My Week at Diabetes Camp

I have had the privilege to get to volunteer at the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana’s Summer Diabetes Camp in Noblesville, IN. This is the 4th year that I spent a week at camp serving as the Registered Dietitian on staff. My job isn’t super glamorous, but it is fun. I get to work in the kitchen to organize and prepare the meals for the campers with food allergies. One in sixty Type 1 Diabetic patients also have another auto immune disease like Celiac Disease. So this means that these campers require gluten free options and often other Type 1 Diabetic people have other food allergies (issues with peanuts, dairy, soy, etc). To help accomodate these special needs, I work to provide options for these campers. Throughout the week, I work to prepare meal and snack items that accomodate those dietary restrictions our campers and some staff have. 

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I worked in a camp kitchen before, back in 2008 I was a cook at Camp Lakeview for a summer. There is a special place in my heart for camp kitchen staff. I enjoy being able to give back in this way and help to make some of these speciality food items. I love being at Diabetes Camp, because it provides a place where these Type 1 Diabetics get to be “normal.” Checking your blood sugar is normal. In fact, if you are at camp and don’t have diabtes, that is more abnormal. I have really enjoyed getting to know the staff and campers. It has been fun to go back year after year and see these kids grow up and get to help them learn to love camp as well. 

Like I said it isn’t a glamorous job, but I think it is super important. All of us have to eat and we do it at least 3 times a day for meals and hopefully 1-2 other snacks included in there as well. For someone with Type 1 Diabetes that means that they have to account for everything they put in their mouth, dose their insulin and track what their blood sugars are. That can make meal time a stressful experience. I have to imagine that spending a week at camp where you have medical staff helping to track and manage your diabetes has to be a welcomed relief. A chance to be surrounded with all of these other people with Type 1 Diabetes and get to have fun while knowing your diabetes is being taken care of. 

All in all it has been a great week. Lots of early morings and long days, but it was a ton of fun and I really enjoyed the chance to volunteer. It is always a great way to spend a week! 

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Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana Camp 2017

This is my third year attending Diabetes Camp with the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana. The camp is located up in Noblesville, IN and each year for a week I spend my time preparing foods for campers with food allergies. Lots of Type 1 diabetic patients also have food allergies or other autoimmune related diseases (such as Celiac disease). For their week at camp I work to help prepare "safe" foods for them to eat. My week at camp was crazy busy. We had 10 campers that had celiac and had to be gluten free. Then we had several vegetarians and one dairy free camper. With each meal I had to make sure that they had substitutes for the food items that were being served. I had to heat up and prepare 11 gluten free mac n' cheese diseases one meal and then make a pasta with red sauce dish for my dairy free camper. That basically summed up my week. It was great though, because I get to do something different for a week and I love being able to give of my time in that way. 

What I love about DYFI Camp? I think it is so great that these campers (all of which are Type 1 diabetic) can come to a place for the summer and get to feel "normal." Everyone else there as diabetes and checking your blood sugar/giving insulin is the norm. I also love that we support them with food that they can eat as well. We make sure that their food allergies are accommodated for and they are able to eat family style at meals. That is wonderful because they can choose what they want to eat and then their insulin bolus is given accordingly. Having a place where these campers can be just kids having fun is something that is so special.

Another exciting moment for this year was that we were able to donate the extra food to a food pantry/shelter in Noblesville. I was so excited to take the extra dry goods and fresh foods over to Third Phase Christian Center. These food items wouldn't have kept in the freezer until fall camp and so if we didn't take them somewhere they would have to be thrown out. I was so happy that they were able to be given to a group that could use the leftovers. They were very excited to receive the fresh food as a donation. They even were able to take opened food items that they used in their kitchen on site and whatever was unopened they could give away in the food pantry. 

It was a great week at camp. Everyone had a wonderful time. The weather was great. The kids got fed and I would call it a success! 

Another Week at Diabetes Camp

The last week of June I had the pleasure of getting to help out a Diabetes Camp in Noblesville, IN. The Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana puts on a week long camp for three weeks every June for kids with diabetes. Commonly this kiddos are type 1 diabetics, but it is a great opportunity to have these kids enjoy a week at camp and have the diabetes taken care of during that time. 

