Katie McKilligan on Managing Diabetes

Diabetes Awareness

Katie McKilligan led a Nutrition Education Session on using food to manage diabetes for youth in the Eastside After School Program at the East Side Boxing Club.

With our Nutrition Education Sessions, Good Food aims to educate and empower youth to lead healthy lives and inspire others to create the same change.

Diabetes rates have spiked across Canada in the last 20 years, disproportionately affecting Indigenous people and low-income populations. Diabetes rates are 3 to 5 times higher among the Indigenous community compared to the rest of the population. Indigenous and low-income populations are most commonly affected by type 2 diabetes.

Youth at the Eastside After School Program have friends, family and community members with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Our goal with this session was to empower youth with information on how to manage diabetes.

Nutrition, Education, Involved youth, diabetes
Katie McKilligan at the Eastside Afterschool Program.

About Katie

Katie McKilligan grew up in Vancouver. Her passion for soccer started at a young age and led her to play for the University of Calgary. During this time Katie started experiencing symptoms including hormonal imbalances and energy crashes which affected her overall quality of life and ability to play soccer. Doctors failed to diagnose Katie for the first year she experienced symptoms. She was eventually diagnosed at age 22 with type 1 diabetes.

Katie has overcome many challenges with diabetes.Through these challenges she’s learned how to properly manage the disease for herself and still plays soccer. She’s inspired by helping others understand how to manage the disease for themselves. She’s driven to spread awareness amongst a variety of communities to broaden the overall understanding of the diabetes epidemic and its need for support.

Katie now works for Roche – a leading medical research company. She’s passionate about advocating for reliable access, knowledge and support for people suffering from diabetes.

Katie created a website that is dedicated to supporting Jamaican youth suffering from type 1 diabetes as well as advocating for awareness of the disease. Katie has committed to raise $63,000 over the course of three years for Life for a Child. Life for a Child is a program supporting the medical needs of children in developing countries living with diabetes.

Key Points

  • Diabetes is a terminal and metabolic disease.
  • Diabetes can affect people in different ways.
  • Ask the diabetics in your life, what symptoms they experience when they have low or high blood sugar. Understanding their symptoms helps you identify when they happen.
  • Living with diabetes means managing a chronic illness 24 hours a day. You must understand how much insulin you’ll need for everything you ingest, and consider the symptoms in everything you do.
  • Diabetics need more self-care in order to maintain their mental and physical health.
  • Diabetics need to administer, test and monitor insulin throughout the day. There are different methods of doing this and it depends on the individual’s needs for the most effective option.
  • Make yourself aware of foods that spike blood sugar levels.

Understanding Diabetes: The Basics

During Katie’s session, one of the youth asked a very important question:

‘How can we support members of our community who have diabetes?’

Katie said one of the biggest ways to support people with diabetes is by understanding it.

Nutrients and Absorption

In order to understand diabetes, we must first understand insulin and its relation to how food is processed in our body.

Image 1.

Nutrient Groups

Breaking down the different nutrient groups to a molecular level helps us understand how it affects our body. Youth in our programs have already been introduced to different nutrient groups from past sessions.Taking the next step to understanding how nutrients are  processed was a smooth transition.

We started by collectively identifying foods that belonged to each group. For instance, chicken is a healthy protein and avocados are a healthy source of fat. When it comes to carbohydrates quinoa, yams and brown rice were all shouted out. It’s important to understand carbohydrates contain three different molecules; sugars, starch and fiber. Most carbohydrates have all three however, contain different levels of each.

Nutrient Processing

The next steps to understanding nutrients is understanding how the body absorbs them. Image 1 represents how proteins, fats and carbs are absorbed and used for different bodily functions.


Protein molecules attach to enzyme molecules and are carried throughout the body for the purpose of muscle growth as well as providing the energy needed for bodily functions, especially healing injuries.


Fat cells attach to bile acids and transmit a long-term energy source to our brain and entire body.

Foods with high amounts of fat take longer to digest, resulting in your blood sugar progressively spiking at a slower pace.


Sugar and starches

Sugar and starch start off as different molecules, our bodies break them down before they can absorb them to use as an energy source. After our body breaks them down the end result for both molecules is sugar.

As the sugar we process enters our blood stream for energy and travels to every part of our body, our pancreas goes to work to produce insulin. Insulin is what naturally lowers are blood sugar in order to keep a healthy balance. High blood sugar causes damage to blood vessels, nerves, organs and vision. High blood sugar is a leading cause of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and diabetes.

For more information about the magic of fibre check out Fibre Fundamentals.

Fibre is the other part of a carbohydrate. Our bodies don’t absorb fibre for bodily functions, but rather use fibre as a bodily function.

There’s two different types of fibre and they both help us out through the digestive process.

Soluble Fibre

When trying to understand soluble fibre, think about chia seeds.When it’s exposed to water in our intestines, it swells up like a chia seed and forms a gel.This gel maximizes the health benefits of food by slowing down nutrient absorption.

Insoluble Fibre

Insoluble fibre benefits the digestive process by helping digested food move through the intestines proficiently.

