Why Integrate Culinary Education into Clinical Dietetic Practice?

The cornerstone of helping people improve their health outcomes is to get them into their kitchen. Study after study shows that people who cook their own meals at home have better health outcomes than those who don’t.1-3 Enter culinary medicine—a new practice that may help you do just that.
Read on to learn more.

Why Promote At-Home Cooking?

Research clearly shows that the frequency of weekly meals prepared at home is related to the quality of dietary consumption. According to a study published in 2017 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, people who eat home cooked meals more than five times per week consumed more fruits, vegetables and had a greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the DASH Diet compared to those who eat home cooked meals less than three times a week. They were also were less likely to have an overweight BMI and less likely to have excess percentage of body fat.3

So, there’s no denying that people who tend to cook more at home have better health outcomes than those who don’t. But, choosing to bring prepared foods into the home rather cooking them from scratch often has very little to do with health goals. Instead, it is may be very well a choice that’s made based on personal factors like food preference, time, budget, or skill.4

Additionally, it is important to recognize that not all home-cooked meals across households may are equal in nutrient quality. In some cases, patients may cook at home regularly but their lack of nutrition knowledge or access to fresh foods results in meals with over-sized portions, few fruits and vegetables, and a high fat, sodium, and sugar content.4,5

Regardless of whether or not patients lack cooking skills or nutrition knowledge, when diet and cooking haven’t been a priority many patients don’t have a clue about where to start with grocery shopping or planning and preparing meals when their faced with having to overhaul their eating patterns to improve their health or treat their condition.

How Can Culinary Medicine Get People Cooking?

Countless studies demonstrate that providing patients with basic nutrition information alone to boost their knowledge about their diet isn’t sufficient enough to produce sustainable dietary adherence.6 That’s one reason why research continues to call for the need for more practical advice and guidance when it comes to promoting behavior change.

What’s even more critical? The advice should take into account a patient’s personal needs and offer tailored solutions to help them overcome personal barriers.7

How Can You Integrate Culinary Education into Practice?

So, how can Dietitians and other health professionals help patients boost both their nutrition knowledge and cooking skills to get their diet and health on the right track? At minimum, start by having more informative diet discussions that incorporates guidance about food selection and preparation in patient counseling sessions.

Also, give them access to printed or digital patient education materials that focus on their specific personal needs. Other incredibly effective and proven methods for boosting patient cooking skills are to offer coaching, hands-on cooking classes in a teaching kitchen and online courses. 1,2,5,8-10

If you’re interested in earning CEU’s by honing your culinary skills or need culinary-related patient education materials, you’re in the right place. We’re cooking up content to serve either need. Sign-up below and we’ll let you know as soon as it becomes available!


  1. Reicks M, Kocher M, Reeder J. Impact of Cooking and Home Food Preparation Interventions Among Adults: outcomes and implications for future programs. J Nutri Educ and Behav. 2014; (46)4: 259-276.
  2. Tiwari A, Aggarwal A, Tang W, Drewnowski A. Cooking at Home: A strategy to comply with U.S. Dietary Guidelines at no extra cost. Amer J Prev Med. 2017; (52)5: 616-624.
  3. Lavelle F, McGowan L, Spence M, Caraher M, Raats MM, Hollywood L, McDowell D, McCloat A, Mooney E, Dean M. Barriers and Facilitators to Cooking ‘Scratch’ Using Basic or Raw Ingredients: A qualitative interview study. Appetite. 2016; (107): 383-391.
  4. Mills S, Brown H, Wrieden W, White M, Adams J. Frequency of Eating Home Cooked Meals and Potential Benefits for Diet and Health: Cross-sectional analysis of population-based cohort study. Inter J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; (14)8: 109-120.
  5. Ridberg R, Bell J, Merritt KE, Harris DM, Young HM, Tancredi DJ. A Pediatric Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program Increases Food Security in Low-Income Households. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2019; (51)2: 224-230.
  6. Rippe JM. Lifestyle Medicine: The Health Promoting Power of Daily Habits and Practice. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2018; (12)6: 499-512.
  7. Endevelt R and Gesser-Eldelsburg A. A Qualitative Study of Adherence to Nutritional Treatment: Perspectives of patients and dietitians. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2014; 8: 147-154.
  8. Polak R, Finklestein A, Paganoni S, Welch R, Silver JK. Cooking Online with a Chef: Health professionals’ evaluation of a live culinary coaching module. Nutr Metab Insights. 2019; (107) 12: 1-6.
  9. Allen-Winters S, Wakefield D, Gaudio E, Moore S, Boone K, Morris S, Schwartz DL. “Eat to Live”: Piloting a culinary medicine program for head & neck radiotherapy patients. Support Care Cancer. 2020; (28)6: 2949-2957.
  10. Polak R, Pober DM, Budd MA, Silver JK, Phillips EM, Abrahamson MJ. Improving Patients’ Home Cooking: A case series of participation in a remote culinary coaching program. Appl Physiol Nutr and Metab. 2017; (42)8: 893-896.
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Andrea Kirkland, MS, RD

Andrea Kirkland is a Registered Dietitian, food writer, and culinary educator who was born and still lives in the deep south. Due to her southern roots she knows a thing or two about good home cooking and also knows all too well about how food choices can either positively or negatively impact health. Continue reading...