By Kathryn Menue


Throughout the end of August and the beginning of September, the University of Illinois Boone County Extension Office offered I on Diabetes, a “four-part series designed to help manage diabetes.”

“It’s one of our core programs we do throughout the state,” Marilyn Csernus said.

Csernus, MS, RD, CDE registered dietitian, and certified diabetes, nutrition, and wellness educator presented the course to 16 individuals every Wednesday night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Aug. 17 through Sept. 7.

Each week, Csernus focused on a different topic revolving around diabetes. The University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness team, consisting of 10 members, developed the information for the series based on studies from the American Diabetes Association and the Association of Endocrinologists.

The first week consisted of an overview of what diabetes is, with a special focus on the difference between Type I and Type II diabetes.

Csernus said that Type II diabetes mainly is due to a less-active lifestyle. However, genetic predisposition can account for either diabetes type as well.

“Just nationally, there’s a real problem with diabetes,” Csernus said. She reported that 9.3 percent of the population has been diagnosed with diabetes.

The second class Csernus led emphasized meal planning. She explained the definition of carbohydrates and the different types of carbohydrates in existence. She also taught students about reading food labels and how to plan three, same-serving-sized meals a day.

“Diabetes is very overwhelming. It’s one of those diseases that takes day-in and day-out on the individual,” Csernus said. “It takes a lot of work, but it is manageable.”

For instance, people with diabetes must check their blood sugar on a regular basis and watch what they consume more than the average person. However, the main takeaway Csernus wanted students to take away from the course is that people can control diabetes.

She continued to demonstrate this ideal through her two other sessions.

The third class focused on complications with diabetes such as high cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

In the fourth and final session, Csernus addressed eating and dining out concerns and how to consult doctors on what measures they should take while eating out.

Plus, each one of Csernus classes featured new, healthy recipes the class could try.

“We kind of focus on the cooking in every session and they get to sample the recipes,” Csernus said.

In essence, the class received a free meal each week they attended.

For example, in the Wednesday, Aug. 24 class, the class learned how to make crunchy chicken casserole, consisting of Greek yogurt, red peppers, onions, celery, almonds, and more.

They also learned how to make a carrot salad and a pineapple, walnut fluff dessert.

With each recipe, Csernus would walk the class through the carbohydrates in each dish, and show them how quick and easy these meals were to prepare on a busy schedule.

The four-part series provided students with 10 new recipes overall, which they got to take home along with all of the educational materials covered in the course. The Cosmopolitan Club donated to the I on Diabetes series to ensure students could have these necessities for free.

The Belvidere YMCA was nice enough to donate their kitchen and classroom spaces, so Csernus and University of Illinois Boone County Extension Coordinator Judy Hodge could prepare the meals and presentations for the class.

“We really need a place that has a kitchen we can use,” Csernus said. The Belvidere YMCA was the perfect fit for their needs.

One of the best parts of the four-part series was that the class was free due to the generous sponsorship of the Cosmopolitan Club. The Cosmopolitan Club is dedicated to diabetes awareness.

“Without the Cosmopolitan Club sponsorship, it would be hard to do,” Csernus said. Otherwise, students would have been charged to attend the seminar.

Hodge said it was a “collaborative effort” between the three organizations to provide diabetics, and their families, information to improve and manage their health.

“We are appreciative of the Cosmopolitan Club of their sponsorship so participants don’t have to pay to attend and to the Y for use of their facility,” Csernus said.

For those who missed the four-part series, don’t worry. The University of Illinois Extension does at least one seminar on diabetes a year.

“It all depends on how much interest we have,” Csernus said. “I’d like to have one at least in the spring of next year.”

The Cosmopolitan Club agreed to sponsor the class again, so the class would be free.

For those who have already attended the series, they are welcome to attend another seminar, since each one varies with new recipes and new information.

The University of Illinois Extension offers a Diabetes Support Group every second Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Keen Age Center, called Living Well with Diabetes. The support group is open to the public.

The University of Illinois Extension doesn’t limit their services to diabetes. Throughout the year, they also host classes on core classes of chronic diseases, food preservation, and health and wellness.

The Extension Office will offer other activities as well, including the Boone County Farm Stroll from noon to 5 p.m. on Oct. 2. Other upcoming events include the Backyard Apple Tree School on Oct. 17 at the Extension Office in Belvidere from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., along with the Composting Classes on Sept. 21, Oct. 12, and Nov. 2 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Extension Office.

Another event to look forward to is the Bird Class in the beginning of October at the Boone County Conservation District.

To learn more, visit web.extension.edu/bdo or call the Extension Office at (815) 544-3710.

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