A study was conducted to determine whether computer-based techniques for meal planning and diet education could be an effective supplement to diabetes diet counseling in a group of inner-city subjects with limited educational background. Sixteen individuals with diabetes mellitus who were newly referred to an inner-city outpatient diet clinic and who demonstrated ninth-grade reading ability were given computer-based nutritional education. They received meal planning information through use of individualized computer-planned menus and education about the diabetes diet by computer-assisted instruction (CAI) combined with an interactive videodisc system (VIDEO). Total contact time was 180 min of CAI/VIDEO, 50 min of dietitian/patient education, and 20 min of dietitian/patient computer time (the last function could have been performed by a clerk). At the end of 4 wk, the group performance was improved in Exchange Lists knowledge (P < 0.001), recognition of foods containing concentrated carbohydrate (P < 0.05), and reduction of reported fat intake (P < 0.05). In addition, average group weight declined by 4.6 lb (P < 0.005). No improvement was found in food-measuring skills or in calorie-consumption compliance during a standardized buffet lunch. It appears that computer-based techniques are an acceptable supplement to traditional methods of education in this patient group and can improve the effectiveness of diabetes education programs without a significant increase in dietitian time.

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