I believe that opportunities come into your life when you’re ready for them, and I came upon the Academy of Culinary Nutrition at a time where I was transitioning into a healthier lifestyle, was feeling oppressed by a very minimal work/life balance, and was ready for a big change.
I’ve written before about my struggles with dieting, and I was doing my best to climb out of that cycle and really make healthy choices part of my daily life, rather than something I did temporarily to lose weight. The more I learned about how food affected my body (as I watched myself improve mentally and physically), I became fascinated with using food as an ally, rather than the enemy we’ve been trained to see it as.
This was my new passion, and I came across the Academy of Culinary Nutrition by happenstance, and it absolutely changed my life. I had no idea that this was exactly what I wanted until I found it on a previous grad’s blog, but it was the very first thing I found, so it couldn’t be the one, right?
I did my due diligence and looked around for comparable programs—the Institute for Integrative Nutrition being a very popular one—but I kept coming back to the ACN’s Culinary Nutrition Expert program. It had exactly what I wanted: comprehensive nutrition education, supportive instructors, and a focus on COOKING! Because knowledge is nothing if you can’t implement what you learn.
For a little background, the Academy of Culinary Nutrition was founded by nutritionist Meghan Telpner. She is the face of the program, with help from her husband, clinical nutritionist and functional medicine practitioner Josh Gitalis (who is more focused on the science). I LOVED their approach to nutrition. Their approach to the material made learning so fun and made the program super enjoyable.
Culinary Nutrition Curriculum
The curriculum of the CNE program is suitable for all types of diets, and the entire program is focused on plant-based, gluten-free, and dairy-free eating. Most of the recipes used in the program are vegan, but the curriculum is not strictly vegan. The focus is… MORE PLANTS!
This may change by the time you get there, but here’s what I learned about:
- Culinary nutrition basics (knife skills, food quality, menu planning, etc)
- The fundamentals of nutrition (vitamins, minerals, soil, water)
- Raw food fundamentals (plus sprouting and fermentation)
- Liquid nutrition (smoothies and juices)
- Herbal medicine and elixirs
- Healthy baking
- Healing diets
- Therapeutic foods
- Bonus home and beauty care! Something I wasn’t thinking about but definitely appreciated.
How It Works
The course is a 14 weeks long (~3 1/2 months), and it’s not self paced. You have to be committed to the material and I’d suggest at least 5-10 hours a week to watch the videos and do your assignments. I did it with a full-time job that had little work/life balance, and many others do so too (with kids!) so it can be done!
Each week new video modules are released for you to watch, including (fun) informational videos as well as recipe videos. In the recipe videos, Meghan and Josh make some of the food you’ll make in your recipe assignments, and explain all of the health benefits and uses of the ingredients. This was profoundly useful for me in my business now and I loved learning what every ingredient was good for.
It’s all video-based, so you can do this program from wherever you are, and (to an extent) when it’s convenient for you.
There are weekly assignments (and strict deadlines).
Each week, we received two—a written assignment and a recipe assignment. For the written assignment, much of the work is focused on research around your health condition of choice, whatever you want to devote your studies to for the bulk of the program. We created meal plans in support of our chosen health condition, developed recipes, and at the end even taught a cooking class for it.
The recipe assignment has students making meals, condiments, and more from the course recipe book, and there are plenty of options each week if something doesn’t suit your taste. We made 2-3 recipes per week and documented the process with writing and photos.
What I loved about it was that my assignments were my meal prep for the week. I could eat my homework!
This is where climbing out of the diet cycle began to really click for me. I was regularly making good-for-me foods and not paying attention to calories, and weight came off naturally. Aside from nutrition knowledge, I really gained lifestyle knowledge as well.
Again, this may or may not have changed since I took the course, but here’s how I made it work with my job:
The modules came out on Friday mornings, and I would spend Friday night/Saturday morning watching the videos and taking notes. Then on Sunday, I worked on the recipe assignment that was due Tuesday (which doubled as some of my meal prep), and Monday got started on my written assignment due Wednesday. Some written assignments may require more time than that, so make sure you check to see how involved it is!
