Students to get insights into healthy food selection

Throughout March, the Cayman Islands Diabetes Charitable Trust will be providing nutrition information to high schools in Cayman to help prevent diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Christina Rowlandson, cofounder of the trust, said supporters would visit schools to assist with meal planning and to promote vegan meals.

The trust is working with Clifton Hunter High School on the diabetes reversal diet and creating a new whole foods, plant-based menu, she said.

On 8 March, the trust kicks off the Tween and Teen Marathon Challenge to encourage students to walk and run more during the week and to encourage their participation in community 5k (3 mile) walks and runs. The initiative continues until 28 June.

“Once students complete 26.5 miles, they can enter to win prize awards and a gift for their school. Participant forms and run charts are available through participating schools,” Ms Rowlandson said.

The trust aims to help dispel dangerous nutrition myths and encourages students to consider six whole foods they should eat and to avoid processed foods, animal foods, and unhealthy supplements.

With many students’ having a family history of diabetes – the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure – the trust is focusing on educating Cayman’s school children to make healthy food and lifestyle choices that will keep them from developing the disease.

The schools programme includes a comprehensive and holistic approach to encourage students to increase healthy eating patterns, exercise, rest, self confidence, and peer-centred support.

“Healthy behaviours start with a positive mind set and educating and inspiring young people about what constitutes a healthy approach to life is key,” said Dr. Eva Ritvo, South Beach psychiatrist, coauthor of The Beauty Prescription, and motivational speaker.

“Unfortunately many of our young people today are engaging in high risk attitudes and behaviours and setting themselves up for a lifetime of illness and the Diabetes Trust and I hope to change these unhealthy practices and improve their choices through motivational boot camps,” Dr. Ritvo added.

In 2006, an education and awareness event series called ‘Taking Diabetes to School’ was sponsored at all government primary schools by the former Cayman Diabetic Support Group. Ms Rowlandson said the new Cayman Islands Diabetes Charitable Trust hopes to take this to a whole new level at Cayman Islands’ high schools.

“Teenagers are a very important age group because they are only a couple of years away from entering the workforce where healthy attitudes and behaviours can have a substantial effect on their and their coworkers’ well-being”, she said.

“We have found that the vast majority of … primary and secondary school students have positive family history for diabetes, or waist circumference issues, and these factors put them at much greater risk of diabetes and other problems,” Ms Rowlandson added.

For most people, particularly those with Type 2 Diabetes, the condition can be managed by changes to diet and exercise alone, and without the need for lifelong treatment and disease complications. Similarly, the right kind of diet and exercise programme can prevent diabetes from occurring in the first place.

Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to deal with high blood glucose levels. Many of the regular foods eaten today are spiking blood glucose levels and need to be eliminated to create a healthy diet.

When a child or adult is diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, they are treated with insulin therapy and this is a chronic condition that commonly shows up with no other family history. There is no medical cure for this type of diabetes either. However, because food and exercise both have dramatic effects on blood sugar levels, they can be helpful in managing the disease, along with insulin therapy. A whole-food, plant-based diet that includes a wide variety of food choices is recommended because it can have a beneficial effect on blood glucose levels, while delivering the optimal amount of minerals, vitamins, fibre, calories, phytochemicals, protein, and other nutrients.

A recipe blog will soon be available to share popular plant-based meals and show how they make a powerful choice for all the family. Nutrition news is also shared on Facebook at www.fb.me/diabetes.ky.

Bradley Johnson, secretary of the Diabetes Trust’s advisory committee, said the most enjoyable part of working with the trust is hearing how efforts are changing lives. He hopes the wider community will make a contribution to ensure every child receives the information, education and support they need to prevent disease.

For further information about the Diabetes Trust, email [email protected]

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