The UCLA Teaching Kitchen study will train participants in how to prepare healthy and delicious meals

The UCLA Teaching Kitchen study will train participants in how to prepare healthy and delicious meals

If a professional chef taught you personally how to prepare delicious, healthy meals and provided you with all the groceries you need to do so, how could it affect your health and well-being?

UCLA is offering an opportunity to find out.

Taking place at four academic medical centers across the country, Testing Kitchen Research for Teaching will offer 24 cooking classes, nutrition education and support to make healthy lifestyle changes. Some participants—those randomized to the intervention group—will also receive free groceries and supplies to prepare all recipes.

“The goal of this study is to go beyond standard dietary education approaches and really focus on giving participants new skills they can apply in their everyday lives,” he says. Mopelola AdeyemoMD, MPH, who is leading the study at UCLA along with Wendy Slusser, MD AND Tannaz Moin, MD, MBA. “We are planning to teach participants how to cook healthy, tasty and affordable meals, and we believe that this can lead to significant improvements not only in health, but also in quality of life.”

This multi-site study follows a pilot study conducted in 2023 by Dartmouth University in collaboration with Harvard University, the findings of which have not yet been published, says Dr. Adeyemo.

Entrance to the kitchen

Chief Julia Rhotonculinary arts coordinator at the UCLA Teaching Kitchen, will teach UCLA study participants knife skills and basic cooking techniques, such as baking, frying and baking.

“We’re aiming to teach basic methods, so that even if the participants don’t necessarily like the particular recipe we’re making that week, they’ve learned how to stir-fry or stew or how to properly roast vegetables,” says Rhoton. , “so they can take those skills into their new, healthy lives and eat all the delicious things they want.”

The recipes are standardized across the four study sites—UCLA, UC Irvine, Dartmouth and the University of Texas at Houston—though they will be slightly modified to suit the tastes of each geographic region.

“Texas is definitely going to add more spice to their chili than maybe Dartmouth,” Rhoton says. “Here in Southern California, we’re going to use as much of those herbs and spices and all those seasonal produce that we’re so lucky to get here.”

The recipes can also be easily adapted to accommodate vegetarian diets, she adds.

Although Rhoton didn’t develop the recipes, she’s excited to teach them and introduce people to new foods and flavors.

For example, there is a farm salad on the study menu that includes farro, a nutty grain. Rhoton says she’s taught recipes with farro before, and although most people haven’t heard of it or tried it, “most people love it.”

“It’s always so much fun to see new experiences and new doors open in people’s lives, especially when it comes to food,” she says.

By joining the study

Adults aged 21 to 70 who have a body mass index (BMI) higher than 27 and want to learn to eat healthier may be eligible to join the study. The trial requires a one-year commitment from participants with a six-month follow-up after the study. In addition to attending two in-person cooking classes at the UCLA Tipuana Teaching Kitchen and weekly or monthly online classes—with ingredients delivered to participants’ homes to feed a family of four—participants will be required to submit online surveys and perform bleeding at four intervals throughout the study period.

Participants do not have to be patients of UCLA Health to be eligible.

“This is a unique opportunity for everyone to learn together, not only to improve their skills in the kitchen, but to be healthier in general,” says Dr. Adeyemo. “So I think this study can be useful for anyone. You don’t have to have a significant health problem to get something out of this experience.”

Read more about UCLA Teaching Kitchen.

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