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Living with Diabetes: Med students learning to cook to better treat future patients

Posted at 5:50 PM, Nov 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-05 19:33:30-05

The University of Oklahoma-University of Tulsa School of Community Medicine is cooking up a new requirement for its doctors in training, and it is one of the first medical schools in the country to make such courses mandatory.

2 Works for You met the medical students in a demonstration kitchen.

Starting this year learning to cook dishes that can help their future patients lead healthier lifestyles is mandatory.

First-year medical student, Maddie Lyons, explains the importance of the course.

"You can tell them eat more vegetables, eat more fruits, but if you don't have good ideas of how to do that and how to actually incorporate that into a diet that tastes good and is actually healthy and is cheap enough for them to implement, then they're not gonna do it," Lyons said.

Mark Means is also a first-year medical student. He's excited about the course, because it offers an alternative way to treat Type 2 diabetes as well as other conditions.

"Drugs aren't always the best answer to getting people healthier," Means said. "Lifestyle changes have really been shown to be the best way get people actually be healthy rather than just taking care of the symptoms that they feel."

In this lesson, students are cooking up a variety of dishes, featuring vegetables, fruits and whole grains. These are the types of meals that can help Type 2 lower and control their blood sugar.

Dr. Lori Whelan helped convince the medical school cooking classes need to be part of the core curriculum.

"We are one of the first in the country to provide lifestyle medicine as a core curriculum," Whelan said.

Dr. Brent Beasley with OU Physicians treats Type 2 diabetics. He says some can really benefit from switching to a plant-based diet to control blood sugar. But he adds, when he was a young physician it did not get much attention.

"When I was coming up through medical school we had limited if any training about our diet and lifestyle and what we are now calling lifestyle medicine," Beasley said. "Really wasn't taught, and it wasn't promoted."

He now encourages patients to use a plant-based diet to help manage diabetes.

Dr. Whelan said learning to cook will give these doctors more ways to help their patients, especially those with Type 2 diabetes.

"If we can address a lifestyle behavior and have them improve their nutrition and their exercise in a lot of cases, we can actually reverse diabetes," Dr. Whelan said.

OU Physicians passed along two of the recipes the medical school students were fixing the day 2 Works for You stopped by their cooking class.

Spaghetti Sauce over “Zoodles” (zucchini noodles)

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil 1 medium yellow onion, small dice

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

½ red bell pepper, small dice 1 stalk celery, small dice ½ pound mushrooms, crimini or baby bella, minced

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

½ pound dried brown lentils, rinsed and picked through

2 cups vegetable stock or water 1 (15oz) can tomato sauce 1 (15oz) can petite diced tomatoes 3 ounces tomato paste, canned 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground

4 small zucchini


1. Gather all the ingredients and equipment.

2. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery, mushrooms, and salt.

3. Allow to cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the lentils, stock or water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire, herbs, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 20 - 25 minutes or until lentils are tender and the sauce is the proper consistency. (that you want).

5. Wash zucchini and use a spiralizer to make zoodles. Place zoodles on a microwave safe plate, cover with plastic film or inverted plate, and microwave about 2 minutes or until heated through. The zoodles should still have a firm texture.

6. Serve 3⁄4 cup of sauce over 1 cup of zoodles.

Fruit-infused water

We recommend drinking fruit-infused water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, fruit juice, and sugar-sweetened coffee, tea, or lemonade add needless calories and no nutrition to your diet. Instead, drink infused water to quench your thirst and curb your appetite.

Making your own infused water is a great way to use leftover fruit peels, strawberry tops, and leftover herbs. If you don’t have herbs, just use fruit!

The longer you leave the fruit and herbs in the water, the stronger the flavor will be.


Simply add your favorite combinations of fruit to plain water. Add herbs, such as mint, for variety. Here are a few of our suggested combinations, but get creative and make your own custom fruit infused waters!

  • Orange & Berries
  • Lemon & Lime
  • Berries & Thyme
  • Cucumber & Mint
  • Strawberry & Basil
  • Lemon & Thyme
  • Lime & Mint
  • Orange & Rosemary
  • Peach & Min

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