Karen Graham

Karen Graham, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, leafs through the three books she co-authored with endocrinologist Dr. Mansur Shomali in her West Kelowna home.

Canada has another health crisis going on right now, says a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator from West Kelowna.

“It's escalating at such an incredible rate,” said Karen Graham, who recently co-authored three books on living with diabetes with endocrinologist Dr. Mansur Shomali.

“There’s so much focus right now on COVID, but at the same time, diabetes isn’t slowing down. Approximately one in nine Canadians has diabetes. A good chunk of those people don’t even know they have diabetes.”

The first book by Graham and Shomali is Diabetes Essentials, a starter book for people when they first find out they have Type 2 diabetes.

It answers questions without overwhelming the reader and includes 50 easy diabetes recipes.

The Diabetes for Good Health Cookbook includes life-size photos of six weeks of meals to help people lose weight and manage diabetes with the portions, calories and carbs worked out.

The Complete Diabetes Guide delivers easy-to-understand information about Type 2 diabetes, covering topics such as food choices, medications and insulin, stress management and foot care.

Graham spent about 30 years working as a Certified Diabetes Educator before moving to West Kelowna with her husband some years ago.

They had been looking for a change in career and wanted to come west where it was warmer and there were fewer mosquitoes than in Manitoba.

Graham works for Interior Health in Kelowna as a public health dietitian while her husband works at Bylands.

Graham originally published Meals for Good Health 20 years ago.

Most of the original recipes came from the simple everyday type of meals her mom, Margaret, used to make at home, adapted to be diabetes friendly.

“It’s not chef cooking,” said Graham, adding it’s about how to put a meal together quickly without a lot of fancy ingredients that’s nutritious and tastes great.

Managing carbohydrates is key, she said, so portions have to be controlled.

“People often didn’t know how much they could eat, so when I designed my book, I made all of the photographs life-sized,” she said. “Every dinner has the same portions so that shows people how much potato or how much rice or how much spaghetti they can have.”

Diabetes recommendations have changed over time including a move to reduce carbohydrates and liberalize fat intake a bit. Graham has adapted the recipes to meet those new guidelines.

While diet is a cornerstone to managing diabetes, Graham said exercise is also important.

Graham co-authored the three-book series with Shomali, a diabetes endocrinologist working in Baltimore.

Graham had contacted Shomali online to review the Complete Diabetes Guide and the Diabetes Cookbook after reading his published medical articles.

He responded favourably to the books and Graham asked him to co-author with her.

The books are practical and easy to read.

“Whether a person has very little formal education or whether they have a university or college diploma or degree, we’re all looking for things that are fast, easy and give us the information right away because we're all feeling a little overwhelmed right now,” said Graham.

While Interior Health nurse and dietitian diabetes educators in West Kelowna and Kelowna are a great place to go for information, help and support for diabetes, Graham said Diabetes Canada has closed its office in Kelowna and moved information online.

“It’s very difficult to get a written resource in front of you and that’s where these books fill a great gap,” she said.

Graham’s three books are available at Bylands, Indigo and Mosaic Books in Kelowna as well as online through Amazon.

For more information, go online to diabetesbooks.ca.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.