Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University

Culinary Medicine: Cooking Up Health


The Culinary Medicine Course: Cooking Up Health is offered by the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine for FSM medical students. The course is intended for first-year medical students; second- fourth year students who can attend all sessions may also apply to participate. AOSC Students in Integrative Medicine are encouraged to enroll as part of our IM education track.

Culinary Medicine is the utilization of a unique combination of nutrition and culinary knowledge to assist patients in achieving and maintaining optimal health. This course is intended to expand students’ comfort in counseling patients in successful behavior change around nutrition and cooking. The "learning" portion of the course includes a combination of pre-work/videos/didactics and hands on culinary sessions- all focused on plant-based diets. The "giving-back" part of the course engages students in service learning by bringing them into Chicago Public School classrooms to administer an established grade school nutrition curriculum to children and/or families in at risk communities. Through this course participants will learn basic culinary skills, steps to create nutritious meals, relationships between food, health, and disease, and cultural competencies around nutrition.

NOTE: The Culinary Medicine elective is approved for credit by the FSM Curriculum Committee. It does not displace any elective requirements for Phase 2-3 students.

What to expect:

For a fun video overview where you can see your classmates in action check out:

The six didactic and hands-on course sessions run 2.5 -3 hours, during which students learn practical information about relevant topics and gain hands-on experience in a kitchen.

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Class time will be faculty guided and discussion based. Groups are comprised of 10-12 students led by one to two faculty facilitators. The culinary medicine curriculum follows a specific format for each lesson:

Each lesson will begin with a shared experience, comprised of learning kitchen techniques, preparing healthy plant-based cuisine relevant to the day’s health focus, and sharing a family-style meal. Students are guided by physicians from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and a chef faculty from our partner organization Common Threads. Over the meal students and faculty talk about the complex social and cultural functions of food via student-led article discussions. 

The last 30 minutes of the course will be an active student nutrition coaching exercise using content from the pre-work videos to apply nutrition to patient cases with in varied disease processes. Students will also use this time to prepare and debrief on the service learning sessions. 

Pre-work/Homework each week totals 60-90 minutes and is comprised of videos, articles, and quizzes/discussions on topics such as: mindful eating, the Standard American Diet, plant-based diets, state of the science of macronutrients, the gut microbiome and impact of diet, food sensitivities, and inflammation as a precursor to chronic disease.

Throughout the teaching kitchen course, students participate in a service component teaching children about basic healthy nutrition concepts and easy hands-on food preparation. Medical students are able to apply the newly acquired knowledge by serving in established Common Threads programs as volunteers to foster healthy nutrition habits. CT has programs in many Chicago Public Schools and out-of-school programs, providing valuable education to children and families in at risk communities. Students will be expected to co-facilitate a minimum of 4 in-class sessions at local Chicago Public Schools for grade-school children.


Contact Us

For additional information about any of our MD education programs, contact Nancy Heap.

Areas of Scholarly Concentration

The mission of the Area of Scholarly Concentration (AOSC) is to train MD students to perform a highly mentored project which culminates with the writing of a thesis.  AOSC projects related to integrative medicine AOSCs can be developed through the Medical Social Sciences & Outcomes Research area of investigation. For details on past projects, see our Areas of Research section.