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Creative Cuisines

A Miller School student wins a grant for developing healthy cultural meal plans
Man buying healthy foods at a farmer's market

Illustration by Mr. Lorem Ipsum.


or many people, eating more healthfully would be easier if it didn’t mean forgoing their favorite ethnic dishes. To support the creation of a culturally sensitive two-week meal plan that could promote healthier eating, the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society has awarded a $500 grant to Michael Thomas Garcia, a second-year student at the Miller School.

“Learning how to cook and eat healthy is not easy, but I’m trying to reduce that barrier by creating healthier preparations of ethnic foods,” Garcia said.

He reached out to Maddison Saalinger, a dietitian at the Miller School’s Diabetes Research Institute, to verify the nutritional information going into the meal plan. His next steps involved creating a range of tasty dishes that appropriately represented a variety of South Florida’s cuisines. Garcia’s Cuban grandparents helped him with Latin dishes, while his classmates Frantzia Jeanty and Royi Lynn contributed Haitian and Israeli recipes, respectively.

Garcia is creating meal plan booklets that contain a patient education section as well as recipes, and intends to distribute them in primary care offices throughout Miami. The booklets will include a survey for providers and patients so that Garcia can learn from their feedback and continue to improve the project.

“One of the challenges I faced when the project concluded was organizing all the recipes into a coherent cookbook,” Garcia said. “It is a surprising amount of work developing recipes, and on top of medical school, it can be difficult. On the other hand, I’ve been able to try new cooking techniques and create amazing meals that I’ve shared with my friends and family.”

Future plans for the project include adding dishes from more cultures and cuisines, and distributing the meal plans to additional health care providers.

“Eating healthy should be a lifestyle modification, not an unsustainable fad diet over the short term,” Garcia said. “Our project aims to promote long-term change to patients and their families.”

FALL 2022