New semester: Ideas and links for dietary analysis project

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Do you include a dietary analysis project in your nutrition course?   Faculty surveys indicate that most instructors assign early in the semester.  If you are a Nutrition for a Changing World 2e user, I hope you’ve checked out AnalyzeMyDiet in the robust Achieve learning platform for the course that provides a comprehensive set of interconnected teaching and assessment tools.   I love that the assignments in AnalyzeMyDiet are now integrated in a pre-built course to align with topics and relevant chapters.   Assigning the entire project before covering topics can make context and appropriate answers challenging!  

AnalyzeMyDiet provides both a diet tracker and personalized, auto-graded diet analysis activities, freeing instructors from hand-grading diet analysis projects.  It has a database of over 50,000 USDA and brand-name foods!  AnalyzeMyDiet generates comprehensive reports including an all-in-one “Combination Report” with personalized feedback and data in one file for easy reference when addressing questions that help students understand and apply fundamental nutrition concepts.   Check out the sample report attachment!   

Here are a few thoughts about assigning a dietary analysis project:

  • Consider having students document intake before entering into the analysis program.  Even though students can directly enter their food intake, this was often done from recall - which we all know is tough to do especially if recalling three days of intake!  I would ask students to document their intake over a three-day period (two weekdays, one weekend day) either by hand on a form (sample attached) or to download form as pdf or in Word.   This was the first step in the project from which they would then enter their food and beverages into AnalyzeMyDiet tracker.   Students would upload their records as attachments or photos of handwritten logs into the LMS for the assignment.  The records counted as part of total project points.  Students were instructed to record portions as accurately as possible, dissuading against using “1 serving” or “1 bowl” and such – as can vary significantly!   Would provide visual ways to estimate portions – i.e., a baseball or tennis ball about one cup, a ping pong or golf ball about 2 tablespoons, a deck of cards about 3 ounces of meat, chicken, etc. (examples included at bottom of attached food log).
  • Encourage students to choose “maintain” their weight when setting up their profile and to use the project to evaluate nutritional adequacy not for weight management!   If students opt to say, “lose weight” and even put in 1 or 2 pounds the calorie target will be lower and skew how they compare their actual intake.   And add to the weight focus of many college age young adults!   Many of the free and popular tracking apps have a weight loss focus. 
  • Speaking of weight focus – be careful with this project in view of the higher incidence and risk of disordered eating in this population!   I stress and put in red type “Note:   closely monitoring personal food intake may not be appropriate for some students; please contact Professor Pope to discuss confidential, alternative arrangements for this project.”   The student and I come up with a viable alternative whether it be analyzing someone else’s intake, using sample days, or even a research project that doesn’t involve any dietary analysis that aligns with their interests.   I usually have about several students reach out each semester!

You can learn about all that AnalyzeMyDiet can do by scheduling a one-on-one demonstration here!  Scroll down to Achieve Demo for Nutrition.  

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About the Author
Jamie Pope, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Assistant Professor of Practice in Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, has worked in the areas of obesity research, health promotion, heart disease prevention, and since 2000 teaching introductory nutrition. Beyond the classroom, she adapted portions of her nutrition courses to produce a Massive Open Online Course attracting more than 175,000 participants from around the world. This experience earned Jamie an Innovation in Teaching award from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is the co-author of the textbook entitled Nutrition for a Changing World. Now in its second edition, the text is in use in over 140 universities across the U.S. and the recipient of a 2020 Textbook Excellence Award. Most recently she developed and produced an audio course for (Nutrition 101: Understanding the Science and Practice of Eating Well) that is also featured on platforms like Apple Books and Audible. Jamie holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and post graduate work in Health Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has authored or contributed to numerous scientific and popular press publications. Jamie also held several corporate positions, serving as nutrition consultant and media representative.