Students learn nutrition concepts in hands-on lesson

Students learn nutrition concepts in hands-on lesson

The first step is putting a bit of salad dressing in the bottom of the jar. Next, the students added in mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Then, they measured out shredded cheese and kidney beans and added them to the jar. Lastly, they topped the earlier ingredients off with salad greens.

Students in the new general education class, Health Promotion (HE 257) made mason jar salads as part of a lesson on nutrition during week four of winter term 2020.

Megan Patton-Lopez, one of the four instructors for the course, said students in the course had been learning about nutrition for three weeks leading up to the activity and the lesson was a way for students to get hands-on experience making nutritious food.

The lesson also included a discussion of the benefits of eating foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants and more practical tips for food preparation, like how to cut vegetables safely and the order to put ingredients into a mason jar salad to maximize freshness. “They try it here and it’s low-risk and it’s free,” she said.

Professor Dr. Megan Patton-Lopez explains the lesson.
Student Justine Grassman holds up the jar salad she made during class.

Patton-Lopez said talking about nutrition in essence means you are talking about food and the lesson is a way to demonstrate those concepts for students in a tangible way. “I think it makes it more approachable,” she said. “It’s not as abstract.”

Patton-Lopez said students in the class get to keep their mason jars and they can get extra credit for posting photos of foods they make in the jars on the course Moodle page.

Fall term, the first time the activity was included in the class, students posted things like photos of yogurt parfaits, oatmeal and salads of their own. “It’s a great way to engage students and get them to try new things,” she added.

In a class assignment reflecting on the activity, one student wrote that the lesson was helpful in figuring out how much of different ingredients to add.

“I thought that this opportunity was amazing! I am new to putting salad in a jar and have often struggled with what portion sizes are supposed to look like when you make a salad,” the student wrote. “My biggest take away is that eating healthy does not have to be difficult and time consuming. It took five minutes to prepare a healthy meal and I was able to eat it on the go.”

Patton-Lopez said the activity was funded by a grant from the WOU Foundation for the 2019-20 school year, but she hopes to continue it in future years as well.

Students in the class also do an activity later in the term where they compete on teams to see who can come up with the most nutritious meal for $10 at the Valsetz Food Court, a program that is funded by Campus Dining.

In addition to nutrition, students in HE 257 also explore physical activity and mental health through lecture and experientially-based labs. The class is taught by various instructors in the Divison of Health & Exercise Science. For winter term 2020, the class was taught jointly by Patton-Lopez, Gay Timken, Warren Allen, and Brandon Claggett.

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