The power of taking a personalized approach to diabetes self-management

Employee engagement is suffering, from entry-level workers all the way up to company executives. A transparent and empathetic approach could be what’s missing. To combat suffering engagement in today’s fast-paced workplace, company leaders will do well to take ownership of — and advocate for — their employees’ wellbeing as well as their own.

Knowledge is power when it comes to suicide prevention

Employee engagement is suffering, from entry-level workers all the way up to company executives. A transparent and empathetic approach could be what’s missing. To combat suffering engagement in today’s fast-paced workplace, company leaders will do well to take ownership of — and advocate for — their employees’ wellbeing as well as their own.

What it means to take a life-dimensional approach to wellbeing

No one would argue that what makes someone a person is complex.

It includes things like their career, hobbies, roles within their family unit, and roles within the larger community. But when it comes to health, too often there’s a push to go with a simple biological answer.

But there is nothing simple about a person’s ability to get and stay well. It’s tied to everything from where they live and their ability to get fresh food from a grocery store to the emotional toll of caring for an elderly parent. Job, community, family, and emotional health all impact a person’s ability to achieve health. Which is why focusing only on the person’s physical condition is problematic: how can you add more outdoor exercise to your daily routine if you live in a neighborhood that’s unsafe?

This is why, unlike traditional offerings, we take a life-dimensional approach.

WellSpark was built to address the needs of the modern workforce, specifically those groups with economically diverse, multicultural, long-tenured employee populations who struggle with their health. For us, it’s about understanding each person as the sum of everything in their life—the biological, psychological, and social factors that intersect and determine their health.

3 circles with heads in them with diagrams in the heads
WellSpark’s life-dimensional approach gets to the heart of health challenges.

This approach peels back the layers to see how everything connects in a way that leads to meaningful change. That means personalized guidance, working with each person to understand what behaviors or changes to their routine a person is willing and able to make. It also means applying cultural competency—understanding how a person’s background shapes their behaviors and beliefs then adapting our guidance to reflect them. And it means thinking about how we can build on small victories to achieve lasting health over time.

But beyond any of that, our life-dimensional approach is often the first time in a long time (or ever) that someone is tasked with improving their health has taken the time to really understand them as a human being. It’s how we build trust so we can ask the harder questions. We know that asking someone to change isn’t an easy conversation, but neither is being the one told to change. But, by starting from a place of compassion and of collaboration, without judgment, our participants know we’re going to be there every step of the way. With support and personalized direction, they build self-management skills, establish healthier behaviors, and learn how to achieve a more enduring well.

Universal nutritional guidelines, with a cultural twist – celebrating healthy eating and diversity during National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month®, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and this year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate.”

It’s a celebration of culture, highlighting how there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health—a concept that WellSpark actively embraces throughout our programs.

As we discussed in our prior post, WellSpark’s Commitment to Cultural Competency – Understanding Workplace Culture and Beyond, we believe the best way to help people make lasting changes to their health is to make sure our coaching is relevant to their culture and life. So, topics like nutrition education need to focus on what a participant eats in their everyday life, not just lessons about the standard programming of the western American diet.

That said, there are some universal truths about how to create a healthier diet—or healthier plate—that apply to everyone:

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Get creative with produce by trying an assortment of colors and textures.
  • Experiment with different grains. Try substituting whole grains for refined grains in recipes.
  • Choose lean protein foods. Vary your choices to include seafood, beans, peas, and lentils, as well as eggs, lean cuts of meat and poultry prepared in a healthful way, such as baked or grilled instead of fried.
  • Complete your meal with dairy. Include low-fat or fat-free options like milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified soymilk, or lactose-free milk.

Keep things fresh by trying different meals
Following the simple guidance outlined above can not only make a big difference in a person’s overall health, but it can be fun and flavorful too. Here are some delicious ideas to change up your breakfast, lunch, and dinner that reflect some of the many cultural cuisines found in our own communities. These healthy alternatives highlight the importance of cultural competency in coaching and the amazing range of options we have for personalizing our plates, together.

