How food can be used as a form of diabetes treatment

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When it comes to managing diabetes, medications and insulin aren’t the only ways to help. The right foods can be an effective form of diabetes treatment as well.

Treating diabetes with food

When it comes to managing diabetes, medications and insulin aren’t the only ways to help. Food can be an effective form of diabetes treatment, according to Morgan Kopka, RDN, L.D., a diabetes educator with Norton Children’s Endocrinology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.

Norton Children’s Endocrinology

Our providers offer nutrition education to meet each child’s unique needs when it comes to managing their diabetes.

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The latest research shows combining so-called “culinary medicine” with a food prescription program delivers promising results for patients managing Type 2 diabetes. Culinary medicine is a newer, evidence-based approach that combines cooking with the science of nutrition as medicine to teach healthy diet habits. Food prescription programs offer access to healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to families in need.

“Balanced, consistent and nutritious meals are key elements of diabetes management, but accessing healthy foods can be a barrier for some families,” Morgan said. “This is why we offer a food pantry and cooking classes, so families can confidently cook healthy foods into tasty meals.” 

According to a study, “Impact of a Virtual Culinary Medicine Curriculum on Biometric Outcomes, Dietary Habits and Related Psychosocial Factors among Patients with Diabetes Participating in a Food Prescription Program,” the patients in such a program:

  • Consumed more fruits and vegetables
  • Cooked “from scratch” more frequently
  • Had “increased self-efficacy in meal planning and cooking”

The study also found that fewer participants in the program “reported that cooking healthy food is difficult.”

Resources for patients

Nutritional education: The registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators with the Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute provide nutrition education to help patients and families develop a healthier relationship with food and meal planning to meet each child’s unique diabetes needs. The center is part of Norton Children’s Endocrinology.

Cooking classes: The Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute Nutrition Kitchen offers families a fun, hands-on experience where they learn to plan and cook diabetes-friendly meals and snacks. Families learn to incorporate a variety of balanced foods into meals, along with strategies to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Classes range from preparing basic meals to full holiday meal planning. All classes focus on incorporating healthy and safe alternatives to traditional ingredients for patients with diabetes. These classes are offered in-person or virtually via Zoom.

Food pantry: The Wendy Novak Diabetes Institute is located inside the Novak Center for Children’s Health, where patients have access to a prescriptive food pantry. The food pantry is stocked with healthy options, such as low-sugar cereals, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, low-sodium pasta sauce, tuna, peanut butter, canned fruit in natural juices and canned vegetables with no added salt. Additional pantries are available at select Norton Children’s Medical Group locations for families who need access to healthy foods.