On the 26th September 2016, I fulfilled a longstanding ambition of becoming a student at Leiths School of Food and Wine when I enrolled onto the Nutrition in Practice course.
I specifically chose the course at Leiths after doing much research on nutrition courses; looking at which ones would give me a good accreditation at the end, that covered all areas of nutrition and that also fitted around a busy life of work and family. What appealed the most about the course at Leiths was that it was one day a week – every Monday for our intake, and that it covered both practical and theory within Nutrition.
We had the expertise of the cooking tutors at Leiths as well as a qualified Nutritional Therapist – all of whom are hugely inspiring and supportive. Although it was ‘only’ one day a week, we were tasked with homework every week, both written and practical as well as the big piece of coursework that would need to be handed in at week 7.
I remember that Monday morning very clearly; I drove up the M4 from Cardiff, stomach full of butterflies about what to expect and who else would be on the course and would I like it! 14 of us gathered in the top floor kitchen that would become all too familiar to us by the end of the course; precariously perched on bar stools in neat lines in front of Belinda, Rita and Jennifer, eagerly waiting to hear what they had to say and what we would be doing.
Belinda would be our Head Cookery Tutor, assisted by a few other Leiths tutors over the weeks as well as some guest chefs. Rita was our fabulous Nutritional Therapist, with a background in pharmaceuticals to boot, she was our nutritional guru and covered all the theory and scientific stuff. Finally, Jennifer is the founder of The Pure Package, a food delivery company specialising in providing deliciously nutritious and balanced meals to clients and whose company was affiliated and helped run the Nutrition course in conjunction with Leiths.
Having heard intros and info from our formidable women who would be guiding us through the course, it was our turn to do the intros and to hear a little bit about who the other students were, their background and why they were at Leiths. Our ages ranged from a recent University graduate to busy Mums wanting to retrain up to some who were in their 50s. There was another military wife, a Leiths diploma graduate from Lithuania, a private chef, the token male who was also from Ireland as well as a couple of Italian ladies – a proper mix bag, but each of us sharing the common ground and interest in nutrition.
The course was set over 10 weeks and each week covered a different topic within nutrition for example macronutrients, micronutrients & vitamins, diets as well as gut health – and all manner of things in between. Each week we would start the day with a practical cookery lesson with Belinda or a guest chef; eat whatever we’d made for our lunch and then spend a few hours in the afternoon discussing the science behind that week’s topic, with lots of interaction from us students encouraged.
Being able to put into practice a lot of the theory covered was brilliant, and we’d often go home with arms full of food for the week ahead! The group was very supportive and everyone was ready to share their own skills and experiences – emailing and messaging each other in between classes to check homework or to share recipes and interesting articles on nutrition.
To say that the 10 weeks flew by is an understatement; I did not want to course to come to an end and was a little emotional on the last day when I had to leave to drive back down the M4. I’d quickly established a good routine based around the course, work and family life and loved doing the homework – something that never quite happened when I was at school!
The final piece of coursework was epic – and was highlighted to us from the start that it would be a lot of work. We were tasked at creating a 5 day meal plan for a client based around their nutritional needs, be it weight loss, allergy or intolerant associated or health related. I’m very proud of my plan and although it was a lot of work I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of it. As well as the coursework, the final assessment was something that we were all worried about – the science stuff, had it really stuck in our heads and would it all come out in the right order on the exam paper to make sense! If the coursework and exam weren’t enough, there was also a practical exam too! I’m pleased to say that I passed the course and managed 98% in my written exam!
What did I learn from the course? To be honest, a lot of common sense when it came to daily nutrition. We looked at diets and nutrition sensibly, especially pop diets and allergies & intolerances as this topic is on trend, and everyone seems to be a wellness guru these days, and so it can be hard to decipher between what’s actually scientifically researched and what someone on social media has tried on themselves and is promoting.
I went into the course not too sure what I wanted to gain from the experience; it has in fact fueled my hunger to study further within nutrition, specifically to do with exercise and how the body responds to food before and after training. I’m constantly reading books on the topic as well as doing further study via some online courses. The dream is to do a degree in Sports & Exercise Nutrition, however funding seems to be stopping the fun as well as being a young Mum and self-employed…but hopefully one day I will be able to do it!
If you’re considering enrolling on the course, then go for it – you won’t regret it, but be prepared to leave the course want to learn more.
Thank you to all the teaching and admin staff at Leiths for everything and hopefully see you again soon!