed to deepen the awareness and effectiveness though a better understanding of the DMHR.

Nutritional Psychology provides education, rather than intervention, treatment, or diagnosis. Training and certification in Nutritional Psychology does not provide professionals with the ability to give dietary advice or intervention if they do not already have a license to do so. If one does not have a state sanctioned license, then the person must work in conjunction with professionals whose scope of practice includes providing nutritional intervention to affect health outcomes.

Those who received formal education and training in Nutritional Psychology, and who can provide education within their scope of practice, may provide educational information in how diet affects mental health, and use NP psycho-educational ‘tools’ to increase awareness of the effects of diet on psychological, cognitive, behavioral, perceptual, interoceptive and psychosocial functioning.

How much do Nutritional Psychologists make?

No salary data for jobs in Nutritional Psychology currently exists. Rather, the psycho-educational tools within Nutritional Psychology serve as an adjunct to previously established mental healthcare methods. Nutritional Psychology provides an additional, and increasingly important tool for professionals to incorporate that helps their clients be better able to achieve their goals, which in turn, can increase the demand for their services, which can (as does any specialty) result in increased services offerings and generated revenue.

Where can I get a degree in Nutritional Psychology?

There is currently no degree program leading to an undergraduate or graduate degree in Nutritional Psychology. The first university-based curriculum in Nutritional Psychology began at John F. Kennedy University from 2008-2020, and was accredited for Continuing Education credits by the American Psychological Association (APA), The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS), and the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). The Center for Nutritional Psychology is working to develop university-level curriculum in Nutritional Psychology that will be available in 2021-2022.

Where can I find education in the field of Nutritional Psychology?

The Center for Nutritional Psychology (CNP) is working to develop the field of Nutritional Psychology by consolidating research, developing an educational curriculum that informs learners of the appropriate methods, concepts, and tools, publishing the first textbook in Nutritional Psychology, setting practice guidelines and standards for certification and licensure in Nutritional Psychology.

Isn’t there currently a Certificate in Nutritional Psychology available for mental health professionals?

Yes, however, the current certificate program in Nutritional Psychology at JFKU is being ‘taught out’, which means the authors of the program have decided to phase it out although it currently has students enrolled. These students will be allowed to complete the program, which remains accredited until they have completed the program. No new students can be enrolled in the JFKU Certificate in NP. CNP is developing new curriculum to replace this program, which will be available through CNP sometime in early 2021.

Can I obtain a license in Nutritional Psychology?

There is currently no licensing or certifying organization that provides formal credentialing leading to the title of “Nutritional Psychologist”. The John F. Kennedy Certificate in Nutritional Psychology provided formalized education in Nutritional Psychology along with scope of practice guidelines, but this program is currently being replaced by the next-generation curriculum in Nutritional Psychology available through The Center for Nutritional Psychology (CNP) in 2021-2022.

Aren’t all Mental Health Professionals trained in Nutritional Psychology?

Psychologists and mental health professionals already address the psychological, cognitive, psychosocial, and behavioral knowledge that contributes to positive mental health, but the current model is not considering the Diet-Mental Health Relationship (DMHR) as a contributor to mental health issues.

Conversely, dietitians and nutritionists already address the dietary knowledge that contributes to positive dietary intake and practices. But formal training in the DMHR is not included for those in these fields.

The field of Nutritional Psychology is developing in response to the growing need to equip mental health professionals and nutritionists alike with knowledge of how dietary patterns interact with psychological, cognitive, behavioral, perceptual (interoceptive), and psychosocial functioning to impact both physical and mental health.

Does a professional with Nutritional Psychology skills provide dietary or mental health treatment and/or intervention?

Nutritional Psychology training does not qualify professionals to write nutrition-focused treatment plans or implement specific nutritional interventions. Nutritional Psychology provides professionals with psycho-educational tools and information designed to increase client awareness of how dietary factors can influence their mental health outcomes.

Who should get involved in Nutritional Psychology?

Students in high school and college, licensed professionals, and anyone interested in understanding more about the Diet Mental Health Relationship (DMHR). Typical backgrounds of interested people include psychology, counseling, marriage and family therapy, dietetics, health coaching, nutrition, nursing and other health-related professions.

Does Nutritional Psychology give me the ability to diagnose or treat mental health problems?

