Food for Life: Healthy Eating and Cooking to Beat Diabetes in Indian Country

The Physicians Committee

Food for Life: Healthy Eating and Cooking to Beat Diabetes in Indian Country

Welcome! This is the home of curriculum materials for a unique nutrition education program designed to address the epidemic of type 2 diabetes among Native Americans. Research conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and many other research teams has demonstrated the power of plant-based diets to turn around type 2 diabetes and promote health. A plant-based diet looks surprisingly similar to the diet enjoyed by the ancestors of many Native Americans—long before the days of forced relocation, commodity foods, and fast foods—and from this idea, a program was born.

We are grateful for the enthusiasm and expertise of Chef Lois Ellen Frank (Kiowa) of Santa Fe, N.M., who provided many recipes and taught our classes even as she was completing her doctoral degree at the University of New Mexico, where she has focused on native ancestral foods. Chef Walter Whitewater (Diné) of Pinon, Ariz., also provided cooking instruction, and helped to demonstrate that meals made without meat and oil could be and are full of flavor.

This program wouldn’t have made it into the real world without the support and opportunity provided by the hardworking staff members of the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Projects, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and the Institute for American Indian Arts. For the warm welcome, ongoing interest, and active participation, PCRM is grateful.

Curriculum Overview

Preparation: Anyone teaching the program is encouraged to read the book Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes. Other good resources are The Cancer Survivor's Guide and 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart. The DVD A New Approach to Nutrition for Diabetes is also highly recommended. All are available for purchases from PCRM's Marketplace. Many instructors have participated in and recommend the free online nutrition education and support available at

This Food for Life curriculum in its current form is designed as a six-week program. Five of the sessions are two-hour presentations that feature a Power Point presentation, discussion, and a cooking demonstration.

The fourth session is a grocery store tour, which has been very popular with participants as they could compare prices on canned versus dried beans, find some new foods such as hummus, tofu, and nondairy milk, explore the variety of fresh and frozen produce, and read food labels for fat/fiber content of old favorites. In the Class 4 folder, we have provided a "Grocery Store Treasure Hunt" handout, and suggest you take small groups of five to eight people around a local store, using this handout as a guide of what to look for and discuss. Alternatively, somesites mayfind it easier to show a DVD in your classroom, and we would recommend the 45-minute grocery store tour section of the DVD A New Approach to Nutrition for Diabetes.

A handout with the recipes demonstrated at each of the five classes that offered cooking demonstrations has been included in the Class 1 folder ("Cooking Demonstration Recipes"). In the future, we may expand this to include a list of the equipment required for demonstrations. These outstanding recipes were created to appeal to people living in the southwestern United States. Additional recipes that meet the guidelines of being 100 percent plant-based, low in fat, and have no cholesterol may be found at, and we encourage the demonstration of recipes that will appeal in the community where the program is offered. A large handout called Program Manual Part 2: Recipes to Try at Home is provided in the Class 1 folder. It contains dozens of recipes, many of which would also make good demonstrations. They are provided as part of a handout of supplemental materials to class participants so that they will have a wide range of choices of meals to prepare between classes.

A simpler alternative to live cooking demonstrations would be to prepare a recipe or two ahead of class and bring it with you to provide samples and discuss how it was made. Providing the opportunity to taste the foods and leaving with new recipes and ideas for meal planning is a key feature of this program and helps participants to apply what they are learning to their own lives. There is an expense involved in offering food samples; in general, it is never more than $3/person if offering three to four dishes. This does not include the cost of paper goods and silverware.

Below you will find Power Point presentations for six classes. I have also provided a PDF handout of the Power Point for each class, so that it is easy to provide copies to the participants. Additional support materials are provided.

The materials are not copyrighted and are available at no charge for distribution. Please credit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine when using them. Please contact me with any comments or questions.

Kind regards,

Caroline Trapp, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., B.C.-ADM, C.D.E.
Director of Diabetes Education and Care
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Six-Week Curriculum

Week 1: Reason for Hope

Week 2: New Recipes with Commodities and The Three Sisters

Week 3: Grains and More Nutrition Lessons

Week 4: Grocery Store Treasure Hunt

Week 5: Tricky Situations and Stocking Up

Week 6: Holidays, Healthy Families, Graduation

Weekly Lessons to Print as a Table-Top Presentation

Bonus Materials