Dining with Diabetes focus not just on tasty meals but well-being

October 26, 2009

An older couple makes it an activity to do together. Two women go to the event, standing in for their husbands. And a group of 11 women from a church in Allegheny County arrive with enthusiastic support. These individuals were participants in a Penn State Extension pilot program designed to help people with Type 2 diabetes and their families prepare healthy and delicious meals that may mitigate some of the effects of the disease.

Type 2 diabetes—the most common type of diabetes in adults—results when the body does not make enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin it produces. In 2005, the most recent year that data is available, there were an estimated 764,000 people with diabetes in Pennsylvania.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a number of health issues including kidney failure, blindness, heart disease and stroke. However, with proper testing, treatment and life-style changes, including increased exercise, Type II diabetes can be controlled.

That’s where Penn State Extension’s Dining with Diabetes program comes in. Coordinator Jill Cox explains that the four-week program with three-month follow-up helps people with the disease understand tests for levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, lipids or fats, waist measurement and microalbumin -- an early warning for kidney problems.

The classes then address healthy eating as a strategy for controlling diabetes, and promote walking, exercise and other physical activities.

Recipes for success

Using the “Idaho Plate” method, participants learn to visualize serving sizes. Half of a plate should be covered with vegetables—and with recipes that include strawberry-spinach salad or mixed vegetable gratin, participants find that’s not hard to do.

“They learn they can prepare meals with less fat, sugar and salt without cutting out taste,” said Cox.

A quarter of the plate is devoted to proteins (almond-crusted fish or thick turkey chili, for example). Carbohydrates (such as lemon-rice pilaf or sweet-potato salad) and single servings of fruit and milk round out the meal.

A survey of pilot program participants showed that 92 percent improved their knowledge regarding the tests that help in controlling the risk of diabetes complications and 82 percent gained knowledge regarding how carbohydrates affect blood sugar.

The pilot program, partially funded by grants from the Diabetes Prevention and Control Program at the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the United States Department of Agriculture, covered eight counties in the first year with an additional twenty counties scheduled for 2009-10.

To see a video about the program, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62TL3SxshOQ online.

This story is from the fall issue of Penn State Outreach Magazine. To view this and other stories, go to http://www.outreach.psu.edu/news/magazine/CurrentIssue/.


  • Click on the image above to see a short video.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 18, 2010