December 15, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. — For those who are seeking Christmas gifts that will promote the health of family and friends, 54 students in an Northern Illinois University “Applied Nutrition” course have the perfect suggestion.
“Keep the Beat Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Dinners,” a cookbook published by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, features “tasty recipes that are good for your heart and your health.” The book is available online at http://emall.nhlbihin.net/product2.asp?sku=10-2921.
Standing behind those recipes are Beverly Henry’s FCNS 310 students, who prepared and taste-tested all 60 of the dishes in an NIU food science lab.
Henry, a professor in the Department of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences, was asked by an acquaintance at the American Institutes for Research, a consultant for the NHLBI, if the university had a food science lab and students willing to cook and eat.
“Our juniors were the perfect group. They are familiar with kitchen procedures and can comment on the accuracy of the recipes and how easy they are to prepare,” said Henry, who integrated the project into the course’s lab activities. “This was a great opportunity for them. They’re making a difference in the real world.”
Henry first made contact with the NHLBI a few years ago. The organization publishes a dual-purpose “Keep the Beat” calendar that provides positive health messages and helps users to track their goals daily: Did they eat right? Did they exercise?
The professor thought the calendar could serve as a valuable tool for future nutritionists, so she ordered enough for her students.
“Throughout the semester, they work on their health goals, tracking their progress on the calendars so they can practice following behavior changes,” she said, “and not just talking about how good it would be if everyone were healthy.”
After NHLBI staff decided to publish their cookbook, Henry said, they eventually thought of NIU after working with another Columbia University the year before.
NIU nutrition students worked on the project over two weeks with assistance from Henry, Beth Lulinski and graduate assistants, who ensured the availability of the ingredients and even cooked a few of the dishes themselves.
If the chefs who created the recipes decided to tweak their instructions in response to the NIU comments, the nutrition team prepared and tasted the altered dishes.
With the lab activity, students saw what had been described in class discussion and readings: how to modify recipes to make them heart-healthy; for example, using different spices to lower sodium amounts. They also compared recommended dietary guidelines with the maximums to which most people should adhere.
As a reward for their assistance, each student received a free copy of the cookbook. “The NHLBI people were very happy with us,” Henry said. “They feel as though they got good information.”
Discussions now have begun for NIU’s assistance on a new cookbook tailored toward families, she said.
This project could incorporate young children enrolled in NIU’s Child Development Lab, who would get practice following recipes, cooking and taste-testing under the guidance of Henry’s students.
The Department of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences is housed in NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.
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Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs