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Nutritional benefits

Melanie Hargraves explains the benefits and pitfalls of training in nutrition science.

The health, financial and societal costs of being either over or under-nourished mean nutrition is increasingly becoming a priority for research, Government policy and media focus.

Fixing this situation, especially in relation to obesity, is a priority for many countries across the globe and requires concerted efforts from all areas of our environment, of which the food system is a big part. Food science, education, nutrition and public health all intersect and can play a role in tackling nutritional issues. Having an understanding and awareness of nutrition can provide food scientists with valuable knowledge that can allow them to work to develop solutions which not only address technical challenges but the wider public health challenges regarding what we eat.

The British Nutrition Foundation is an established nutrition charity offering evidence-based online training courses in nutrition that provide insight into this complex area and are useful for food scientists with an interest in the topic.

Nutrition is a specialist skill, but you can equip yourself with the basics

The work of registered nutrition professionals (such as a Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist) is invaluable within the food chain; they have degree-level education that is essential for interpreting and unpicking the science behind what we eat.

Many organisations employ registered nutrition professionals for this purpose. Whilst an online training course doesn’t replace the expertise of these professionals or qualify one as a nutritionist’ it can help develop a solid knowledge of the basics that you can apply along with your food science expertise.

Food science and nutrition knowledge complement each other

Government health policies include nutritional policies that require food science solutions, including:

Reformulation of foods to reduce calories, sugar and salt – requires technical solutions to replace the functionality lost by the ingredient to be reduced/ removed

Levies on sugars-sweetened drinks – exploring new product development opportunities, which allow drinks to be created without the addition of sugars

Reducing portion/product sizes – maintaining product quality whilst reducing product shape or size.

Technological changes to a food do not always equal a nutritional benefit. For example, reducing sugars in a food product is only beneficial if the replacement ingredients do not increase the total calories, fat or salt of the food, and at the same time it must be technically feasible. In addition, having an understanding of which ingredients can provide a public health benefit (e.g. fibre) can be an advantage. Learning about nutrition can provide you with a valuable skill that will help you in your work to discover food science solutions to some of these challenges.

Increasingly, we work in teams of inter-connected disciplines and having an understanding of these different areas and roles will allow you to work more effectively with other food science professionals. It is a great development opportunity and can contribute towards your CPD profile.

Why choose BNF?

There are many nutrition courses available, however not all of these are reputable or science-based. Nutrition is not a protected title (i.e. anyone could call themselves a nutritionist and offer training) and as such it can be difficult to know which organisations to trust.

Looking for courses which are certified by a reputable authority (such as the British Dietetic Association and Association for Nutrition) is a good place to start.

The British Nutrition Foundation is a registered charity that has been providing evidence-based nutrition information for over 50 years. We aim to make nutrition science accessible to all. BNF training courses are developed by qualified nutrition science experts and a certificate is produced on completion, which can contribute towards your continuing professional development (CPD).

Training online means learning when it suits you

All of the BNF training courses are delivered online. This has several benefits, including:

Flexibility: training fits in around your schedule and not the other way around

Saves money and time: no lost time to travel or days out of your week or weekend.

Work at your own pace complete all in one go or work in chunks.

The BNF online training platform provides a range of courses that can take between two and twelve hours to complete and contain courses that are suitable for nutrition beginners as well as those who have a bit of knowledge and would like to know more.

The courses are completed in your own time, on your PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone – you can stop at any time and pick up where you left off. Modules are assessed to check progress and, on completion of the course, you can download a personalised certificate.

BNF has the following courses available:

• An introduction to healthy eating and nutrition

• Exploring nutrition and health

• Catering for health

• Food labelling and health claims

• Complementary feeding and obesity

• Allergy – reducing the risk in early life

Getting started

The course An introduction to healthy eating and nutrition is designed to equip people with the basics of nutrition, and you can try the first module for free to see if it is the right level for you. The course is £65, takes between five and seven hours to complete and requires no prior nutrition knowledge.

I already have the basics but I’d like to learn more

Exploring nutrition and health builds on the introductory course and explores the topic in more depth; it is good for those who have completed the first course or for anyone who already has some nutrition knowledge. The course covers the nutrition science of energy and nutrients, how nutritional needs change throughout life, how diet and lifestyle affect risk of disease and some of the requirements behind nutrition labels. It takes between ten and twelve hours to complete and costs £125.

Both of these courses are certifiedby the Association for Nutrition.

BNF can also provide bespoke courses developed specially to suit an organisation’s training needs.

Melanie Hargreaves

Registered Dietitian (RD) and Nutrition Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation

For more details about training with BNF contact Bridget Benelam.


BNF is offering IFST members 50% off one of our online training courses. To use, visit:, select the course and apply the discount code: EXPLORING50 [valid throughout 2018]

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