Everyone is aware of nutritional food these days as people battle with weight, diseases, cancer and personal goals, so it’s not just dieticians, nutritionists and chefs. Whether you’re hoping to improve your own health, or thinking of pursuing a career in nutrition, there are plenty of courses that will introduce you to nutritional holistic approaches. If you’re already working in health science and would love to learn more, there are more advanced nutrition courses investigate the building blocks of food. You’ll also be able to sit for exams and achieve industry recognised qualifications along the way. Choose from short courses and workshops to full time and distance learning courses.
What is nutrition?
Nutrition is the study of the influence of food intake on health and well being, and dietetics is the application of nutritional knowledge, tailored to individual needs to prevent and manage disease. As the public has become more conscious of the importance of nutrition for healthier living, there has been a demand for nutritionists and food education.
Supersize vs Superskinny
There are so many food and nutrition programs; from The Biggest Loser to Davina’s Ultimate Body Workout DVD. With all of them focused on striking a balance between food and fitness on a daily basis, health and well being are fast becoming the nation’s new obsession. If you’re guilty of being a few pounds heavier and constantly feel lethargic, then make a change. Boost your energy, spring clean your body, reduce the risk of diseases, get slim and adjust your diet.
Kids can eat healthy too
Think it’ll be even more of a struggle trying to get your kids to eat their greens? Eating healthy as a family doesn’t necessarily mean confining yourself to just vegetables. Learn to prepare foods using organic ingredients, understand food labels, and equip yourself with basic health knowledge like digestion and supplements.
Becoming a qualified nutritionist
To work in different industries, gaining knowledge in food nutrition is useful. For those working in sports, a sound knowledge of nutrition can ensure that coaches give the right advice on nutritional recovery, meal planning and evaluate recovery snack options for clients to support their sporting performances. Even people working with food and in catering would find nutritional courses helpful. After all, with school cooks being trained to provide healthier meals, you don’t really want to fail in comparison to them.
What can you learn?
You will be trained to work in the NHS, to advise consumer groups, the food industry and governmental agencies or engage in research. There is a wide range of topical subjects you can study such as sports nutrition, antioxidants and cancer, energy metabolism and obesity. Some other things you’ll learn apart from nutrition include food safety hazards, personal hygiene, good storage practices, cleaning and pest control.
With a qualification in nutrition, you can specialise in areas like paediatrics, obesity/weight management, oncology, renal, nutrition support, cardiac care, long-term care, internal medicine of community health and loads more. Jobs opportunities are abundant and you can choose to work locally or internationally.
Nutrition food facts
· Asparagus contains rutin, which protects small blood vessels from rupturing and may protect against radiation
· Green-tipped bananas are better for your health than over-ripe bananas
· Beet roots are high in carbohydrate levels and should be used sparingly
· Broccoli has almost as much calcium as whole milk and the calcium is better absorbed
· Cilantro is useful in treating urinary tract infections
· Fennel helps expel phlegm from the lungs
· A sprig of parsley works as a natural breath freshener
· The flavour of courgettes is best when they’re less than six inches long
Check out our Pinterest for some nutritional food recipes.
When I was diagnosed with coeliac disease (a severe allergy to gluten) at the age of two it led to an unhealthy obsession with Coco Pops, when Ian Marber was diagnosed in his twenties he decided to quit his job and study nutrition. After graduating Marber became the man behind The Food Doctor, the practice and best-selling food range, before leaving the company thirteen years later. With a star studded list of celebrity clients, a successful nutritional consultancy and eleven books under his belt, it’s safe to say Maber has made it. Frequently appearing in advice columns and on television, with his own series on The Discovery Health channel, Maber has a lot to say about the UK’s diet. I was keen to ask him about his background, his opinion on the fashion fad diets of today and his advice for those hoping to follow in his footsteps. His no-nonsense approach to nutrition just makes sense, making me wonder whether ‘the Ian Marber way’ really is the best practice for beating bad food habits.
Looking back over your successful career, how did you get to where you are today?
