Nutrition students receive traditional theoretical instruction in Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) concepts. Integrating culinary instruction into academic coursework has been shown to improve medical students’ ability to counsel patients on nutrition-related topics. Little is known on the impact of culinary nutrition for nutrition students.
This pilot study examines the impact of a hands-on cooking module on nutrition students’ knowledge of low-phenylalanine (Phe) foods and their ability to make appropriate culinary recommendations to adapt recipes for low-Phe diets.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Using quasi-experimental design with a non-probability, purposive sampling technique, students (n = 10) were recruited from advanced MNT classes at San Jose State University and randomly assigned to either control or treatment group. All students received a lecture on PKU and low-Phe diet principles. Following the lecture, the intervention group received a 1-hour culinary module related to the low-Phe diet. A 49-question survey was administered at 3 time points (Pre, post, and 6-week follow-up) with a 100% response rate testing student's knowledge of Phe-containing foods and techniques for adapting standard recipes.
Data was indexed (Knowledge, Cooking Habits, Cooking Confidence, and Application Confidence) and descriptive statistics reported as means compared pre-, post-, and follow-up scores using SPSS version 25.
The treatment group's mean knowledge of low-Phe foods doubled from 14 (SD = 6.24) to 27.2 (SD = 2.77) from pretest to post-test. The treatment group recipe modification mean test score improved from 4.8/10 (SD = 2.38) questions correct to 6.6/10 (SD = 1.14) after intervention while decreasing for the control group.
Positive trends indicate improvement in knowledge of low-Phe foods and in participants’ ability to make culinary recommendations for low-Phe recipes. Culinary nutrition may be a beneficial addition to nutrition coursework warranting future investigation with a larger population and a longer cooking module.