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Integrative Medicine Program Launches Culinary Medicine Initiative

Putting evidence-based nutrition education into practice

Nutrition is an important part of the circle of wellness, but patients—as well as providers— often lack practical cooking skills that are key to helping insure that our patients are able to convert the well-intended nutritional recommendations we give them into putting healthy, delicious meals on their dinner tables.  The focus of the initiative is to take learners (patients and clinicians!)  into the kitchen for hands-on cooking classes to bring alive abstract knowledge about nutrition while learning simple culinary techniques and principles to create dishes that:

  • Represent the best of current evidence-based nutritional guidelines
  • Emphasize whole food, plant-based diets with a wide variety of multi-colored vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices.
  • Teach about cooking with sources of healthy proteins, fats and carbohydrates
  • Are lower in sodium while high in flavor
  • Follow food safety and sanitation principles
  • Are easy to prepare, inexpensive - and delicious!

We piloted a Healthy Cooking series (Cocinando Saludable) for some of our Spanish-speaking FHC patients over Summer 2016 at the Discovery Cube Orange County teaching kitchen, and (also in 2016) began presenting a Culinary Medicine elective course for UCI medical students twice each year, in Fall and Spring.  In addition to examining principles of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, learners in both courses 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.

The literature has shown 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 – which we know is one of the cornerstones to  addressing commonly seen diet-related problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.  The 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.

Culinary Medicine is one of several Integrative Medicine projects offered through the UC Irvine Department of Family Medicine and Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine.  These programs are made possible by the Samueli Foundation and other generous supporters, including UCI Campus Recreation and the Health Scholars Program.

Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University developed and tested the Culinary Medicine curriculum which we're implementing with UC Irvine medical students.

ABC7 Eyewitness News

We’re planning additional Culinary Medicine learning opportunities for family medicine residents, medical students, patients and staff.  Stay tuned for more info!