Cooking Up Health: A Novel Culinary Medicine and Service Learning Elective for Health Professional Students

Melinda Ring*, Elaine Cheung, Rupa Mahadevan, Stephanie Folkens, Neilé Edens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: The current investigation assessed the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of the Cooking Up Health (CUH) culinary medicine elective that was offered to medical students at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. The elective included a combination of didactics, plant-based culinary sessions, and service learning, in which students translated nutrition and health connections to elementary school children in at-risk communities. Method: Nine medical students enrolled in cohort 1 and 12 in cohort 2. Students completed assessments before and after the course measuring confidence in nutrition and obesity counseling, attitudes toward nutrition counseling, personal dietary intake, and cooking confidence and behaviors. Results: The elective showed high feasibility and acceptability with strong class attendance (96%-99%) and retention (89%-100%). Over the course of the elective, students across both cohorts showed increased confidence in nutrition and obesity counseling (ps < 0.001), cooking abilities (ps < 0.01), and food preparation practices (ps < 0.04). Cohort 1 reported decreased meat consumption (p = 0.045), and cohort 2 showed increased fruit and vegetable intake (p = 0.04). Finally, cohort 2 showed increased knowledge and confidence regarding consuming a plant-based diet (ps < 0.002). Students reported an increased appreciation for the role of nutrition in health promotion and disease prevention and an intention to incorporate nutrition into patient care. Conclusion: This study provided preliminary evidence demonstrating feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of the CUH culinary medicine elective for increasing medical students' confidence in nutrition and obesity counseling of patients and in their ability to use nutrition and cooking for personal self-care. Ultimately, this program of research may provide evidence to support widespread integration of CUH into medical education and has the potential to prepare medical students to properly advise patients on nutrition to combat the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and preventable diseases related to nutrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-72
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • behavior change
  • culinary medicine
  • medical student well-being
  • nutrition education
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine

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