Food is fuel, but did you know that food is also medicine? Diet can impact a variety of health issues. Nationally, food as medicine is catching on. Georgia State University’s Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions has offered an elective class in culinary medicine since Fall 2020 to all undergraduate students.
Developed by Jessica Todd, nutrition faculty, the culinary medicine course is based on one-time Georgia State student physician Timothy Harlan’s national curriculum.
Students listen to lectures and discuss what they’ve learned before going into the lab to apply skills -- cooking a recipe, serving correct sized portions and breaking down the nutrition elements into calories, fiber, fat and more. Students even get to eat their final exams. They pick an unhealthy recipe and modify it to improve the overall nutrition and write a recipe card with the changed ingredients.
“For example, students might cook a lasagna recipe using higher fiber noodles, reduce the amounts of cheese and meat and increase the vegetables without compromising flavor,” said Prof. Todd.
The course is so popular with Georgia State students that two elective sections fill quickly. A third section is open for nutrition majors, who must take the course. A fourth section is designed for graduate nutrition students who need to learn clinical skills using dietary choices for disease management.
Three of Todd’s graduate nutrition students are developing a cultural diversity module for the course. They use a clinician’s perspective when working with clients of many cultures including Asian, Hispanic or African and account for how cultures affect food choices and how to respect the clients’ cultures.
“It’s really important for dietitians to understand the correlation between food and health, to know how to cook and prepare food to fit clients’ needs and to understand foods specific to their cultural backgrounds,” said Prof. Todd.