Students want to teach healthy eating habits

UNMC medical students Megan Thacker (left), Max Lydiatt, and Elsa Parr gather to discuss the Teaching Kitchen program, which aims to share good eating habits with providers, patients and community members.

In March, a group of medical students, residents, and faculty met to discuss how good nutrition habits can help with psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress management. They called the program, “The Teaching Kitchen.”

Second-year medical student Max Lydiatt joined the group right away and has played a role in developing the group’s mission.

“For me, I saw the impact that nutrition was having on my patients’ lives,” Lydiatt said. “I’ve been reading all of this research about how helpful it is. When I got to medical school, I noticed that it wasn’t mentioned as much as I thought it would be. I wanted to change that, and this project is a wonderful way to spread the word about nutrition.”

UNMC medical students Megan Thacker and Elsa Parr are also on the Teaching Kitchen team.

“I’ve noticed how much nutrition has made an impact on my life. There’s such a radical difference in people with good nutrition habits and bad nutrition habits,” Parr said. “I feel we need to teach nutrition to patients, and I feel we need to teach nutrition to doctors, as well, so doctors can discuss nutrition with their patients.”

The group is currently working on ways to teach medical students about healthy eating. The skills will not only be taught within the students’ curriculum but also as part of outside projects. Parr brought up the idea of a farmer’s market, where students could sell healthy foods.

“We are looking at ways to practice talking to patients, and I think a farmer’s market would be a really low-pressure way of doing that,” Parr said. “We are going to have to be able to communicate as doctors, and I feel the market would be an excellent way to speak with patients and community members about the importance of proper nutrition. It would also help students learn more about good eating habits.”

The initial idea for setting up a Teaching Kitchen program at UNMC came from a continuing education conference attended by Dr. Steven Wengel, Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Wellness at UNMC/UNO. At the conference, experts in nutritional research presented data alongside trained chefs who demonstrated how to implement healthy changes such as concepts from the Mediterranean Diet. Wengel said the conference also strived to inspire participants to incorporate kitchens at their home institutions, with the idea that our colleagues and patients are more likely to successfully implement lifestyle changes like healthy cooking/eating if they get to practice these skills under supervision rather than just hear about them.

Dr. Sue Evans and Dr. Birgit Khandalavala are also part of the Teaching Kitchen team. Dr. Stephanie Sutton was a charter member of the committee, but she stepped down after finishing her residency.


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