Indiana State University Newsroom

Dietetics students cap semester by preparing meal

December 10, 2014

Savory aromas of 20 different foods in various stages of preparation greeted visitors to a room on the Indiana State University campus.

A year-end awards dinner at the Sycamore Banquet Center? No. An end-of-semester experience in the food and nutrition lab where students prepared culinary items of their choice using lessons learned during an introduction to foods class.

Brandon Lewis has been cooking since he was 5 years old but the sophomore dietetics major from Ellettsville said the class taught him much about food preparation that he did not know.

"This class helped me greatly in understanding what specifically happens in food and how to predict how recipes are going to turn out, and then by extension be able to substitute things and ad lib if necessary," he said.

Lewis prepared pineapple chicken curry, describing it as "a simple dish that someone can make in their home. It pretty much has everything you need for a balanced meal."

Lewis' career plans, though, are far from simple. He is considering the biotechnology field, or what he calls "the more sciency part" of dietetics. He likes the challenge of coming up with new ways of preparing foods and even creating new types of food via gene splicing, a technology that has been around longer than many might think.

"Purple grapes are an early example of biotechnology," he noted. "They combined red and green grapes so that you get the juiciness from green grapes and the sweetness of red grapes."

Carol Reed, director of Indiana State's coordinated program in dietetics, said the class teaches students about the properties of different food groups and complements a nutrition class that students take at the same time.

"They're getting the coordination between food and nutrition, which I feel is of utmost importance," she said.

 "You have some students come through who say, ‘I don't want to deal with food, I just want to deal with nutrition.' Well, if you don't deal with food you don't get nutrition so we try to make that connection for them very early."

Students were required to prepare recipes that were "somewhat complicated so they could use all of the skills they learned throughout the semester," said Reed, who served as instructor of the class.

Like Lewis, Mya Gamble, a sophomore dietetics major from Homewood, Ill., has been cooking since childhood but said the class taught her and other students how to prepare healthier meals.

"Professor Reed stressed to us that preparation needs to start in the kitchen," she said. "We learned about nutrition value, how not to overcook your vegetables and what spices go with what foods. It's a good start on other things that we will be learning. When we have to help other people, we can make meal plans and create a meal like we've done here today."

Gamble made macaroni and cheese, pointing out that her "made from scratch" version is healthier than restaurant or commercial varieties, with less salt and fewer preservatives.

"This class gives me hands-on experience with what I could potentially be doing with the rest of my life as far as career and a profession," said Kaitlin Daniel, a junior family and consumer sciences education major from Evansville. "I hope to teach in a high school or middle school. Having this class has helped prepare me for teaching students and others about the importance of nutrition and the different ways to prepare food to enhance nutrition."

Daniel said she appreciates Indiana State's commitment to experiential learning.

"I am very much a hands-on learner so this is helpful to me," she said. "You can sit in class and hear a lecture but until you experience over-boiling milk, for example, you can't really understand how you could end up with rotten milk."

Daniel's food was bacon-wrapped cheeseburger bombs - admittedly not very nutritious, she said, "But they're good!"

Photo: - Indiana State University students Tiffany Dorris of Indianapolis (center), Brinne Huxford of Rosedale (left) and Mya Gamble of Homewood, Ill. cap off a semester-long introduction to foods class Dec. 3, 2014 by preparing food items of their choice in the new food and nutrition lab in the university's Health and Human Services Building. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Indiana State University student Audrey Bedwell mixes ingredients for the culminating experience in a semester-long introduction to foods class Dec. 3, 2014. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Contact: Carol Reed, director, coordinated program in dietetics, department of applied health sciences, College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-3295 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or