A free lunch and expert advice on living with diabetes will be offered by the Monterey Care Center, 3929 Hoover Road, at 11:30 a.m. March 5.

A free lunch and expert advice on living with diabetes will be offered by the Monterey Care Center, 3929 Hoover Road, at 11:30 a.m. March 5.

Experts are scheduled to talk about healthy eating habits for diabetics, said Monterey spokeswoman Tricia Zelenak.

"The goal is providing education and to support the community in making a positive change in their lifestyles for diabetes," Zelenak said.

Seating is limited; to attend, call Zelenak at (614) 875-7700 by March 2.

Cathy Johnston, a licensed and registered dietitian, is scheduled to speak on the importance of weight loss.

"Diabetes is considered a growing epidemic because of obesity in our society," Johnston said.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.6-million children and adults have diabetes. That's 7.8 percent of the nation's population.

The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. Obesity is a strong risk factor for contracting it.

Johnston said "just losing 10 pounds" can reduce a person's risk of becoming diabetic or reduce the amount of medication needed to treat the disease.

She said losing 10 pounds requires small diet adjustments and exercise.

A diabetic diet involves a "healthy eating pattern with a wide variety of foods." Diabetics should pay special attention to the intake of carbohydrates, Johnston said.

She said "portion distortion" causes problems in modern diets. Johnston drew the example of a bagel: 20 years ago, the average bagel weighed two ounces and contained about 200 calories. Now it weighs as much as eight ounces and contains 400 to 600 calories.

She said eating a lot of fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates. She advocates high-fiber foods with whole grains.

Fresh fruits and vegetables should be eaten liberally.

"They should be half of the plate," Johnston said.

Lean proteins are good for a diabetic diet, as well, she said.

Diabetics should avoid high-fat, high-sugar foods.

"Don't eat anything your great-grandma wouldn't recognize as food," Johnston said.

Kionta Carter, health and wellness director at the Grove City YMCA, is scheduled to speak about the YMCA's new diabetes prevention program scheduled to launch in the spring.

The program includes information about diabetes and exercise tips for preventing the disease.

She and Johnston said the word "exercise" can deter diabetics from wanting to actually exercise, because the physical stress involved.

"The reaction that you get is, 'Do you know how obese I am?'" Carter said.

"We'll meet you where you are. So, sometimes it is just walking."