CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — A nutrition educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County will hold the first of a three-part program for those with diabetes, pre-diabetes, family members and the general public during an event next week.

The first of the three, free, sessions, titled "Dining With Diabetes", is scheduled for 1 p.m. March 20 at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library, 475 Moe Road, Clifton Park. The other two sessions will be held at the same time and location the following Wednesdays, March 27 and April 3.

Food and Nutrition Educator Diane Whitten will help those with the condition as well as their family members learn how to fit carbohydrates in a healthy menu, effectively use food labels, choose meals at a restaurant and adopt other healthy habits to help manage diabetes through healthy eating. Recipes, preparation demonstrations, and sampling are part of the program.

“One of the things we’ll talk about is how to plan your menu,” Whitten said. “One way is the platement method, it’s very visual. The other is carb counting where we discuss how many carbs people should have per meal.”

Whitten said she will discuss planning a meal from a visual perspective where one visualizes a plate that’s half full with low carbohydrate vegetables or fruits, a quarter full of starchy foods and a quarter full with protein.

For the latter, she discusses how many carbohydrates are contained in differing types of food in the appropriate amounts for those people who want to know how many carbs they are having each meal.

“I help people understand what food or food groups contain carbohydrates,” she said. “For instance, one serving of fruit may have 15 grams of carbohydrates but it’s complicated when you think about what is one serving. Are we talking a half a grapefruit or two grapes?”

Whitten said she plans to hand out a set of recipes at each program and will demonstrate dining items like a dessert to show that desserts can have carbohydrates but can also be part of a meal.

“I’ll show them ways they can fit carbohydrates into their diet and if on a special occasion, they want to have dessert we’ll discuss how they fit that into their diet,” she said.

She noted that complications to the body are caused by the diabetes being out of control and not kept in check and not by the condition itself.

“I always discuss this part, the complications,” she said. “Heart disease, kidney diseases, blindness, are not the result of being diagnosed with diabetes, but because your diabetes is out of control. Your blood sugar is too high. If you can keep your blood sugar within the normal range, all of those complications can be avoided.”

Diet, exercise, and sometimes medication are the main ways to control blood sugar, Whitten said.

“Diet is one of the main ways we can control it,” she said. “With this program, I’m addressing the dietary part.”

Other topics planned for the sessions include discussions on preparing a heart-healthy diet and food label reading for help with planning a menu.

“I’ll ask them to keep a log. so we can review what they’re eating and compare it to their recommendation,” she said. “And we’ll have a cooking demonstration which may be a simple soup recipe, a simple side dish, or a simple dessert.”

Whitten said she’s been presenting the program for about 10 years across the county and finds it draws people who were diagnosed with diabetes 20 years ago as well as those who were diagnosed recently.

“It’s not just for those who’ve been newly diagnosed,” she said. “And it’s good for family members to attend because they may be the ones who are doing all the cooking.”

One in three Americans has diabetes, she said, and the majority don’t even know it.

Presenting the program is part of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s educational mission. The Saratoga County branch is part of the national cooperative extension system, an educational partnership between county, state and federal governments.

Whitten advised everyone to go to the website, www.Diabetes.org and take the 60-second test under the “Are You At Risk tab."

She has scheduled a second, free, three-part Dining With Diabetes workshop for Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 10, April 17, and April 24, at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County, 50 West High Street, Ballston Spa.

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