BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - More than half a million people in Louisiana have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Another million are considered pre-diabetic. Doctors say the biggest way to stop the disease is a healthier diet.
“When you get the news that you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, it's a shock. You have to change your way of life,” explained Dr. Tiffany Wesley, an internal medicine physician with Our Lady of the Lake and LSU Health.
Wesley is part of a special three-course cooking class hosted by Red Stick Spice Co. in Baton Rouge. The amateur chefs in the kitchen get hands-on lessons from owner, Anne Milneck.
“We're just here to look at that meal plan, and then help them bring some amazing flavor into it without adding a ton of salt or sugar, and it's all in changing up the spice blends,” Milneck said.
Sponsored by OLOL, the class exclusively serves LSU Health patients. Instead of telling them what to eat, the idea is to teach them.
“A lot of diabetics think that all carbohydrates are bad, but actually, a lot of them are good and will help to regulate their insulin levels better, and actually protect against cardiovascular disease,” Wesley said.
That includes things like whole grains. Old fashioned oats serve as the main ingredient in the class recipe for sweet potato cookies. Turkey chili is also on menu, along with roasted root vegetable salad with honey ginger balsamic vinaigrette.
“I think a lot of times out there in the food world, things seem too complicated or unapproachable,” Milneck said. “And the truth is, it’s very approachable once you understand what these spices are doing in the dish.”
Those small spices can have a big impact when it comes to making healthy recipes taste better. Doctors say losing 5 to 10% of total body weight can help lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Milneck and Wesley agree the key is cutting out processed foods and eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, along with those whole grains.
Many of the participants seemed encouraged by the hands-on approach.
“It’s a fun way to learn something new,” Kristen Mitchell said. “Somebody’s teaching you how to do different things. It’s less scary, because you don’t have to learn on your own or on YouTube.”