Introducing The first Open-source Culinary Medicine Curriculum
What is Culinary Medicine (and Why is It Important)?
Culinary medicine (CM) is an evidence-based field that brings together nutrition and culinary knowledge and skills to assist patients in maintaining health and preventing and treating food-related disease by choosing high-quality, healthy food in conjunction with appropriate medical care. Diet has been identified as the single most important risk factor for morbidity and mortality in the United States, yet most health care providers spend relatively few hours learning about nutrition during their training.
The nutrition education that is offered is often primarily didactic and focused on the biochemistry of nutrients and health consequences of deficiency states—content that is of limited use in a clinical setting where the majority of the population faces overnutrition due to high intake of ultra-processed, calorie-dense foods. CM fills this educational gap by focusing on practical dietary behavior changes, food knowledge, and cooking skills needed to move toward a healthier diet.
Who is this curriculum designed for?
The curriculum is designed to be used in 4-year medical schools and other health care professional training programs. However, it is easily adaptable for use in residency programs, continuing (medical) education, health and wellness coaching, or master's level programs. For patient, public health, or undergraduate education, simply omit portions of the curriculum aiming to teach health care providers to assist patients in making dietary changes. The curriculum is provided for free with the goal of expanding the reach of Culinary Medicine to everyone. Please adapt to meet your needs; all that is required for use is attribution.
Background on the Culinary Medicine Curriculum
This curriculum based on the foundational work of Michelle Hauser, MD, MS, MPA, FACLM, Chef who created a culinary medicine elective course for medical students at Stanford University School of Medicine in 2017 with assistance from Julia Nordgren, MD, Chef and Stanford colleagues, Maya Adam, MD, Tracy Rydel, MD, Christopher Gardner, PhD, and David Iott, Chef. The course has been extremely well-received. All course students reported improvements in their own diets and their ability to successfully counsel patients on healthy eating, while taking into account culture, time, and resources. At the end of the course, all students understood that a healthy diet can take many forms and should be centered around whole, plant foods. Students who took the course had significant overall improvement in attitudes, knowledge, and behavior around healthy cooking, eating, and confidence in patient counseling (P value <0.0001) compared with wait-listed controls.
The success of the course and many requests for dissemination of the curriculum, prompted Dr. Hauser to partner with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) to expand the reach of this curriculum beyond Stanford’s campus. While Culinary Medicine does not endorse a single dietary philosophy, this version of the curriculum has been designed to focus on whole food, plant-based (WFPB) nutrition. (Expansion packs covering other evidence-based dietary strategies for prevention of chronic diseases will be available via Chef in Medicine in the future.) The curriculum also includes concrete strategies for health care providers wishing to partner with their patients on improving dietary choices, thereby assisting them in transitioning along a spectrum to a more plant-centric diet focused on whole foods.
The original course was taught by dually trained chef-MDs with nutrition expertise. Understanding that this combination of training is rare among health professionals, the curriculum has been adapted to enable a wide variety of health professionals to teach Culinary Medicine in their training programs. The goal is to provide students with lessons about healthy diet, tasty food preparation, and dietary behavior change while teaching them to effectively counsel patients via motivational interviewing to do the same. Because patients come from a variety of backgrounds and food traditions, the curriculum introduces the WFPB diet through the lenses of different world flavors and culinary traditions while keeping in mind resource constraints.