Hope any person reading my first blog is ready to hear about my college students’ experience in good writing and perhaps better eating. Since I almost always taught a couple of non-credit English courses each semester at HACC Lancaster, I understood the challenges that beginning writers experienced and how it was my job to design ways to make that experience meaningful.

After lots of short paragraphs and short essays, it was time to learn to work with a topic that required research. Their next semester English course would require them to journey into the world of scholarly research—a jungle, a nightmare that could take years to master.

So, I always began with a topic which they could research using their own life and the lives of their family and friends. Less threatening and more fun—hopefully;  I called it Your Diet and Your Sodium and Fat Daily Intake. What? Dumb? What’s that? Sounds boring?

I respond, “Maybe, we’ll see!”

I begin by explaining that the experts on the matter of sodium agree that the recommended daily allowance is 2300 mg. Someone has a snack on her/his desk. Someone has a drink. Someone has a large soft pretzel.  And, we are off. The potato chips have 450 mg. in the small snack pack—ooh. The drink contains 40 mg. of sodium, okay. However, that delicious looking pretzel has 1658 mg.—oh, my gosh! “That’s half of what is allowed a day! That’s crazy,” one student  exclaims.

“Maybe, we’ll see!”

Now, the other part of our research concerns fat intake. The daily allowance is 60 g. of fat. However, the great expects regarding the care of the heart say that 30 g. of fat would be best.

“Now, each of you will make a chart for three days of your sodium and fat intake. Neatness counts!”

For the next three days, the class and I hear of amazing feats of sodium and fat consumed by various members of the class. One fellow demands that his mother break down a serving of her great homemade chili; the cafeteria knows what time of the semester it is because students browbeat the servers with demands of the sodium and the fat counts for the chicken dish and the pizza and the mash potatoes on the daily menu!

On day four we hold a discussion about our findings. They discover that processed and fast food items are the worse choices to be made. Subway’s footlong meatball sandwich has 1900mg of sodium; Chick-Fil-A contains 1030mg; Domino’s 6 inch deep dish pizza contains 1341mg. of sodium; and Arby’s beef and cheddar cheese sandwich has 1290mg of sodium.

On to the fat, we discover that 2 tablespoons of peanut butter have17g. of fat; 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise has 11g; and a Big Mac has 29g. of fat and 1040mg of sodium.

“This is nuts,” says a student. Many agree. We talk about all the health issues that may come from these products if eaten on a daily basis: heart disease, high blood pressure, issues associated with obesity, kidney issues, and diabetes.

Then, it is time to write their essays on the health risks of such a diet. The conclusion is that becoming an informed eater is important. They say that you need to look at the nutrition labels of everything you eat. Choose the items with less sodium and fat, More and more companies are making products with less sodium content.

Amazingly, while students often forget essay topics over time, years later, I will meet a student who talks about this essay. A win-win all around. We learned something about research. and we learned how to be just a bit more conscious of caring for our bodies.

Next time we will talk about the joys of discovering flavors when we reduce our sodium intake.

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