By Megy Karydes
For those living with diabetes—a metabolic disease in which the body is unable to produce any or enough insulin and causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal—a constant watch over what they eat is mandatory. A quick online search for diabetes control and prevention recipes results in more than 43 million links. That’s a lot of links to wade through.
For something less overwhelming and better curated to the needs of diabetics, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) launched a microsite called “Recipes for Healthy Living” in 2011 that features 14 new recipes (including some gluten-free), meal plans, cooking videos and other healthy eating tips every month.
Chicago resident Kaprice D. often uses the site for recipes since her 11-year-old son Jake has diabetes. “When you have a family member with diabetes, you tend to seek out any information you can find,” Kaprice says. “Jake carb counts, and with that, he is able to make choices on the types of food he eats and the quantity of food he eats.”
Kaprice doesn’t single out her son when preparing meals. Rather, she prepares the same food for everyone in her family. “By preparing the same meal for everyone, this allows my son to learn how to make managed decisions on his own and care for himself and his diabetic needs in a healthy, knowledgeable way,” she adds. “I feel this will prepare him for when I am not with him and he needs to manage his diet on his own.”
Almost a dozen recipes found on the microsite are created from scratch each month by Lara Rondinelli-Hamilton, RD, LDN, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with over 13 years of experience counseling people with diabetes. With her on the microsite is trained Chef Jennifer Bucko Lamplough.
Together, the Chicagoland-based duo develops flavorful, healthy and quick recipes for diabetics and their families. Cassie Rico, MPH, RD, the associate director of nutrition and medical affairs at the ADA, puts each recipe through the wringer as she prepares the dishes for taste testing.
“We send out an email 10 times a year to let subscribers know there is new content on the site,” says Stephanie Dunbar, MPH, RD, director of nutrition and medical affairs at the ADA.
Dunbar and her team pay close attention to what their visitors are searching for when they arrive at the site. Respondents had previously indicated that they wanted more recipes that were faster to create and budget-friendly, so now the site offers more affordable, easier-to-make recipes. Also, “To explore the impact of “Recipes for Healthy Living,” two online surveys (before exposure and three months postexposure) were administered to a sample group of new users of the site,” explains Dunbar. “Not surprisingly, recipes followed by meal plans were the most utilized resources.”
Even more exciting for Dunbar and her team are the behavioral changes they can measure. The results from the survey indicated significant improvements observed in key food purchasing and preparation behaviors (e.g., meal planning, methods of plate utilization and portion control) after exposure to the website’s resources. Also, respondents increased the frequency of recommended dietary behaviors after exposure such as consuming low-fat milk and yogurt, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, poultry/fish and beans.
For those wishing to learn more about diabetes and would like to talk with experts in a one-on-one setting or attend cooking demonstrations, the ADA hosts its annual EXPO in Chicago on Apr. 5. It includes a Family Fun/Healthy Kids area with information and activities geared toward youths with diabetes and their families. The EXPO is free and will be held at McCormick Place.