Latin AmericaAsian IndianFilipino
BreakfastScrambled egg with tomato, onion and peppers in a corn tortilla or arepa with cheeseBesan cheela (savory pancakes made with chickpea flour and vegetables) with extra tomatoes and spinach on the side, and a cooked eggArroz caldo (chicken and rice porridge with ginger and garlic) with boiled egg, sautéed leafy
greens, and fruit
LunchBean and cheese empanada (stuffed pastry) with a mango and jicama saladRajma (kidney beans in onion, tomato sauce and spices ) with brown rice and a green, leafy vegetable of your choiceKare-kare (beef oxtail soup with peanut butter
and vegetables) with steamed brown rice and
DinnerA cup of sancocho (meat and root vegetable stew) with green salad and yogurt and berries for dessertLaal maas (lamb in hot garlic sauce) with brown rice, vegetable raita (yogurt dip), and a nonstarchy vegetable like cauliflowerGinisang gulay (sautéed vegetables), with shrimp, steamed brown rice and melon

Healthy alternatives highlight the importance of cultural competency

Learn more about National Nutrition Month
National Nutrition Month is an opportunity for everyone to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits that they can put to use throughout the year.

For more information about the annual event, you can visit

We also encourage you to check out our recent post on culture at

WellSpark’s Commitment to Cultural Competency – Understanding Workplace Culture and Beyond

An employee struggling with their health isn’t just a person with a weight problem or a diabetes diagnosis.

Factors like support systems, mental health issues, socioeconomic struggles, and cultural differences, to mention a few, can seriously affect someone’s health. A lot of wellness programs ignore these factors that make up the totality of a person’s life. They may try to fit people into a one-size-fits-all box. But we know this isn’t the best way to go about making lifestyle changes that last, in this case, for everyone.

Everyone, and every job, has a different culture. With culture comes unique languages, diets, schedules, environments, beliefs, and general practices. So, when wellness programs introduce a ‘one size fits all’ program for a workforce, how do we expect these programs to succeed for everyone? Everyone’s health is their own. It’s personal. Every program designed to help people get and stay on a healthy path needs to connect with each individual’s life.

At WellSpark, we believe that to engage people in health programs, you must make the program relevant to that person’s culture and life. Nutrition education needs to be about what people eat in their everyday life, not just lessons about the standard programming of the western American diet. Typical exercise and activity programming needs to be more than going to a gym. It could include things like dancing with your extended family after a holiday meal. And while you might conjure up thoughts of a holiday meal served on plates, at a table gathering, with everyone conversing, for others, it might look different – served in a communal bowl, sitting on the floor, with minimal conversation – creating a connection to one’s culture.

What is culture? When we think about the culture of a workforce at Wellspark, we go beyond what, when, and how employees may eat or exercise. We think about culture in terms of the workplace, the workday, and the actual work itself. Is it conducive to living a healthy lifestyle? Does the work itself make a person sick? Is the work sedentary? Does it impact a person’s sleep patterns? Is it lonely?

The physical workplace also factors into our cultural programming. What if you don’t work in an office? What if you are in a delivery truck, on a shop floor, or working the night shift doing patient care? Programs must be relevant to a person’s life AND accessible during the day to fit a person’s lifestyle. At WellSpark, we’re focused on reaching these economically diverse, multicultural, hard-to-reach populations. WellSpark is committed to the cause of developing culturally relevant and accessible health programs to connect with a culturally diverse workforce. Given these statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health:

  • 42% of Black or African American adults have hypertension
  • 22% of Hispanic Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes
  • Indigenous Americans have the highest rate of cigarette smoking compared to all racial/ethnic groups in America
  • Asian Americans are 40% more likely to have diabetes compared to non-Hispanic White Americans

WellSpark connects programs with the people we are endeavoring to serve.

Getting your vitamins in?

Vitamins (also known as micronutrients) are essential substances that your body needs to function normally.

