Some medical schools now offer classes in culinary medicine. In the realm of recent Western modern medicine, that could easily be assumed to be instruction on suturing knife wounds and avoiding cross contamination. Actually, the news is more exciting than that! Tulane University School of Medicine created the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine and introduced a 60-credit curriculum for medical students. The program has now partnered with over 50 medical and nursing schools.
Many people seek nutritional advice from their physician. It seems logical because that same physician often advises a healthy diet and exercise to prevent or improve disease progression. Often the doctor then refers the patient to a nutrition counselor with no additional discussion. That referral is often where the cycle ends.
While the physician may be aware of current dietary recommendations for the amount of protein, fat, or sugar consumption, he/she may not know much about the art of cooking. The doctor won’t necessarily know what flavors and textures play well together when adding vegetables to traditional dishes to make them nutritionally rich. Even a nutritionist may not be skilled in the practical kitchen application of preparing healthy meals within a realistic time frame and budget.
Thanks in part to the wandering career of Tulane’s Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS, who leads the team at Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, that’s beginning to change. A large shift in the practice of medicine will take time, but I find this beginning of change thrilling!
Before he became a physician, Dr. Harlan discovered his love of food. He learned cooking techniques from chefs during the time he managed and owned restaurants. While training at Emory University School of Medicine, he began writing about the link between food and health. He now serves as Executive Director of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine.
The Goldring Center has developed a 60-credit curriculum that includes online nutrition training and live conferences as well as attendance at hands-on teaching kitchen modules. Completion of the course can result in earning the designation of Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist (CCMS). Physicians, Physicians Assistants, Pharmacists, Registered Dietitians and Nurse Practitioners are eligible for certification.
When you visit a practitioner with the CCMS certification, you will have the advantage of that clinician’s knowledge of how to incorporate healthy eating into your diet. Not only can they provide nutrition information, they have been trained in culinary techniques to prepare food that is consistent with real-world budgets and time constraints. That’s the sort of detailed support that can make you feel like you can succeed without being overwhelmed.
What I like about this approach is the practical aspect. If a practitioner actually has hands-on experience, it is much easier to offer real solutions that will resonate. The minute a patient realizes a doctor has no idea about cooking or feeding a family of 5 on a budget, they are likely to tune her out or adopt an attitude that he has no business telling them what to eat. After all, that practitioner clearly doesn’t understand the patient’s circumstances.
The Goldring Center also offers free cooking/nutrition classes for the community supported in part by a Celebrity Chef Dinner Series in which renowned regional chefs prepare a multi-course meal with wine pairings at the center. Not only does this bring additional connection with the community, it keeps reminds us that healthy food can also be delicious food. This is a mantra that bears repeating, especially when it comes to gluten-free food.
Good nutrition is the basis for mental and motor development in children and good health in adults. At long last, modern medicine is incorporating food preparation into the practice of medicine. This is a welcome shift.