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Student Stories: Shaleen Meelu on her Nutrition in Culinary Practice Experience

Shaleen Meelu, sits down and chats about her experience taking the in-school Nutrition in Culinary Practice course and how it has aided her in her mission as a public health nutritionist and restaurant owner.

Shaleen Meelu on her Nutrition in Culinary Practice Experience

There are many motivations to learn more about food, nutrition and cooking, such as gut health, specific health issues and more. Shaleen Meelu, a former Leiths Nutrition in Culinary Practice student talks about her journey with the early onset of the menopause and how NICP has helped her personally as well as professionally. For those who are interested in learning more about nutritional theory and practical cookery tuition, Leiths Online offers a 20-week Nutrition in Culinary Practice course in partnership with The Pure Package. Upon completion of the course, students can attend the in-person accreditation at the school, earning themselves a completed NTEC-accredited certification.


Shaleen Meelu, is a public health nutritionist and the co-founder of Harborne Food School and its restaurant Hengata. During the pandemic, she took the ten-week Nutrition in Culinary Practice course at Leiths School of Food and Wine to support her own personal health and wellbeing. Meelu’s food policy work has taken her to dozens of cities across Europe from Warsaw, Tirana and Groningen to Barcelona, Turin, and Copenhagen.

What prompted you to do Leiths' NICP?

During the pandemic, my body changed and I'm sure this was due to my age and perimenopause. I felt different and wanted to start thinking about how to support this transition in the most positive way. Despite working as a public health nutritionist and being the co-founder of a small cooking school, I also wanted to learn more about the food choices that can support my health and wellbeing. It’s difficult to think about yourself and the choices you make even when you are an 'expert'. NICP gave me a perfect opportunity to reflect, learn, develop new skills, and think about the changes I need to make.

How was your experience of the course?

I think one of the most incredible things about the course was being with a group of all ages and backgrounds who were also focused on cooking nutritious meals for themselves and their families. We were all there to think about how to enhance the nutritional quality of the meals we prepare at home for ourselves and those we love.

The combination of nutrition theory which was delivered by a pharmacist with expertise in nutrition and practical cooking skills was useful. One of the instant swaps I made was going from taking vitamin D tablets to using a vitamin D spray. We learnt a combination of simple and more complex recipes. One simple favourite of mine is a ginger cabbage stir-fry. There was also a marvellous seeded gluten free bread which I've since made a number of times.

Thinking more deeply about how to prepare nourishing meals for myself and take care of my changing body has truly changed my daily existence. I can’t wait for a three-to-six-hour slot during the weekend or midweek in the evening during which I can prepare a number of dishes to fuel my week.

What impact has the course had on you?

I did the course for myself, to develop my own repertoire and think about how to look after my body as it makes this transition. I already have a wonderful food related career which is focused on advising local governments to develop healthy, sustainable food policies. Nutrition In Culinary Practice is definitely useful for those trying to develop public sector catering e.g., school and hospital food.

Cooking from scratch is key for both mental and physical wellbeing. I now order a seasonal veg box from Riverford Organic and top up with ingredients from local shops and supermarkets. I spend a couple of days each week batch cooking to save time the rest of the week. I find the process of selecting recipes, preparing, and even eating, meditative and transformative. I understand that I'm lucky to have the choice and time to make the effort.

My body weight is in the healthy range, and I feel good. I think giving myself time to think about how I eat and live has been transformative and the course provided this opportunity. Of course, it’s not just about the food we eat. I maintained yoga practice, started Sanskrit, and did weight training. Recent blood tests reveal my folate, Vit D, B12, magnesium and zinc are all normal and I feel good. Really good. I’m convinced it starts in the kitchen.

To explore Leiths Online Nutrition in Culinary Practice course, click here.

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