This was my 2nd year back at this camp and it went great. We had a wonderful week! My role is that of a "lunch lady." I am in charge of making the food substitutions for the kids with food allergies or special dietary needs. Last year I had a ton of these kids (like 12-14), but this year it is a much smaller group. I have 2 girls with celiac disease, 1 boy with dairy, peas, peanut allergy, 1 vegetarian camper and another boy with just peanut allergies. My role was to prepare the food substitutions for meals. For example ... on a night with chicken strips, I would get and prepare gluten free chicken strips for the celiac campers. I wouldn't have to prepare their whole meal, just a portion of it. It works well because the head dietitian for the camp, does a great job putting together the menu each year, which includes fruit, vegetables, lean protein and dairy. It is a well rounded meal plan. There is always 1 dietitian each week to help oversee the kitchen area and the campers with food allergies/restrictions. This year we had another addition - a Purdue intern. Her name is Molly and she helped us in the kitchen throughout the week. She just finished her sophomore year at Purdue and is majoring in Dietetics and Nutrition, Fitness & Health. She was a great addition to the kitchen crew and did a great job. 

It was a busy week. When I wasn't working in the kitchen getting meals ready, I was using my time to chart on our NICU babies. Our census has been crazy high this summer in the NICU so we have been busy. It was a great experience as always and I really love being able to volunteer and spend some time each summer out at this Diabetes Camp. If you know of anyone with Type 1 Diabetes then make sure you share the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana website with them and maybe next year they can go to camp! 

Artificial Sweeteners ... Yes or No?!

Over the last several years there has been a variety of research done in regards to artificial sweeteners. Now in our food supply we have tons of foods/beverages that are made with artificial sweeteners to decrease the overall calories. Is this really the best thing? I have set out to answer this question for the American Diabetes Association of Indianapolis. I have been asked to do a nutrition TV segment and a talk with a diabetes support group on this topic. 

Getting ready to our Artificial Sweeteners segment on Hamilton County TV with Carol Dixon from the American Diabetes Association in Indianapolis.

Getting ready to our Artificial Sweeteners segment on Hamilton County TV with Carol Dixon from the American Diabetes Association in Indianapolis.

I really enjoy being able to do research and increase my own knowledge on a topic and help to clear up confusion that is out there in the media. So here we go ... updated synopsis of the information that I have read and put together on the effect of artificial sweeteners on our bodies. 

  • What are artificial sweeteners? These are compounds, that taste sweet, and are used in place of regular sugar. You may have heard of sugar substitutes, nonnutritive sweeteners or noncaloric sweeteners. They are all the same thing. The theory behind them comes from the fact they are sweeter than sugar so you would use less to obtain the same level of sweetness and that decrease the amount of calories being consumed. 
  • What is the history behind artificial sweeteners? Saccharin (or as we know it Sweet N' Low) was actually discovered by accident at John Hopkins in 1870 when researchers were working with coal tar and cigarettes and ended up creating saccharin. They realized the tip of the cigarette tasted sweet and that was the beginning of artificial sweeteners. These compounds were also found to cost less to use and that helped to influence their surge in being used as a food additive.
  • What are the Pros/Cons of artificial sweeteners? I think that there are two sides of everything and I believe that artificial sweeteners have some positive and negative qualities about them. I hope this information helps you make an informed decision about using artificial sweeteners in your daily life.
    • Pros: 
      • Decrease overall calories - This has been the main reason that artificial sweeteners have gained popularity, because they decrease the calories in sweetened beverages and food. This can be helpful when you are trying to decrease your overall caloric intake to lose weight. More research is being done to look into how effective this small decrease in calories is to overall weight loss. 
      • Creates sweetened options for diabetics - These artificial have been helpful to the diabetic community to provide them with "sweet" food options that may not cause the immediate spike in their blood glucose levels. As a RD I do not think simply substituting regular sugar for an artificial sweeteners is a positive. You need to make healthy choices and not feeling justified in eating the whole sleeve of cookies just because they are "sugar free." 
      • Fine in moderation - I think of artificial sweeteners as a tool. They can be helpful if you want to decrease calories, or need to watch your blood glucose response. Having 1 Diet Coke a day is fine, but having 4-5 Diet Cokes per day is not ok. Everything in moderation and that applies to artificial sweeteners as well. 
      • Variety of products = variety of options - There are so many different types of artificial sweeteners now. Often these artificial sweeteners end up having an after taste, but with the variety of products you can find one that you prefer. Just remember moderation with whatever product you choose.
    • Cons: 
      • Still contains calories - The thing about artificial sweeteners is that they are not "free of calories." You use less of them, because they are sweeter than sugar, you don't consume as much and the calorie amount is low. If it is low enough that it doesn't have to be accounted for on a food label, then it can be labeled as "calorie free" or "low calorie." For example 1 packet of Splenda = 3.3kcal and if you were consume 12 of those packets in your coffee then you would be ingesting 40kcal. So nothing is free of calories, it comes down the amount of that artificial sweetener being consumed. 
      • Brain perceives sweetness and may trigger insulin release - There is more research that has coming out looking at the relationship between artificial sweeteners and your insulin response. So when you eat an artificial sweetener, it tastes sweet, sends a signal to your brain to release insulin from  your pancreas, the artificial sweetener isn't absorbed like glucose and you experience hyperinsulinemia (or high insulin levels). If this happens routinely it could cause you to become insulin resistant. Obviously, more research needs to be done, but it is interesting finds and could have a big impact on the artificial sweetener market in the future. 
      • May alter gut flora - Research has also been looking at how your body deals with artificial sweeteners in your GI tract. Since they aren't absorbed the same way as sugar, this can cause a change in your prebiotics/probiotics in your GI tract. This ultimately creates a different microflora in your gut. That could have other secondary ramifications. Again, it will be interesting to see what that means for people consuming artificial sweeteners on a regular basis. 
  • What do you recommend? It all comes down to moderation. The FDA has ruled artificial sweeteners as safe and if consumed in moderation I think they be a great tool to limit your calorie intake and if you are diabetic can help control your blood glucose levels. If you want a beverage or something sweetened with an artificial sweetener, make sure that you fit in some water. That is always the best thing to reach for when you need to re-hydrate. More research will be coming out in the next several years and I excited to see how this affects our recommendations regarding artificial sweeteners.

