How to put nutrition into culinary practice, with Leiths teacher, Belinda Spinney

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How to put nutrition into culinary practice, with Leiths teacher, Belinda Spinney

Belinda Spinney is our Leiths chef who leads students through hands-on cooking sessions to put nutritional theory into culinary practice on our Nutrition in Culinary Practice accredited course. We caught up with Belinda to discuss her focus on nutrition as a cookery educator, and how having this knowledge and lifestyle approach has impacted her and the students she teaches.

What led you to focus on nutrition as a culinary educator?

As a chef and teacher, it has always been important to me to understand, not only where my food comes from, but also how it affects my wellbeing and those I cook for. With a wash of endless diet fads, food allergies and intolerances to get our heads around, teaching students how to dispel the myths and focus on the facts has always been important to me.

Can you highlight how a deeper understanding of nutrition can, and has, made an impact on your life?

A holistic approach is an efficient way forward. It’s not only about how we feed our bodies, it's also about how we treat ourselves. Focusing on sleep habits, work/life balance, daily exercise and understanding how certain foods impact on your energy levels and health, are all a part of the process.

Learning about the ‘Rule of Palm’ which helps you to decide on portion size was a eureka moment for me and for most of the students. Learning the basic principle of knowing how much food to put on your plate can be a real gamechanger. Understanding how much fruit and vegetables you actually need, how to balance this with protein and healthy grains, and how this translates to good gut health, balancing the metabolism and overall wellness, can unlock the journey towards increased general wellbeing in our day to day lives.

Carbs and sugars are often given a bad rep. How can we balance these but still reap the enjoyment of comfort foods?

Swapping out ‘simple carbs’ such as white flour, white pasta, white potatoes for more ‘complex carbs’ such as wholemeal flours, grains and sweet potatoes is a good starting point.

Replacing refined sugars in our diets and exploring alternatives, such as sweetening with maple syrup, coconut sugar or even using a mashed banana, enables us to enjoy the pleasure of a pudding, which is something we all need as a part of our week!

Many people feel that a focus on nutrition in your diet can make eating less of a pleasure. What do you think?

Leiths approach is not about taking things away or depriving yourself of the foods you love. In the recipes that we teach and share on our Nutrition in Culinary Practice course, we replace ingredients that aren’t benefiting the body, with alternatives that are better for you. Flavour is paramount and luckily there are a significant variety of ingredients which can be replaced with alternatives which are not only higher in nutritional value, but also add flavour to your dish.

How does the Nutrition in Culinary Practice mentoring work online and at Leiths?

I mentor on both our in-house daytime and evening courses and on our flexible online course. Students interact and learn in discussions with their peers and in their online cohort. As their mentor, I’m there to guide and encourage them along the way, alongside our professional nutritionists at The Pure Package. I learn from every group of students as there are always new ingredients and slants being shared, and we see many students go on to start their own businesses as private chefs, caterers, recipe developers and restaurant chefs. Keen and confident home cooks, who want to develop a repertoire of nutritionally balanced dishes for themselves or their families, reap the benefits from this course too.

Can you recommend a simple recipe for nutritious snacking?

Snacking on the go can be the moment where we all fall short and choose something that will actually drag us down, rather than give us the energy we need. Our bodies generally tell us when we need to fuel ourselves with a snack to help us get through to the next meal. Having a few go-to snacks prepared for the days ahead is the best way to avoid grabbing something processed which is full of sugar.

I often recommend Smoky Baked Chickpeas from the Nutrition in Culinary Practice healthy snacks unit. this snack which is so easy to make and can be spiced or seasoned with the flavours you love. This recipe has a moorish smokey flavour from the smoked paprika. But feel free to experiment with ingredients like miso paste and thai basil, sumac and lemon zest, garlic and lime; the possibilities are endless.

Smoky Baked Chickpeas

These oven roasted chickpeas act as a good protein to fill you up and are so easy to snack on. You can simply drain a can of chickpeas and roast with no seasoning. Adding herbs and spices gives these crunchy morsels a real lift and are a great way to replace a craving for something salty like crisps. Interchange and experiment with other beans; butter beans work well. Sprinkled on top of a salad or soup provides a delicious texture and protein.


Ingredients

Serves 2-4 as a snack

2 tsp coconut oil or ghee

400g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed 3⁄4 tsp sea salt flakes

1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (this is for a fan assisted oven).

2. Spoon the coconut oil or ghee into a small pan and warm in the oven for 1-2 minutes until

melted.

3. Pat the drained, rinsed chickpeas dry using kitchen paper and discard any of the loose

skins.

4. In a bowl, mix all the remaining ingredients and chickpeas together with the ghee/coconut

oil until fragrant and well combined. Make sure the chickpeas are evenly coated.

5. Place onto a baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes, shaking the tray regularly to prevent

the chickpeas from sticking to the bottom. The chickpeas are ready when they are a golden brown colour and have a little crunch to them.

Leiths offers Nutrition in Culinary Practice in three formats, so you can achieve your culinary ambitions in a way which suits your schedule and lifestyle.

Daytime Course: Running once a week over ten weeks.

Evening Course: Running two nights a week with two Saturday sessions, for ten weeks.

Online Course: Our flexible, 20 week online course which involves approximately 3-4 hours of cooking and/or study time per week.

No matter which format you choose, on completion of the course you have the opportunity to gain your Nutrition in Culinary Practice Certificate externally accredited by the Nutritional Therapy Education Commission. On the daytime and evening course you will also obtain a full Leiths accreditation. Online course students will also have the opportunity to enrol for the full accreditation, with a two-day practical course at the school to determine their final mark.

Belinda Spinney

Author: Belinda Spinney

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