October 17, 2008

Nutrition and food science students in the University of Kentucky School of Human Environmental Sciences are applying their food chemistry knowledge to make healthy modifications to recipes from past cookbooks published by the UK Woman's Club.

Students enrolled in UK Nutrition and Food Science Professor Tammy Stephenson's food experimentation class this fall and next spring will modify about 100 recipes to make them more diet friendly by lowering fat, cholesterol and sugar. Also, students will look at simplifying preparation methods and using appliances and techniques available in the 21st century. The project will take each group of students the entire semester to complete.

"The students will be providing us with recipes that use up-to-date cooking methods and up-to-date ingredients that have been vetted as healthy recipes," said Melissa LeVine, president-elect of the UK Woman's Club.

This project is part of the club's centennial in 2009. To celebrate, members of the club wanted to publish an updated cookbook including recipes from previous publications from the club's "Stay for Tea" series. Club members recognized many of these recipes were out of date with today's eating habits or were unrealistic for any working mother or father to prepare.

However, club members didn't have the time or nutritional background to make the appropriate modifications, so they contacted the School of Human Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture.

The project was a perfect fit for Stephenson's class. In past years, students in the class were required to develop a unique, healthy food product. This opportunity from the Woman's Club presented the students with a unique opportunity to get real world experience and have their work published.

"Most of them will go on to work in the health care field, and as part of their future job, they will counsel their clients on how to eat low-fat foods and limit their sugar intake. It's good for them to have an understanding of how you can modify a recipe to meet those requirements and also have a product that people want to eat because it tastes good, looks good and smells good," Stephenson said.

Applying their knowledge of nutrition and working with Stephenson, the students decide what modifications to make to the recipes. Stephenson said most students will only make one to two modifications of the original recipe to maintain the product's characteristics.

Beginning Oct. 17 and for the two following Fridays, students will test the modifications for taste, color, texture and smell in the school's food laboratory. They will also use various instruments to measure volume and thickness.

"When we make modifications to a recipe, we always have the students test the product three times for quality control to ensure every time they make it, they're getting the same results," Stephenson said. "We want to ensure that, when the consumer makes it at home, the end product is consistent every time the recipe is followed."

            In another component of the project, students will use a computerized formula to determine the nutrition information for the modified and original recipes. This nutrition information will be included in the cookbook beside the recipes.

            LeVine said she and other members are anxious to see the results of the student's work.

The cookbooks will be available in 2009. Proceeds from cookbook sales will go to the UK Woman's Club scholarship fund, which awards full-tuition scholarships to nontraditional UK undergraduate students each year.