Saint Louis University

BLOG: Nutrition Education Taking Off

Author: Alyson Heller
Published: Friday, December 9, 2011

Kate Geagan, American’s Green Nutritionist, has a pretty convincing solution to becoming more healthy and losing weight while being more sustainable. At this year’s FNCE, Kate had a book signing for her book, Go Green Get Lean, and I was fortunate to snatch one! The book starts off describing how the typical Western diet relies on processed and convenience foods with low intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish, which Kate describes as the “SUV-style diet that is warming the plant.” Her book helps readers implement the Go Green Get Green diet over six weeks by tackling one high carbon area of a typical Western diet at a time. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see Kate Geagan speak at Washington University in November presenting Flights of Flavor.

Saint Louis University Nutrition Education

She began her speech referencing a story from her book about a playground mom giving her child a PB&J Uncrustable at snack time. Was our world really getting to the point where a 30 second PB&J was too time-consuming? Kate Geagan’ philosophy focuses on expanding our palate to include more seasonal, local produce in your diet, which will lead to saving money and most importantly, a healthier individual.

This now brings me to the part of my post where we can learn a helpful tool to improve our nutrition education sessions. Our taste buds aren’t perfectly arranged in sections. In fact, everyone has a unique road map of taste buds organized on their tongue. Maybe it is too sweet, too salty, too bland, too spicy, or just the right amount of flavor. Kate was able to demonstrate that people have different taste buds by having us taste four flights with distinctive flavors.

FLIGHT = a group of foods that share a similar flavor, but at different intensities.

Every client has different taste preferences and telling a client to eat more fruits and vegetables isn’t the best way to make sure they are increasing their intake of healthier foods. A flight is an easy tool to incorporate into nutrition educations, because it can be used with a wide range of clients from those who don’t eat any fruits and vegetables to those looking to enhance an already diverse diet. The name of the each food on the plate is not revealed until the clients taste all the foods, write down words to describe the flavor, texture, and smell, and guess the name of the food.

My Flights of Flavor Experience

CITRUS: (Clockwise) lime, tangerine, cara cara navel, grapefruit, clementine, ruby navel

Saint Louis University Nutrition Education

This particular flight included citrus fruits that were within the broad range of acidic to sweet.

My take: I liked the grapefruit the best and I should choose citrus fruits that are not too sweet and a bit sour.

**This exercise can also help differentiate fruits with easy and difficult peels to remove and fruits with varying amounts of seeds.

SWEET VEGETABLE: sugar snap pea, carrot, fennel, beet, sweet potato

Saint Louis University Nutrition Education

Prior to tasting this flight, I didn’t like beets (due to how it was prepared when I tried it for the first time) and I never had shaved fennel.

My take: I like watery, crisp, and sweet fruits. I hope to incorporate fennel in salads and cold side dishes. Since this experience I have added beets to my salads.

SPICY VEGEATBLES: watercress, arugula, radish leaf, horseradish, mustard greens

Saint Louis University Nutrition Education

This flight was the most interesting flight, as it had a wide range of flavors!

My take: I like how every piece of arugula varied in an earthy, spicy flavor. I enjoy greens in my salads that have a distinct flavor. And of course, I don’t like horseradish!

**Warning: never bite into horseradish like it is a piece of celery! I learned my lesson.

CHOCOLATE: Hershey milk chocolate, 70% cacao, 62% cacao, 58% cacao

Saint Louis University Nutrition Education

Chocolate is my weakness, but this flight helped me narrow down what type of chocolate satisfies my tastes buds.

My take: I shouldn’t even bother buying milk chocolate. Instead I should buy dark chocolate and 62% cacao, if available, which will satisfy my frequent chocolate craving with hopefully one piece…maybe :)

Kate helped me realize that an individual can broaden their palate to enhance their eating experience in an increasingly healthy and sustainable way. I left this experience with a new outlook on food and a unique way to introduce new foods to clients. I will incorporate flights into my nutrition educations to help clients find their fruit and vegetable craving, which will lead to consuming more fruits and vegetables and take a step closer to reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases. Today’s dietitians are helping clients make the small changes needed to eventually reach the big permanent changes. Teaching how to reduce their carbon footprint and identifying their taste preferences of healthy foods are easy small steps to improving one’s health.

I hope this post inspires you to use flights in your nutrition educations in effort to improve our clients’ health, as well as our planet’s health. Go Green!

References and For More information:
Geagan, Kate. (2009). Go Green Get Lean trim your waistline with the ultimate low-carbon footprint diet. (1st Edition). New York, NY: Rodale Inc.

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