Bridging the Great Health Divide: Dining with Diabetes

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 4:11 PM EDT
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - Nearly sixteen percent of West Virginians have diabetes, the most in the nation. But, there is help available. That’s the topic in this edition of Bridging the Great Health Divide.

A diagnosis of diabetes can be worrisome.

“The doctor came in and told me I had diabetes,” said Nathaniel Clayton. “It kind of scared me because I didn’t know what to do.”

That’s why Nathaniel and others like him signed up for “Dining With Diabetes,” a West Virginia University Extension Service series of classes that teaches how to live with the disease. The four-week course covers everything from cholesterol levels to fat and sodium in foods to choosing healthier options.

Ric Rodriguez is the program’s instructor.

“It is a need due to the obesity problem that is here in West Virginia,” Ric said. “Education is important in choosing the healthier foods. Be more aware of sugars that are in food and looking at healthier alternatives, being mindful of the correct portion size.”

Rodriguez says one of the most popular parts of the class is the food demonstration. Program assistant Paige Zohner-Leavitt teaches how recipes using alternatives like skim milk, artificial sweetener and lite margarines can lead to healthier meals.

“They love it!” Paige said. “They rave about the desserts because a lot of the time they think they can’t have desserts anymore. A lot of people think they have to remove things from their diets. It’s not about taking away things it’s just about replacing them with healthier things.”

“Seeing their reaction about how good things can still taste even though they’re using these substitutions is really great,” Ric said.

Nathaniel says the program is working.

“Eating small portions of food actually lowers my blood sugar,” Nathaniel said. “Every time we join a session I make a goal and then I meet the goal.”

Paige and Ric both emphasize how the program leads to better overall health.

“It’s just so fun to see their reactions to this simple program but it changes their lives and changes the way that they eat and the way that they view their diabetes,” Paige said.

“Being diagnosed with diabetes isn’t the end but the beginning of learning how to live with diabetes and have a healthier lifestyle,” Ric said.

For more information about Dining with Diabetes, contact your local WVU Extension office.

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