Medical students at the University of California, Irvine are learning about nutrition and simple culinary techniques (I learned how to hold a knife and chop), as well as venturing into the kitchen for hands-on cooking classes!  I was invited to attend a session at the beautifully equipped on-campus kitchen facilities on a Friday afternoon to observe the class of 9 first-year med students (7 men and 2 women, although I expected there to be more females … my bias) as their instructor and chef discussed diet and inflammation.  This is an elective course and I hear it fills up within minutes of it posted for registration.  It is called Culinary Medicine, managed by Dr. David Kilgore, clinical professor of family medicine and Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs in the Dept. of Family Medicine, Director of Integrative Medicine Residency Track and Director of Education for the Samueli Institute.  The curriculum is developed and tested at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University. 

I’m just so impressed and encouraged that the next generation of medical professionals will have a better knowledge of nutrition and understanding of the interplay between food and health.

The focus of this program 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!

This was Class 5 for this year’s UCI students, so I don’t know what they learned in the previous classes … but the students were focused and enthusiastic, as they were divided into 3 teams, each team preparing variations of Buddha Bowls.  The goals of this session was:

  • Understanding the connection between diet and inflammation
  • Identifying pro-inflammatory foods/ingredients
  • Including anti-oxidant rich foods

Team 1 (Red Team) was preparing a Korean Asian Curry Chicken Bowl with Spinach. Team 2 (Green Team) worked on a Morrocan Crispy Mediterranean Chickpea Bowl with Farro and Yogurt. And Team 3 (Blue Team) prepared a South American Hispanic Bowl with beans and guacamole.  All three teams also prepared versions of hummus and various grain or fruit crumbles for dessert. 

While they busily worked together and independently to create their meals, I had a chance to chat with Sherry Schulman, MBA, RDN, from the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute on the campus about this program.  She teaches “Food IS Medicine,” and we should all “Eat the Colors of the Rainbow.” 

Chef Jess (Jessica VanRos) introduced all the menus and ingredients and monitored the “new” chefs as they prepared their healthy dinners.  And I can tell you that the kitchen smelled delicious, with such a blend of smells and colors and flavors. (Recipes attached below)

I chatted with most of the students as they chopped and mixed and reviewed the recipes.  My number one question:  Why are you taking this class?  The overriding answer: To learn how to cook healthy meals for themselves!  How smart!  So our new generation of doctors will be eating healthy and be able to help their patients make healthier choices. 

If you have read down this far and you are local to Orange County, CA, please let me know if you are interested in a special program for us Savvy T1s.

For more information: Integrative Medicine Program Launches Culinary Medicine  Initiative

And here are some of the class handouts about antioxidants, anti-inflammatory pyramid and more:

And the recipes:


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