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Culinary Medicine Initiative Offers Students and Patients a Delicious Approach to Treating Chronic Disease

Putting evidence-based nutrition education into practice

Gleaming countertops, colorful vegetables, fruits and herbs caught the eye at the opening of the Lois Eisenberg Teaching Kitchen at UCI Family Health Center in Santa Ana, designed for group cooking classes and nutrition education programs for patients and the surrounding community. 

Family Health Center Teaching Kitchen

Patients at our Federally Qualified Health Center who are managing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease have long told providers they understand how they should eat, but need to learn cooking skills and practical, accessible recipes to make healthy meals a habit.  The community teaching kitchen provides a space for patients, families, staff and providers to bring nutritional concepts alive and onto the dinner table.  Chef-taught cooking tips and skills make food preparation easier and healthier, in tandem with physician- and student-led nutrition education at the new Clases de Cocina Saludable/Healthy Cooking Classes.

Our Teaching Kitchen Committee of physician faculty, chef instructors, residents, students, staff and community members customized the patients' curriculum after examining several existing models, including the Health meets Food curriculum which is the backbone of the Culinary Medicine Elective for UCI Medical Students offered twice yearly since launch in 2016.

In addition to studying principles of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, learners in both courses (medical students and patients) get hands-on cooking instruction from a chef and/or culinarian with a focus on making healthy and delicious culturally appropriate dishes, using efficient food preparation techniques, and helping patients make practical changes to eating and shopping habits.

Culinary Medicine Elective for UCI Medical Students

Research indicates that giving physicians more knowledge and training in practical nutrition, including healthy cooking skills, improves their effectiveness in supporting healthy nutritional choices of their patients.  Under the direction of clinical faculty, nutritionist and a chef, medical students acquire nutritional knowledge and culinary skills needed to  address chronic disease conditions using whole-foods, plant-based diets.  During patient case discussions, students also learn practical communication skills and mindful eating principles that support healthy behavior change.

Lori Corbin of ABC7 Eyewitness News visited a Culinary Medicine Elective class--see video below

Learn more about the Culinary Medicine Elective Course for UCI medical students.

The Culinary Medicine Initiative is one part of our Integrative Medicine Program’s overarching plan to change the focus of healthcare and medical education for our residents, medical students and faculty to include a multidisciplinary, patient-centered approach that emphasizes wellness, prevention and self-care skills.

Clases de Cocina Saludable/Healthy Cooking Classes add to the variety of innovative alternative treatments for underserved patients offered at UCI Family Health Centers through the UC Irvine Department of Family Medicine and Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute.  These programs are made possible by the Samueli Foundation and other generous supporters, including UCI Campus Recreation and the Health Scholars Program.