The Charger Blog

Charger Blogger Interviews Nutrition Professor Maggie Lyon ’18

Beatrice Glaviano ’26, a nutrition sciences major, sat down with Maggie Lyon ’18, RD-CDN, her culinary nutrition professor. A University alum who is passionate about nutrition and forensic science, Prof. Lyon decided she’d rather work 'with cakes than cadavers.'

March 6, 2024

By Beatrice Glaviano ’26

Professor Maggie Lyon, RD-CDN.
Professor Maggie Lyon, RD-CDN.

Recently, I had the great pleasure and privilege of interviewing culinary nutrition instructor Professor Maggie Lyon ’18, RD-CDN. Professor Lyon earned her B.S. in nutrition here at the University of New Haven, and she has several other accreditations from The Culinary Institute of Arts, The Culinary Institute of America, and she has a solid dietetic internship under her belt from the University of St. Joseph.

As one of her current students, I have nothing but the highest, most swaggiest praise for Professor Lyon. She is tactful, empathetic, generous, and somehow always knows how to strike the balance between seriousness and fun. There is also a certain level of zest, zing, and pure grounding Professor Lyon radiates that makes her classroom such a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds. Over the past month and a half, I have found that her guidance and teachings brought forth through culinary nutrition have been a key in my own health recovery and serve as a fertile soil for new ideas, creativity, and emotions to take root.

Outside of the University, Professor Lyon is an avid gardener, taking pride in knowing all about native plant species and habitat restoration. She also partakes in growing her own food, flowers, and plants in her garden as she finds it incredibly rewarding. In her words, “Come summer, I have a full-blown cut flower garden and love, LOVE to pick bouquets for people. It’s pure joy.” Aside from her love for all things plants, Professor Lyon enjoys sewing and quilting for friends.

“I love to make practical things and have a mind well-suited for design.” says Lyon. “I can look at something and reverse engineer it, which is a trait I really enjoy about myself.”

Needless to say, Lyon is certainly a mitochondria of a person and personality: a powerhouse.

Question #1:

Author, wearing an oversized flannel and taking a bite out of a fresh croissant: “So, what originally led you into the culinary arts and why?”

Professor Lyon smirks a little bit. “Honestly, I didn’t want to take chemistry or any advanced chemistry.”

This earned a laugh from me (I had a similar opinion on things), and she continued. Professor Lyon explained that she was drawn to both the forensic science and nutritional sciences programs offered at the University of New Haven, and she is a big fan of Dr. Henry C. Lee and his work. In the past, she’d also been in a similar debate in high school, trying to decide if she wanted to pursue cooking or forensics.

However, what it really boiled down to (no pun intended) was the fact that Prof. Lyon said she preferred to work “with cakes than cadavers” – something else I found uniquely amusing. While she still remains a fan of forensics now and keeps in touch with those within the Forensic Science Department, she has found solace in One Care Lane with a gaggle of culinary students and plenty of new kitchen equipment ready for a test drive.

Question #2:

“What do you find fulfilling about teaching a class-slash-lab about food-slash-food science?”

Professor Lyon takes a bite out of her own pastry, which flakes off onto her plate: “With the right tools and right environment, anything is possible.”

Professor Maggie Lyon, RD-CDN is passionate about gardening.
Professor Maggie Lyon, RD-CDN is passionate about gardening.

This particularly struck a nerve with me for some reason. It wasn’t a sentence of overly sophisticated grandeur or illustrious poetic meaning, but it was simple and true. When making a pastry – layers of dough and butter and time – one needs to be especially careful to prevent the fat from melting. The purpose of keeping the butter cool during pastry-making is to stop it from reacting with the proteins in the flour that will produce gluten. Should that happen, you’d end up with a croissant with more chew than a dog bone. How you prevent the butter from softening is typically done through cooling all ingredients and equipment thoroughly, or even baking in a room with a cooler temperature. Some people get really crazy over that crispy, flaky crunch of their baked goods and will go to said (temperature) extremes to achieve that. With the proper tools (bowls, ingredients, whisks, knowledge) and environment that Prof. Lyon mentioned, puff pastry is possible for anyone.

On that note, there is also this sort of fear of the culinary arts. Perhaps not fear, but apprehension – being unsure that one may be good at cooking or baking, and in order to avoid failure as a whole, one simply does not invest any time or energy into that initial curiosity. In class, Prof. Lyon enjoys seeing “these lightbulb moments with the students” as it shows that they are entertaining that curiosity and bringing their passion into the class.

This may just be me, but being in a kitchen reminds me of what it’s like to be a kid again. Spill some flour? No problem, we have a wet paper towel. Oh, burned something a little bit? Let's just scrape that part off, no big deal. In any kitchen, messes and mistakes will happen, but with that also comes the great privilege of learning. Yes, you dropped an egg, but now you know that they tend to roll on their own sometimes. Let yourself laugh at yourself, and accept that learning, changing, adapting are all innate to each of us. Without these, we would never have amounted to the society (which is, frankly, debatable in terms of morals, ethics, and law, haha) that we are now or will be.

