National Nutrition Month Spotlight: Diabetes Program Coordinator Elizabeth Katz

March is National Nutrition Month, so we sat down with Elizabeth Katz, a Diabetes Program Coordinator here at the University of Maryland Capital Region Health (UMCRH). Read on as Elizabeth talks about her role, dishes out some nutrition pro tips, and busts some common misconceptions about diabetes (spoiler alert: “cut out all carbs” is not a winning strategy).

(Interview modified for clarity and length).

What made you passionate about pursuing a career in healthcare?

It goes back to high school. I’ve always really liked helping people. I always volunteered with the American Red Cross. I wanted to give back, so that made me ask myself, “What careers can I help people the most?” So, here I am!

How would you describe your current role as a Diabetes Program Coordinator at the University of Maryland?

I educate patients on the outpatient side. I do a lot of individual classes and help patients with self-management skills that they need to take care of their diabetes and avoid any long-term complications. I also work with people who have prediabetes. 

What is one thing you want people to know about the Diabetes Management Services at UMC?

We are SO passionate about our patients and the community we serve. For us, this work is personal — we approach our services on a human level and really connect with our patients to see positive change.

Do you find that people have misconceptions about diabetes?

Absolutely. This is something I go over during my diabetes self-management class. Some of the biggest misconceptions include: if it’s white don’t eat it, and eliminate all carbs. With all the information out there, I want to make sure my patients are getting the most accurate information from the right sources.

What are the top three things someone looking to make healthy changes in their life should do?

Great question. If I had to cut it down to three, I’d say:

  1. Cut out sugary beverages (sodas, juices, energy drinks).
  2. Move your body more.
  3. Eat more vegetables!

Do you have tips for how people can access healthy food on a tight budget?

At the grocery store, stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables, which are nutritious and last longer than fresh produce. You can also look into food services like Meals on Wheels, which is great, and pretty affordable. 

What about things like frozen dinners?

I’d say avoid them. Frozen dinners are generally affordable, but they can be high in sodium, which is bad news.

Culture and food can go hand in hand. How can we think about healthy meal planning that honors traditions in food, while also adhering to diabetes management principles?

Food is a way that we celebrate. It’s how people come together. We don’t want to take that away from anyone managing diabetes. My biggest piece of advice for this is to do everything in moderation. For example, maybe have the rice and beans, but skip the tortilla. For family gatherings, know what you’re walking into and plan ahead. Try different strategies and see what works for you — for example, try smaller portions of carbs and larger portions of vegetables.

Do you have any resources you would like to recommend?

MyPlate.gov has great recipes, activities, and a lot of helpful resources. Definitely check out the American Diabetes Association as well.

Any last thoughts?

Diabetes is not a death sentence — it’s manageable. There are different medications, lifestyle practices, and behavioral goal changes that can really help people. Don’t be afraid to share your diagnosis and seek help. That’s how you learn to manage the disease, not have the disease manage you.

Having earned recognition from the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, the Diabetes Self-Management Program at University of Maryland Capital Region Health (UMCRH) is a leader in  diabetes self-management education. Learn more about our services here.

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.

Eat healthier, live happier: Take charge of your health today with this free 2-page guide to healthy food choices

Eat healthier, live happier: Take charge of your health today with this free 2-page guide to healthy food choices

couple selecting vegetables

If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and you want to enjoy great health and maintain steady blood sugar levels…nothing is more important than selecting the right foods.

Your diet plays a critical role in:

  • Regulating your blood sugar
  • Keeping your energy levels stable
  • Preventing long-term diabetes complications

With help from this simple 2-page guide, you’ll be empowered to make great food decisions with confidence.

Related Content