Nutrition Department Hosts Eating Healthy on a Budget


In collaboration with the College’s Office of Student Affairs, the Department of Nutrition teaches students to make a homemade healthy and delicious meal.

Image of two Mason community members cooking healthy recipes in the Nutrition kitchen

Bacon. Ranch. Chicken. “Yum” for many college students, but do they know how to make a healthy meal from these ingredients? Students who attended the Eating Healthy on a Budget event now do. The event, hosted by the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies and the College’s Office of Student Affairs, was open to students enrolled in Nutrition Department as well as non-nutrition students and was held in the Nutrition Kitchen, located on the first floor of Peterson Hall.

Adjunct professor and Mason Master of Nutrition alumna Jaianna Johnson taught students in two cooking events to create a chicken, bacon, ranch bowl with brown rice. In addition, she demonstrated how to make a kale salad that even kale-skeptics would like. Assistant Professor of Nutrition Kerri LaCharite acted as Johnson’s sous chef for the event.

“It was very enlightening how things like vegetables can taste great if you know what to do with them—Kale can really taste delicious,” said Minoo Samuel, Nutrition Graduate Certificate student. Johnson showed students how massaging lemon juice into kale changes the texture and makes the cabbage more delicious and versatile.

Johnson shared tips on knife safety and how to incorporate vegetables into other meals, such as cauliflower rice, chickpeas, and kale chips. She recommends that cauliflower is an easy and adaptable vegetable to start with.

Nutrition is a fundamental part of public health and living a well-rounded, long life. The College is dedicated to learning and sharing more about the nutrition of college students through the Mason: Health Starts Here study. Recently, the study found that college students are exceeding U.S. dietary guidelines for added sugar, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat, which are all nutrients that should be limited.

Image of two Mason community members cooking healthy recipes in the Nutrition kitchen

“These demos not only give me a chance to practice my teaching skills, but also teach people a few basic cooking skills that they will carry with them and use in their lives day-to-day. Food is important to me because of the positive connotations surrounding the word,” said Johnson, who has a degree from the Culinary Institute of New York and now teaches Mason’s Fundamentals of Cooking class. “Teaching people how to cook allows me to encourage more of those home-cooked meals, which is important in reducing resource consumption (i.e. fast food, take-out, etc.) as well as creating more positive experiences around food.”

The Nutrition and Food Studies Department has hosted a variety of events since the Nutrition Kitchen in Peterson Hall opened in the spring of 2018 to help raise awareness of the role healthy eating, nutrition, and food systems can play in the public’s health. In conjunction with Alumni Relations and the Office for Advancement, the Department held monthly online cooking classes, called Patriots in the Kitchen, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, that were open to the Mason community and the public.

The Nutrition and Food Studies Department focuses on teaching and training students to address public health issues involving nutrition and food access. It offers undergraduate and graduate courses in cooking, nutrition, food and culture, food systems, and food studies.