Cook ‘Em teaches nutritious meals for UT students

Paul Iskra

Straight from the UT School of Human Ecology, the Cook ‘Em website has been created to teach students not only what to make in a kitchen, but how to cook as well.

As college life begins, students filled with excitement and joyous anticipation exercise their freedom — especially in the realm of fast, pre-made food, spending lots of money and consuming food that may not necessarily be beneficial for their health.

Beginning in July, nutrition senior lecturer Lydia Steinman and her students created a website to share culinary knowledge with the UT population. The project is funded by the Provost Teaching Fellows.

Steinman employs the help of her students to go out and find recipes, make videos about them, calculate their nutritional benefits and post them on the website for other students to see and benefit from.

“I wanted [the students] to be able to learn how to effectively communicate and thought video would be a good way to do it,” Steinman said. “They come up with the concept [and] they pick the recipe. They also come up with a script and a storyboard, and they have to record the video. These videos are produced by students, for students.”

The website features almost 20 recipes, each accompanied with video instructions, as well as extra information on the basic rules and linguistics of the kitchen. Cook ‘Em has recipes for entrees, soups, salads, breakfast items and many other categories, all designed to be both healthy and affordable.

Steinman said she also wanted to include some nutritional science on the Cook ‘Em website.

“We’re actually having the students incorporate some nutrition education inside the videos,” she said. “We call them nutrition nuggets.”

Lyndsey Kohn, a nutritiion senior who helped start Cook ‘Em, said one of the goals of the website was to encourage students to choose healthier options over fast food or unhealthy microwave meals.

“We are born in an area of convenience, and that’s okay,” Kohn said. “It’s just understanding that sometimes that convenience is really bad for us.”

On the Cook ‘Em website, available alongside the list of ingredients is a chart of the nutrition facts, which includes important components such as protein, carbohydrates and the like. This information is calculated and measured by the students who found the recipe, and displayed similarly to a normal nutrition facts column on a store-bought item.  

“A lot of blogs don’t have [nutrition facts]; Cooking blogs, even nutrition blogs won’t have it,” said Katie Hardison, nutrition senior and founder of Cook ‘Em. “I know some people have said maybe that’s a little too far, but I don’t think so. I think it’s extremely important.”

Steinman and her students collaborated with the Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Service to produce the videos in a professional manner.

“To post it on a website, particularly on UT’s website, it has to be a fairly decent quality,” she said. “They’ve learned a lot of skills along the way.”

Steinman said the website is a work in progress, and around six to eight videos are added each semester.

“It’s some work, but the students are really helpful, and they’ve been a great asset to the project,” Steinman said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”