Vitamins can fuel your body to help do things like heal wounds, repair cells, and support immunity. Your body can produce some vitamins on its own, but it needs others to come from sources like food or supplements.

And mostly food.

“When it comes to vitamins and minerals, food should be your first and main source,” says Brieanna Peabody, a health coach educator at WellSpark Health, a ConnectiCare affiliate. “The goal is to eat a variety and balance of nutrient dense foods to meet your daily nutritional needs.”

The ABCs of vitamins
We need around 30 vitamins, minerals, and other components to support bodily functions. Here’s a quick vitamin rundown, including health benefits and food sources of each vitamin, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic. Ask your doctor how much of each vitamin they recommend for you.

  1. Vitamin A plays a role in vision health, growth, cell division, reproduction, and immunity. It may even protect you against some cancers. It’s in dairy products, organ meats, green leafy vegetables, eggs, and fish, like salmon. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, so it is smart to eat some foods that are rich in beta-carotene as well.  Those include carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.
  2. Vitamin B-6  can reduce high plasma homocysteine levels, which can help reduce your risk of a stroke or heart disease. Vitamin B-6 also plays a big role in sleep, appetite, and mood. You can find vitamin B-6 in meat, poultry, fish, legumes, chickpeas, and bananas. Just one chicken breast has 0.8 mg!
  3. Vitamin B-12 is also found in meat, fish and poultry, as well as eggs and dairy products. It can also be found in nutritional yeast, and other fortified food products. Like vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 may also help prevent strokes and lower your risk for heart disease. Vitamin B-12 also protects nerve cells and encourages normal growth.
  4. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, possibly helping protect your body against cell damage by molecules called “free radicals” that are in food or the environment — such as tobacco smoke or radiation. You can find this vitamin in citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, red peppers, and potatoes. It is also beneficial for eye health and may reduce the risk of mouth, esophagus, stomach, and breast cancer. Contrary to popular belief, there is no real evidence that vitamin C prevents or helps treat the common cold.
  5. Vitamin D may help prevent osteoporosis, reduce certain cancers and multiple sclerosis, and improve osteoarthritis, as researchers are investigating the possibility of a link. Your skin can produce some vitamin D when exposed to the sun, but it is usually not enough to meet your body’s needs. Your doctor may recommend a supplement for that reason. You can get vitamin D from milk, margarine, fatty fish, mushrooms, and fish oils.
  6. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, sunflower seeds, and peanut butter. It works to neutralize unstable molecules that have the potential to damage cells. Diets rich in vitamin E may support healthy immune function and the widening of blood vessels to help prevent blood clots. Some studies show it may help slow or decline the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
  7. Folate is a vitamin needed to make DNA and other genetic materials. It’s found in legumes, oranges, grains, leafy greens, and cereals. Some possible health benefits of folate include lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and breast cancer. However, folate supplements might have different effects on cancer risk.
  8. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and may improve bone health. It is found in leafy greens, soy, eggs, blueberries, meat, and canola oil.

Talk to your doctor before changing your diet or lifestyle.
If you take vitamins in a pill form, do not take more than the recommended daily dose. Some vitamins—especially fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K—can become toxic if too much is ingested.

“There are possible drug and nutrient interactions to be aware of especially if you have a chronic condition,” says Peabody. Vitamin recommendations may vary based on age, gender, and your stage of life. Plus, women who are pregnant may need different amounts of vitamins than the average recommended amount. Always check with your doctor to see what he or she recommends for you.

Can vitamins prevent conditions like COVID-19?
Presently, there is no cure for the coronavirus (COVID-19), and there is not enough research that supports taking vitamin supplements to prevent or treat COVID-19. The best things you can do are follow the recommended safety guidelines, eat well, be active, and make time for self-care. And if you need help with any of those things, the WellSpark health coaches are here to help.

For more information

Changing Your Diet Can Help Improve Your Heart Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It costs us nearly $219 billion each year because of health care services, medicine costs, and a loss of productivity.1

80% of heart disease cases are preventable – so how can a preventable disease create such a negative health impact in our country?

