For the media

Bringing health care into the kitchen

By The Health News Team | August 22, 2023
Culinary Medicine HN3437 Cover Sized

Dr. Angie Neison, a family medicine, lifestyle medicine and culinary medicine doctor, blends the art of food with the science of medicine.

It’s no secret that the food we eat has a big impact on our health. About half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases — many of which are related to poor diets. Now, there’s growing momentum to tackle this problem.

Culinary medicine is an emerging field that combines the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine. At its core, culinary medicine aims to bridge the gap between nutrition and health care. By empowering individuals to make informed and intentional food choices, it serves to promote health, prevent disease and aid in the management of chronic conditions.

Dr. Angie Neison, a board-certified family medicine, lifestyle medicine and culinary medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, stands at the forefront of this growing movement. With a profound understanding of nutrition and preventive medicine, experts like Dr. Neison are transforming the way we view food, health and healing.

From the clinic to the kitchen

Dr. Neison's journey began at the University of Texas in Houston. During medical training, she saw a broad scope of diseases and realized her desire to help patients went beyond just treating an illness. Her philosophy is to treat the whole person — mind, body and spirit. She focuses on harnessing the power of food to prevent the development of lifestyle-related diseases in the first place — something she felt was missing in her training.

One of the cornerstones of Dr. Neison's approach is the integration of culinary medicine into patient care. “Culinary medicine is evidence-based medicine that translates nutrition research into practical use in home kitchens,” Dr. Neison says. “It will look a bit different for everyone, because we all have a unique health journey.”

A recipe for better health

A key aspect of culinary medicine is education and intentional living. Nutrition is what’s known as a modifiable risk factor, meaning that your food choices can lessen the severity of a variety of disease symptoms and lower your risk of developing some diseases in the first place.

“Helping people understand nutrition and the art of food and cooking is key,” Dr. Neison says. “It’s less about focusing on food pyramids, fad diets and ‘good versus bad foods,’ and more about giving others the knowledge needed to care for their health through nutritious and enjoyable food.”

One of the ways Dr. Neison does that is by inviting patients into the kitchen and swapping her white coat for an apron. She regularly conducts healthy cooking demonstrations to show others how easy it is to craft wholesome meals that resonate with their taste buds and well-being. She also uses her social media platform, Flavors4WellnessMD, to share plant-forward recipes and to inspire others to start thinking of food as medicine.

Dr. Angie Neison doing a cooking demonstration for Sharp Rees-Stealy

Dr. Neison regularly conducts healthy cooking demonstrations for patients, health care professionals and the community.

Bridging the nutrition education gap

Through her role as director of culinary medicine at Sharp Rees-Stealy, Dr. Neison collaborates with physicians, chefs and dietitians. Together, they work to develop innovative programs that combine nutrition science, culinary skills and medical education.

Dr. Neison is also involved in Sharp HealthCare’s Clinical Nutrition Patient and Education Committee (CNPEC). With the support of Suzanne Shea, vice president of Pharmacy and Clinical Nutrition at Sharp HealthCare, the committee was formed earlier this year to bring together Sharp’s leaders in nutrition.

“It’s important we create awareness of the relationship between better health and food,” says Shea. “To be the best place to work, practice medicine and receive care, we need to share our collective knowledge on food choices to help everyone stay healthy — patients, employees and physicians alike.”

The CNPEC’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of our communities by increasing access to healthy and nutritious foods and encouraging people to add more fruits and vegetables to their meals. CNPEC is primarily comprised of registered dietitians, but also includes doctors, nurses, patient educators, pharmacists, case managers and food service managers spanning across Sharp’s hospitals and medical groups.

Fostering connection and sustainability

Culinary medicine isn't just about healthy food choices, Dr. Neison says. It recognizes that food is a multi-dimensional aspect of our lives, encompassing cultural, social, emotional and physical dimensions.

“Food is both connecting and nourishing,” says Dr. Neison. “It’s deeply tied with building community, forging bonds, and sharing and celebrating our diverse backgrounds and cultures. It’s a means to come together through cooking, savoring and partaking in a meal.”

Furthermore, Dr. Neison champions the notion that prioritizing a plant-forward diet can yield advantages for individual health and the health of the planet. In her roles as co-chair for Sharp Rees-Stealy's Climate & Planetary Health Committee and her involvement with Sharp HealthCare’s All Ways Green initiative, she advocates that our food choices also have an impact on the environment.

“Less water, land, energy and resources are used when eating plant-forward,” Dr. Neison explains. “Including more plant-based foods and less meat in your diet is one easy way to help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and improve your health too.”

In an era where unhealthy diets now kill more people than tobacco and high blood pressure, culinary medicine helps to connect the “why” and “what” of healthy eating, Dr Neison says. And as she tells her patients, your next wellness opportunity is waiting for you at your next meal.

To learn more about Sharp’s weight management programs, attend a free Weight-Loss Program Orientation Webinar. Join Dr. Angie Neison for Walk with a Doc, a doctor-led walking group that meets monthly.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.