Diabetes – its symptoms and prevalence – is a tough subject. But experts from the Health Center’s Diabetes Education Program made it more palatable with advice on portion control, tips for healthier baking ingredients, and a cooking demonstration, during a recent Discovery Series program “Keeping Diabetes at Bay.”
The program, recognized by the American Diabetes Association, is designed to help patients understand the disease and learn how to manage it.
The more than 200 people in the audience watched as executive chef Richard Duclos sliced, diced, and sautéed a nutritious and tasty meal designed for those with diabetes.
Duclos chose a Thai recipe – Thai chicken and vegetables over chayote – because typical Thai cuisine relies heavily on fresh vegetables and doesn’t contain a lot of dairy products, important considerations for people with diabetes.
Members of the audience were also able to sample the dish during intermission. “Spicy, but delicious” was a typical response.
Information about the prevalence of diabetes was presented by Dr. Carl Malchoff, director of the Diabetes Education Program.
He said diabetes is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, and is associated with long-term complications that affect almost every part of the body. The disease often leads to blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage.
“Nearly 21 million Americans have diabetes – that’s 7 percent of our population,” said Malchoff. “And what is really disturbing, that number includes more than six million Americans who have the disease but are undiagnosed.”
The most common form of diabetes is type 2, affecting about 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is most often associated with older age, obesity, physical inactivity, and a family history of diabetes.
Malchoff said that about 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, and the disease is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents.
| Executive chef Richard Duclos prepares a Thai chicken recipe during a diabetes education program at the Health Center.
|Photo by Chris DeFrancesco
Jean Kostak, a certified diabetes educator, offered important advice on how to manage diabetes on a day-to-day basis. She said one of the most important factors is diet.
“For those with diabetes, keeping blood sugar levels under control is extremely important,” she said.
“You can still include your favorite foods in a healthy meal plan, it just may require some small changes.”
Kostak suggested a number of simple – but healthier – substitutes for use in baking or cooking: low-fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream; flavored vinegar versus salad dressing; romaine in place of iceberg lettuce; salsa rather than butter or sour cream on baked potatoes; and to add some crunch to a recipe, water chestnuts instead of chopped nuts.
Portion control is another key factor in keeping your weight in check.
Registered dietitian Deborah Downes told the audience that “portion distortion” has led to our ever-expanding waistlines.
“Look at your plate and think back 20 years ago,” she said.
“The portions now being served at restaurants are so much larger – for instance, a meatball may be the size of your fist!”
Downes had some simple tips for eating out: order a couple of appetizers instead of an entrée (they’re often more interesting too, she said); share a meal with a friend; or ask for a take-out container at the start of your meal instead of at the end, so you can immediately split the serving in half and won’t be tempted to eat more than you should.