A lot of it has to do with lifestyle. In general, a healthy diet and regular physical activity are the two best ways to fight and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Our Chief Medical Officer and Vice President at WellSpark, Dr. Wayne Rawlins, tells us the importance of having a healthy heart. “A healthy heart is central to overall good health. Embracing a healthy lifestyle – proper diet, exercise, avoiding obesity and not smoking – can prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke,” he says.
Celebrate the great things your heart does for you by implementing a healthy diet to your life. Dr. Rawlins suggests watching your portions, eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoiding high-fat, high-sodium “junk” foods. Here are some more heart healthy eating tips below, backed by the the American Heart Association.

  • Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. It doesn’t matter if they are frozen, canned, or fresh, as long as there are no added sugars or salts.  Berries are rich in antioxidants, and eating them can reduce risk factors for heart disease. Leafy greens can help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function.
  • Replace all grains with fiber-rich whole grains. Whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and quinoa are whole grains. Eating three or more servings of whole grain can reduce your risk for heart disease by 22%2. “I’m a fan of brown rice myself,” Dr. Rawlins says. “Rice goes with everything and you can have it with every meal if you want.” Try incorporating brown rice into Gallo Pinto, a delicious rice and beans dish.
  • Remove the skin on poultry and fish or buy it skinless and cook it in ways that doesn’t add saturated and trans-fat, like grilling. Buy the leanest cuts of meat available, and minimize processed red meats like bacon, ham, hotdogs, and deli meat.
  • Eat non-fried fish at least twice a week. Look for different varieties of fish containing omega 3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides, the risk of developing and irregular heartbeat, and the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Salmon, trout, and herring are great choices.
  • Pick fat-free and low-fat dairy products.
  • Try to avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Limit saturated and trans-fat and replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduce beverages and foods with added sugars.
  • Cut back on sodium and cook with little to no salt. Reducing your sodium intake can lower your blood pressure.
  • Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk for high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, some cancers, and other conditions. Women should have no more than one drink a day, and men should have no more than two drinks.
  • Keep an eye on your portion sizes.
  • Try out a heart healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, or a vegetarian/plant-based diet.

There is so much you can do to lower your risk for heart disease. “It is a lifestyle that will pay off in the long run in good health,” says Dr. Rawlins. It’s never too late to start making life-changing dietary alterations.

Read more about eating heart healthy:


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from

[2] Link, R. (2018, March 5) 15 incredibly Heart Healthy Foods. Healthline. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from

Answers to Your Top 6 Questions About Managing Your Diabetes During COVID-19

Taking Extra Pre-Cautions, Practicing Social Distancing, Stocking Up on Diabetes Friendly Foods and Staying Active Are Just A few Of Our Recommendations for Diabetes Patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) older adults who have chronic medical conditions including diabetes are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Chronic diseases can compromise the immune system and make people more vulnerable to serious complications. That’s why it’s so important for people with diabetes who are at high risk take extra precautions during this time. Our team of expert medical doctors, coaches and nurses have compiled your questions and prepared answers to help you take the necessary pre-cautions during this time.

Managing Your Diabetes During COVID-19

Q: I have diabetes. Am I more at risk of getting COVID-19?
A: There is not enough data to show that people who have diabetes are more at risk of getting COVID-19, however, if someone has a serious underlying condition, such as diabetes they are at a higher risk of having complications if they become sick with coronavirus.1

To help keep yourself healthy and safe during this time we suggest taking every day pre-cautions;

  • Keeping a safe space between yourself and others around you.
  • Avoiding contact with those who are sick.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Wash your hands often. The CDC suggests washing your hands for up to 20 seconds. If you do not have access to soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Wipe down highly trafficked areas of your home including, counter tops, door handles, and light switches.

