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What Exactly is Culinary Medicine? by Olivia Weinstein, MS, RD

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

This weekend I reached out to Olivia Weinstein, MS, RD to learn more about culinary medicine and how she shares her knowledge with her community.

How would you define culinary medicine?

In healthcare, it is well understood that food is medicine. Culinary medicine is the application of nutrition intervention. In other words, it is the HOW in how to eat healthy.

What have you found to be the most effective ways to communicate with patients in your kitchen, many of whom struggle with serious illness and social needs?

All of our recipes are easy, affordable, and utilize food found in the food pantry. Health is not achieved by making one really healthy meal. Rather, it is a result of consistently choosing healthy options. Our goal is to make recipes accessible in order to help patients easily ingratiate cooking into their daily life.

We offer a variety of shared medical visits where a physician sees a group of patients in the Teaching Kitchen followed by a culinary nutrition class. The reality is that most people are too busy and burdened to make a trip to the hospital for a cooking class. A shared medical visit allows patients to experience a class while already at the hospital. In addition, partnering with physicians helps patients understand the value of culinary medicine as part of a treatment plan.

What do you think are the biggest motivating factors for patients to keep coming back to your classes?

Improved self-efficacy! When a patient makes a healthy dish that tastes delicious they feel confident and capable. Patients report sharing the recipes with friends, making the dish for loved ones, and wanting to return to learn more recipes. I think the key is offering a hands-on experience.

For those of us unable to attend your amazing educational classes, what advice would you give us to do at our homes in terms of culinary medicine?

Don’t overthink it. Try to cook and eat unprocessed foods. Add vegetables as often as you can. Start small by roasting a tray of your favorite vegetables once a week and adding them to your meals. Most Importantly, enjoy food. Health is a pursuit— not an end all be all. Sometimes you just have to eat a cupcake and that is more than okay.

Olivia Weinstein, MS, RD

Olivia Weinstein is a registered dietitian and the culinary nutrition manager at Boston Medical Center’s Teaching Kitchen. In addition, Olivia has a private practice where she offers a culinary nutrition program and one-on-one nutrition counseling that promotes habit formation. Olivia is a group fitness instructor and certified personal trainer at local gyms in the Boston area.

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