I recently got to go to a cooking class to shoot photos for Texas Christian University's nutrition program. One of my very best friends, Jenn, asked me to take pictures and also get a glimpse into what the program does. Here's what she had to say as well as a few photos from the class:
As a future dietitian, I worry about job security. I have student loans to pay off. As a future dietitian, somebody may question why I get so much joy from teaching first-year medical students basic nutrition concepts and how to apply these lessons to cooking. “You’re the nutrition expert, why give that knowledge away?”
Because it is my job.
Medical students have limited nutrition education. Dietitians and nutritionists (those with a 4 year degree in nutrition from an accredited school) are the nutrition experts. Being in any position to share this knowledge with others is the best way to change the way people eat. That’s what attracted me to the Culinary Medicine program.
This program was originally started at Tulane, at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine. Last year, a partnership was created to bring the same program to Fort Worth. Texas Christian University dietetics students would be teaching UNT Health Science Center TCOM students about nutrition using a curriculum designed by Tulane. The twist – Tulane doesn’t use dietitians to help teach the program.
Ten TCU students and two professors learned the curriculum, tweaked it, and provided feedback to Tulane. We also recruited over 87 first year medical students (only 18 slots were available for the class) to be the guinea pigs at the first semester of classes at Moncrief Cancer Institute. Four modules were taught over several weeks, with topics ranging from the Mediterranean diet to renal disease. My job as a student was to guide a small group of students through the nutrition concepts and then show them how those concepts translated into cooking. Why teach med students to cook? Because cooking tips are the easiest way to impart practical nutrition knowledge to patients. A doctor has 15 minutes with their patient - hardly enough time to do a full nutrition education. But it is enough time to give them tips to incorporate as soon as they get home at the end of the day and have to prepare a meal for the family. Do you have hypertension but don’t want to omit the flavor that comes from salt? Build flavor using acidic flavors, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spices. High cholesterol? Modify your spaghetti sauce by increasing the vegetables and adding lentils, and lowering the meat content!
An added benefit – these future doctors now know what a dietitian does, and they know that a dietitian is the nutrition expert. Hopefully they will be willing to refer to a dietitian when they diagnose a patient with diabetes, rather than saying, “avoid carbs, they spike your sugars.”