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Combining Culinary Skills with Dietetics to Promote Healthy Diets

24 Mar 2020

Have you ever thought of giving the all-time-favourite- nasi lemak, a healthier makeover? Have you ever dreamt of producing healthy and delicious innovative foods using sustainable home-grown produce?

IMU Dietetics with Nutrition programme produce graduates who are able to combine the science and art of dietetics through incorporating components of culinary skills in the revised curriculum for new students from 2019 onwards. “Rates of obesity and overweight are rising in Malaysia leading to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases. One of the main risk factors causing this situation is poor diets and Malaysians’ love for our tasty variety of foods. The nation needs qualified dietitians who are skilled in providing diet consultation as well as teaching patients and the general public on how to modify their favourite local cuisines into healthier options without compromising on taste or aesthetic features of a dish. Healthy diets are only as good if people actually enjoy eating the foods” says Prof Winnie Chee who is a professor from the Division of Nutrition & Dietetics and Dean, School of Health Sciences. Nutrition education and culinary skills combined are needed to be successful at creating and maintaining healthy eating practices. In other words, making vital nutrition information easily accessible is useless without also making it practical.

“Dietitians with culinary skills have added value for employment. Saying eat more vegetables and fruits isn’t as powerful as demonstrating a delicious tantalizingly salad. The business, financial and food service management components in the programme are beneficial for the employers” adds Mary Easaw, a Senior Lecturer teaching into the programme and former Senior Manager & Chief Dietitian at a cardiac hospital.

The BSc (Hons) Dietetics with Nutrition programme features culinary skills across several courses throughout the new curriculum. In the early semesters, students are provided with the foundation knowledge of the science of foods and what happens to food composition and nutrients when subjected to various cooking methods such as steaming, frying, baking and other modern food preparation methods such as sous vide. Students learn how to perform basic culinary skills to prepare healthy diets from their senior and IMU alumnus, Leonard Yap, who is a dietitian with chef training. He provides demonstration on various food preparation skills and introduces students to new methods of cooking that preserve nutrients. In Year 2, students put their culinary skills to create business opportunity by designing menus and sales of healthy lunch boxes to the IMU students and staff.

As students progress to Year 3, they elevate their menu planning and culinary skills to modify recipes and prepare diets for various diseases. Students will learn how to prepare diets suitable for diabetes, heart diseases, kidney failure and also for sick children during the Medical Nutrition Therapy course. The integration of culinary nutrition into the Nutrition & Dietetics curriculum is aimed at producing graduates who are work ready, who can use scientific evidence to help individuals choose and eat high quality meals to manage their disease conditions and restore well-being effectively.

Hippocrates- the Father of Medicine said
Let thy food be thy medicine, as what

IMU also has a Food Laboratory which is equipped with a demo kitchen, work stations and industry standard cooking facilities for the students to put into action their culinary skills in developing recipes and sales of healthy foods to the IMU community.

“Learning culinary skills in IMU has been very interesting to me. Especially when you relate it to science, it has been giving me a lot of surprises on how some actions that you may tend to skip because you think that they are unnecessary but actually it serves some purpose and does contribute to the taste of the food. As a future dietitian, learning culinary skills is very helpful in my field of studies as it is important to know how to prepare the food before recommending it to the clients. However, the most important thing for me is that I really enjoy what I am doing”, says Puan Rohana, a Year 2 BSc (Hons) Dietetics with Nutrition student from Indonesia.

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