Real Voices interview: Georgine Leung
Meet Georgine, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation in London
Looking to combine her interest in being healthy with her love of eating, Georgine Leung studied food and nutritional sciences at university in China. She tells Penny Bailey about her career so far.
(This interview was conducted in 2012. In the autumn of 2017, we checked to make sure its careers advice was still accurate and updated the essential subjects and salary guide sections.)
Where do you work?
I’m a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), an independent UK charity that provides information about food and nutrition to promote a healthy lifestyle. There are two main teams at the BNF: science and education. The science team helps to translate information about diet, nutrition and lifestyle into resources to suit the needs of consumers and health professionals, based on the latest scientific evidence.
What do you do?
I work in the education group at the BNF, which aims to give young people the facts and skills they need to have healthy diets, through working with teachers. We have worked with the government to produce some core food competencies, specific food skills and knowledge young people should aim to have at certain ages. I am very proud of our free education programme website, Food – a fact of life, which contains a wealth of educational resources on food and nutrition for preschool, primary and secondary students.
How does your organisation make recommendations?
All our recommendations are based on the latest scientific evidence, and we aim to work together with other stakeholders – politicians, scientists, educators and the industry – to help support consumers to make healthier food choices.
What made you choose this career?
I was first interested in nutrition when I was in secondary school in Hong Kong. Like most teenage girls I was very particular about how I looked. I knew health was very important and I really enjoyed eating, so I thought that working in healthy eating was the best way to combine these interests! I did a degree in food and nutritional sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and then came to the UK to do a Master’s in public health nutrition. Then came the opportunity to work at the BNF, which has been a fantastic experience.
What was it like coming to the UK?
It was a culture shock! People eat a very different diet here. I think it’s important to understand the cultural aspects of eating. I’ve just written a paper on the diets of minority ethnic groups in the UK, published in ‘Nutrition Bulletin’. It was an interesting piece of research because the UK is so ethnically diverse and different ethnic groups eat differently, which has an impact on health.
For example, I’m Chinese, and the Chinese diet can seem quite healthy and balanced, but in fact it can be high in salt and saturated fat. Although genetically the Chinese are quite slim, a lot of my older friends and relatives have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I want to help highlight the healthy and unhealthy aspects of the diets of minority ethnic groups and let health professionals understand more about cultural differences, so that they can deliver more appropriate messages.
Salary guide (2017)
Starting salaries for nutritionists can be between £15,000 and £25,000, depending on if you work in the private or public sector. With experience, salaries can increase to around £50,000 (Prospects).
Essential subjects (2017)
To study a nutrition science degree, you will need one or two sciences at A level, including biology (UCAS).