I’m a Londoner and went to a public school in London. Despite that, I managed not to go to university, but instead chose to work in commercial investments until I was in my early thirties. It was only then I decided to return to study nutrition at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, which was then based in Putney.
How did you crack into the competitive nutrition industry?
Well I graduated in 1999 and there were far fewer nutrition professionals around then than there are now. I’ve always enjoyed writing and I was lucky enough to have my first book published soon after I graduated. This drew attention to my methods and my career took off from there. Although nutrition is commonplace in this day and age, it was still seen as rather alternative only fifteen years ago. I was keen to change that and still did what I could to make nutrition more mainstream.
These days there seems to be a different food fad every week, first it’s no carbs, then no fat, then no sugar. Which is the worst ‘fad’ you have come across?
There will always be fads and passing fashions in food and diets. At the time they are popular no-one likes to think that they are following a fashion. Instead, we like to think that we are making an informed decision that hasn’t been influenced by anything, and for this reason I’ve learned not to say too much about them until they really are dangerous. Although I think the worst has to be a cayenne pepper and maple syrup plan. It might have some short time results by way of weight loss, but I can only guess one would feel dreadful on it and these results would be temporary.
Over recent years the number of organic food products in the supermarkets seems to have doubled, do you think society’s attitude is changing?
I think having the choice to eat organic food is a privilege, but I don’t think we ‘need’ it so to speak. It’s often expensive and this can be a barrier for many people, especially for families. So whilst organic food has great value, better overall nutrition is more important to my mind. Of course society is changing, and as what we eat is the cornerstone of our health, I believe nutrition should be a larger part of the national curriculum.
In your expert opinion, what do you think is the main issue with the UK’s diet?
Sadly there is not one single factor that is worse than others; it’s just the way society seems to be going. I think a lack of understanding about what and how to eat is a big problem, but then so is very cheap food as it devalues the importance of nutrition. We should remember that food requires multiple decisions every day, unlike any other purchases that we make. Therefore it’s inevitable that we will go with the easy choices if we are time poor.
We’ve tried every diet under the sun here on the HC editorial desk, in your opinion what is the healthiest way to lose weight?
Slow and steady, that’s the healthiest and also the most likely to work in the long term. Weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise, so remember that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet – the two go hand in hand. However, I find a low glycemic index plan is easier to follow than most as hunger isn’t a problem, but like all good diets, consistency is important.
What advice would you give those hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Understand that you might be working with individuals and so you have to want to do that, and do so in a supportive and engaging manner. There are a lot of nutrition professionals in the UK now and it’s increasingly hard to get worthwhile employment, so you have to be committed.
Finally, what is your go-to cheat or comfort food?
Bendicks Bittermints – a rare treat but I love them!
If (like me) you have been left with an urge to get clued up on the facts of nutrition, why not sign up to a course? With plenty of evening and online options available, this could be the gateway to a healthier way of life.
Everyone in the office knows that more often than not my evening meal consists of pick and mix, so to put me in charge of interviewing a nutritionist expert seemed a little ironic. Yet five minutes into my interview with Martin MacDonald, I realised perhaps I had the most to learn. Fitting our chat into a busy schedule of food plans, celebrity clients and his mentoring scheme, Martin quickly became one of my favourite interviewees (and not just because his go-to ‘cheat food’ is sweets). With a body building background, Martin started his career with the Great British weight lifting team and has gone on to become the founder of his own successful nutritional consultancy. I was keen to find out more about his views on fad diets, the competitive sports nutrition world and the industry secrets he has learnt along the way. Left with a new found interest in nutrition and the knowledge that breakfast is not actually the most important meal of the day, this is one expert that has left an impression.
So Martin can you tell us a little about your educational background, how did you get to where you are today?
I initially started by doing a sports science degree and then went on to complete my postgraduate study in sport and exercise nutrition, as well as clinical nutrition. I thought I was going to go down the route of being solely a sport nutritionist, but because my interests are quite wide ranging I decided to also study the clinical side of nutrition, so ticked that box as well.
If you google sports nutrition there are so many different products and theories, how did you find your niche in this competitive industry?
