NFS 295: Mediterranean Food and Culture: Implications for Health
Spring 2015
(1) Amy Nickerson, MS, RD
232 Marsh Life Science; 802.656.0670
[email protected]
(2) Rona Martiyan, MS, RD
2805 Eagles Mere Court, Ellicott City, MD 21042; 443.226.5677
[email protected]
Course Description
The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern associated with overall health and well-being,
and is also associated with a reduced risk for most common chronic conditions and disease.
This course will explore the Mediterranean food and culture and its implications for health,
through interpretation of the scientific literature, participation in on-line and in-class
discussions, written reflections, and group assignments. In order to experience the
Mediterranean culture 1st hand, students will travel to Corciano, Italy (just west of Perugia,
an ancient hilltop town) during Spring break for an 8-day immersion. As guests at the Villa
Pieve International School, students will work side-by-side with an Italian chef in the
kitchen each night preparing meals from simple ingredients, develop an appreciation for
the Italian traditions surrounding meal time, learn the basics of food-related Italian
language, and visit local producers including a family owned fattoria (farm) where craft
Pecorino cheese, olive oil and wine are produced. In addition, the students will visit a local
kindergarden (school) where meals are produced on-site in the Italian tradition. The trip
will end with a two-night stay in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, birthplace of the Italian
Renaissance and known for its cultural, artistic and architectural beauty.
 3rd year (junior) or higher standing; graduate students welcome
 Courses:
o NFS 43: Fundamentals of Nutrition
Note #1: The course is designed for NFS majors/minors; dietetic undergraduate students;
MSD, NFS and Food Systems graduate students. Students from other disciplines are
welcome to register for the course.
Note #2: Students must possess a passion for food and familiarity with basic food
preparation techniques.
Note #3: Prior to enrollment, all students must complete an interview with the lead faculty
for approval.
Course Goal
Translate scientific principles of the Mediterranean diet and culture, and explore
application to food and lifestyle patterns in the US
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 Interpret the scientific principles of the Mediterranean diet
 Compare the differences between the US and Mediterranean food systems (using
Italy as the proxy for Mediterranean diet)
 Explain the connection between the Mediterranean food culture and overall health
and well-being through the lens of the socio-ecological model
 Describe the influence of demographic changes on adherence to traditional
Mediterranean eating patterns
 Prepare simple, healthy meals using local fresh ingredients
 Identify the regionality of foods typically eaten throughout Italy
 Develop a model that applies the Mediterranean diet and food culture principles to
the US food pattern
Class Sessions (dates to be determined)
#1. (2 hours: live) Introduction to the course; review of goal & objectives; overview of
travel component, course expectations including format of journaling during Italy travel,
written reflections and responses. In-class free writing assignment and discussion on a
topic related to perceptions of US dietary patterns, Italian food culture/Mediterranean diet
and prevalence/burden of chronic disease.
#2. (on-line) Based on assigned readings, respond to a BB prompt related to US vs
Italian/Mediterranean food systems.
#3. (on-line) Based on assigned readings, respond to a BB prompt related to changing
demographics and the potential impact on the Mediterranean food pattern and culture.
#4. (2 hours: live) Pre-trip information session. Review of travel details, behavior
expectations, emergency information, telephone numbers, etc.
Italy immersion
Class activities:
 Daily journaling, reflection & discussion (related to field trips, guest lectures,
cooking experience, etc.)
 Cooking lessons
 Italian language lessons (the basics)
 Guest lectures (faculty from the greater Perugia area)
 Field trips
Class expectations:
 Professional behavior
 Appropriate attire
Note #4. Because we will be guests in the “home” of the Vasta family (owners/directors of
the Villa Pieve International School) we will honor the tradition of serving a small amount
of wine at meals. Students are expected to refrain from drinking an excessive amount of
wine at any meal. Violation of this standard will result in immediate dismissal from the
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course and the student will receive an (F) grade. Once dismissed, students are no longer
under the auspices of the University of Vermont; all costs incurred returning to the US prior
to the originally planned departure date are the responsibility of the student.
#5. (2 hours: live) Group presentations. Topic and format to be determined.
On-line class participation (10%)
In-class participation (10%)
Quiz grades (3-4 quizzes prior to Italy travel) (10%)
Italy “class” participation, including journal tracking and discussions (35%)
Term project (group presentation) (25% of grade)
Instructor discretion (10%)
Other Expectations
1) All students will make daily entries in a reflective journal before, during and after
traveling in Italy. The first entry will be completed prior to departure for Italy; the
final entry following departure from Italy. The journals will be reviewed three
times: Tuesday (in Italy), 2nd Friday (in Italy), and one week following return to
To be assigned during the first class meeting.
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Assignments/Grading - University of Vermont