New Initiative to Improve Dietary Education for Diabetes Patients

March 25, 2019

In November 2018, members of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism were awarded a grant from the Children’s Trust of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation to develop and implement a pop-up Teaching Kitchen initiative to create dietary education and support for patients and families with diabetes and other chronic conditions for which dietary control and education are critical to establishing long-term positive outcomes.

Dorothy Becker, MD, Christine March, MD, and John Weidinger, PA-C, all members of the Division who have a focus on diabetes treatment, were awarded a $15,000 grant to procure a pop-up, portable Teaching Kitchen and develop curricula for its use. The pop-up Teaching Kitchen will initially be used by diabetes patients, but then will likely be used over time by other clinical divisions, such as cardiology, gastroenterology, and others.

Peds Endo PUK

The pop-up Teaching Kitchen is designed to be highly portable and allows for interactive, hands-on learning experiences for children and families. It is designed to teach basic kitchen skills to educate and promote the lifestyle, as well as reinforce behavioral modifications necessary for managing a chronic condition such as diabetes.

“The pop-up kitchen is designed to be used in partnership with one of our chefs and dieticians to demonstrate healthy meals while at the same time emphasizing nutritional benefits of different foods to complement the care for patients with diabetes,” says Dr. March.

Teaching Kitchen sessions can be set up for 12 children or adolescents at a time. Patients are led through a session by the chef, following his or her instructions to prepare their own meal/snack. Throughout the process, a dietitian provides nutrition information and guidance about the ingredients being used, as well as broader nutrition information. The format of the Teaching Kitchen is designed to engage the patient and family in a fun, hands-on learning experience, empowering the family to learn healthy food preparation techniques and,
in return, healthier lifestyle habits.

“We receive frequent requests from our patients for cooking classes and healthy recipes. The Teaching Kitchen will be an innovative format to provide them practical information, hopefully leading to sustained dietary improvements,” says Mr. Weidinger.

Age-appropriate programs and developmentally appropriate cooking and dietary demonstrations will be developed to target important nutritional aspects of diabetes care — be it carbohydrate counting skills, low cholesterol and low fat food preparation, and the fundamentals of balanced nutritional intake.

“With its built-in flexibility, we have the option to move the Teaching Kitchen around easily and integrate its teaching capabilities into a number of our existing clinical and educational programs to provide a deeper level of education and interactivity,” says Mr. Weidinger.
“For example, we will likely use the pop-up Teaching Kitchen for young adults who are learning to cook for themselves. We can also help families with picky eaters by introducing the kids to new foods that are tasty and healthy,” says Dr. March.

Managing type 1 diabetes comes down to a combination of good nutrition, healthy exercise, and insulin use. While all three aspects are critical to successful management, food is the key.

“Dr. Becker, when discussing diabetes management with patients and families, specifically mentions insulin last, because a healthy diet is crucial. Of course, monitoring blood sugars and giving insulin are important, but we can’t forget the importance of how what we eat affects
our health, too. This new initiative will give us another tool to use in our work to help build healthy eating habits for kids,” says Dr. March.