I sort of fell into my niche in that my background hobby was natural body building. In natural body building it’s all about the nutrition and trying to get your body fat very low while maintaining muscle. I became a specialist in the strength training with losing body fat and my first contract was with the Great British Weight Lifting Team. From there I went into the mainstream area of weight loss and worked as a nutritionist for Eastenders actress Hannah Waterman, who mentioned me in her weight loss DVD. This took my career in the direction it has gone and I became a consultant working with sports teams, Olympic athletes and celebrity clients. I wouldn’t say I have too much of a niche as such, but a broad ranging client base.
You’ve set up your mentoring programme, was this always something you wanted to do?
It was never something I planned on doing no. I had a big social media following and I suppose people quite like controversy; I had quite a lot of public debates on Facebook and Twitter. I can think of one particular instance where a well known nutritionist had written in the paper ‘eating fat makes you fat’ and I just said this is completely wrong. People really saw the controversial side of nutrition and respected what I said. I would get a lot of questions from followers and created the mentorship programme. I suppose one of the main things I aim to do is help people transition from what they learn in the academic classroom setting, to actually working with real people and staying up to date with common knowledge. We also teach on how to get new clients, use social media and the importance of a good website.
As you mentioned, you’ve got a wide range of clients, how does the advice you give change for a celebrity trying to lose weight to an athlete?
There are certain areas where people think a celebrity trying to lose weight would be completely different to this athlete, but actually there are a lot of commonalities between the two. In the classroom you learn about carbohydrates, protein and fats, but people don’t eat carbohydrates, protein and fats, they eat food. A lot of it is about using the person’s personal preferences, so the number of meals you need to eat per day can really be dictated by that person – there is no one size fits all approach. If you go to a personal trainer in a gym you will often be told you must eat six meals a day, to spread them out and carry Tupperware; that’s how I was as a bodybuilder and I know now that I was doing it wrong.
What’s the biggest myth in the nutrition industry?
I think it’s the idea of breakfast; lots of people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and skipping breakfast is unhealthy, but there is literally no physiological evidence for this. I was speaking at a NHS conference recently – a lot of the people there were giving nutritional advice and they were absolutely mind blown that actually you don’t need breakfast to be healthy. Although, this is another element that is different for each client; an athlete might need to spend the morning training so will need a meal, but if someone is trying to lose weight and wakes up not feeling hungry, all they are doing is adding calories to their diet.
What is the worst fad you have come across?
Probably for me the worst fad is things like ‘Herbalife’ or ‘Juice Plus’; the Aloe Vera drinks with the idea of cleansing by only drinking shakes for two weeks. For me these are the worst things around because they promise huge things and don’t teach people anything about food. People drop lots of weight and then get stuck in this unrealistic cycle of loss and gain. We get lots of clients coming to us who have tried these and they are all over the place and have lost all hope that they can ever lose weight.
In your opinion, what is the healthiest way to lose weight?
It’s quite well accepted now by anyone who’s an evidence based practitioner, that out of all the low fat and low carbohydrate diets, the thing that works best is just what the individual can stick to. So this is why I suppose Mac Nutrition is different, rather than just telling someone to eat less, we find the specific things that allow them to do so effortlessly, without being hungry. The focus for a lot of people needs to be protein, which is satiating and keeps you fuller for longer. It’s a case of looking at what you can sustain long term and what undermines you. Also it’s important to notice the behavioural elements of eating and being aware if you are eating out of habit or boredom.
What do you think is the main issue with the UK’s diet?
It’s a really tough one to answer; if you look at the economics, people are eating a lot more carbohydrates than they used to. But at the same time this probably comes back to who’s being allowed to educate society; when the obesity epidemic is discussed, the food industries are always allowed to sit at the table. Any efforts are concentrated on getting people exercising more, but really exercise cannot be the focus when it comes to weight loss. I believe society needs to eat more of the meals our grandparents ate; preparing meals at home, with natural ingredients. One of the main issues is that people aren’t eating these simple foods, or finding time to cook.
What advice would you give someone hoping to follow in your footsteps and make a career in the nutrition industry?
