COLUMBUS — The aroma of pork sizzling on an electric grill and onions cooking in a pan was tempting those in the crowd.

They would get a taste, but had to wait as chef Nader Farahbod finished his cooking demonstration. In the meantime, they got to nibble on miniature kiwis while the main course was prepared.

Dozens of people watching at the Columbus Wellness Center saw the chef from Billy’s Restaurant in Lincoln quickly chop vegetables, including purple cabbage used in an oriental salad with herbs, spices, sesame oil and balsamic vinegar.

“No sugar,” Farahbod said. “Balsamic vinegar has enough sweetness in it that you don’t need to add any.”

Preparing tasty food that's also low in sugar and carbohydrates was the focus of his healthy cooking demonstration Tuesday for a diabetes awareness event.

Diet plays an essential role for those diagnosed with the disease. It's also important for people who are prediabetic.

Those who have an elevated blood sugar but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes are prediabetic, said Alicia Mueller, a diabetic nurse educator at Columbus Community Hospital.

She and others in health care provided information about prevention and treatment during the diabetes awareness event.

The hospital recently began offering a National Diabetes Prevention Program geared toward helping people lower their type 2 diabetes risk.

Mueller said the program, which is backed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is about taking steps before a diabetes diagnosis.

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“We are trying to be proactive instead of reactive,” she said.

It is estimated that 84 million American adults have prediabetes and most don’t even know they have it. Without making changes, it could develop into type 2 diabetes within five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Risk factors for the disease include being 18 or older, having a BMI greater than 24, having given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds and having a prediabetes diagnosis.

Diabetes can lead to serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and the loss of toes, feet or legs.

“That’s why we want to be proactive. If you can make those lifestyle modifications it can delay that chance of getting it or even prevent it from developing into diabetes,” Mueller said.

The year-long prevention program promotes lifestyle changes. Participants learn about a healthy diet, weight loss and exercise. Mueller said the program also can serve as a support group for people.

It is held for 12 months so people can develop habits and stick to them.

“It’s not just a quick fix. It’s supposed to be learning those little changes that make a big difference. How to get in that fitness if you don’t have much time. What diet modifications can you make? What are ways you can cut calories here or there?” Mueller said.

Diabetes awareness day was sponsored by The Columbus Telegram, Columbus Community Hospital, Columbus Family YMCA and Columbus Lions Club.

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