Using a Virtual World to Teach Diabetes Meal Management

RestaurantAn estimated 25.8 million Americans or 8.3% of the population have diabetes and the incidence of diabetes is increasing most rapidly in children and young adults. Diabetes management includes following a diabetes meal plan, being physically active and possibly taking medication. This project focused on how to help young adults (18-28 year-olds) meet their diabetes meal plan recommendations. Studies have shown than teens and young adults are food illiterate—they don’t have the skills to choose and cook healthy meals. In addition, eating out with friends is an important part of their social life. To help these young adults acquire these crucial meal skills and not have to eliminate their social life, three virtual world settings—kitchen, restaurant, all you can eat buffet—were designed where they could practice diabetes meal planning and preparation. In the virtual kitchen they learned step by step how to read a recipe and understand the instructions and ingredients in baking and cooking recipes. In the virtual restaurant they learned how to select breakfast, lunch, and dinner items off a menu. In the virtual buffet they learned how to incorporate a wide variety of buffet foods into their meal plan. It was expected the skills they learned in these virtual world settings would transfer to real life so they could prepare their meals, be able to eat out in a variety of real life settings, and stay within their diabetes meal plan.
—Martha Raidl, Extension Health & Nutrition Specialist