Dining With Diabetes Program Promotes Healthy Living

By Melinda Cassidy

A Dining with Diabetes participant reviews a formDan Remley was a junior at Miami University (Ohio) when doctors broke a piece of news to him that changed his life forever: he had Type 1 diabetes.

With the onset of Type 1, Remley's body became unable to produce insulin – the required chemical for the absorption of sugar for energy – and he had to figure out how to diligently manage the disease. Now an assistant professor and field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness at Ohio State, Remley has partnered with OSU Extension's signature program, Dining with Diabetes, to help fellow diabetics.

A total of nearly 1.1 million Ohioans live with diabetes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention – a population large enough to fill Ohio Stadium more than 10 times – and many are unsure where to begin in terms of properly managing it, but that's where the program comes in.

"A lot of times when you're diagnosed, you go to a doctor's office or hospital to get diabetes education," Remley said. "People feel like they can't be free because they're being spoken to in a clinical setting, so they don't open up as much. We provide the education in an environment that's not as threatening."

Dining with Diabetes instructorsA year-round program, Remley said Dining with Diabetes reaches roughly 3,000 people per year, providing cooking classes and tastings as well as nutritional knowledge diabetics need in order to live healthily.

Originally the brain child of an Extension employee at West Virginia University, Dining with Diabetes first came to Ohio in the '90s, but began being taught throughout the Buckeye State in 2005.

Since then, the program has received frequent modifications as a result of changes in the health field, such as the nixing of the traditional food pyramid in favor of the more modern plate method, but has maintained an emphasis on bringing in registered dietitians and diabetes educators to teach quick, easy and healthy recipes to participants.

"Nutrition is the cornerstone of diabetes management," said Shari Gallup, program co-leader of Ohio State's Dining with Diabetes program. "Most diabetes education classes do not have a cooking component to their curriculum, and that is exactly what makes this program different."

Each series of classes occurs over a three-week span with one, two-hour class per week, covering carbohydrates the first week, moving to fats and sodium second and concluding with fiber and vitamins. Recipes include dishes such as sweet potato salad, spinach lasagna, fresh fruit tarts and strawberry spinach salad, and can vary based on season, Gallup said.

But the classes also serve to curb one major American problem that began during World War I's "Clean Plate Club" with a mandated children's pledge from then-President Herbert Hoover: "At table I'll not leave a scrap of food upon my plate. And I'll not eat between meals, but for supper time I'll wait."

Healthy food plate

"That's what your parents tell you: To clean your plate because there are other people starving," Remley said. "So learning portion sizes is a problem, especially buffets."

Gallup said this specific behavior is relearned during the classes through presentation slides, and also through tastings.

"Class participants see their plate with food cooking in the class and it may not look as full as what they are used to at home or when dining out," she said. "Participants begin to learn quickly, and without any knowledge, what portion sizes should look like, and the wheels begin to turn."

With nine and a half years of statewide success and its 10th anniversary coming up in 2015, those involved with Dining with Diabetes have begun to expand its reach.

On April 30, the minds behind the program launched an interactive online version of the classes, called Dining with Diabetes: Beyond the Kitchen, designed to allow for follow-ups and more easily continued support. To sign up, a user must have attended the three face-to-face classes. Registered users will have access to virtual shopping tours, quizzes, blogs, information on health apps and anything other classmates post from across the state.
Remley said that while the entirety of the program has been a "huge undertaking," he hopes it will continue to give people confidence in successfully managing diabetes.

"Dining with Diabetes is helping people who struggle with this disease and giving them hope that diabetes is manageable," Gallup said. "It's a positive class. People leave classes having learned something new with higher levels of self-efficacy that they can manage the disease at home."

For more information, contact:

Dan Remley, remley.4@osu.edu

Shari Gallup, gallup.1@osu.edu