Empowered to Change

A woman wearing a white and blue striped shirt and holding fresh vegetables stands in front of a kitchen sink.
Delice Reese, Dining with Diabetes participant

Client makes healthier choices using Extension’s Dining with Diabetes program

Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson

When it comes to changing eating habits, even if you’re ready, willing, and able, eating more nutritiously can seem like an insurmountable challenge.

There are ways to lessen the difficulty and make real change happen. You can activate your network of supporters, and you can use reliable information to help guide your new diet choices.

Delice Reese is living proof that it’s possible to eat healthier, and she’s been using what she learned in the Dining with Diabetes program to do it.

Back in late 2018, Delice was already enrolled in the Healthy You exercise class held at the Mississippi State University Extension Service office in Yalobusha County. Extension agent Pamela Redwine announced to the class that, in early 2019, she would introduce Dining with Diabetes, a nutrition-education empowerment program. Everyone was welcome, whether diabetic, living with a diabetic, or just interested in eating healthier.

Delice was immediately intrigued. She had never allowed her diabetes diagnosis to stop her from living her life, and she thought Dining with Diabetes would be a good review of diabetic information and an opportunity to learn new things.

“I wanted to learn what was new, as far as diabetic care, and this class was really informative,” Delice explains. “When I found out that Pamela was going to give the class again later in the year, I thought it’d be a part two, so I signed up.

“I didn’t know it’d be a repeat—and it was—but you always find out something you missed the first time when you take something again. And it reinforced what I learned the first time. I’m still using what I’ve learned!”

When she organized the Dining with Diabetes classes, Redwine partnered with local certified nutritionist Dr. Alice Anne Lee, who provided much of the evidence-based information about diabetes and nutrition. Redwine oversaw the food preparation and cooking demonstrations.

“For the food demos, Alice Anne and I try every recipe before class,” Redwine explains. “That way, the ones who are there will try it. And, if you’re willing to try it, you might be more willing to buy the ingredients and try making it yourself at home.”

The demos were one of her favorite parts, Delice emphasizes. Taste-testing, seeing the techniques, and getting to know her classmates over four weekly meetings helped her make long-term changes that she’s proud of. Two of her favorite recipes were Oven-Fried Parmesan Chicken and Zucchini, Carrots, and Basil.

Delice has lost weight and kept it off, and she feels better. She says Dining with Diabetes is helping her effectively evaluate her food choices.

“Portion sizes are a really big concern. When I’m cooking at home, I bake and broil and do green-leaf vegetables. In the class, they gave suggestions about how to make recipes healthier. Even when I go out to eat at a restaurant, I am conscious of what I order, and reading menus and deciding before I go is helpful.”

Not only has Delice been able to make long-term changes to her eating habits, but, as the pandemic recedes, she’s returned to her focus on physical activity and resumed walking regularly. She remains enthusiastic about maintaining a good attitude and making changes as needed to maintain her quality of life.

“I’ve kept my book to refer to because it has good ideas and good recipes; the information from the class was worth it,” she emphasizes. “I would definitely recommend the class to anyone—this class would be beneficial to anyone who wants to improve their eating habits and eat more healthfully. Dining with Diabetes is a good starting point; it’s a wealth of knowledge.”

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Oven Fried Parmesan Chicken

(One of Delice’s favorites!)


  • 1 (6-8 ounces) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
  • ¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tablespoon flour
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray


  • Cookie sheet
  • Medium bowl
  • Small bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons


  1. Preheat the oven to 450° and spray cooking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place chicken strips in yogurt and refrigerate while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
  3. In small bowl, mix remaining ingredients.
  4. Coat each piece of chicken with yogurt and dredge in crumbs mixture, pressing down on both sides to get a coating of crumbs.
  5. Place chicken strips on cookie sheet, spray lightly with cooking spray.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is tender and juice runs clear, or to the safe internal temperature of 165⁰ F.

Makes approximately 2 servings.


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Extension Matters cover volume 7 number 3.

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