Nutrition is so much more than being a nutritionist, the possibilities are endless.
So says Donna Blake, a final year nutrition student at BU. Donna came to university later than most people, having worked as a chef she decided to retrain to upskill herself, and was instantly impressed with her chosen career path.
“When I first started I didn’t have a clue what industries nutritionists could fit into, but as my course has gone on, I’ve realised that nutritionists can fit absolutely anywhere. At the moment, public health is such a massive industry; food is such an integral part of our existence. We have so many healthcare risks, especially obesity at the moment; we are crying out for nutritionists, we are crying out for people who can interpret information. You can find us in the food industry; you can find us in healthcare industries; you can find us in drinks industry, in hospitality, in teaching, in hospitals. Literally everywhere.”
Being a nutritionist isn’t just limited to the food industry either, as Donna explains, “There are different routes you can take, taking a more clinical role in the healthcare system.
“For example, there are roles such as a dietician’s assistant. You can work alongside a dietician as a nutritionist, interpreting nutrition for patients or services, and by doing that you can become an associate dietician, and then train to become a dietician.”
Donna’s time at BU was broken up with a placement year, where Donna worked at local drinks company DrinkCreate. This placement gave Donna an insight into the varied paths a degree in nutrition can open up.
Donna worked to analyse and check different beverages to ensure they met the correct regulations and laws before going on sale. She reflected, “I enjoyed the challenge of DrinkCreate because there are so many different drinks, different clients, no two days were the same.
“We had to work with different rules; America’s drinks rules are different to ours, we worked with clients from Dubai, we worked on local products. It was all different and that was really interesting, looking at the differences between what they allowed, their laws and regulations, and ours.”
Food has been a fascination for Donna, something to be expected from a former chef, but her time at BU has broadened her horizons as to her next career steps and how she can help people, “I’ve always been in food, so I’m looking at the direction I want to take, to stay there or moving in a clinical direction. I’m leaning towards that, to public health, and promoting public health, I’m interested in that. There are so many opportunities though, when I came here I thought ‘I’m going to be a nutritionist’ but it is not like that, it is so much more than that.”
Spending time with Donna, it is not hard to see why she takes such an interest in the clinical side, it isn’t long before the conversation turns towards education, and how there is a real need to improve health by improving food education. Donna’s dissertation is even on the eating habits of university students.
Donna explains, “My dissertation is looking at the eating habits of university students, it has been researched that university students are worse when they come to university. Some can put on up to 15lbs in their first year, and the habits that they develop while at university, go on into later life with the risks of developing further diseases. There is a lot of intervention for young people and children, and at the other end for older people, but we’re missing a big chunk in the middle, and that is where there is opportunity for development.”
That is where Donna feels she can make a difference, to provide impact by creating a framework where people can help themselves and become healthier. “It is about integrating knowledge all the time, so that people become healthier in later life”, says Donna, “If I can impart some of that knowledge to other people, things I’ve learned over the years, there is hope yet for future generations.
“Educating our children in how to cook and how to look after themselves is the most important thing.”
Donna has seen it first hand, having come to university as a mature student, and as a mother herself, she is well placed to look at the culture she inhabits and find solutions to people’s relationship with what they eat. “It is so important, we need to start from the beginning; some children grow up and head to university and don’t even know how to boil an egg.
“How many fast food places are going to offer you a fast meal for a few pounds, but it is all saturated fats, salt, sugar, and that is wrong. You’ll be living a stressful lifestyle and your food won’t help. It is a yo-yo effect. You can’t concentrate, you are tired and stressed, so you eat comfort foods, you don’t eat the right things, not putting the right things into your body to sustain yourself. It is unhealthy mentally and physically.
“All of these factors need to be looked into, we need to start educating people from an early age, a foundation you will carry through life. They can come to university and cook a healthy meal; you’ll have the skills to look after yourself. How can you build a house without firm foundations?”
Reflecting on her time at Bournemouth University, Donna looks with a sense of pride at what she’s achieved and how the course and the people she has met have been integral in her learning, “The course at BU has been quite a challenge, but I’m always willing to learn. I’m quite proud of myself now I’m at the end. It has been quite fulfilling and I’ve learned a lot about myself. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it. Coming to BU I’ve met so many good people. There is a lot to be learned, not just out of textbooks, but it is the life skills as well.
“I have had lots of support and understanding from a lot of the tutors and the support staff here; they have been really encouraging and have helped me a lot, they have encouraged me, pushed me, I really appreciate that.”
To find out more about studying nutrition at Bournemouth University, visit https://www1.bournemouth.ac.uk/study/courses/bsc-hons-nutrition