How Diabetes Affects Us

Diabetes is a disease that impairs the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin.

Insulin is used to process and manage the sugar in our bodies. Our bodies cannot function properly without it.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Food hangover (feeling groggy, tired and uneasy after a meal)
  • Physical and mental anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Rage blackouts
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Tingling in the hands and feet


Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both caused by issues with insulin.

Insulin Insensitivity

Insulin insensitivity happens when your cells become less or non-reactive to insulin.This makes your body less effective at processing sugars, resulting in high blood sugar, resulting in diabetes.

How it works

If your body has to produce and process an excessive amount of insulin to make up for excessive sugar intake, the cells eventually become desensitized to insulin’s effect on them, resulting in high blood sugar. When your body becomes desensitized, it needs more insulin than your pancreas can produce.

Exhausted pancreas

If your diet demands a large amount of insulin to break down the sugars, eventually your pancreas will get tired.

How it works

When your pancreas gets tired, it lowers or stops its ability to produce insulin. Which results in high blood sugar leading to diabetes. This issue is typically what type 2 diabetics experience.

Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is more likely to stem from one’s diet and habits. Enough exercise, a healthy diet and managing stress levels are important factors when it comes to protecting yourself against it.

The reason why people get Type 1 diabetes is not clear but scientist, believe it stems from genetic and environmental factors such as viruses that trigger the effect.

Affects OF Diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetics have a 40% greater chance of developing clinical depression.
  • Food hangover.
  • Blindness.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Coma.
  • Limb amputation.
  • Physical and mental anxiety.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Rage blackouts.

Awareness and Advocacy

It’s important to note that although type 2 is affiliated with lifestyle choices, many people who suffer from it don’t have access to healthy food or activities, resulting in a lower quality of physical and mental health. We as a community must stop stigmatizing type 2 diabetics for being at fault for having a chronic disease. Advocating for justice when it comes to access and education of proper nutrition and physical activities is what will make the biggest impact.

Managing Diabetes


Managing diabetes is expensive. It can be extremely difficult for a large number of individuals and families living in Vancouver to maintain on a constant basis.

Vancouver General Hospital has youth programs aimed to educate youth around insulin maintenance.

The cost of managing diabetes on a daily basis is not the same for everyone. How much insulin needed and how many times one needs to test their blood sugar differs from person to person.

PharmCare supplies free insulin for BC citizens if they’re covered by the following programs

When it comes to the testing and monitoring process, resources are more limited. Pharmcare supplies needles and test strips and insulin pumps for the following plans.

There is no coverage available for nutritional food or physical activities.

 Impact On the Eastside After School Program.

Youth greatly appreciate having a more in-depth understanding of the disease and how to support their community.

Donate here to help grow our Nutrition Education and resources.

Donate here to help support youth with diabetes.

Your contribution creates a difference in their lives.

Planning Your Career: Chef and Entrepreneur Heat Laliberte

Good Food for All’s Careers in Food Program is our job readiness and employability program offered to East Vancouver youth.  We aim to support youth on their continued path to a healthy and productive life after high school by helping them receive training, secure employment, and embark on a career pathway in the food industry. Long term, our goal is to increase stability in their lives and improve long term food security by securing higher incomes.

Good Food for All welcomed Cree-Mėtis chef and entrepreneur Heat Laliberte to the Eastside Afterschool Program as the first speaker in our Careers in Food Program series.

Heat’s own career path and personal success inspired the creation of the Careers in Food Program. His career trajectory exemplifies what happens when opportunity meets passion and hard work. We invited Heat to speak to youth to describe his journey and what it took to get to where he is today.

Chef and Entrepreneur Heat Laliberte discusses his career path with youth at the Eastside Afterschool Program.

Heat’s Story

Heat grew up in a low income household frequenting food banks. Heat began working in the food industry at establishments like Tim Hortons and Moxies and found a sense of family working in kitchens. Heat’s work ethic led him to find a chef mentor who encouraged him to attend Vancouver Community College’s Culinary Program and start an apprenticeship in the hotel restaurant industry. He was named Employee of the Year at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Heat cooked for athletes in the 2018 and 2018 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil and Pyeongchang, South Korea and will again in Tokyo, Japan in 2022. After completing the Aboriginal Business & Entrepreneurship Skills Training (BEST) program, Heat went on to his own venture – One Arrow Artisan Meats – an artisanal bacon company that is a hit at the Vancouver Farmer’s. One Arrow can now be found on Spud.ca!

Together with Good Food for All and the Careers in Food Program, Heat wants to inspire at-risk youth to pursue careers in food:

“If you can get youth to experience the rewards of hard work, commitment and healthy choices it really sets them up for success in adulthood.”

 Heat’s Career Path

A Commitment to Give Back

Even with a full time job and his own business, Heat still prioritizes giving back to his community. He says, “I’m at the point in my life where I’m going to take my business full time and I want to be able to mentor people who want to be chefs as well. It’s a good way to give back to the community or to people who want to learn how to cook because you have the skill set to be able to teach other people as well.”