No. Nutritional Psychology does not provide intervention or diagnosis. Rather, it provides psycho-educational tools that engage individuals in understanding the relationship between their dietary intake patterns and their mood, behavior, and mental health.

Is there a difference between the fields of Nutritional Psychiatry and Nutritional Psychology?

While the research informing these two fields at times overlap, the fields of Nutritional Psychology and Nutritional Psychiatry are distinct.

The innovative and emerging field of Nutritional Psychiatry is generally concerned about researching the connection between diet and mental health, including possible clinical intervention (diagnosis and treatment) in patients who suffer from psychiatric disorders including depression and anxiety. This field has been instrumental in leading the way forward in the Diet-Mental Health Relationship.

Nutritional Psychology is focused on the development of methodology, is applied, and includes research informing the following areas:

 Diet and…

  • Psychological functioning
  • Mood (affect)
  • Behavior
  • Cognition
  • Interoception/sensory
  • Perception
  • Performance
  • Psychosocial
  • Brain Function

Any aspect of the relationship between daily dietary intake patterns and their effects on the “Diet Mental Health Relationship” (DMHR) form the basis of Nutritional Psychology, and the exploration of the ways in which diet is a positive or negative contributor to psychological functioning.

Is Nutritional Psychology different from Health Psychology?

Nutritional Psychology is distinct from Health Psychology. Nutritional Psychology examines the psychological, behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, interoceptive, and psychosocial factors that occur in relationship to human dietary intake patterns. NP is aligned with principles of integrative health, and the newly emerging transformational approach to health and wellbeing referred to as ‘Whole Health’. Whole health empowers and equips people to take charge of their physical, mental and spiritual well-being, and live their lives to the fullest.

Health psychology examines how biological, social and psychological factors influence health and illness. Health psychologists use psychological science to promote health, prevent illness and improve health care systems. These fields have developed independently from each other though no doubt can benefit from one another.

Is there evidence to support the field of Nutritional Psychology?

There is a growing body of research demonstrating the link between dietary intake and the psychological, behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, interoceptive, and psychosocial aspects of mental health. The Center for Nutritional Psychology (CNP) consolidates this research into three different research libraries:

Nutritional Psychology uses evidence-based research to inform and guide the development of the field, and research substantiates the process of providing education/psycho-education designed to help people understand and implement dietary changes. The specific NP tools, methods and concepts developed thus far have not yet been validated through research.

What are the Educational Requirements for a Career in Nutritional Psychology?

There are currently no educational requirements for a career in NP because there is no official title, license or degree associated with this field. In order to make good use of the information and tools of NP, we recommend pursuing:

– A graduate-level degree in psychology, counseling, nutrition, or health science, or

– A four-year degree program consisting of electives, core study courses relating to nutrition, psychology, counseling, social work, or mental health;

– Formal education in Nutritional Psychology (available through CNP in 2021-2022).

The following areas of disciplines would help:

Psychology

Counseling

Health Studies

Health Coaching

Nutrition

Nutrition Education or consulting

Dietetics

Social Work

School counselor

Wellness coaching

Substance abuse Counselor

Can Nutritional Psychology be used to cure mental disorders?

Nutritional Psychology is designed to be complimentary and an addition to standard mental health interventions and treatments. For individuals who possess an appropriate license to diagnose and treat mental disorders, NP can provide tools to assist in the treatment. This information and tools from NP can provide a piece of the puzzle for supporting mental health, but is never to be used as a substitute for psychiatric, therapeutic, or medical interventions.

What recommendations do you have regarding incorporating Nutritional Psychology into one’s practice?

Professionals incorporating Nutritional Psychology into their practice must have:

  • Formal training in NP (available through CNP in 2021), which includes understanding of the relationship between dietary and nutrient intake on all aspects of psychological, behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, interoceptive and psychosocial functioning;
  • Advanced knowledge commonly found in a Master’s degree education or higher in psychology, social science or the health science that includes advanced courses in psychology, along with electives in anatomy and physiology;
  • Formal education in nutrition in the form of certification or license from a credentialed program;
  • Demonstrated competency in how NP education can be incorporated into their work in a manner that is consistent with their profession’s scope of practice. They must also demonstrate awareness of competencies that extend beyond their profession’s scope of practice and determine when a referral for a psychological or nutritional diagnosis, intervention, or treatment is necessary;

The courses will be suitable for nutritionists and dieticians who seek additional training in mental health from accredited institutions, as well as psychology-minded practitioners requiring coaching on implementing nutritional techniques.

