“Eat to Live”-Piloting a Culinary Medicine Program for Head & Neck Radiotherapy Patients

Stephanie Allen-Winters, Daniel Wakefield, Elizabeth Gaudio, Sharon Moore, Kimberly Boone, Scott Morris, David L. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Head and neck radiotherapy (H&N RT) patients are at risk for malnutrition following treatment due to dysphagia and alterations in taste quality. This project studied feasibility of a food skills intervention strategy support food preparation, cooking confidence, and individualized dietary choices to support nutritional status in this patient population. Methods: We piloted a monthly cooking class (called “Eat to Live”) from November 2018 to January 2019. Every class included cooking and nutrition domains, organized around a specific meal of the day (i.e., breakfast, lunch, or dinner). Seven participants (4 patients, 3 caregivers) attended at least one class, with four participants (3 patients, 1 caregiver) completing all three classes. Pre- and post-study measures (self-administered questionnaires) assessed changes in cooking behavior, dietary choices, and taste sensation before and after the intervention. Results: Healthful eating scores increased modestly from start to finish of the class (1.5 to 1.7 on a 3-point scale), with averaged patient preference scores for healthy foods increasing incrementally. This took place despite physical taste scores declining across the 3-month study. After completing the class, participants were more likely to select fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, lean cuts of meat, and dairy products. Patients also adopted positive behavioral modifications to their diets, such as eating out at restaurants less often and baking/grilling foods instead of frying. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first published report on feasibility and patient acceptance of an evidence-based culinary medicine intervention in H&N RT patients. We observed objective improvements in dietary choices and cooking confidence in a small cohort of patient/caregiver dyads. This pilot work justifies follow-on development of a more comprehensive intervention optimized for patient convenience and longitudinal support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2949-2957
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Culinary medicine
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Nutrition
  • Radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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