True to his personality, Heat brought some incredible prizes to give out at the conclusion of his talk with the youth.

Thank you to Heat for being a huge inspiration to us and always supporting our programs!

Foodie Field Trip- Get to know your local groceries stores

==================nutrition adventures ===================

Good Food for All hits the streets of East Vancouver for a grocery store field trip!


Cheryl Chang guided a tour of East Vancouver food spots – including a produce market, butcher, vegan store and bakery – with peer coaches from East Side Boxing Club’s Afterschool Program. The tour familiarized youth with the healthy and affordable grocery stores and produce markets in  their community.

Over the past 3 years of Nutrition Education Sessions, youth  most frequently request sessions on developing food skills. This field trip taught youth the skills to plan, purchase, and prepare healthy meals sourced from stores in their neighbourhood. They had a blast at this hands on, cognitive and visual learning experience.


Noah is going into Grade 8 and always brings a positive and welcoming energy to Good Food’s Programs

” I liked learning about my community, produce and being with my friends. I learned the riper the fruit is, the heavier it is because there’s more juice!’

John is going into Grade 12 and has been regularly attending  the program for the last 2 years. He’s dedicated a large portion of his life to improving his health and is passionate about helping better his community. He’s also passionate about ensuring that everyone’s spirits are lifted by giving a good laugh.

“On the field trip I learned a variety of things. Some examples are taro is a type of potato that makes my favourite bubble tea flavour. I also learned to not buy the fish sitting on ice, but to ask for the fresher stuff! learning about the healthy food in my neighbourhood has prepared and inspired me to buy local groceries.”

Good Food is passionate about empowering and educating youth to make healthy decisions. We recognize preparing healthy meals at home is a much more affordable option then buying pre-made meals. Good Food seeks to decrease long term food insecurity by providing food skills training and creating  long lasting healthy eating habits.

Donate to help fund the young leaders healthy lifestyles.

Boxer Jillian Brookes on Eating like an Athlete

====eat like a champ, box like a champ ====

On December 17th, 2017 Jillian Brookes spoke to the youth on how your diet affects your performance in the ring, and in overall life.

Jillian Brooke, healthy eating, active youth, boxing, fitness diet

Jillian Brooke is competitive boxer and a respected member of the EastSide Boxing community.  She’s participated in the Aprons For Gloves, a charity boxing match that supports the Eastside Boxing Club. She advocates for leading a healthy lifestyle and is passionate about helping others achieve this as well.

She started off by telling her own personal fitness story, explaining that when she began to eat a diet in relation to her goals, she could reach them faster and more effectively.

She explained how the changes in her diet made her training better, she could hit harder and move faster. Also reflecting on her mental health and how eating healthier gave her more motivation to lead a healthier lifestyle in every aspect of her life, including increased motivation to get to the gym! #eatlikeachampfeellikeachamp

Goals, success, progress, lifestyle

After the inspirational speech of self love, then followed some pro tips on meal ideas for before and after a workout.

Pre workout

1. Oatmeal with blueberries with a bit of yogurt/honey
2. Whole Wheat Toast with Sliced Banana + Peanut Butter
3. Sliced apples with almond butter
4. Sweet potato with steamed broccoli and a bit of olive oil
5. 1 cup of Brown rice or Quinoa

Post workout

1. Boiled egg or Tofu salad with greens, tomatoes and almonds
2. Chicken Breasts with grilled veggies
3. Veggie Omelet (can substitute tofu for eggs) with Avocado, Broccoli, carrots and mushrooms

4. Steamed Broccoli and Carrots with roasted chickpeas or mixed beans (Kidney beans or Black beans) with a couple slices of avocado and \mixed greens.
5. Tuna Sandwich with hummus and vegetables

The youth enjoyed being mentored by someone involved in their community!

Nutrition Session: Pre- and Post-Workout Foods

Nutrition Talk with Spud

To kick off our nutrition education series, we invited Gaby from SPUD Vancouver to talk to the Eastside Boxing Club’s Youth Boxing Program about what to eat pre- and post-workout.  Our goal with nutrition session was to emphasize the importance of eating both before and after a workout, provide examples of the best foods to eat, and dispel some of the myths that surround salt, fat, and carbs.

As a Holistic Nutritionist, Gaby believes in using both diet and lifestyle to help individuals achieve healthy balance and well-being. Like Good Food for All, Gaby is passionate about sharing her knowledge and empowering people to make healthy choices.

Access to nutritious food and a working knowledge of nutrition basics is absolutely essential if youth are to remain active and healthy throughout their lives.  Currently, children and youth in Vancouver are not getting enough nutrition education. According to a recent study by the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research,

Despite local and provincial efforts to engage students in food and nutrition experiences, participation in most activities remains relatively low, with few students exposed to multiple activities. Continued advocacy is needed from the dietetics community to improve student engagement in food and nutrition activities.”

Help us continue to provide much needed nutrition education to Vancouver youth – make a donation!

Huge thank you to the Eastside Boxing Club, Gaby, and SPUD for helping us foster a culture of  “good food” in our community!