LAS VEGAS - Gladys Knight doesn't have diabetes. But the disease is never far from her mind.
Her mother, Elizabeth Knight, died of complications from diabetes in 1997. And several family members have it.
So the singing legend is "eating healthfully," exercising and watching her diet. Following her mother's death, she started the Elizabeth Knight Fund with the American Diabetes Association to help people living with diabetes.
She is committed to the cause. Ms. Knight recently hosted a poolside lunch for a group of food writers to showcase tasty recipes that can fit in a diabetic diet.
(It was so fiendishly hot that the chilled butter pats oozed into a mess within minutes.)
"The key to a good diabetes meal plan is eating healthy foods, choosing the foods you like, and eating the right-sized portions," she told the group.
The lunch included a main dish of grilled chicken salad, and gazpacho served in a martini glass rimmed with herbs.
Another guest at the lunch, Ann Albright, Ph.D., president of the ADA western region, combines the knowledge of a dietitian with the first-hand experience of a diabetic. She spoke about the enormous impact of diabetes on this country.
"Those of us that have diabetes are on life support," she said. Every day, they make "fine tightrope decisions" about food and exercise.
The disease will take more lives than breast cancer and AIDS, she said.
"They are asked to make perfect decisions every day," decisions about food and exercise that will affect their lives.
It's a myth that diabetics can't eat sugar, she said. The truth is, they have to watch all carbohydrates, from bread to pie.
The ADA updated its recommendations on this in 1994.
Diabetes is on the rise, Dr. Albright said, because people are living longer, yet they're more sedentary than in the past and so are gaining more weight.
The good news is, there are lots of resources for people with diabetes. The ADA sponsors classes and spport groups, and bookstores are loaded with diabetic cookbooks.
One is The Great Chicken Cookbook for People With Diabetes, by Beryl M. Marton ($16.95). That's where the Chicken Jambalaya recipe on this page came from.
The ADA also is publishing a second edition of Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy by Hope S. Warshaw ($14.95). It's not a cookbook. The book uses the food pyramid to help explain how to maintain a healthful diabetic meal plan.
One chapter covers managing your diet in restaurants, when you can't rely on nutrition labels. It covers different eating occasions: dinner at an Italian restaurant, breakfast at a coffee shop, lunch at a rotisserie chicken shop.
It's not easy keeping track of your diet all day, every day. But anyone who is diagnosed with diabetes can find plenty of help.
Food editor Cathy Barber's column runs every other week. Address letters to Food section, The Dallas Morning News, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas 75265. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Fax to (214) 977-8321.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that 5.4 million Americans have diabetes and don't know it. Here are risk factors and symptoms for the two major types of diabetes.
This is an auto-immune disease that occurs most often in children and young adults. The body does not produce insulin, so people take daily injections. Risk factors include a family member, especially a parent, with Type 1. Here are the symptoms:
* Unusual thirst
* Extreme hunger
* Unusual weight loss
* Extreme fatigue
In this, the most common type, the body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use it properly. This is the form that is "nearing epidemic proportions," according to ADA.
People at risk include:
* People over 45
* People with a family history of diabetes
* People who are overweight
* People who do not exercise regularly
* People with low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides
* Certain racial and ethnic groups: African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans
* Women who have had gestational diabetes.
Symptoms of Type 2 include:
* The Type 1 symptoms
* Frequent infections
* Blurred vision
* Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
* Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
* Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections
WHERE TO GET HELP
* Call 1-800-DIABETES
* Check the Web site: www.diabetes.org.
Source: American Diabetic Association
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Preheat oven to 350 F. On stovetop, heat oil in ovenproof casserole. Add onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook until onion is limp. Add chicken. Cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add broth, tomato paste, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil on top of stove. Cover and bake in oven for 45 minutes or until rice is cooked and liquid has been absorbed. Makes 6 servings.
Exchanges: 2 starch; 4 lean meat; 1 vegetable; 1/2 fat
Cal 396 Fat 8 g (1 g sat) Fiber 4 g Protein 38 g Sugars 1 g Chol 87 mg Sodium 125 mg Carbs 41 g
Source: "The Great Chicken Cookbook for People With Diabetes"