What Does the Future Hold for Nutritional Psychology?

All areas of specialty that can benefit from Nutritional Psychology training are experiencing projected rates of employment growth faster than average, including jobs as nutritionists and dietitians, psychologists:

For nutritionists and dietitians, The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) expects the field to grow by 11% by 2028. The BLS attributes this growth to “the role of food in preventing and treating diseases, such as diabetes”. This is also undoubtedly to address the most recent NHANES findings on obesity in the U.S. adult population (42.4%) (NHANES is a cross-sectional survey designed to monitor the health and nutritional status of the civilian non-institutionalized U.S. population). Dietitians and nutritionists will be needed to provide care for patients in improving their overall health.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that those close to retirement age are demanding more nutritional services. Assisted living facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, and private clinics are expected to add more positions in this field. This need is consistent with research connecting diet with age-related brain disorders.

Employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be best for those who have a doctoral degree in an applied specialty.

Employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected due to an increasing use of teams for treatment, in which these therapists work with other counselors to address patients’ needs.

Employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth is expected as people continue to seek addiction and mental health counseling.

A recent study published in The Lancet estimates that “one in five deaths globally — equivalent to 11 million deaths — are associated with poor diet, and that diet contributes to a range of chronic diseases in people around the world”. And that “the urgent need for coordinated global efforts to improve the quality of human diet” is needed, and that “given the complexity of dietary behaviours and the wide range of influences on diet, improving diet requires active collaboration of a variety of actors throughout the food system, along with policies targeting multiple sectors of the food system (Lancet 2019).”

Future Education and Training Benefits in Nutritional Psychology

Collectively, these projected job statistics along with the rise in chronic diet-related and mental-health related conditions, indicate the added knowledge professionals gain from education and training in Nutritional Psychology could quickly highlight their job skills in an increasingly competitive field, and may fast-track career progression.

While both the nutrition and mental health fields have existed independently for many years, nutrition and mental health are only recently beginning to be combined. The demand for nutritional psychology services is likely to increase as individuals become more aware of and interested in the connection between diet and mental health. This is particularly as research validates the link between diet and mental health.

Research is demonstrating that diet is playing an increasingly important role in the mental health of individuals and societies around the globe. The development of the field of Nutritional Psychology provides mental health and nutrition professionals with a much-needed structure through which to address mental health issues.

Visit The Center for Nutritional Psychology (CNP) to keep current with what’s happening in the field of Nutritional Psychology.

References:

  1. GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators. Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet, April 3, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30041-8
  • admin
    October 06, 2021 at 04:41 pm
    Hello and thank you for inquiring! We are building expertise in professionals who will have training in nutritional psychology but cannot provide you with a 'nutritional psychologist' yet. Please email the organization privately and we can assist you by getting a better idea of the kind of professional that may be of benefit to you in the meantime. info@nutritional-psychology.org. Thank you.
  • James parisi
    October 06, 2021 at 04:34 pm
    I’m looking for a nutritional psychologist and in the Montgomery County Pennsylvania area can you help me?
  • admin
    June 20, 2021 at 03:43 pm
    Hi Ana, Thank you for reaching out! Below are some options you may find helpful. Please keep in mind that CNP has no affiliations with any of the following organizations. 1) Get a Masters degree in Psychology, then become a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) (https://theana.org/certify/CNScandidate). 2) Get a Master's degree or Ph.D. in Psychology, then pursue adjunct training as a health coach (https://www.nshcoa.com), integrative nutritionist, holistic nutritionist (https://nanp.org/two-credentials-to-choose-from/), or similar. 3) Get a Ph.D. in Psychology and do research in an area that combines both psychology and an aspect of nutrition. 4) Become an MFT, LPC, or similar and pursue the adjunct training described in #2. As you may know, there are differences between RDs (i.e., 'nutritionists') and health coaches, mainly that you must be licensed in order to prescribe and provide direct therapeutic interventions or treatments: https://www.integrativenutrition.com/blog/what-is-the-difference-between-a-nutritionist-and-a-health-coach And if you are interested in nutritional psychology itself (the link between dietary intake and psychological processes), our continuing education courses will culminate in a certificate by 2023. This will provide adjunct education for all types of professionals to incorporate into their knowledge-base and practice, but it will not serve in lieu of a degree. Thank you for your interest and good luck with the path you choose!
  • Ana Therese
    June 18, 2021 at 02:21 pm
    Good day! I would just like to get some advice about this field. I'm a 2nd year college student taking up Bs Psychology and I have been inspired to become a dietitian as well. I have been wondering what course should I take besides BSPsych for me to enter that field? I am taking the span of studying into consideration as well since I also don't want to devote like almost 10 years+ of studying. Is there any possibility for that too? I do not want to shift courses as well which is why I'm trying to discover ways on how I can connect the course I'm taking now and also become a dietitian. I hope I could get some response since it will really be a big help in enlightening me in this career path. Thank you very much!
  • admin
    April 11, 2021 at 08:52 pm
    Hello Saadat, Thanks for your interest! Please find information about NP 110 which is the first of a series of courses we've just published (that replace our original JFKU Certificate in Nutritional Psychology that ran for 10+ years online). We have replaced this curriculum and NP 110 is the first of the new courses that will be available in NP 110. While we are designing a whole certificate, NP 110 is the only course available right now. The full 6-7 course certificate is in development currently but look for end of 2021 to begin roll-out of the next courses all throughout 2022. Please find more information here https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/np110/, or email us at contact@nutritional-psychology.org. Thanks!
  • Saadat
    April 11, 2021 at 07:24 am
    Hi, I am a registered dietitian and interested in this field. Any information is greatly appreciated.
  • admin
    March 21, 2021 at 05:32 pm
    Hello Elanda, Great! We hope you can utilize our resources to benefit your studies and future endeavors. If you'd like to keep updated, please sign up for our newsletter which can be found here: https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/news-events/#newsletter
  • Elanda Jackson
    March 21, 2021 at 05:29 pm
    I am a current graduate student highly interested in this field. I am trying to specialize my future practice in this much needed area.
  • admin
    March 13, 2021 at 05:31 am
    Thanks for your interest! Sign up for our newsletter to find out more https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/news-events/#newsletter. -CNP Editor
  • Jenna bruce
    March 13, 2021 at 05:22 am
    I’m am so interested in this! I haven’t started college yet but I’d love more info!!
  • admin
    March 08, 2021 at 04:09 am
    The science of psychology and nutrition have been portrayed as separate and distinct disciplines. However, when it comes to the Diet-Mental Health Relationship, an inextricable link exists between dietary/nutrient intake and psychological processes and mental health. You will benefit from this course if you want to understand the actual mechanisms connecting the two disciplines. This course is evidence-based and built on the back of over 2,000 research studies contained in our CNP Research libraries and explains the mechanisms by which nutrients and dietary intake influence all aspects of our psychological, behavioral, cognitive, sensory-perceptual, interoceptive and psychosocial functioning. Regards, CNP Editor
  • Ana
    March 07, 2021 at 10:52 pm
    Hello, I am a Psychologist and just got my diploma as Nutritional Therapist. How would this course benefit me? Thanks.
  • admin
    January 31, 2021 at 07:35 am
    Hello! Please see our NP 110 information page https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/np110/ and sign up for our newsletter to stay updated if you haven't already. Thanks for your interest!
  • Cynthia Torres
    January 31, 2021 at 06:05 am
    I am interested in your nutritional psychology program. I am a licensed therapist and would love to support my clients in this way as well.
  • admin
    January 18, 2021 at 06:27 pm
    Hello Swathi, Please check out our NP 110 page on the website: https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/np110/ Soon we will attach more course information and if you wish to be added to the CNP Newsletter please let us know. Thanks for your interest! CNP Editor
  • Swathi K Sreekanta
    January 18, 2021 at 10:46 am
    I'm a clinical nutritionist and am interested in nutritional psychology. I'd like to know if you have a fellowship/ certificate course please.
  • admin
    January 16, 2021 at 06:27 pm
    Hi Sondra, I've added you to our newsletter mailing list to keep you informed of NP 110's rollout (this March). Thanks for reaching out.
  • Sondra
    January 16, 2021 at 01:19 pm
    How do I get signed up for the program that will be available in “early 2021”?
  • admin
    August 19, 2020 at 12:59 pm
    Nice content.

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