My advice would be to question everything you do, whenever you start studying or do a course, question the information, stay up to date. There will always be 100 other people with the same qualifications, but if you identify how you are different I think this is the best way to break into the competitive industry – you need to have something unique about you. Also get involved in social media, this way you can connect with the best minds around the world.
Finally, I’ve been asking all our nutritionist experts this, what is your cheat or go-to comfort food?
I’m a big fan of pick and mix to be honest so that would be my main thing, just all sorts of different sweets.
If Martin has inspired you to take a look at your own diet, or to go back to the classroom and learn more with a nutrition course, there are plenty of options available. It’s never too late to make a change, even if this starts with breakfast.
Someone in the office recently told me that Loughborough University Students are the happiest in the UK, and this was definitely the case when I interviewed Sophie Enever. As fellow Loughborough alumni, I experienced life on the sport obsessed campus firsthand; a world where you looked out of place not wearing Nike free runners or shaking your blender bottle in the library. Although we all love to relive our care free student days, Loughborough was not the primary topic of our interview. Since graduating Sophie has gone on to become accredited by the Association of Nutrition and bagged a job with The Good Whey Company – a corporation that focuses on the importance of protein in the diet, developing whey protein products and supplements. I was keen to ask Sophie more about her background, her role in the nutrition industry and her advice for those hoping to follow in her trainer-clad footsteps.
How did you get to where you are today, can you tell us about your educational background?
My interest for nutrition was well aligned to my passion for sport and exercise, so when it came to university choices I had quite an easy decision on my hands! I studied Sport and Exercise science at Loughborough University. The interaction of nutrition with both performance but also with healthwas something that I loved to study and so I continued my time at Loughborough and took a Master’s in Sport and Exercise nutrition. Since being at The Good Whey Company I have also gained a postgraduate qualification in Human Nutrition to broaden my knowledge of public health and nutrition.
How did you crack into the competitive nutrition industry?
Well I was fortunate enough that my manager had also undertaken her Master’s degree at Loughborough, doing the same course as I did and so as part of the recruitment process she sent the job advertisement to the department. I saw it and applied and thankfully they picked me!
What is the best part of your job?
I am very much a people’s person, so I do love being out there and talking to our consumers about nutrition, whether this is at a show or giving a talk at a conference. Protein nutrition is especially something that people take for granted so there is always a lot of interesting things to talk about! I must say I have always been a bit of a geek, so I also love to further my knowledge by doing courses or attending conferences. Nutrition is a very dynamic area so it is important to always keep up to date with the latest research.
What is the hardest part?
Finding time to fit everything in! As I just mentioned it is so important to stay on top of all the latest research, but the days aren’t always long enough and sometimes it’s hard to find the time for reading!
As a bit of an expert, why do you think protein is so important to our everyday diet?
Protein is our building block, crucial to every cell in our body, so it sounds pretty important to me! Structurally, it plays a huge role in keeping our bones, muscles, hair and skin healthy but it has the added bonus of playing a role in things like appetite control too.
Working in the nutrition industry, which is the worst food fad you have come across?
To be honest, fad diets are perhaps all as bad as each other! I think the worst bit about them is that they don’t teach people something that, although it may sound cliché, is totally central to healthy eating – everything in moderation!
In your opinion, what is the healthiest way to lose weight?
I think the healthiest way is the most simple – cut down a little on the treats and portion sizes, vamp up the ‘good bits’ (i.e. protein, good fats, wholegrain carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables) and make sure you exercise enough too. The most important thing is to make small and realistic steps that you can, and want to, maintain for life. I think support is always helpful when trying to lose weight so whatever way suits you find a friend to do it with too and motivate each other until you reach your goals.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your footsteps and find a job in the nutrition industry?
Never give up on your passion. If you want it, work hard at it and you will succeed – that sounds really simple doesn’t it? I would also say that experience is absolutely vital, so get out there and practise your skills – even if it is just on your family.
I am the first to admit that we are not the healthiest team here on editorial, can you reassure us we are going to be ok by sharing your go-to cheat food?
That’s a tough one, if I’m honest, I have always loved crisps. So thankfully the food industry has recently developed some healthier alternatives that still have a great taste and crunchy texture. I must admit I do love a lamb dhansak on a weekend too!
