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Miami nutrition students know being healthy starts with what you eat

06/14/2012

Miami University nutrition and dietetics students, together with the university's Carillon Catering service, have created new meal versions that now fall within the USDA guidelines for a healthy diet.

Students analyzed the catering menu’s served meal selections and slightly adjusted some ingredients to achieve the right balance of nutrients for healthier versions of some meals. They also helped to identify combinations that already fell within the guidelines.

Nancy Parkinson, registered dietitian and clinical faculty member in the department of kinesiology and health, teaches a nutrition and disease prevention management course in which students learn how to design and implement custom menus to prevent and manage chronic diseases. Students typically work within the community on projects. This year they teamed up with Marijo Nootz, director of Shriver Center, and Molly Lindsay with Carillon Catering.

“In some cases, it was simply cutting portion sizes to meet the standards,” said Emily Rohn, one of the students working on the project. "Other cases called for substituting a few ingredients. In one dish, we switched out feta cheese for goat cheese. In many dishes, we added more fresh fruits and vegetables. We were surprised how these simple changes made such a difference.”

Parkinson's students studied the menu items measuring five criteria — fat, calories, sodium, carbohydrates and cholesterol — against standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a healthy meal.

“I welcomed the opportunity to work with our students,” said Lindsay, executive director of Carillon Catering. “My life’s work follows the idea that the bigger, the gooier, the better. Although, we do offer choices for those clients whose diets are restricted by allergies, it just made sense to provide healthier options for everyone."

Carillon Catering staff tested each recipe based on the students’ findings and adjusted for taste. A new menu is now available denoting items that can be ordered in a healthy version. Old favorites are still available, but upon request, can be prepared based on the new standards. Find the new menu at carilloncatering.com.

“This process sparked other initiatives that we are very excited about,” Lindsay said. “We are teaming up with Miami’s human resources on the Healthy Miami initiative to provide nutritional information. Also, watch for more electronic ways to check nutritional information and we hope to introduce QRCs you can scan to get specific statistics for the catered meals guests attend."

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