National Nutrition Month Spotlight: Diabetes Center Education Specialist Joy Zhang

Joy Zhang, Diabetes Center Education SpecialisMarch is National Nutrition Month, so we sat down with Joy Zhang, an Education Specialist at MedStar’s Diabetes and Endocrine Center, which holds the prestigious Education Recognition Certificate from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to recognize quality diabetes education. Read on as Joy talks about her role and dishes out some pro tips on nutrition. (Spoiler alert: ditch the cookies, and go nuts for nuts!)

(Interview modified for clarity and length).

What made you passionate about pursuing a career in healthcare?

I love food! My friends and family would always ask me questions about what to eat, and how to prevent disease. I was interested in finding out the answers for them (and for myself!), so I pursued my master’s degree and began working as a registered dietician. 

Describe your role at MedStar.

I work in an outpatient clinic. I provide individual appointments to people diagnosed with diabetes. I primarily see people with Type 2 diabetes, but I also see people with gestational and Type 1. 

What does an appointment typically entail?

The service I offer is Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES for short). We emphasize patient-centered care. Every patient we see has their customized care plan addressing their unique needs, preferences, and values. We review lifestyle behaviors, dietary patterns, and coping skills, like how to deal with stress.

What are some common misconceptions when it comes to nutrition? 

I frequently hear that carbs are bad. But the body actually needs carbohydrates to function. We need carbs for energy!

Great point. Anything else?

Another misconception is that all calories are created equal. But we have to look at nutritional value. For example, a handful of roasted cashews and one chocolate chip cookie may have the same amount of calories, but their nutritional value will be very different. The cashews provide nutrients your body needs, like healthy fats. Meanwhile, they may be delicious, but it’s probably full of additives and unhealthy fats.

Another great point. Want to share one more?

Always look at labels! Avoid foods with trans fat and added sugars.

Pro Tip: Learn to read a nutritional facts label here.

Are there any resources you would like to recommend?

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) website is a great resource. They have food and nutrition advice, recipes, and live cooking classes. Check it out!

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center (MSMHC) is leading the way by providing the highest quality clinical care with advanced technology, innovative medical services, and the region’s top doctors. Our hospital center not only treats illnesses and injuries but also promotes wellness and community health. Learn about us here.