Whether you want to get qualified as a nutritionist, or simply learn how to improve your own diet, a nutritionist course is a great place to start. With plenty of evening and part-time options available, there has never been an easier way to get your five a day.
When it comes to sports nutrition, there is one name that crops up time and time again – Dr Adam Carey. Commentating on all areas of nutrition, Carey is a leader in his field. After training as a gynaecologist, he soon realised there was a problem with the lifestyle advice given on the NHS, so set up his own private clinic. Going on to work with the England Rugby Football Union team for seven years, Carey oversaw the team winning the 2003 World Cup. Alongside this he also worked with the England Cricket Squad in 2005 and the British Olympics Association in the run up to the 2012 London games. Now bringing nutritional solutions to the business world with his company Corperformance, this is one expert who has definitely been there, done that and worn the tshirt. Keen to find out more about his wealth of experience I caught up with Adam in his office earlier this month. Happy to tell me all about his route into nutrition, his classical training and his work with some of the world’s best athletes, this interview really was a game changer.
How did you get to where you are today?
Well I had an educational hiccup at the beginning of my early education because I’m severely dyslexic and couldn’t read or write until the age of 14. I went to Swansea University to do Biochemistry, but after a term realised that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I then went to Cambridge to study Medicine and my preclinical, before completing my clinical at Oxford. I was interested in obstetrics and gynaecology and trained as a gynaecologist for ten years, specialising in reproductive oncology. I spent a lot of time dealing with clients that were having problems because of the way they ran their lives; I also recognised that the NHS was poor at giving lifestyle advice. We’d tell people to lose weight or get fitter but they’d go away and wouldn’t know where to start. I realised this was needed in society so set up my own private clinic. I worked with England Rugby setting up their nutritional strategies during the Clive Woodward era and from there I decided to move these nutritional solutions to the corporate and business world with Corperformance. It took a while for me to get here, but if you decide on the things you want in life you can usually get them if you are prepared to do a lot of hard work.
What is the best part of working in the nutrition industry?
Seeing the transformation that people and families go through when people get control over something they found uncontrollable. Around 75% of the population are overweight or obese, not because they want to be but because they don’t have any control – they are victims. The biggest reward is seeing the changes our work can have on the whole family, it’s phenomenal and inspiring to know you can make a different, just by doing simple things.
What would you say the hardest part is in getting someone to change their diet?
No not at all, the hardest part is getting organisations and individuals to recognise this is probably one of the most important things they will do. Without your health you have very little in life; if you are unwell it doesn’t matter how good you were at your job, if you’re not there then the job’s losing out and so are you. This is why we go into companies and run programmes for employees; starting with management, they soon recognise the food in their canteen is terrible or they always have biscuits in meetings and that they have the power to change this. We never have any trouble getting people to get involved and our results speak for themselves, but the hardest part is getting through the door in the first place.
The enemy of all nutritionists seems to be the fad diet, which is the worst you have come across?
There are an awful lot out there – these fads are often based on bits of really good science that then gets blown out of all proportion. The risk with those things is that if you do anything to extremes it’s going to make you unwell, and virtually everything life, if you have too much of it, will kill you. So the danger of the more extreme fad diets is they can potentially be dangerous and don’t teach you long term sustainability. For example there are a number of organisations that provide you with very low calorie diets, which allow you to lose a significant amount of weight virtually from wherever you start from. Yet you can’t continue on these diets forever because they will make you unwell – you will lose muscle mass and gradually get weaker. Most people can lose weight, but few can sustain their weight loss.
The main problem with fads is they drive people into a repetitive cycle of success followed by failure, which really lowers people self esteem and makes them feel worthless. They begin to feel like nothing works; unless it’s a crazy diet, they will not lose weight. They start to not believe in themselves or normal physiology. Also, in this mind set they will beat themselves up, often with bad foods or alcohol in a spiralling circle of dislike.
Wow, that’s an answer to put you off ever doing a crash diet again! On that subject, what is the healthiest way to lose weight and keep it off?
