When the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center piloted a series of cooking classes to educate the community about the importance of nutrition and health, organizers did not expect it to grow into one of the most popular programs offered on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
The Culinary Medicine Series features weekly cooking demonstrations of recipes that are healthy and nutritious for those with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Lisa Wingrove, RD, CSO, a registered dietitian who specializes in nutrition for oncology patients, recently led a session on how to make a butternut squash mac-and-cheese dish geared for cancer patients. She shared basic cooking techniques and other methods for cooking for those with cancer.
“When someone has cancer or is going through chemotherapy treatment, sometimes the foods they liked before are not appealing anymore because certain smells become unappetizing,” said Wingrove.
What is Culinary Medicine?
As a new evidence-based field, culinary medicine blends cooking and medicine to help people access high-quality meals that help to prevent and treat disease. The Culinary Medicine Series, created in partnership with the UCHealth Digestive Health Center, the Integrative Medicine Center and the CU School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine, provides members of the Aurora community as well as faculty, staff and students of CU Anschutz with nutrition resources.
“Many of the attendees of the classes are caregivers, patients or members of the community as well as staff or students on campus,” said Wingrove.
The concept of culinary medicine was created by John La Puma, MD, a physician who recognized a need for further nutrition education for both physicians and patients. According to La Puma, physicians need to learn how to prescribe food as medicine, and patients should become more educated about what foods can help beat disease.
“Many physicians don’t learn about nutrition in medical school, but it is something that can help people live better with chronic illness,” explained Wingrove.
Learning about nutrition
The Culinary Medicine Series gives anyone the knowledge to eat well and provides a resource to those struggling with chronic illness. “Nutrition is an evidence-based science, so we offer recipes that are beneficial to those living with chronic illness,” she said.
According to Wingrove, the recipes taught are alternatives to classic recipes and are meant to be more palatable for those with additional dietary restrictions.
“One of the goals of the sessions is to provide participants with alternatives while maintaining the flavor of their favorite dishes. A lot of the foods we cook include ingredients that you might already have in your kitchen,” said Wingrove.
The sessions are also intended to be interactive, giving participants opportunities to ask a dietitian questions.
“People come here who have never cooked before,” said Wingrove. “We want to make this an approachable environment where participants can feel comfortable asking us questions so they can learn new skills.”
As medicine continues to advance, so will treatment options. According to Wingrove, it will become more important to incorporate nutrition into treatment plans for patients with chronic illness.
“A lot can be gained from using nutrition as a treatment. For cancer, that means providing patients with a plant-based diet with lean proteins and helping maintain a healthy body weight,” said Wingrove.
The next class for cancer care in the Culinary Medicine Series taught by Lisa Wingrove takes place on March 12. To register, visit the series website.
For the butternut squash mac-and-cheese recipe, click here.
Guest contributor: Katherine Phillips