UNTHSC, TCU students cook up nutritious dishes to improve health


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Lyn Dart, PHD (center), director of the TCU Food Management
Program, helps TCOM students Linh Vo (right) and Rolando
Cantu Jr. prepare a lunch dish. “I have a better
understanding of the variety of healthy, delicious meals that
can help my diabetic patients lose weight and manage their
blood pressure,” says Cantu.

In the first Culinary Medicine class of its kind in Texas, UNT Health Science Center medical students trade white coats for aprons as they learn to “prescribe” healthy cooking for patients whose diets need improvement.

The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine‘s Culinary Medicine course pairs medical students with Nutrition Science students from Texas Christian University in a lecture-plus-hands-on curriculum taught by faculty from both schools.

A recent afternoon found the students in the kitchen at Moncrief Cancer Institute, following Mediterranean guidelines to incorporate healthy fats into affordable lunch dishes of 300 calories or less that matched less-healthy foods for eye appeal and “mouth feel.”

“People need crunch, they need to chew to get satiety,” advised Anne VanBeber, PhD, a TCU Nutritional Sciences professor, as she showed students how to put thin apple slices in a sandwich. “Seven grams of fiber in that puppy – that’s a lot.”

Nine interprofessional teams of students created various dishes, then did a “show, tell and taste” with the whole group. Typical was “creamy chicken salad with apples and raisins; low-fat yogurt subbing for mayo; 69 cents per serving; 120 calories.”


Tasty tips from Culinary Med class:

  • To add flavor without fat, substitute Dijon mustard and a vinegar.
  • To add flavor without salt, substitute something acidic, like lemon juice.
  • To reduce sandwich calories, sub Sandwich Thins, flatbread or lettuce wraps for traditional bread.
  • To reduce sodium in canned beans, rinse in cold water and drain.

Next up was UNTHSC’s Darrin D’Agostino, DO, MPH, who discussed internal medicine issues that relate to nutrition. “Most of my intractable pain patients had poor diet that increased inflammation,” he said.

The innovative course includes online instruction as well as the hands-on lab. It’s dedicated to preparing physicians to be more engaged in the holistic method of care that integrates the effects of nutrition and eating behavior on chronic disease and quality of life.

“It has given me a better of understanding of a variety of healthy, delicious meals that can help my diabetic patients lose weight and manage their blood pressure,” said first-year TCOM student Rolando Cantu Jr.

Collaborative partners in the program include the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane Medical School, the TCU Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Moncrief Cancer Institute.

Said Peggy Smith-Barbaro, PhD and Director of TCOM Research and TCOM’s course coordinator for the program, “The Culinary Medicine class is an excellent example of the interprofessional educational opportunities that the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and the UNT Health Science Center are developing in collaboration with TCU, the Moncrief Institute and other community resources in order to fulfill our mission of creating solutions for a healthier community.”

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