At Corperformance what we teach is not how to lose weight, but how to not put on weight. Once you have control of your body and metabolism, with some very simple techniques you can move your body to the place where you want it to be. As a consequence of that people will often lose weight.
What do you think is the main issue with the UK’s diet?
I think what underpins some of the prominent issues with the UK’s diet is the move towards an increasingly consumerist society. People can’t be bothered to cook and we rely on large multinational companies to make meals for us. The problem with that is you pass all the control of quality back to someone else who has a vested interest in making money. They need products to be sustainable and last on the shelf for weeks or months, so and additives and preservatives to make the food resistant to normal biological breakdown. These products are driven by consumer desire and we are moving away from growing, cooking and eating food as a family.
You’ve done a lot of work with the England rugby and cricket squads. How does the diet need to change when dealing with an athlete?
Diets for athletes are really specific to the individual, there are some generalisations around the sport but it can vary between positions on the pitch. Nutrition is a support to other training, so what your nutritional strategies should be doing is supporting the sport and including the individual, their background, their likes and dislikes. Some athletes are simply genetically gifted, so it’s not uncommon to find athletes who are unmotivated to change their nutrition.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
I think nutrition is going to increasingly grow as an industry, so the opportunity to work in nutrition, both in the sports and general area is growing. Now almost every sports team has their associated nutritionist and many GP surgeries have dieticians to help patients make lifestyle changes. The best piece of advice I can give is to get a good education; there are two parts of this, the academic education and deciding whether you want to practise clinically or academically. My background was in clinical medicine so I spent all my time focusing on training and delivering to patients, this is very different to getting a degree in nutrition and working for a sports company. Understand the qualifications you need and be clear about that so you don’t study something that’s a waste of time.
Finally, the question I’ve asked all our nutritionist experts, what is your go to cheat food?
My thoughts on cheats or treats are I don’t believe in them, they are fundamentally a psychological faux pas. If you put at the top of your reward strategy something that is unhealthy, you are really shooting yourself in the foot. There’s a whole ‘be good to yourself’ market that plays on emotions – when don’t you deserve the treat? I think you should have good food and food that you love, and shouldn’t feel restricted from eating them ever. If you want a glass of wine that’s not a cheat, there’s a problem with you drinking the bottle. If you want a square of dark chocolate that’s not a problem, what’s a problem is if you eat the bar.
If Dr Carey has inspired you to take a look at your own diet, or even take nutrition up as a career, why not take a look at the various nutrition courses listed on our site?
Nutritionists usually focus on research and applying science to food. Unlike dieticians their roles aren’t regulated but they might seek registration with the Association of Nutritionists in order to show they are knowledgeable in the area to a high standard. Nutritional therapists often work with people who have special dietary requirements and help people achieve goals with weight and health. Dieticians work within the NHS and their positions are regulated by law. To work as a dietician you’ll need to have studied to undergraduate level. Your job will involve treating people with special dietary needs and you will be qualified to deal with some medical problems people might have.
No. You'll learn about balanced meals and you may come away with a few recipes but there won't be any actual cookery involved.
The Association of Nutritionists is the professional body for nutritionists and as such accredits certain courses. If you’re taking a course for your career you may want to look out for this. If you’re doing a nutritionist course to supplement other studies or just for your own personal development, this accreditation will be less important.
Some nutrition courses will cover this but generally the focus is on food and diet.
Nutrition courses aren't specifically aimed at helping you lose weight in the same way that, say, weight loss meetings are. However, they will teach you to make good decisions when it comes to food and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Get more ideas and be inspired; we've scoured the web to bring you some of our favourite nutrition videos...
By Hotcourses Editor, 29th February 2012
Remember when you were young and your parents would beg you to eat up your vegetables? When you were only permitted sweets at the weekend? There was always that sneaky suspicion that deep down they were just making up their own rules, right? Well for anyone out there...
By Jane McGuire, 5th August 2014
We live in a society obsessed with our waist lines. With the boom of the designer fitness lines, it’s apparently no longer acceptable to just go for a run in your baggy university sweatshirt and every month a new wonder pill, tea or diet plan is released for us to try....
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