Cognitive Kitchen is educating individuals 55 and older about dementia risks through virtual cooking classes about food preparation and dietary changes. 

Julie Beitel, a registered dietitian and project coordinator for the Cognitive Kitchen program, said she has been working on the project since 2019. The pilot program launched in the fall of 2022 and she has continued working on its development through her master's program in collaboration with the Dementia Supports in Rural Saskatchewan Initiative. 

A common challenge among care partners of people living with dementia was finding social and leisure opportunities, Beitel explained.  

“Experiencing changes in responsibilities around mealtime, and navigating information related to the nutritional needs of themselves and those they care about,” said Beitel.  

She said the Cognitive Kitchen Program was created with this in mind and had both an integrated educational component and a community kitchen aspect.  

The newest iteration of the program looks a bit different but still offers the same principles.  

“The program is made up of six weekly cooking classes held either in-person or virtually. Ingredients are provided and set out for group preparation in-person, and virtual participants can submit grocery receipts for reimbursement.”  

She said that there is a theme each week that is related to risk reduction and they discuss multiple strategies to support brain health.  

“The classes are 2 hours each and outside of the food preparation and educational component, we often have great opportunities to learn from one another and share in some great food-related discussion.” 

This includes different eating patterns that people can follow to optimize brain function.  

“There is the Mediterranean Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND), that has received a lot of attention and I find it, sort of the simplest format to follow.” 

This includes whole food, high-fiber plant-based foods, and a bit of lean protein.  

“The program and the recipes we selected are really based around that kind of eating pattern. With lots of beans, and grains and veggies to make them taste great.”  

Beitel said there are four separate streams, but the content is quite similar throughout.  

“The content is really based around putting what the research is showing us into action to support risk reduction and promote living well with dementia through cooking and food experiences in general.” 

Beitel said there is an overlap in the nutrition and lifestyle strategies to promote well-being for both care partners and their partners living with dementia.  

She noted that you don’t have to have a diagnosis of dementia to participate in these classes. 

“You can just have that interest and reduce the risk for yourself or someone living with dementia. And then we also welcome people living with dementia to participate, whether with their care partner or independently.” 

Beitel said the classes are the nutrition equivalent of a physical activity group.  

“You know there's that component of keeping each other accountable, but there's also that social time and really putting things into practice,” said Beitel.  

The program is adaptable to individual needs and dietary restrictions, and people will be put in groups based on the intake form.  

“We do try and adapt the best we can to what people are looking for, whether it's the science side of things or more that culinary side, we really try to switch it up.” 

The program is open to anyone 55 and older, with priority given to those living in rural Saskatchewan for the virtual classes.  


The Cognitive Kitchen is funded in part by the Government of Canada's New Horizons for Seniors Program.