The Most Diabetes-Friendly Destination In The World?

William Sansum Diabetes Center partners with local restaurants and pharmacies to offer unparalleled diabetes resources for visitors and residents alike

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – March 16, 2015 – With the help of a grant from the Mosher Foundation, William Sansum Diabetes Center (the Center) announces the launch of “GuiltFreeSB,” with the goal to make Santa Barbara the most diabetes-friendly destination in the world.

Each year, more than 550,000 visitors and residents with diabetes snack, drink and dine at Santa Barbara establishments. The city, known as the America Riviera, has also become a new destination for cruise ships with 15 stops scheduled for 2015. The goal of GuiltFreeSB is to increase awareness around improved diabetes management while minimizing health risks. Diabetes-friendly menu items can be found at and information is readily shared via social media, visitor centers and kiosks.

“We want to help take the guesswork out of healthy eating,” said the Center’s Director of Research and Innovation Dr. David Kerr. “The old adage around food and travel is ‘when in Rome...,’ however, individuals with type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes need to make conscious decisions about what to eat even during special occasions. With our restaurant partners, we want to demonstrate a diabetes-friendly diet does not need to be a sacrifice.”

Once a restaurant signs on as a partner, the Center’s registered dietitian, Sandy Andrews, works with the general manager or chef to identify and evaluate diabetes-friendly menu items. The items are then listed on the GuiltFreeSB website with calorie and carbohydrate counts as well as recommended modifications.

Tony Arroyo, owner of the popular Los Arroyos Mexican restaurants in Montecito and downtown Santa Barbara, was the first restaurant owner to participate in the program.

“Diabetes is prevalent in my family,” noted Arroyo. “I wanted to do something to shine a spotlight on the disease without making it feel intimidating. Our restaurants use fresh ingredients, so it wasn’t hard to identify delicious items that work well for a diabetes-friendly diet. It’s all about portion control, minimizing processed foods, and integrating healthy carbs with proteins and vegetables.” Los Arroyos GuiltFreeSB items include Mama’s Salad with beans and chicken or shrimp as well as the Ceveche Tostada on a plain corn tortilla (modified from the fried tortilla).

Jim Mishler, the manager of iconic Paradise Café, noted the resource did not need to be limited to those with diabetes. “GuiltFreeSB menu items are great for anyone looking for balanced, healthy meal options, ” said Mishler. Paradise Café’s GuiltFreeSB items include the Grilled Chicken Salad and Grilled Fresh Fish Tacos (omit rice).

Other early restaurant partners include Shoreline Beach Café, Armada Wine and Beer Merchant,Boochies, and Outer Aisle Gourmet.

The Center has also partnered with local CVS pharmacies to offer visitors and residents a resource for diabetes related medical supplies. CVS Pharmacist Harvey Castillo has been appointed to respond to inquiries related to diabetes medication and prescriptions as part of GuiltFreeSB.

“It makes sense that Santa Barbara would be first to embark on this kind of initiative,” stated Ken Oplinger, President & CEO Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region, which also manages Santa Barbara Visitors Centers. “People visit, live, and do business in Santa Barbara because of its temperate climate, unique geography and outdoor activities. You need healthy energy to enjoy all Santa Barbara has to offer. To eat well is to feel well.”

The title is one the City of Santa Barbara more than willing to share. “We actually don’t expect Santa Barbara to hold the title as the most diabetes friendly destination for long,” noted Dr. Kerr. “In fact, we would like this model to be replicated across the country, as diabetes affects 30 million people nationwide.”

For general information about travel and diabetes go to


Our singular daily focus is to improve the health and quality of life of men, women and children in Santa Barbara County - and millions around the world - who suffer from diabetes. We have been on the cutting edge of diabetes research, clinical care, and education since our founding in 1944 by Dr. William Sansum, the first U.S. physician to administer insulin in the treatment of diabetes.

William Sansum Diabetes Center advances new technologies to develop tools to help people more effectively self manage their diabetes, and produces groundbreaking diabetes treatments, such as the development of an artificial pancreas that enables the automated glucose control to patients. Understanding that diet and lifestyle factors are key to the effective management and prevention of diabetes, the Center offers diabetes and nutrition education to the more than 40,000 Santa Barbara County residents with or at risk for the disease. The Center also provides direct clinical care to patients including pregnant mothers with gestational diabetes, helping them to deliver healthy babies.

I could not figure out what they meant by "healthy." The two restaurants I looked at did not have on-line nutrition info and the menu's seemed like any other, there weren't substitutions listed. Maybe I'm missing something. Both because I don't live in Santa Barbara and that I don't see what this is about.

That's a very astute observation. I felt pretty much the same way with one possible exception: the Outer Aisle Gourmet. The latter does provide nutritional information on their two most featured products: Veggie Sandwich Thins and Veggie Pizza Crust. Both look interesting but I will have to personally sample them before drawing any conclusions. I have been experimenting with cauliflower as an ingredient in various dishes but have not been entirely successful with a cauliflower-based pizza crust. I have had to use lots of eggs to get it to hold together properly. The end result doesn't really quite taste like a pizza crust unless I mask it by overwhelming it with toppings. Perhaps if Outer Aisle's products make it into my local Whole Foods' shelves, I will be better able to make an objective evaluation (online mail order shipping charges are a bit high and I would prefer making mine a local purchase).