With diabetes affecting more than 29.1 million people in the United States and approximately 85,000 Delawareans over the age of 18, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension offered its spring Dining with Diabetes program in Spanish at select locations throughout New Castle County to raise awareness among Hispanic residents on how to eat properly and lead healthy lifestyles.
The Cenando con Diabetes classes were led by Cheryl Bush, an Extension agent and registered dietitian nutritionist, and Carlos Dipres, Extension educator, and helped participants learn how to follow a careful meal plan to reduce sugar, salt and fat in foods without giving up good taste.
The first class dealt with desserts, the second with main dishes and the third with side dishes.
“The first class is information on artificial sweeteners, carbohydrates, statistics about diabetes and what diabetes really is. With the second class, we move more into fat and salt and different foods that people should limit if they have diabetes and need to manage their diet,” Bush said. “Then the last week is more focused on fiber and calcium and fruits and vegetables, foods that you can use to improve your diet along with exercise and activities to help with those blood sugar numbers.”
Betsy Morris, nutrition assistant, also helped with the class, getting all the preparation work done the day before with a team of Master Food Educator volunteers.
“We take all the food on the road, all the baked goods – anything Betsy and her team have prepped – and they do a live demonstration of Hispanic recipes, which is the focus each time they present. The fun part is that people get to eat; it’s a sample, but they receive some nice full plates,” said Bush.
Dipres said that the class was fantastic because it combined the theory and the practice of what people should eat and what they should watch.
“People don’t know what to eat. A proper education on the disease is definitely going to help you. Through Dining with Diabetes, we’re going to show you what diabetes really is,” said Dipres.
Bush said that in the Hispanic community, there are differences between diabetes rates among the different populations of Cubans, Dominicans, Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans, with the Puerto Rican population having the highest percentage of people with diabetes and who are considered pre-diabetes.
“We’re now approaching 30 million Americans overall and it’s about 440 million in the whole world, so it truly is an epidemic,” she said. “Anything we can do to help people understand that the lifestyle changes that they can control more than anything else — we always want to impart that it’s not a person’s fault that they have diabetes, as much of it has to do with genetics — are diet and exercise.”
The classes were held at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office and at Westside Family Healthcare, and participants ranged in age from seniors to the middle aged to young people with children.
Dipres said that those who participated with the class walked away impressed and informed.
“They were impressed not only with the food — which was great and fantastic — but they learned a lot. They came to realize what diabetes is and what they can do, and they were surprised when they learned that they could eat certain things to deal with the disease,” Dipres said. “I believe the theory and the practice – practice meaning the food that they eat and how to prepare it – was an eye opening experience. They all were impressed by learning what is going to increase their blood level, their glucose level. It was a really good program.”
Bush said it was great to get to work with Dipres, who translated questions from the audience and helped organize the program and get participants involved.
“Carlos had to do all that ground work of trying to get the various groups together and he also had to try to find the sites,” said Bush.
She noted that the participants did not have to pay full price for the program, with those who participated in a Healthy Living Challenge, designed by UD Cooperative Extension and the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition only having to pay $10 per person and some of the older participants sponsored by the Latino magazine El Tiempo Hispano and Westside Health.
Some of the participants had pre-diabetes with a few having Type-2 diabetes, and they passed along critical firsthand information to the other participants about what it was like to manage the disease. Others came to the class to pass along information to at-risk family members.
“Generally the idea of this is to sit down and have others talking about their experiences and that helps the whole group learn. We sat family style and it was really great. These groups were engaged more so than I’ve had in any other program that I’ve done here,” said Bush.
The most important lesson that most of the participants walked away with at the end of the program was to pay attention to food labels and portion control and to follow MyPlate, the current nutrition guide published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“When they walk out of there, they know a lot more about how diabetes is affecting them and the different things that they need to talk about with their physicians. We also direct them to what kind of help is available in Delaware,” said Bush.
Dipres said he is hopeful the program will be held again next year and that it is especially important for those at risk or already affected by the disease to take the class and get better educated about the disease.
“Prevention is the only medication that works, and this is prevention, right here,” said Dipres.
For those interested in learning more, email Dipres or call him at 302-831-1067.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Wenbo Fan
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