A rainbow of bright, colorful vegetables fills the prep trays at Dana Armstrong’s Thursday afternoon diabetes cooking class. Jewel-like purple cabbage, brilliant green kale, and vibrant red and yellow bell peppers await their turn to be transformed into a healthful and delicious meal. A registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, Armstrong teaches a four-week Diabetes Cooking Class: The Power of Food for Diabetes Prevention and Treatment. The class is open for those with diabetes, those who want to prevent diabetes, lose weight or just embrace a more healthful way of eating.
“I feel for the first time in my 27-year career I am making a significant difference in the lives of people who have diabetes,” said Armstrong. “It’s pretty amazing to say that considering how long I’ve been doing this. I see for the first time differences that I never saw before. That to me is thrilling.”
The two-hour classes explore how a plant-based diet that is low in fat and rich in vegetables, legumes, grains and fruits can reduce weight, bring blood sugar levels under control and lower cholesterol levels.
At each class Armstrong does cooking demonstrations of four or five healthful dishes that the class gets to consume.
“Students are often surprised at how tasty and easy to prepare some of the dishes are,” she said.
Armstrong is a Food For Life instructor and teaches the classes based on a program put together by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.
“People can read the book on their own, but then not know how to put it all together,” she said. “When you sit in a room and have someone demonstrating the cooking and you get to taste the food, then you can maybe think of ways you could spice it up to suit your taste buds. This gets people trying some different foods and cooking techniques.”
Being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis herself spurred Armstrong to look at a different way of eating.
“Then once I started taking care of myself differently, how could I go back and work with people with diabetes in a way that I knew wasn’t working?”
Since adapting this new style of eating, Armstrong has seen amazing changes in her own health and in the health of her clients.
Angelika Jackson, who has Type 1 diabetes, is a long-time client and now works as Armstrong’s assistant.
“I’ve known Angelika for 20 years,” said Armstrong. “She now has the best control that she’s ever had. She’s off all of her medications except insulin because she can’t stop that.”
“This way of eating has really affected me a lot,” said Jackson. “My blood sugar average dropped tremendously. I’m off my Lipitor (a medication to reduce cholesterol). They say it takes 21 days for taste buds to change. I went cold turkey. I couldn’t believe it. I felt better. I had more energy. Overall, I just feel much, much better.”
Having a son with Type 1 diabetes enables Armstrong to combine her professional knowledge with personal experience.
“People think I came into this field because of that,” she said. “I had actually been doing this for seven years when he was diagnosed.”
Classes are currently offered every other month.
“We’ve been getting a much greater call so we may be doing them every month,” said Armstrong. “We’re getting very positive feedback. It’s probably been the most requested thing in years.”
••• To register and for more information, call Dana Armstrong, RD, CDE at 831-998-7363.