Students in Elaine Lucas’ Nutrition class at Spoon River College recently had the opportunity to take part in a unique taste-testing experience.

“Sometimes teaching nutrition can be a little dry, so I am always trying to come up with ways to make it a little more engaging and fun. Being able to apply what we have learned in class to actual food and real-life circumstances is a perfect way of doing that,” Lucas said.

The class had just watched a documentary and was wrapping up a review about vitamins and minerals, and Lucas was looking for a way to “bring to life” some of the concepts discussed in the documentary, such as supplementation and consumption of nutrients under restricted circumstances.

“We talked about how nutrition is managed under extreme circumstances like those going into space for long periods of time, those in the military with restricted access, and in cases that we wouldn’t have access to our standard food supply in a time of crisis.”

Lucas brought examples of food that had a long shelf life and would be beneficial: dry mixes for pancakes, oatmeal, and rice, MREs (Meal Ready-To-Eat), cod liver oil, freeze-dried ice cream, freeze-dried fruit, a dry powder to add to water for hydration and balancing of electrolytes, and chicken nugget space food. Students had the choice of what they wanted to try, and most tried at least one of the items. Lucas said she purchased all of the items from Amazon, except the freeze-dried fruit (100% fruit and no added sugar), which came from the Dollar Store.

It was no surprise the cod liver oil was the least favorite, despite the lemon flavor, but it was a surprise that the chicken nugget space food—that came in a squeezable tube—wasn’t horrible. Students found the texture of it to be more of an issue than the taste. Another surprise was the short ingredient list of the space food: chicken fillet, breading, egg mélange, oil, salt, powdered black pepper, and water.

“I hope these moments stick with my students and help them retain the information,” Lucas said. “My ultimate goal in all my health classes is for my students to be able to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real life and maintaining their own health.”

Students tasting different foods in Nutrition class taught by Elaine Lucas