“I grew up on a farm, so I know where food comes from. That’s probably the reason why the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry felt so familiar,” says Leila Fogelholm. She was browsing through the Faculty’s study guide when an interesting discipline caught her eye: nutritional science.
Fogelholm majored in nutritional science, and also studied food chemistry and microbiology. She is visibly excited when she lists the most interesting features of her studies.
“Studying the connections between food and health. There are so many interesting aspects to them, nutrients and their effects, as well as everything else that’s in our food, such as additives. It’s a fascinating field. Everyone is interested in food and eating, so it’s nice to know about the backgrounds and processes of the things we eat.”
A customer-driven, varied job
Leila Fogelholm works as a nutritionist at Fazer Food Services in the Gastronomy and Product Development Department. She is tasked with providing the nutritionist perspective on the recipe development and menu planning for the company’s 600 restaurants.
Her days include consultation, training and education provided both to company staff and at client events, such as team-building retreats. “My work is very varied. A large part of it is client cooperation, and answering customer feedback,” Fogelholm explains.
“During my studies I had many different kinds of summer jobs, including one as a nutritional therapist, and I found that the most interesting field was institutional catering.”
Fogelholm wrote her master’s thesis for the Finnish National Nutrition Centre, where she also found employment after graduation. Fogelholm became a Fazer employee when Amica bought the Nutrition Centre after its incorporation.
“In my work, it’s easy to stay up to date with what’s happening in the field. Our chefs working in product development are constantly developing new recipes and testing new products,” Fogelholm enthuses.
Applying theory requires skill
Fogelholm says that her studies gave her a firm foundation of knowledge, a sense of proportion, an understanding of the bigger picture and the ability to handle complex issues. The University also teaches students where they can find more information.
In her work, it’s important to be able to apply theories and be able to explain what they mean in practice. “We have to be able to talk and write in plain language, and to persuade people,” Fogelholm explains.
She wants to encourage young people to pursue studies in nutritional science, a long-standing favourite among the degree options offered by the University of Helsinki. “Food services will continue to need nutritional experts in the foreseeable future. This is a good career choice for anyone who’s interested in food!”
Fogelholm instructs prospective nutritionists to launch their careers by taking a summer job, for example, in catering or a bakery in a hands-on position to get a feel for the hectic pace and the duties involved in the field.