For the third year in a row, Frederick County residents with diabetes — or simply those in search of a healthier meal — won’t have to look very hard in November with eight area restaurants participating in the Frederick Diabetes Coalition’s Restaurant Challenge.
Jan Drass, chairwoman of the coalition, as well as a registered nurse and a certified diabetes educator, said the group sent a letter to every restaurant in the county, encouraging them to participate.
“Our goal is they realize this is something people are looking for — not only people with diabetes,” she said. “And they’d continue to keep something on their menu that would be healthy.”
Each of the eight restaurants participating this year created a special menu item. The recipes were sent to the coalition and analyzed by a registered dietician, Drass said.
Diabetes, a chronic disease that causes an elevated level of sugar in a person’s blood, affects more than 20 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. The disease can manifest itself in children, known as Type 1 diabetes, or be contracted by adults as Type 2 diabetes.
Overweight and obese people are more likely to contract the disease, which can eventually cause eye problems, nerve damage and circulation issues, the institutes’ website said.
If the current trend continues, one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those with diabetes have a shorter life expectancy and about twice the risk of dying on any given day as a person of similar age without diabetes.
Drass said 21,000 people in the county have diabetes, and an additional 40,000 have pre-diabetes.
Frederick County’s Health Department previously offered a diabetes prevention program, but funding for the program was phased out in Oct. 2011, according to its website.
As part of the coalition’s promotion, the challenge meals must meet a set of guidelines established by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, the American Diabetes Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program.
Meals must have 550 total calories or less, at least 30 but no more than 60 grams of carbohydrates, 750 milligrams of sodium or less, no more than 18 grams of fat, including no more than 5 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of added trans fat.
Among the participants, Brewer's Alley will serve an oatmeal stout bison and butternut chili; Chick-fil-A will have chargrilled chicken and fruit salad with harvest nut granola and sunflower kernels; and Firestone’s Culinary Tavern will serve poached cod with roasted root vegetables, French lentils and creme fraiche.
Others include Giant Eagle grocery stores at1275 W. Patrick St. and 1305 W. 7th St., which will serve Santa Ana pork tenderloin with mashed cauliflower; La Paz with grilled tilapia with mango salsa; Mexicali Cantina with spinach mango salad; and Sushi Densha’s Densha Fusion Delight, with grilled white meat chicken, mixed vegetables and white or brown rice and a drink.
After ordering, diners can rate their meals, and be entered into a drawing for prizes, including gym memberships and gift cards to local restaurants or shops.
Drass said the promotion is great for her clients with diabetes, but also helps the restaurants become aware of the need for healthy options.
“Normally, it’s so confusing and so difficult for them [diabetics] to eat out and feel like they’re eating healthy,” she said. “... That’s exactly the point of this whole thing. It has benefit for the people that would like to eat healthy as well as the restaurants realizing there’s a whole audience out there that they can reach to.”
Hau Sze, the owner of Sushi Densha, said the promotion had been going slow so far, but that he hoped it would pick up later in the month.
“We just need to see,” he said. “Sometimes it takes time.”
The restaurant created the Densha Fusion Delight for the challenge. It sells for $9.95, although he said he might run promotions later in the month and lower the price.
The combo has 360 calories, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 520 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat. Sze said the restaurant already has healthy options, but wanted to participate to extend the healthy options.
“Sushi is pretty healthy by itself already,” he said. “We just want our community to know we actually try our best to strive for better quality ingredients. It’s just concern for the health of our customers in general — we just like to do something like this to get involved with the community.”