Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives: My Weekend in the Napa Valley

IMG_1461I am a pediatrician interested in Nutrition and Food as Medicine, but deep down I am a foodie. I love food, I love to cook and entertain, and I love the joy a well thought out meal brings to people and I love the way healthy foods make me feel. So I can tell you with confidence The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in the Napa Valley is MY “Happiest Place on Earth.”

I spent the weekend at the most amazing medical conference; a Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health Nutrition conference at the CIA in Napa! When I first attended this conference many years ago (this was my 5th year attending), my husband told me “this is a scam! How did you find a medical conference at your favorite place on Earth!” I know, too good to be true! So I brought him with me a couple of years ago and he has changed the way he looks at food, cooking AND VEGETABLES! Of course, the food is AMAZING, prepared by the chefs of the culinary institute with fresh, wholesome, locally sourced ingredients. But most important to me is that this conference describes itself as a “Leadership Conference Bridging Nutrition Science, Health Care, and the Culinary Arts,” and it delivers on all counts. The point of the conference is to educate doctors on nutrition so they can in turn help their patients.


The curriculum is like no other medical conference I attend. We have lectures on Translating the Science on Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load, Advising Patients About Healthy Carbohydrates, The Healthy Gut; Pre- and Probiotics in Foods, and Food, Health and Sustainability. Between these lectures, there are “cooking demos” in this amazing teaching kitchen with famous and successful chefs who teach us how to cook great healthy food; The Italian Vegetable Kitchen, The Indian Spice Kitchen and Cooking with Legumes, Couscous and Whole Grains. We then move on to Workshops; From “Starting a Better Breakfast” to “Seafood on a Budget: Feed a Family of Four for Less Than $20!” We also get to pick an actual Kitchen Session where we get to go into the CIA Kitchen and learn to cook from the CIA instructors; cooking sessions include Cool Salads and Creative Dressings, Healthy Protein Cooking Made Easy and Mastering Healthy Marinades and Grilling Techniques! Can you see why I LOVE this conference!

I thought this week I would write a few Blogs on what I learned are the evidence-based medical trends in nutrition science, what I learned on tricks to stay healthy when you eat out, and of course, some yummy, healthy recipes!IMG_1395

These were some of the main takeaway points from the conference

1)         The Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, healthy fats/oils, lean protein in small proportion and whole grains has been shown in the medical literature to improve health and prolong life. With that said, another major point was that there is NO ONE DIET THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE!

2)         Only 3% of Americans do all 5 of these: shocking, right?!

(1) Don’t smoke

(2) Exercise regularly

(3) Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

(4) Maintain their ideal weight

(5) Minimize red meat intake

3)         The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a paper on the health benefits of nuts and extra virgin olive oil and their impact on heart disease.

4)         Even though there’s no one diet for everyone, there are things NO ONE should eat! Studies proven once more the terrible effects of sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fats and hydrogenated oils, and processed foods.

5)         Although diet is VERY important to your health, EXERCISE or any Physical Activity alone have been shown to improve overall health and even prolong life!

6)         Apparently coffee, chocolate and wine are great for you! (I fail here since I don’t drink coffee, I don’t like chocolate and I don’t drink a glass of wine every night, but for those of you who do-WhooHoo for You! The medical studies now show you are doing the right thing!

7)         Pre- and Probiotics can be easily obtained from foods! Not just pills!

8)         Your Genes are NOT Your Destiny! You really CAN change the path of your life!


Stay tuned for more this week as we explore eating out and fun recipes. If you would like me to expand on any of these, leave a comment or send me an email! Now back to my own kitchen where I am the ingredient-shopper, chef, sous chef and dish cleaner; oh how I will miss the Culinary Institute!


Check out HKHL in the Wall Street Journal

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4 Responses to “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives: My Weekend in the Napa Valley”

  1. jodi most

    Sounds like a great conference. I am hoping that my excess in #6 will make up for my failings in #2 .

  2. April

    Halleluya!! I can have coffee, chocolate and wine everyday!!! I’m taking this very seriously:)

  3. Barbie Kavetsky

    I love #6, makes me feel so much better about my daily coffee and occasional wine. Now I just need to cut my sugar addiction!

  4. Beth Willett

    Sounds amazing! Can’t wait for your next few blogs and recipes!

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