There is a reason why the culinary arts are an “art” – it’s not only food and a set of good knives. The culinary arts are comprised of what makes home, home. It’s how you hear your dad’s voice tell you the right way to whisk an egg, or how your mom always threw extra salt on everything. It’s sight, sound, taste, touch, texture, feeling steam waft up into your face – and maybe fogging a pair of glasses if you wear them the same way. It involves culture, family backgrounds, memories, and personal preferences. By allowing creative freedom in the kitchen – or any creative space – you invoke one’s unique creativity, curiosity, and inner child to express themselves in a non-judgmental environment.

Needless to say: “Making cool stuff is fun.”

Question #3:

Author, realizing she might’ve wanted to record this conversation instead of jotting down quotes: “What is your definition of health and wellness?”

This question was one I’d wanted to ask in particular as that day, we had presented our definitions of that topic and what it meant to us. With that, I was curious about what our instructor had to say about her own experience and interpretation of the terms.

“There’s been an evolution of my idea of health,” Prof. Lyon told me. Our food was a bit cold by now, as our appetites had shifted to the conversation at hand.

In Prof. Lyon’s life, there had been plenty of external ideals of what health was. In her family, diet culture and classic misinformation ran rampant, feeding an environment that would breed mistrust and negative emotions toward one’s body. So often do we equate our health with our physical appearance – the rolls of our stomach or the acne that kisses along our cheeks, perhaps our height or how cellulite speckles thighs or around knees – and allow that to define us instead of the multitude of internal ideals that constitute health?

In Prof. Lyon, there was this “switch of outwardly appearing thin, quote-unquote ‘ideal’ weight” to broadening her sphere of what health meant to her. Living under the umbrella of diet culture and its vast array of diets, gym routines, and lifestyle changes made a life Prof. Lyon didn’t quite want to engage in. When she realized that there was more to health than a body, she realized that it “was very painful to live like that.” Diets are all about taking something away from the body, whether it be calories or a macronutrient, or just your life.

I don’t mean life as in diets will kill you – though eating disorders like anorexia might if not nipped early enough. I mean the late-night Dairy Queen runs with friends, when your boyfriend or significant other surprises you with a brownie hoping you’ll love it, or when your mom drops off a box of homemade food that you’re not sure you could finish even with friends. Diets suck the life out of you by denying you the chances to enjoy it. Frankly, when people express a want to lose weight to better their overall health, I simply advise them to:

  1. Consult a Doctor
    • I’m increasingly guilty of this.
      • Author, making a bad health decision: “Yeah this is fine. Totally not a bad idea.”
      • My best friend, squinting: “This isn’t a good idea.”
      • Me: “I’m a doctor.”
      • Best friend: “You’re a Sicilian nerd with a caffeine problem and crippling self-doubt. That’s a horrible M.D. to settle on.”
      • Me, continuing to do whatever nonsense I’m up to: “Still a degree! :D”
      • Best friend: *facepalms*
    • Yeah, no. Please consult your PCP (primary care provider, not the drug) and preferably, an RDN. Please.
  2. Nothing else. I am not a doctor and have no say in other’s health, and it’s certainly not my place to say anything about anyone’s weight because, y’know: I have enough common sense to know better than that. I’m also not a jerk, lol.

Moving forward, what I found especially beautiful about this conversation was Maggie saying, “my definition of health is so big yet so small: Feeling that I’m okay and accepting neutrality and being able to walk through life with a lighter foot.”

That really stuck with me. Really. All my life I feel as though I’ve been dragging all these negative emotions – fear, shame, guilt, self-judgment – that I associated around food because of how others made me feel about my body. The gentleness of how Prof. Lyon said to proceed through life with a lightness in stride with neutrality around food, around one’s body and doing things for their internal health instead of trying to change their external self, really spoke volumes to me, and it’s something that I hope everyone can carry within them as well. Being able to release all these pent-up emotions that surrounded me from such a young age is a long, painful, yet freeing practice – and a way of healing oneself from the inside out.

Remember that you are loved for you.

Flash those ankles.

Question #4:

“What’s your favorite dish to make? Or the first thing you reach for in your pantry.”

Professor Lyon was delighted to answer this. Apparently, she is a soup fanatic. A few of her favorites include classics such as kale and white bean, butternut squash, clam chowder paired with either saltines or oyster crackers, and minestrone of which she enjoys pairing with a thick slice of buttered sourdough.

As for the pantry, Prof. Lyon loves the lightly covered chocolate almonds from Trader Joe’s. Essentially, according to her, they’re a “perfect ratio of chocolate to nut” which she’s a nut herself about.

To add my own to this article, my favorite dish to make currently would have to be a simple omelet with spinach, mushrooms, and red pepper with soy-based cheddar cheese paired with either whole wheat bread, sweet potato hash, or some fruit. (Ketchup is added to the eggs, by the way, and I have no regrets in doing so.) Typically, my pantry raids consist of:

  • Dark chocolate (73%-85%)
  • Trader Joe’s sour cream & onion lentil rings (addictive substance – they will have you hooked in seconds)
  • Handful of raisins or something
Question #5:

“ have a history of going to a culinary school as well as being a private chef. What was the first disaster dish of your career?”

