PUBLISHED: 2:42 PM on Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Get the facts at Dining with Diabetes

Diabetes is a common, serious, and expensive disease. It is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States and there is no cure. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. It affects 16 million Americans (about the population of Florida) and is projected to double by the year 2025.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight, with having high blood sugar associated with poor eating habits and lack of exercise. It is also associated with high cholesterol, high triglycerides (blood fats), and high blood pressure. It is a disease of excess (too many calories), and lifestyle (not enough exercise).

The risk of getting type 2 diabetes increases with age, obesity and lack of physical activity. Those individuals at high risk are adults over the age of 45, who are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, and have any of the following: a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol.

Diet is one of the three cornerstones of diabetes management. The other two being physical activity and medication (if needed). The lifestyle changes usually prescribed for people with diabetes to manage their disease include diet modifications. These changes are neither simple to understand nor easy to master. Individuals and families affected by diabetes regularly struggle with understanding complicated diet recommendations and separating them from myths and outdated advice of the past.

To assist people with diabetes in understanding and incorporating healthy eating, the West Virginia University Extension Service and a team of experts developed the Dining with Diabetes program. The goals of Dining with Diabetes include increasing knowledge of healthy food choices for people with diabetes and presenting healthy versions of familiar foods. The goals also include demonstrating/practicing proper cooking techniques for using artificial sweeteners, reduced-fat and fat-free products, herbs, and spices.

The program is divided into three sessions: desserts, main dishes and side dishes. Each session includes a short lecture followed with participants preparing recipes for tasting. The lessons and recipes in Dining with Diabetes are presented to people with diabetes and to their family members in the hope of helping families manage diabetes through healthy eating.

The Juneau District Cooperative Extension Service is offering a Dining with Diabetes program in February. Instructors include: Sonja Koukel, PhD, extension agent; Helen Idzorek, MA, extension nutrition education program coordinator; and Christy J. Wallace, RD, LD, SEARHC community and diabetes dietitian.

Through cooperation with Juneau Community Schools, Cooperative Extension is able to provide the three session program for a low registration fee of $20 that covers all supplies. The $20 fee must be paid at the time of registration due to limited space. The program will be held from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 20-21 and 28, in the Juneau Douglas High School Home Economic kitchen. Contact the Extension office 465-8749 to register and for more information.

The Dining with Diabetes program is not intended to replace diabetes education that is delivered by qualified health professionals such as Registered Dietitians.

Dr. Koukel is the Juneau District Agent for the Home Economics Programs of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.