Intro to nutrition course teaches about healthy eating
Professor seeks to change lives, dispel myths.
Emma Laing has a goal in mind for students in her "Human Nutrition and Food" class that goes well beyond tests and grades: changed lives.
“My goal for this course is to empower students to take charge of their health through nutrition so they can reduce their risk of chronic diseases later in life,” said Laing, an associate research scientist and award-winning instructor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences foods and nutrition department. “This is a practical course where students will gain information about healthy eating that will help them throughout the rest of their lives.”
Laing navigates students through the often confusing and overwhelming principles of nutrition, analyzing the science behind fad diets, supplements, sports nutrition, organic foods, GMOs, hidden sugars in food and more.
Within the first few days of class, she asks her students to write down what questions they have about nutrition and what they hope to learn. She then incorporates these topics into her lectures to be sure each question is answered and the students walk away with information relative to their interests.
To highlight diversity and varying opinions among her students, Laing asks her class to share what inspires them to lead a healthy lifestyle in her “Picture of Health” project. The project yields a variety of responses, from students participating in triathlons to growing vegetable gardens to traveling abroad and exploring different cultures.
“The course taught me how, and most importantly, why, to strive to live the healthiest lifestyle possible,” said Sarah Rawlings, a human development and family science major within FACS. “So often, college students focus on losing weight at any cost. Dr. Laing showed our class that we can achieve our goals in a healthy manner that will be more effective long-term.”
No prerequisites are needed for the class and students don’t have to be in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
“While we know that a nutritious diet helps us feel good and is an important component of reaching health and fitness goals, we tend to struggle with finding time and resources to eat a balanced diet and get enough regular physical activity,” Laing said. “Students in this course will learn about the appropriate selection of foods and beverages, timing of intake and even dietary supplement choices that have been linked to optimal health.”
Previous students have given Laing praise for her engaging, lively style of teaching.
“She generates a fun and engaging learning environment by making class relatable, interactive and exciting in a way that I haven’t seen before,” said Katie Norris, a previous teaching assistant under Laing. “Dr. Laing genuinely cares about all of her students, going above and beyond for them, and I really respect her for that.”
With so many food options available to students as well as misinformation, Laing said she’s intent on building a class that directly answers students’ questions and guides them on a path to a healthier lifestyle.
“There is so much attention on social media given to self-proclaimed food and wellness bloggers propagandizing readers to ‘eat healthy,’ but some have no nutrition background and can misinform the public,” Laing said. “With every topic we cover in this course, students leave class knowing where they can turn for credible information.”
Laing’s five tips for healthy eating
- Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
- Make at least half of your grains whole
- Switch to skim or 1 percent milk
- Vary your protein food choices.
- Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.
— Cal Powell, College of Family and Consumer Sciences