Healthy food tastes good

This article is the first of a three-part series on students in the M.A. in Applied Nutrition and Dietetics program that prepares students to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) credentialing examination to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). The Union curriculum prepares students to be socially responsible practitioners engaged in actions that enhance the quality of life, reduce health disparities, and protect human rights. 

Each feature shares the career dream of a student in the Food Science course that explores the composition, physical, microbiological and chemical changes in food and manufacturing. The course requires students to think outside the box and create a product not currently available on the market. The project is an excellent example of incorporating universal design principles to enhance an inclusive learning environment with equal access and opportunities for every student.

In this picture, Delaney Smith encourages her family to taste her homemade hummus pizza.

Delaney Smith enrolled in the M.A. in Applied Nutrition and Dietetics degree program with two goals — to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and to change the perception that healthy food is often bland or boring.

Her interest in food began at an early age. She was an athlete and could feel and see food’s effect on her performance. Smith attended UCLA and studied anthropology, which expanded her interest in examining how food correlates to culture, identity, and community. Since then, she has been cooking in professional kitchens discovering new techniques and flavors every day.

Her food creation in the Food Science course is miniature cauliflower pizzas.

This picture shows the various products used to conduct a crust taste test. Smith experimented with different amounts of protein powder or different bake times to see what provided the best taste and texture while still hitting the macronutrient targets.

“My miniature cauliflower pizzas are delicious, nutritious, and convenient,” Smith said. “After making my pizza bites last semester, I have continued making cauliflower pizzas for family, friends, and the clients I cook for. I happened to get in touch with the founder of a company that currently manufactures and sells cauliflower pizzas in stores across the country. She is interested in my product, as she has been looking to add a vegan crust to her line of products, and mine fits the bill.”

Dr. Andrea Chauvin, Union Institute & University faculty and a leading food and nutrition expert, discusses the Food Science course requirement’s relevance to creating an innovative product not currently available on the market.

“This exercise is important because it inspires creativity, critical thinking, and the incorporation of all the concepts taught in class in real life. It allows students to create unique products that directly apply the concepts learned during the semester. When inventing or creating a food product, students often do not get it right the first time. Celebrating the problem-solving that went into making things work is essential for the learning process. It highlights the persistence and resilience that the student has demonstrated when going back to the drawing board.”

To encourage students, Chauvin created an Instagram account to encourage student collaboration @foodscienceatmyunion.

“Students respond positively to encouragement and reassurance, and it is also important to encourage collaboration during this process. The Instagram account shows students visual efforts in a variety of food preparation,” Chauvin said. “From product development to sensory analysis to recording a pitch for investors, this assignment highlights the process of taking the skills students are reading about and applying them hands-on.”

Smith tries out her various recipes on her family.

“Experimenting with food is fun. Utilizing the kitchen as my laboratory, I am able to manipulate taste, texture, and nutrition variables to perfect my product,” Smith said. “My classes have taught me to examine underlying assumptions, explore issues from multiple perspectives and develop new ways of thinking critically.”

The final spread! This is the final crispy cauliflower crust/cracker. The ingredients are the boldest and tastiest tomato basil hummus and creamy cashew mozzarella that makes up the Perfect Pizza.

Smith chose Union based on its curriculum and online courses.

“I work full-time. I was searching for a master’s program with an outstanding curriculum that understood my work responsibilities. Union is the perfect combination for me,” Smith said.

Smith is confident she is on her way to educating and empowering others to nourish themselves with food that tastes good and makes them feel good.

“I hope that with my nutrition knowledge and cooking creativity, I can be a key influencer and leader in nutrition and health.”

Visit the Applied Nutrition and Dietetics Degree Program to learn more.