Materials and Resources
We received physical copies of both of Meghan’s books (UnDiet and The UnDiet Cookbook), as well as fully referenced course notes and a course recipe book (both PDFs). I ended up printing the recipe book and had it bound to keep in my kitchen for reference, because the recipes are so good!
There are also TONS of resources available. They are listed under each video so you can see what was referenced in each of the videos, and then there’s also an Expert Interview Library with lots of enriching material.
You also maintain access to the materials after the program in an alumni portal, which has been so useful as I continue in my business.
There are two live Q&A sessions per week, one with the head program coach and the other with Meghan (some weeks Josh makes an appearance, too). You also get your own program coach who is located in your time zone for even more support via email.
I appreciated this because with online programs you don’t usually get that kind of close support. They are really there for you cheering you on, while answering your questions if you need clarification, or in a way that gently encourages you to be proactive in seeking out that information.
There’s also a VERY active and amazing Facebook group that you get access to, which I love, love, love. Everyone is so incredibly supportive in there and eager to help each other out and lift each other up. A huge perk of the program I continue to use regularly.
As well as the FB group, post-graduation you also have the opportunity to create your CNE profile on their website (which has brought me business), submit articles and recipes to their blog, contribute to their annual From Scratch cookbook for charity, and be featured on their social media accounts.
The cost for the program hovers around $3,000 (there are different tiers, but this is what it cost me at the time for the Certification level). It’s definitely an investment, but a truly life-changing one. Even if I hadn’t built a business off of what I learned, my health and approach to food changed dramatically.
Depending on when you’re reading this, they offer 5-month, 3-month, and 30-day payment plans.
The Biz Rocking Insider Program
This is an optional 4-week business course (depending on the tier you choose), taught by Meghan following the CNE program, where she shares just about EVERYTHING she’s learned from building her business over the last 10 years. It was massively helpful in getting my website off the ground and if you do want to start a business with your certification, I highly recommend doing this as well. The course tackles the following:
- How to make your business stand out from the crowd
- Clarifying your message and developing a niche
- Promotional channels
- Website creation and promotion
- Writing for success
- Business model number crunching
- Visual branding and branding tools
- Business investments and profit margins
- Using social media for business
What can you do as a Culinary Nutrition Expert?
What do I do with my certification?
- Private coaching
- Group coaching
- Cooking classes
- Workshops and seminars
- Online courses
- Professional writing on nutrition and health topics
You can also pursue recipe development, professional meal planning or prep, restaurant consulting on menus, recipe development and testing, and so much more.
Check out this ACN blog post to see what other grads are doing: What Can a Culinary Nutrition Expert Do, Anyway?
After graduating, you can also apply to become a certified instructor for the program, teaching ACN-branded cooking classes. As someone who regularly develops cooking classes, I appreciate SO MUCH that they provide absolutely everything you’ll need on the logistics end. The recipes are done for you, the handouts are done for you, the plan for prepping in days prior to the class is done for you. An unbelievable amount of time saved!
Are there any cons?
Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this program. It really did change my life. I quit my job six months after graduating to start my business and have grown so much personally and professionally.
I really do want to provide a counterpoint to all this but I can’t! You’re joining a global community working hard to make the world a better, healthier place.
The ONLY con I can think of is the time commitment, but it’s really all about prioritizing. If this is truly something you want to do, it is 100% worth the time invested. Plus, even if you have to stay in on the weekends, it’s only for a few months, and you can invite friends over to sample your homework 🙂
What to Do Next
- To learn more about the program and curriculum, click here.
- Check out this free mini training to get a sense of what the CNE program is like, and Meghan’s style of teaching.
This post contains affiliate links for the program. If you end up signing up through my link, I am happy to offer you additional support during your time in the program if you need tutoring or would like assignment reviews before you submit them. Send me a message when you enroll!
I’ve tried to include everything I could possibly think of for questions you may have, but if I missed something, ask me in the comments!