Nutritionist

Catering colleges are updating their courses to reflect the nation's growing enthusiasm for healthy eating

Watching what you eat is not a new idea. From the latest campaign by Jamie Oliver to the delivery of organic fruit and vegetable boxes to our front doors, we are all aware of the message. However, this health kick hasn't greatly influenced the catering industry just yet: students who want to enter the industry are taught surprisingly little about nutrition.



There are specific courses that cover nutrition and diet - and many graduates of these courses advise within the industry - but should a culinary arts management degree or hospitality diploma address this change in nutritional tastes and trends too?

In places where people eat a significant number of meals over a long period of time - hospitals, prisons, armed forces barracks and school canteens, for example - caterers have a duty to offer a balanced diet. The nutritional responsibilities for caterers who provide for the general public are less pronounced, but allowances do have to be made for people with special dietary requirements; not only that, but it is also in caterers' commercial interests to accommodate them. According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of people eating out has significantly increased. An average of one in six meals is consumed outside of the house.

But Heather Hartwell, a registered nutritionist and lecturer at Bournemouth University, says not much has changed in terms of the teaching of nutrition since she wrote a paper in 2004. "My findings then were that there is no requirement for anyone studying catering to be aware of the nutrition and dietary implications of the food they serve," she says. "Nutrition needs to be applied not just theoretically but also practically in course syllabuses, in order for new graduates in the industry to be able to work conscientiously on menus."

There are nutrition courses available for professionals already in hospitality. In London, people working within the catering industry can sign up for courses to increase their knowledge of healthy, sustainable food for schools, hospitals, care homes and prisons. Outside of London, the Food Standards Agency has taken up the cause of healthy eating in hospitality. They are encouraging companies to commit to healthier, more nutritious meals by producing practical guidance papers that can be accessed via their website.

Some of the advice they offer to contract catering teams, who between them serve approximately two million meals a day to workers across the UK, is simple: "You could increase the amount of cost-effective starchy food you serve, such as rice or pasta, and reduce the amount of sauce, which can be more expensive." They also have tips for caterers that have a student clientele: "Choose ingredients and their proportions carefully - because this can make a big difference to the nutritional content of a dish - and balance meals better by choosing healthy accompaniments."

The good news is that the hospitality and catering diploma, introduced from September 2009, will also address nutrition, although, arguably, not as prominently as it should. In addition to maths, English and information and communication technologies, students learn the "life skill" of using fresh ingredients, according to the prospectus. Understanding the need to develop menus for special diets is also included, along with other skills such as money management, health and safety and food and beverage service.

The catering industry has a long way to go to redress the lack of reliable nutritional information and the availability of healthy options for consumers. Courses have started to reflect the change in consumer attitudes and trends, but there is still room for improvement. Students have the opportunity to influence this by asking more from their training and recognising the need to have such information included in the syllabus. With the 2012 Olympics on the horizon and the world's eyes upon us as a result, the hospitality industry around the UK will have to be prepared to accommodate a range of dietary requirements to provide fresh, healthy, balanced meals - and not just to our own athletes.

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

FDM Group: Business and Technical IT Consultants – London, Manchester, Glasgow

21,000-24,000: FDM Group: Kick-start your career and join FDM’s award-winning ...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there