A Week at Diabetes Camp

This week I am spending my time at Diabetes Camp in Noblesville. I am playing lunch lady because I am in charge of the allergy diets. I have 16 kiddos who are on some type of special diet. That means I am cooking up everything from Vegetarian meals to Gluten free + Dairy free + Soy free. So needless to say it at times can be complicated. It  had been fun though! I have learned so much! I haven't had to work this closely for an extended period of time with diabetic patients. Doing clinical work means that we see patients for a short period of time (3 to 5 days) in the hospital. So hanging out with a bunch more of kids for 7 days has been fun. 

My scheduled consisted of cooking/preparing food for 3 meals a day + 2 snacks each day. I ended up preparing food for about 13 kids throughout the week. I spent my mornings making breakfast and then getting the lunch and snack items ready. I would get a few hours off before lunch to do work things, wonder around camp or go for a run. Then I would make lunch and finalize the evening snack. Then I would have another couple of hours off to do something fun. Then back to the kitchen for dinner preparation. I would then normally hang out around the camp in the evening, watching the camp game, going to campfire and then evening snack was at 9pm each evening. 

Camp has always held a special place in my heart. I love spending time at camp during the summer. I even had the opportunity to work in a kitchen at Camp Lakeview for a whole summer. I feel quite comfortable in a camp kitchen. This week at Diabetes Camp was great. I felt like I was able to make a positive difference and able to help this kids with allergies have a "normal" week. I also was able to learn lots more about Type 1 Diabetes in the process. It is amazing how much fun  you can have when you decide to enjoy yourself, work hard and make friends. I am thankful to have this opportunity and be able to serve these kiddos and staff for a week. 

Hanging out watch the camp activity for the evening. 

Hanging out watch the camp activity for the evening. 

Thank you to my co-workers Kara and Kim and for all their helping preparing for this week at camp. They both helped so much with inventorying food items, making food labels and creating a chart to help organize the meal preparation process. Thank you to the two Tracys, who were in the kitchen, with me for the week. It was so much fun getting to know them and work with them each day. Also one last thank you, to my other co-worker Kristin, for letting me go to this camp for a week and leave her alone at the hospital. It is tough to be short one person, but I am so thankful to be able to have this experience! 

The Dining Hall at Camp.

The Dining Hall at Camp.

The Gluten Free Prep area in the kitchen.

The Gluten Free Prep area in the kitchen.

Great week being able to work with some great people! 

Great week being able to work with some great people!