Managing Diabetes at Meetings can Improve Health for all 

If you follow me on social media, you may have already noticed it’s Diabetes Awareness Month. The celebration is a combined effort across U.S. government entities, medical professionals, individuals with diabetes and their friends and families, those who want to learn more, and organizations across more industries than you would think to help those managing diabetes to eat and feel better.

National Diabetes Month is observed every November so individuals, health care professionals, organizations, and communities across the country can bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans.” – National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

This year’s theme is:

Managing Diabetes – it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

The focus of this year’s theme is on managing diabetes to avoid diabetes-related health complications.

I want to take a moment to clear up a few common misconceptions and to directly address the stigma around diabetes. Most of us know there are two types of diabetes. A quick reminder:

Type 1 Diabetes

Also called Juvenile Diabetes, although adults can also see late onset. The person can no longer make insulin because their immune system has destroyed the cells that makes insulin. This can often be managed by controlling diet, exercise, cholesterol, and blood pressure, though medications or insulin shots may be necessary.

Type 2 Diabetes

Also, called late onset Diabetes, although children are being diagnosed at an increasing rate. This can also often be controlled through healthy food choices, an active lifestyle, and by controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. Medications may be necessary. This type of diabetes begins with insulin resistance and medications are needed as the resistance increases and the body cannot keep up.

For just a quick moment, let’s mention the bad rap people with Diabetes get. The disease is often associated with laziness, but we need to keep in mind that Diabetes is a disease like any other that should be treated with respect and a level of confidentiality. It is also a genetic issue. Even adult onset, the type of Diabetes most associated with being lazy or gluttonous, occurs when a genetic predisposition is triggered.

Diabetes Awareness Month ribbonAlso, many people who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes can be within a healthy weight range, but suffer from inactivity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. With most Americans working behind a desk all day and coming home to family and other obligations, and with 14.5% (45 million) people living under the poverty level, it’s no wonder so many Americans suffer through inactivity and convenient food. It’s also no wonder Diabetes is so prevalent in our country.

The 2017 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that 9.4% of of the US population has diabetes. These are not only staggering numbers, they indicate a clear responsibility on the part of meeting and event professionals to design menus that are safe and healthy for their attendees. The number of attendees that are statistically likely to have Diabetes or pre-Diabetes cannot be ignored.

Eating more nutritious meals is better for all of us and given the growing prevalence of Diabetes in everyone’s lives, I’m using Diabetes Awareness Month to help re-focus our dining experiences to not only accommodate those with food allergies and other custom eaters, but to plan for about 10% of our attendees to be in need of Diabetic-friendly choices. A note of warning:

Many recipes and menus claiming to be Diabetic-friendly are not because they simply reduce sugar, rather than substituting or eliminating sugar. Even small amounts can cause blood sugar spikes and will not suitable for many Diabetics.

In recognition of our duty of care to ourselves and our attendees, here are a few resources that can serve to help us as we design menus and help keep activity levels high for our attendees. It may not be our job to police our attendee food choices, but it is certainly our responsibility to provide very real and very healthy options so managing diabetes at meetings is easier.

Quick Pro Tip Reminders

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  • Offer a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid added sugars, such as packaged fruit salads that add extra sugar to counter any tart fruit that may not have been completely ripened.
  • Fat-free, low-fat, and low calorie are a must. We love our sauces and salsas, our drizzles and dressings, but if we are honest, we use more of these products on our foods than is appropriate for any healthy diet. So either offer real alternatives, or offer actual solutions, such as meals that don’t have added condiments.
  • Offer foods and especially beverages, that are low in sugar. It’s tempting to grab the inexpensive juice for the morning buffet, but we really need to budget for the 100% fruit juice.
  • Serve foods with low sodium. Use himalayan salt when adding salt can’t be avoided, and whenever possible, use herbs and spices instead of salt.

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Recipes and Resources

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  • This recipes forum may not be as pretty as your average foodie blogger website, but it is packed with hundreds of recipes.
  • This site has a lot of recipes that combine needs of custom eaters. Some are Diabetic-friendly and vegetarian. Or there is a category for Diabetic-friendly and gluten-free recipes.
  • Diabetic Living is one of the premiere magazines for Diabetics and a great resource for recipes.

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