19 Take-Home Messages for Health Professionals from Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives

Each February, over 400 doctors, registered dietitians, and other health professionals join food service directors and chefs for Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives—a conference that bridges nutrition science, health care, and the culinary arts.

The annual conference (a collaboration between the Harvard Chan School’s Department of Nutrition and The Culinary Institute of America) was created to teach medical professionals about nutrition and self-care, so that they will be better prepared to teach patients valuable skills for leading healthier lives.

Dr. David Eisenberg, Director of Culinary Nutrition at Harvard Chan’s Department of Nutrition and a creator of the conference, offered the following key takeaways shared with this year’s attendees, summarizing the three days of instruction. Follow the links below for more information on each topic.

Part I: Foods to Encourage or Discourage

  1. Eat more fruits, vegetables and nuts in place of processed carbohydrates.
  2. Harvard Healthy Eating PlateChoose healthier carbohydrates.
  3. Choose healthier proteins—especially limit red meat.
  4. Zero tolerance for trans fats, reduce animal-based saturated fats and replace them with healthier, plant-based fats and oils. Learn to cook with them!
  5. Avoid highly processed foods and desserts.
  6. Imagine your “ideal plate” – ¼ healthy proteins, ¼ whole grains, ½ fruits and vegetables.
  7. Consider the “dessert flip” with more fruit and smaller portions of indulgent favorites, or try building a healthier dessert using the “Three Pleasures” – dark chocolate, fruit, and nuts.
  8. Portion control is key.
  9. Find opportunities to reduce salt. Season with herbs and spices first.
  10. Replace sugar-sweetened beverages, emphasizing water, and unsweetened tea and coffee.
  11. If you wish, enjoy wine/alcohol (but not too much!)

Part II: Intentions, Behaviors, and Perceptions

  1. Exercise matters. Do the math. 30-60 minutes a day! Cardio + resistance.
  2. The types of food we eat impact disease risk, independent of our weight.
  3. Mindfulness and intention affect all behaviors – including what/how we eat.
  4. View healthy eating as an enjoyable way of life – a habit, not a “diet.”
  5. Taste must accompany nutritional science. “No one can live on foods of penitence.” (- Mollie Katzen)
  6. You can still enjoy treats from time to time: Celebratory vs. daily fare.
  7. Set attainable goals. Establish new habits. Leveraging motivations is key.
  8. Be reminded that how you eat impacts your advice to patients (or family) about how they eat.

Adapted from the February 2017 Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference at The Culinary Institute of America. © Copyright The Culinary Institute of America.