Using food as medicine for children’s health

Aug 12, 2023, 2:00 PM | Updated: Aug 13, 2023, 2:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Culinary medicine is an emerging field of medicine that trains doctors about the ...

Dr. Bonnie Feola (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Culinary medicine is an emerging field of medicine that trains doctors about the importance of food and how to help patients make changes in their relationship with food.

Dr. Bonnie Feola has been a pediatrician for 30 years and always had a passion for food. “I learned about culinary medicine as I was trying to look for a future path for myself as a pediatrician, bridging that connection to food, which I always thought was very important for children’s health.”

She describes culinary medicine as “the art of food and cooking blended with the science of medicine. It’s using food as medicine.”

Dr. Bonnie earned a certificate in culinary medicine from Harvard Medical School and studied at the Park City Culinary Institute to become a chef.

Preventive medicine through food

“One of the things we do as pediatricians is preventive medicine,” Dr. Bonnie explained. “Establishing healthy eating habits helps prevent future problems that we see early.”

The doctor has seen all kinds of problems in her patients they could improve by changing their eating habits. Issues like tummy pain, constipation, food allergies, obesity and pre-diabetes.

“I specialize and focus on children 10 years and under,” she said. “I like to focus on the youngest children because that’s when early habits are established.”

Advice for parents

“I know it is a challenge for parents,” Dr. Bonnie explained. “It’s also very stressful for the kids. We have to remember that the kids are the ones who are sitting, and food is being put in front of them that they may not be on board with.”

The doctor opened a new practice recently called Nibbles & Sprouts. Her goal is to help parents help their children overcome barriers to eating healthy.

“I have tips and suggestions, but it’s very much an individualized thing,” she explained. “What I do on Nibbles & Sprouts is very much individualized help for each child and each family because everybody’s relationship with food is different.”

The doctor consults one-on-one with families. “I always want patients to continue seeing their general pediatrician. I am working more as a side dish to their general pediatrician. So, if their pediatrician does not have the time or expertise to help teach them how to make changes in what their child is eating, that’s where I’m able to help.”

“Food is complicated”

Dr. Bonnie Feola understands these issues aren’t easy. It can be a real challenge to get kids to eat their vegetables, or anything other than chicken nuggets.

“There is a direct link between food and health,” Dr. Bonnie said. “I also know that food is complicated. Establishing a happy, healthy relationship with food at an early age is really key for long term health and wellness.”

Related: Drinking water isn’t the only answer to hydration

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Using food as medicine for children’s health