Penn Highlands Clearfield Offers Nutrition Education

May 29, 2015


Dietitians throughout Penn Highlands Healthcare provide one-on-one nutritional counseling for people who suffer from a variety of medical conditions. At left, Dave Duke, who was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, learns what his recommended daily intake of carbohydrates should be from Bernie Clark, dietitian for Penn Highlands Clearfield.

When Dave Duke of Clearfield was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, a chronic condition that affects the way one’s body metabolizes sugar, one of the first questions he asked was, “What foods am I allowed to eat?”

Duke didn’t have to go far for the answers thanks to a nutrition education service provided by Penn Highlands Clearfield Nutrition Services.

“I haven’t always watched my weight and I’m sure that’s part of the reason I have diabetes. Ending up in the emergency department because I had a blood sugar level four times higher than normal was a wake-up call,” he said.

Dietitians throughout Penn Highlands Healthcare provide one-on-one counseling for people who suffer from a variety of medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory conditions, renal disease, weight management, eating disorders and others. They work closely with clients to create a comprehensive nutritional assessment and plan that will help to improve health and quality of life.

In Duke’s case, he had to learn how certain foods negatively affect blood sugar levels. He met with Bernie Clark, dietitian for Penn Highlands Clearfield. 

“Diabetes impacts many major organs, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. If not managed well, diabetes can damage these organs and cause life-threatening complications. Controlling blood sugar levels can help prevent these complications,” Clark explained.

Clark helped Duke figure out his nutritional needs based on his desired weight, lifestyle, medication and other health goals. 

She explained that carbohydrates have a big impact on blood sugar levels – more so than fats and proteins – but told Duke that he didn’t have to avoid them totally. 

“All people with diabetes just need to be smart about what types of carbs they eat,” Clark said.

Clark told Duke that, in general, it’s best to limit highly refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice, as well as soda, candy and snack foods, and to focus instead on high-fiber complex carbohydrates, also known as slow-release carbs. 

Slow-release carbs help keep blood sugar levels even because they are digested more slowly, thus preventing the body from producing too much insulin. They also provide lasting energy and help people stay full longer.  

Clark also gave advice on food substitution. For example, instead of eating a hamburger and french fries, she advised Duke to opt for the healthier choices of a turkey burger on whole grain bun, salad and fruit.

Duke, who owns an ice cream truck, admitted that he has a weakness for ice cream. Clark explained that he can still indulge in his favorite flavor now and then, as long as he eats small portions.

 “Moderation is key. Those with diabetes can still enjoy their favorite treats as long as they plan properly. Dessert doesn’t have to be off limits as long as it’s a part of a healthy meal plan and combined with daily exercise,” Clark said.

Finally, she explained to Duke the importance of understanding food labels and appropriate serving sizes based on recommended carbohydrate intake.     

 Duke’s blood sugar levels are now in normal range with his new diet and medication, and he credits the Penn Highlands Clearfield Emergency Department, his family doctor Donald Conrad, D.O., and Clark for giving him the tools he needs to manage diabetes. 

“I’m thankful for the care I received and I’m glad our local hospital provides these services to help people like me. If anything good has come from this diagnosis, it’s that I am taking better care of myself,” Duke said.

A physician referral is needed for a nutritional assessment. For more information about these services, please speak with your physician or call (814) 768-2276 at Penn Highlands Clearfield.