London adventures: Working as an unlicensed dietitian abroad
You may quiver knowing that I decided to move to the fish and chips capital of the world to further my career in the food and nutrition field. I was warned that I’d have my work cut out for me with much of the population consuming potatoes and mushy peas as their main sources of vegetables.
London is known for their unwavering devotion to the royals, an iconic nursery rhyme bridge, love for the handsome David Beckham and, of course, hearty pub food paired with bottomless pints of beer.
For those of you who have visited this vibrant city and for those of you who may travel there in the future, I want to open your eyes to the lesser known green smoothie drinking and organic food eating experience that I stumbled upon while living in West Kensington
for 14 months.
When I arrived in London, I had not yet been granted my UK dietitian licencing paperwork – it took six months to get it. This was both a blessing and a curse. London is not a cheap place to live. But this very situation forced me to pursue roles outside of the normal dietetic scope of practice.
My first job was at a local farmer’s market that emphasized biodynamic crops. I worked for the owner to start up a smoothie stand that we named, “Smooooooth Operator.” Initially they wanted to have a juice stand, but the dietitian in me educated them on the fast digestion of juice sugars and the benefits of fibre and protein.
We spent several days juicing an array of local, seasonal produce supplied from the market and blended that with whole fruits, as well as nuts and seeds. My two favourite smoothie recipes were sweet potato juice with ginger, cashews, and lime, and a bright purple smoothie made from red cabbage juice, black berries, raspberries, and avocado. We juiced squash, pumpkins, and other fruits, as well as fresh her
bs to develop a spectrum of vibrant drinks, which were adored by our patrons.
After that, I began working as a Rude
Health ambassador, which is a fancy name for grocery store demonstrator. I would show up at various Whole Food’s stores around town – there were seven, which was a total surprise – and whip up some piping hot porridge.
I discovered that Britt’s love
their porridge: They have an annual porridge making competition to prove it! As Rude Health had just released their sprouted line of porridge, it was my job to educate consumers on what sprouted foods were and why it may be beneficial to eat these foods. Because I had built a relationship with the company, I was also asked to put on nutrition talks at several of their events and to review their cookbook as their in-house “nutritionist.” They paid me, included my name in the book, and sent me a free copy. Score!
Then the Canadian dollar dropped even further and I was forced to pick up another role. This time as a health and wellness producer for a blog called Hustle + Kale
. The company paid me to attend health and wellness shows around town, write foodie-focused blog posts, and interview “hustlers” (A.K.A. inspiring, healthy people). This included a Nike fitness model and a wellness entrepreneur who invented the FLIP Band, which supports you in reaching a daily health goal.
After several months of dabbling in London’s health food industry, I finally received my UK dietitian licence. Within a few weeks, I started full-time work as a catering dietitian manager, better known as a food service dietitian in Canada. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that five week’s vacation (to start) was the industry standard and that all businesses provide employees with an endless supply of tea during the work day. I had a blast working with Apetito representatives, educating staff on food safety, developing a pictorial menu for dementia patients, and creating food service policies.
I have since returned to Canada after working for 14 months aboard and was told that my experience in London helped me land all three of my current roles.
If you are contemplating working abroad as a dietitian, I highly encourage you to do so. I developed a greater appreciation for international food culture and was forced to creatively incorporate my nutrition knowledge into a spectrum of jobs.
I would have never anticipated trying zebra jerky and rabbit loin, nor would I have known the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie. (When you’re in England there is a big difference!) I also learned that jacket potatoes (baked potatoes with baked beans on top) make for a convenient meal, that spotted dick is in fact a dessert, that toad in the hole (Yorkshire pudding with sausage) does not taste like pond water, and that somewhere along the line the English succumbed to the French words for zucchini (courgette) and eggplant (aubergine).
There is much to learn about the English food culture, including their use of “school dinners,” which are hot school lunches provided to qualifying British students at no cost, and their comparatively unadulterated foods -- ingredient lists were significantly shorter than in North America.
I am happy to be back in Canada, where milk is fortified with vitamin D and custard is used in moderation. However, I look forward to continuing to expand my knowledge of international dietetics and enjoying a Sunday roast in London again one day soon.
Editor’s note: What a unique and varied experience. If you’ve been dreaming about working abroad, I hope this post gives you just the push you need to put your fears aside and go for it! Read more about dietitians working in the UK here.
Have you travelled or worked abroad? Are you thinking about working in another country? Please share your advice, stories, thoughts, and comments below. This blog post is part of a two part series on going abroad as a dietitian. Stay tuned for part two this month!