Q: Will COVID-19 impact my access to insulin and other supplies?
A: Currently leading manufacturers are reporting that COVID-19 is not impacting access to insulin.2 The American Diabetes Association is continuing to monitor access to insulin and providing updates. You can find updates at

Q: How can I manage my diabetes while I practice social distancing?
A: It is recommended that someone with diabetes plan what to do if they become ill during the COVID-19 pandemic;

  • Make sure to have an adequate stock of medications and supplies for monitoring blood glucose at home.3 If possible, take advantage of having prescriptions delivered to your home. 
  • Continue to manage your nutrition. Eating a well-maintained diet is critical to your diabetes management and keeping your immune system strong.4 While you are home, we suggest;
    • Sticking to your diet and preparing a meal plan that includes your healthy carbohydrates, fiber rich foods, and good fats. You can create a sample menu for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner to help you stay on track.5
    • Take advantage of home delivery services if possible. 
    • Being home all day can mean feeling the urge to snack, try to stick to a routine and eat your meals and snacks at structured times.

Q: How can I stock up my kitchen with diabetes friendly foods?
A: When planning meals, avoid trans fats, saturated fats, foods with high amounts of sodium or cholesterol. 

  • Try to avoid canned vegetables with lots of added sodium.
  • During the pandemic you may feel the need to have foods that won’t perish easily. Some suggestions are; 6
    • Frozen vegetables
    • Dry kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo beans.
    • Salt free seasonings.
    • Whole grains such a quinoa, brown rice, and whole oats.
    • Healthy fats such as assorted nuts and peanut or almond butter.
    • Canned tuna.
  • Healthy eating is very important for managing your diabetes.  Visit the CDC for some resources on healthy eating and cooking for people with diabetes.

Q: I am not feeling well, what should I do?
A: Even if your blood sugar is within your target level, you should practice the “sick day” guidelines suggested by the CDC;7 

  • Continue taking your diabetes pills or insulin as usual.
  • Test your blood glucose every four hours and keep track of the results.
  • Monitor your ketone levels.
  • Drink plenty of calorie free fluids. It is suggested that you drink 4 to 6 ounces every half hour to prevent dehydration.
  • Try to eat as you normally would.
  • Weigh yourself every day. Losing weight without trying is a sign of high blood glucose.
  • Check your temperature every morning and evening. A fever may be a sign of infection.

You should call your doctor if;8

  • Your symptoms worsen
  • You have moderate to high ketone levels in your urine.
  • You lose 5 pounds or more during the illness.
  • Your blood glucose is lower than 60 mg/dl or remains over 250 mg/dl on 2 checks.
  • You feel tired or can’t think clearly. If you cannot think clearly or are tired have someone else call your doctor or bring you to the emergency room.
  • Your temperature is over 101 for more than 24 hours.

Q: How can I stay active while I am at home?
A: Daily physical activity is an important part of diabetes managementThere are several ways you can stay active while self-quarantining at home. Make sure to adapt your routine and work out intensity to your fitness level;9

  • Stretching exercises such as yoga.
  • Body weight exercises including pushups, squats, stationary lunges, jumping jacks, and sit-ups.
  • Take a walk. Make sure to practice social distancing while doing so. 6-feet apart is recommended.
  • If you have a stationary bike or treadmill in your home;
    • A one hour walk on the treadmill
    • Two 15-minute intervals on the stationary bike.
  • Use light weights, kettle bells, or workout bands for a total body workout.
  • Staying physically active is very important for managing your diabetes and maintaining a healthy weight. Visit the CDC for some resources on being physically active for people with diabetes.


[1] American Diabetes Association. Accessed March 23, 2020.

[2] American Diabetes Association. Accessed March 23, 2020.

[3] International Diabetes Federation. Accessed. March 23, 2020.

[4] Harvard School of Public Health- Accessed March 24, 2020.

[5] Mayo Clinic. Accessed March 24, 2020.

[6] WebMD. March 25, 2020

[7] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed March 23, 2020.

[8] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed March 23, 2020.

[9] International Diabetes Federation. Accessed March 24, 2020.

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