Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives: Empowering the Nation's Cooks

Press Contact:Samueli

Napa, CA - March  26, 2013

Did you know you can make Caesar salad dressing out of white beans or ranch out of cottage cheese? These recipes were among the dozens participants learned at the 2013 Healthy Kitchens Healthy Lives Conference in an effort to transform the way the nation views healthy eating.

“Physicians and health care providers need to get in the kitchen so they can talk to their patients about health and wellness,” said Health, Research and Education Research Associate Laura Dotson.

Dotson joined Vice President of Military Medical Research Kevin Berry, MD, and Military Medical Research Senior Research Associate Kimberly McConnell, EdD, for the four-day conference in Napa, California, presented by Harvard School of Public Health and The Culinary Institute of America and led by Executive Vice President of Health, Research and Education David Eisenberg, MD. 

Now in its seventh year, Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives takes an interactive, hands-on approach and allows participants to taste, prepare, and learn to teach others to enjoy foods that can reduce disease risk and, ideally, replace unhealthy habits. 

“Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to be a professional to make dishes healthy and tasty,” said McConnell, “Anyone can make the recipes we learned for themselves and for their families.”

The nation’s obesity epidemic makes doing so all the more important. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than one-third of adults in America are obese which can lead to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. Medical costs associated with obesity are estimated at $147 billion and people who are obese spend nearly $1,500 more on medical bills than those of normal weight. 

“We need to mindful about every meal. We need to take time to think about what it means for our family and our health,” said Berry. “A lot of the foods Americans have been buying for years are not healthy. We need a lot more of the original foods, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.”

Armed with the tools they learned at the conference and a new mindset about food and health, the attendees are drafting a proposal to bring healthy kitchens to military bases across the country, starting with Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where McConnell works.

“Obesity has become a national security issue. It is starting to prevent people from join the military and is holding back people who are already enlisted. We need to empower members of the military, their spouses and children to bring healthy kitchens in to their lives,” McConnell said.

All three Samueli Institute staffers said they’re dedicated to doing the same in their own lives. Dotson said she wants to plant an herb garden and is interested in getting further training on nutrition and culinary skills. McConnell went straight to Whole Foods the moment she landed to get started on revamping her kitchen.

“I’m not a trained nutritionist, but I truly believe food is medicine,” said McConnell. 

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