Fort Wayne – Penny Atkinson is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, teaching diabetic patients the significance of a proper diet and exercise.
But last year, she had to put into practice her own advice after learning she was pre-diabetic.
Ive lost 65 pounds since last year this time, Atkinson says. I went to the doctor and found out my blood sugar was testing in the pre-diabetes range, and that scared the heck out of me. I thought, here I was a dietitian.
November is National Diabetes Month.
The importance of diabetes education is so important, she says. If theyre diagnosed with diabetes, its so important that they attend a diabetes self-management education program thats usually covered by insurance. Its more than five-minute diet advice.
I think education is the key. You wouldnt play basketball without knowing the rules. I think people know after going through a class that its not so mysterious. Lifestyle makes a huge difference.
Starting Nov. 15 last year, Atkinson began taking a walk after dinner. She now has more energy, she says happily.
I just finished the Galloping Gobbler Race in the over-50 category, says Atkinson, who has two children – daughter Kelsey, 21, and son Drew, 15 – with her husband, Dan.
Passionate about her work, Atkinson, 51, divides her time seeing patients at Fort Wayne Endocrinology and clients at her business, New Leaf Nutrition, located at Urban Body Sanctuary, 4930 Illinois Road, Suite F1.
Q. Are you seeing an increase in diabetes?
A. Yes. It used to be the average age was 50s and 60s; now I see people in their 30s. Type 2 diabetes, were seeing it at a younger and younger age.
There was a big study: If youre that Type 2 – if they have it as family history, over 50, overweight and inactive – a person can lose 5 (percent) to 7 percent of their body weight, that cuts the risk of developing full-blown diabetes.
Q. Are they any cookbooks or websites you suggest for diabetics?
A. I would suggest the Allen County Public Library or any local library – any (cookbook) from American Diabetes Association.
I dont refer to any particular website, but Sparkpeople.com helps people track their food, exercise and its totally free. Its good for somebody that works at their desk. CalorieKing.com is a good food database.
Q. What part does exercise play with diabetes?
A. Anytime you move, youll lower your blood sugar. Exercise we say three times a week for maintenance and five times a week for weight loss.
Id rather see patients walking 20 minutes almost every day versus going to the gym three times a week for an hour and a half. Let food rest for 30 minutes and then exercise.
Q. Whats the first thing patients/clients will ask you about diet?
A. Usually I ask them what they have to give up. Some people will say ice cream or cake. Some will be more sophisticated and say pasta. Most foods can fit. I say you can have it, but you cant have it all. Even sweets are allowed on the diet. You can have it, but make it a small piece of pie, a couple of small cookies, and not bread or potato at the meal.
Have (the meal) with a lean meat, salad and hot vegetable. I encourage my clients to bring a salad when theyre going to a family gathering so they can have seconds.
Q. Christmas and New Years are approaching. How should diabetics handle those holidays?
A. What I tell people is to save your special occasion. I mean, dont turn Christmas into a 30-day holiday. Pick your battles. Ten holidays (per year) wont make or break your diet; its the Monday-through-Friday routine.
Naturally Sweet Oatmeal Cookies
A recipe I developed myself that contains no added sugar, flour and very little fat. It gets a nutritional boost from high omega-3 flax and chia, Atkinson says.
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
3/4 cup crushed pineapple (from a can)
1/2 cup oat or wheat bran
1/2 cup currants, raisins or other dried fruit
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup chia seeds (available at a food co-op)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Mix all ingredients and let stand for 15 minutes. Drop dough onto cookie sheet, flatten slightly and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 13 minutes, until slightly brown and firm. Makes 2 dozen.
2 (15-ounce) cans artichoke, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Mix together and serve with crudité or Carrs Table Water crackers. Makes 4 cups.
Kale and White Bean Soup
This soup contains two great sources of calcium: kale and beans, Atkinson says. Studies suggest a potential beneficial role of calcium intake in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and improving blood sugar control for those who have the disease.
2 cups canned cannellini beans
1 1/2 medium-sized onions, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart vegetable stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups carrots, diced medium
7 cups chopped kale, stems removed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
In a 6- to 8-quart stockpot, sauté the onions in oil until soft, add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the beans, stock, salt, pepper, bay leaf and rosemary and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the carrots and cook another 10 minutes.
Add the kale and cook until kale is tender, about 15 minutes. Add more vegetable stock if soup requires more liquid. Check the seasoning, adjust as needed, and remove the bay leaf.
Serve sprinkled with fresh grated parmesan cheese. Makes 8 servings.