Adventures in Teaching, Round One: Nutrition and Food Cost

As the most recent hire, when I began teaching Culinary Arts, I was assigned the academic lessons. These included discussions of International and American cuisine and culture, establishing proper kitchen safety and sanitation, nutrition and food cost.

The latter was a difficult sell, and I kept updating and modifying the lesson in an attempt to make it relatable and interesting to the students. None of them were planning on opening a restaurant, and none of the math required was connected to their official courses, so the standard lessons were a complete bust. And, of course, students in a cooking class don’t generally like leaving a kitchen containing snack potential to work in a classroom.

Since food isn’t usually allowed in classrooms –and in the interests of avoiding tiny armies of pests, rightly so!!– I recreated the lesson as a two-part research and practical activity. The first picture above is from the research portion, where students must select and conduct both pricing and nutrition research on a food item that they often purchase. The way I was able to get my students to participate was through the promise that whatever they chose, within reason, they could prepare on another day in the kitchen.

I may not have reached an enthusiastic 100% participation, but I had found an activity where every student did complete the task. We all learned something new when cooking the items later on, as I started showing them creative swaps I thought up when reviewing their food choices. Some examples:

~ using half veggie noodles and half pasta for a spaghetti and meatball dish
~ substituting plain Greek yogurt for mayonnaise in tuna or chicken salad sandwiches
~ baking rather than frying crab wontons
~ puréeing white beans as a base for creamy sauces
~ adding puréed butternut squash or sweet potato to a cheese sauce
~ making your own breakfast (and other) sandwiches
~ boosting a breakfast sandwich with a vegetable or bean patty

The latter two items are among my favorites, which I started doing at home myself. Hey, all this nutrition information had to eventually make an impact on me, who once lunched exclusively on Twizzlers and Coca Cola 😏

After making batches of mushroom, bean and vegetable patties, I always have enough left over to freeze, and adding a warmed patty to a homemade egg and cheese muffin sandwich is incredibly yummy, healthy and filling. The picture above is from a version with the cauliflower-walnut patty I mentioned originally here:

What are your favorite ways to make a favorite dish a little healthier?

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