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In National Diabetes Month, Underserved Area Gets Healthy-Cooking Program

New cooking classes in Baltimore help participants prepare healthy meals to reduce risk of diabetes. (Adobe stock)
New cooking classes in Baltimore help participants prepare healthy meals to reduce risk of diabetes. (Adobe stock)
November 18, 2019

BALTIMORE — November is National Diabetes Month, and a new pilot program in East Baltimore is teaching an underserved community heart-healthy cooking as part of a Diabetes Prevention Program. The program aims to help patients lose weight to reduce their risk of diabetes.

Studies show people living with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease and die from it. Dr. Nisa Maruther is a diabetes specialist at the Johns Hopkins Brancati Center, which is running the pilot with the Maryland branch of the American Heart Association. She said nearly half of adults in America have diabetes or pre-diabetes, but many don't have access to healthy resources such as supermarkets or safe places to exercise, which this pilot is focused on addressing.

"One of the things that we've gone and talked to our community members about is that we know that areas that have fewer resources that are lower income don't get these programs to the same extent as affluent areas,” Naruther said. “And there was a paper published that showed that"

In Maryland, over 12% of the population is estimated to have diabetes, and a staggering 37% have pre-diabetes, according to research by the American Heart Association.

The Diabetes Prevention Program in Baltimore is based on a model created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help people build and sustain a healthy lifestyle. Stephanie Rose, a chef who's working with the Heart Association to teach heart-healthy cooking classes as part of the pilot, said she's co-teaching the classes with a life coach. Together, they help participants learn about nutrition and how to incorporate affordable, good-tasting meals with less salt and fat into their day-to-day lives.

"Start with fresh food. If you can't get that, OK, you can use the canned, but please be conscientious to buy salt-free or low-sodium,” Rose said. “Because sometimes you can't get the fresh tomato, so it's OK to use the canned, but get the low-sodium."

She said every participant gets their own cooking station to give them the feel of cooking at home. Each class includes nutrition information, food safety and sanitation, recipes and the preparation of a meal that people can bring home to their families. For more information, email baltimorekitchen@heart.org.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD