Pairing Sweet Treats and Healthy Living: One Student’s Experience

(This is the third and last article in the 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 of 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.)

Fit Chocolate™ is not an oxymoron; it’s an innovative alternative to existing chocolate created by Tim Garrett, a student enrolled in the M.A. in Applied Nutrition Dietetics program at UI&U.

Tim’s goal is not to become a chocolatier, although he loves to make chocolate. He owns a fitness franchise and a wellness center and has the vision to offer wellness services such as fitness, nutrition, exercise, massage therapy, and martial arts to all. Becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is his next step.

As a young child, Tim remembers times when nutritious food was not always readily available. He watched people he cared about struggle with issues like diabetes and realized how poor food choices can lead to poor health outcomes. He wanted to learn more about helping people through nutrition, but life unfolded differently.

Tim’s education is a unique mix of health and human performance, information technology, and engineering. He earned a bachelor’s from Middle Tennessee State University and worked in the automotive manufacturing industry for 25 years. But his passion was fitness. He has earned the American Council on Exercise® (ACE) Personal Training certification, ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist certification, and the Cancer Exercise Training Institute (CETI) Cancer Exercise Specialist® certification. In addition, he is trained as an Association of Diabetics Care and Education Specialists (ADCES) Lifestyle Coach. In 2022, he left the automotive industry to grow his fitness, martial arts, and wellness businesses and to earn a master’s in Applied Nutrition at UI&U.

Tim’s final product

He chose Union because the program meets the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND®) standards and is part of the Future Educational Model. The program combines learning competencies with applicable professional experiences like grant writing, auditing food systems, visiting community agriculture sites, and medical nutrition clinical rotations. Tim is able to continue operating his fitness, martial arts, and wellness businesses in Tennessee while earning a master’s degree online.

It was during the food science course that Tim invented his healthy version of chocolate. “I wanted to create a chocolate that didn’t have large amounts of sugar, cow’s milk, and other additives that offset the potential benefits of cacao,” he said. Fit Chocolate™ is the result. It is a 52% cacao semisweet milk chocolate that is dairy free and ground directly from raw cacao nibs. Fit Chocolate™  is minimally processed and provides a healthier chocolate food option that people can consume on a restricted carbohydrate diet, diabetic diet, or vegan diet.

According to Dr. Andrea Chauvin, UI&U faculty and a leading expert in food and nutrition, the assignment to create a food that is currently not on the market is important. “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,” she said.

In addition to food science, the UI&U program explores food justice. “Everyone should have access to nutrient-dense high-quality food. From day one this message is driven through the program,” Tim said. “Helping people understand which foods are nutritious and related to medical nutrition therapy is important but helping people find access to food is equally and perhaps more important.”

With the support of UI&U, Tim’s professional life is finally becoming fully rooted in nutrition and healthy living. “I want to be a part of the process to help people live longer, healthier, happier, and more meaningful lives and I am grateful for the chance to do that.”

Visit Applied Nutrition and Dietetics and learn how you can help people live healthier lives.