Thursday, April 26, 2018
Features and More

Living with diabetes doesn't mean an end to good food

TAMPA

This week Nicole Johnson marks an important anniversary: She is beginning her 20th year of living successfully with Type 1 diabetes. • Since being diagnosed, she has won a Miss America title, earned three college degrees and is pursuing a doctorate in public health, has launched a small business, written several books, given birth to a daughter who is now 6 years old, helped raise millions of dollars for diabetes research and serves as executive director of a new diabetes research and education program she helped create at the University of South Florida. • Not bad for the woman who was told at age 19 that she would never be a mother and should avoid stress.

"Back then we were told to eat chicken and broccoli and pretty much avoid everything else," said Johnson, looking like a beauty queen as she shaped ground turkey into patties in her bright South Tampa kitchen.

"I said to myself, there's got to be more."

Johnson quickly learned there was plenty she could do, but that the essential ingredient was maintaining a well-balanced diet and lifestyle.

She also learned that balance didn't have to mean drudgery — information that she knew wasn't reaching many Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics struggling to balance carbs, fats, protein and calories.

Johnson teamed up with a popular cook she met at a diabetes conference — a guy known in the 1990s for his syndicated television cooking segments called Mr. Food.

Art Ginsburg had been diagnosed with diabetes and Johnson suggested they work together on a cookbook for diabetics. The pair produced three books for the American Diabetes Association. Then, in 2010 Johnson came out with a book of her own, Nicole Johnson's Diabetes Recipe Makeovers (Publications International Ltd., 2010), that transforms more than 100 family favorites into healthy dishes that diabetics can enjoy.

The book addresses something Johnson says is missing in similar cookbooks.

"It teaches people about negotiation and shifts the conversation away from focusing on limitations to one that focuses on options," said Johnson. "I show you how to negotiate your way through a meal so your carb bank isn't full when you get to foods you love."

She notes that the holiday season, with its parade of food, is particularly challenging for diabetics and can be even more daunting if you are a guest and can't control what is served at a meal or party. Instead of thinking of all the things you can't eat, Johnson suggests scanning the entire menu and deciding which high-carbohydrate item you want the most and skipping or having just a bite of the others.

For instance, if dessert is your goal, skip the mixed cocktails, potatoes and bread.

"I find out what is being served and make food decisions before walking in the door," said Johnson.

As you might expect, Johnson has her diabetes under good control. But it takes hard work every day, particularly when you have Type 1, the most serious form of the disease in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin. Even with vigilance, there's no guarantee she won't have a scare with low blood sugar.

In fact, she now is training her 6-month-old Labradoodle puppy, Lucy, to alert her when her blood sugar levels are dipping.

How can a dog do that? By learning to detect a scent on the human breath that develops when blood sugar levels drop rapidly. When the dog notices this, she nudges or licks her mistress, gets help from somebody else in the house — and can even fetch food or liquid.

Lucy, who wears a vest identifying her as an assist dog in training, is an apt, well-behaved pupil. As Johnson was cooking, and delicious aromas filled the air, Lucy stayed close by, but never angled for a handout.

The same, however, couldn't be said for Johnson's human guests.

Irene Maher can be reached at [email protected]

     
     
Comments
Enjoy a beach day in Mahahual, minutes from the cruise port in Costa Maya, Mexico

Enjoy a beach day in Mahahual, minutes from the cruise port in Costa Maya, Mexico

A trip to the Caribbean conjures up visions of swaying palms and a watercolor palette of blues, greens and shades in between. Just 10 minutes or so from the port of Costa Maya, Mexico, a fixture on most western Caribbean cruise itineraries, lies an i...
Published: 04/26/18
Bar review: Danny’s Sports Pub in Palm Harbor

Bar review: Danny’s Sports Pub in Palm Harbor

Every town has that institution, the reliable neighborhood dive: enduring for decades, with the nicotine stains and scuffed furniture to prove it. The appeal of these places is that they never really change; they’re largely the same as they were in t...
Published: 04/26/18
Local craft beer of the week: Skaterboarders, drink up this After Sesh Lager from Cigar City

Local craft beer of the week: Skaterboarders, drink up this After Sesh Lager from Cigar City

Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing has been in the collaboration game longer than most, working with breweries across the world, as well as musicians, artists and local businesses to produce a growing list of partnered brews, most of which are one-time relea...
Published: 04/26/18
Why does Yelp think Asian restaurants serve cat and dog meat?

Why does Yelp think Asian restaurants serve cat and dog meat?

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18
Jobsite Theater wants to challenge audiences with an adaptation of ‘1984’

Jobsite Theater wants to challenge audiences with an adaptation of ‘1984’

TAMPANow is as good a time as any, since there is no great time to take a deep dark look into the apocalypse of humanity.But history rewards those brave enough to try, from Nostradamus to George Orwell, who are looking more and more like the same bre...
Published: 04/25/18
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is stunningly dark, but it’s still wildly entertaining

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is stunningly dark, but it’s still wildly entertaining

What does Thanos want?That question lies at the heart of Avengers: Infinity War, the at-once dark, maddeningly open-ended yet fiercely entertaining new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which pits the titular global do-gooders — still s...
Published: 04/25/18
Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

TAMPA — A lonely and changeable sky illuminates the top of the stage through most of Waitress, running this week at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The neon lettering of Joe’s Diner reflects days and nights that don...
Published: 04/25/18
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Published: 04/25/18
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Published: 04/25/18
Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

MINISTRY OF JOBSITE: 1984When selecting an adaptation for George Orwell’s 1984 (there have been a few of them), Jobsite Theater had to strike the most controversial one off the list. That version by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan ran for 125 perfor...
Published: 04/25/18