What would be a more satisfying snack? Two tablespoons of dried fruit or a cup of fresh berries? Polyclinic nutritionist Kaitlyn Mason poses this question to class attendees as she uses plastic food models to demonstrate how recommended serving sizes can influence our decision making. (Most people opt for the larger portion!)
“When patients are struggling with dietary change, we try to focus our discussion on foods that can benefit their health instead of only talking about foods to avoid. This positive approach offers patients lots of good options to choose from and avoids the idea that their diet needs to be overly restrictive,” said Mason, MS, RDN, CD, class instructor and registered dietician in The Polyclinic Diabetes Education department. “Providing visual examples makes the classes more engaging and memorable for patients.”
Learning appropriate serving sizes and reading food labels are just two items discussed in “Healthy Eating: Carb Counting and Meal Planning.” Participants also learn about macro and micro nutrients, types of carbohydrates (simple sugars, starch, fiber), and specific examples of foods considered carbs (it’s not just grains and breads).
The class is one of a three-part series focusing on managing type 2 diabetes. In 2018, on average, patients who attended the class series dropped their A1c by 1.8 percent, according to data tracked by The Polyclinic Quality department. A1c measures the average blood sugar of a patient every day over several months. To decrease just a half percentage of A1C requires reducing estimated average glucose (eAG) by 14 points.
“Diabetes is a life-long disease,” said Lori Cooper, MD, endocrinologist, and Diabetes Education medical director. “Understanding how the lifestyle, nutrition, and activity choices we make affect this process is vital. Knowledge empowers patients to take control of their disease, reducing the likelihood of diabetes complications and the need for increasing amounts of medication long-term.”
Patients are encouraged to attend the entire series, especially newly diagnosed patients, as many insurance plans cover the cost of diabetes education, with the largest benefit in the first year of diagnosis. Typically, patients may have up to 10 hours of education covered.
Structure of Classes
Class size can range but is capped at seven patients to provide an opportunity for instruction and personalized interaction. Patients also meet individually with a Diabetes Education instructor at two different points – prior to starting and six weeks after completion.
“The class environment is unique in that it allows patients to interact, share experience, and realize they are not alone in the struggles that come with managing chronic disease,” said Mason. “That shared experience is instrumental in building confidence in implementing diet and lifestyle changes.
Classes are taught by Polyclinic registered dieticians, Kaitlyn Mason MS, RDN, CD, Tracey Graber RD, CDE, and Marika Saarinen PharmD, CDE, who are also trained in diabetes education and work closely with Polyclinic endocrinologists, like Dr. Cooper, nurses and staff.
Who Can Attend
- Patients with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Attendees do not have to be Polyclinic patients but a referral from a healthcare provider is required.
- A friend or family member of a patient attending the class.
How to Participate in Diabetes Education Classes
Ask your primary care physician or endocrinologist for a referral to the class. A referral does not have to be from a Polyclinic provider. Visit the class schedule for upcoming dates in addition to other offerings for pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes. Call 206-860-5572 for questions.
Healthy Eating Food Swaps
|Chocolate covered granola bar||Oatmeal with a sprinkle of chocolate chips|
|Ranch dressing||Vinaigrette dressing|
|Ramen noodles||Soba or whole wheat|
|Mayo||Avocado or hummus|
|Flavored yogurt||Greek or Icelandic plain yogurt|