Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dietetics students learn culinary skills through new UTSA partnership

(Oct. 20, 2017) -- Students in The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) College of Education and Human Development’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CPD) are getting hands-on culinary experience through a new partnership between the college, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, and the Culinary Health Education for Families program (CHEF). 

Once a week, dietetics students enrolled in the Applied Food Science Practicum course visit the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s teaching kitchen to work with CHEF instructors on various culinary skills. This includes menu planning, food preparation, and recipe modification.

“The CHEF team has really enjoyed working with the UTSA dietetics students,” said Celina Paras, MSc, RDN, LD, CHEF nutrition education specialist at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. “They are a wonderful group because they come to class open to learning about healthy cooking techniques. The CHEF class teaches the CPD students the fundamentals of the CHEF curricula, which focuses on translating complex nutrition concepts into practical ones by teaching practical nutrition and cooking skills that patients and their families can understand and apply in their lives.”

The students work directly with the CHEF team to learn how to create healthy recipes that are also delicious, integrating dietetics with the culinary arts.

“In the past, the disciplines of dietetics and the culinary arts have worked in silos. However, that is changing and dietitians are looking to develop their knowledge in the culinary arts, while culinarians are working with dietitians to prepare meals that still taste delicious, but are more nutritiously sound,” said Maria Palma, CHEF program director. “During CHEF classes, we combine the science of nutrition with the art of cooking, thus empowering families to make better choices and to prepare more meals at home.”

The dietetics students, Palma said, learn to cook the same recipes as the families enrolled in the CHEF classes at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Recently, the students learned how to cook a healthy version of picadillo, or ground beef, that uses more vegetables instead of potatoes.

“My experience working with the CHEF program has been amazing,” said José Luis Sáenz, UTSA dietetics and nutrition student. “There is such a feeling of authenticity from the work that is done in this course and the environment in the kitchen; it makes me excited to know that I will be working in a similar atmosphere once I become a registered dietitian. So much feedback, advice, and information is given to us by our instructor and the chefs that I feel that by the end of this course, I could be a genuine chef myself.”

The partnership was established this fall when CHEF agreed to serve as an internship site for the CPD students and extended the opportunity for the students enrolled in the Applied Food Science Practicum course to learn culinary skills once a week in their kitchen.

“This partnership has been a wonderful learning experience for our students,” said Liset Leal Vasquez, director of the UTSA Coordinated Program in Dietetics. “CHEF brings a rich, hands-on teaching experience for our students, and our goal is to further strengthen our partnership. As partners, we can better prepare upcoming nutrition and health leaders on the functions of food in preventing chronic disease.”

At the end of the semester, the students will be able to take what they have learned into their future careers as dietitians.

“I will definitely be using what I’ve learned to help my future patients learn about healthy eating in a fun, yet delicious way,” said Jessica Tupa, UTSA dietetics and nutrition student. “I feel like I’ve learned so many different techniques already for how to cut vegetables, how to cook them, how to cook meat in the best way, and what ingredients are the healthiest while still getting the most bang for your buck. I’ve saved all of the recipes the CHEF team has shown us and I plan to cook them for my family.”

- Jo Ann Jones

Learn more about the Coordinated Program in Dietetics.

Learn more about the Culinary Health Education for Families program.

Learn more about The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

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Photos courtesy of Liset Leal Vasquez.

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