Prof. Lyon laughed to herself. “I was on my externship, and it was one of my last days, and for a bunch of cranberry orange Bundt cakes, I added only ten eggs instead of ten pounds of eggs.”

For my own self, I made a batch of pancakes with a tablespoon of baking soda instead of a teaspoon. Clearly, reading is not always a strong suit.

Question #6:

“What’s your favorite flavor combination?”

“I remember when I was working at Community Table, we did a curry cauliflower soup, and, if I’m not mistaken, the garnish was a spiced white chocolate, which sounds nuts, but was actually fantastic.”

                        Professor Maggie Lyon, RD-CDN loves flowers.
Professor Maggie Lyon, RD-CDN loves flowers.

As a hater of white chocolate and all things excessively sweet, I may have to try this one day to see what was up.

Question #7:

“For our final question of today, what is your favorite thing about yourself? This can be physical, any hobbies you have...”

“I dig my hair. I like that I’m interested in things.” Prof. Lyon tilted her head to the side, thinking. “I get this from my dad. He’d literally talk to a water heater with a wig on. He can talk to anyone.”

I laughed at this and delighted in the rest of the conversation.

“I find people interesting,” Prof. Lyon added. “I love podcasts, and it’s a problem.”

Needless to say, from all of this, Prof. Lyon certainly does have very good hair (Anne with an “E” type of vibe) and quite frankly is one of the most welcoming, least judgmental, and truly fertile environments for creativity to grow in. During this interview, I asked if she’d ever modeled before, and I was surprised to learn that she hadn’t considered it.

Announcement & Some Thoughts

As this article begins to come to a close, I am pleased to announce that I have taken a position in the Nutrition Department as a student social media and marketing manager of sorts. I am very thankful to be given this opportunity to shed some light on the ultimate swaggery of the Nutrition Department at the University of New Haven, and I cannot wait to really show what plans we have in store. On that note, if you see me anywhere on Instagram or more on the Charger Nation News, that would probably be why. Who knows, though? Maybe a dragon needs to be slain at One Care Lane or Maxcy’s ghosts need some busting.

At this rate, God knows what’ll happen, haha.

Anyhow, guys, I really hope that you liked this one. This is one of many article-interviews that I’m hoping to write this semester, and I’d be more than thrilled if faculty reached out requesting one. I love getting to know people, their story, and what really brought them into the life they live now, and what is bringing them into where they want to be.

I feel like we’ve always been a little afraid of our teachers, no matter what generation we come from. Some of us are afraid to ask questions, or afraid to get something wrong as we don’t want to get a remark in return. Yet, the older I’ve gotten, the more I have come to respect and know my professors who have dedicated their lives to passion, knowledge, and the passing of those things down to others as that’s one of the duties we have as a human race.

Something that annoyed me this week was someone saying in a rather rude tone: “But why do we need to learn about cells. They’re not important for our major. Like. What’s the point.”

Well, to you Mr. Sir slightly-getting-on-my-nerves, without cells you wouldn’t exist. You know what sickle cell anemia is? Yeah, that kills people. The melanin that protects you? Yeah, that’s in your skin that’s made up of cells. Cell mutations that lead to cancer? Yeah buddy, that ALSO kills people. Your bones and how they’re built, repaired, maintained, and structured? Cells. So yeah, those little “what’s the point” cells are the things keeping you alive and working their little-mitochondria butts off to make sure you stay living. Imagine if all your cells malfunctioned and didn’t have their checkpoint systems that they do to prevent genetic mutations. You probably wouldn’t be alive for very long, now would you? White blood cells. Red blood cells. Bone cells. Muscle cells. Nerve cells. The cells that make up your eyelashes, your toenails, the beauty marks of your skin. Cells that allow you to feel, touch, sense, transmit information with electrical impulses, and make sure your heart keeps beating.


The cells of the human body are the second thing in the organization of all living beings. Without them, tissues and consequently, organs cannot happen. If something goes wrong, a chain reaction of unfathomable bad occurs and you can’t do anything because welp, that’s genetics for you and the modern world. You cannot happen without cells.

I’m sorry if you got a bad grade on your test (I’m not that sorry, to be honest; this isn’t my test we’re talking about and clearly you have little to no appreciation of how cool biology is), but welcome to college: you will learn things you may not think are important, but are important, as preserving knowledge and having a well-rounded education is a privilege.

Okay. Rant done. ‘Nuff said. Agh. Just people, guys. Oh my god: people. Aghghghghg.

Essentially: education is important.

On that note, I hope that everyone has been learning this year, school or not-school related. There is more to life, certainly, than chemical reactions in a lab or that test you failed. It’s the chemical reactions that enable you to love, to cry, to be happy and the tests people give to you in order for you to grow. I am slowly finding what it means to be healthy, happy, and a human being through my courses and I hope all of you have a similar insight into that. Never be afraid to question, be curious, and most importantly:

Be creative. Get funky with it, and if it doesn’t work, get funkier.
I love you all so much, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this article as much as I had writing it.

All my love, peanut butter, and peace,

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 is a nutrition sciences major at the University of New Haven.