Making Sundays Special

roast pork on the Diabetes Diet
Roast pork – eat this to make your Sunday special… (recipe Ministry of Food, Jamie Oliver).

New Year’s resolutions? Pah! One, you can makes changes any time you want, and two, most of us see them as miserable—the lose weight, take up punitive exercise regimes kind. In this part of the world, January is a challenging month. The weather’s dreich, the nights are long and the pennies few and far between. Who wants to add starvation and exhaustion to the mix?

One resolution I do intend to stick to is my campaign to Make Sundays Special again. Years ago, my husband and I used to make a point of doing something on Sundays. He works most Saturdays, so the Sundays were the one day a week we could visit castles, go to Edinburgh, take the motorbike out for a spin, bike to Balloch, drink too much and cycle back via the main road while piddled*. Last year, we fell into the habit of doing nothing. He’d be downstairs catching up on Colombo (why, why, why?), and I’d hide away upstairs working or writing. We added doing the supermarket shopping to a Sunday. As I love food, I don’t mind the supermarket shop but does it belong on a precious day off? I think not.

Cut the screen time

In 2019, I’ve vowed to spend less time in front of a screen. I’m there for work and as a hobby, and I dread to think how many hours I spend hunched over my laptop. On the plus side, I use a standing desk so it’s not as sedentary as it could be. On the other hand, it’s still not healthy. Time to reinstate the Sunday activities, such as:

Ben Lomond

I have Ben Lomond in my sights. Hill climbing is one of the best activities you can do in Scotland. The Munro is right on my doorstep, and the shame is I’ve yet to climb it.

Three Lochs Walk

I’d also like to walk from Balloch to Helensburgh with Sandy. I’ve done it a couple of times with my friends, and it’s a fabulous walk because of the views you get of Loch Lomond.

Linlithgow Palace

We’re members of Historic Scotland and we’ve yet to visit Linlithgow Palace so a train trip there and a pub lunch is in order.

Uni tour

The University of Glasgow offers walking tours. As I work there, it will be fascinating to find out more about this iconic Glasgow building. Another tour that has always piqued my interest is the one you can do of Glasgow Central station. If I book now, we might get there in the summer. (It’s terrifically popular.)

Sunday roast

Roast pork, the before version.

Finally, it’s nice to include special meals in your Sunday plans. As a child, I didn’t like the Sunday roast—probably because it meant sitting at the table waiting for adults to finish so we children could be excused, and I have memories of thick slabs of meat and nasty bits of under-cooked fat. These days, I’m a fully paid up member of the Sunday roast forever club. While the meat is nice, the best bits are the accompaniments – home-made gravy with a decent amount of wine thrown in, roasted parsnips and carrots, crackling if you’re making pork (or just make it as a side dish anyway) and one roast potato as a treat.

Bring on the special Sundays!

What’s your idea of a treat on a Sunday? Is cutting back your time online part of your plans for 2019, and if so what do you intend to do instead?

*Don’t do this at home, folks!

Low Carb Lamb Curry

lamb curry spices on the Diabetes DietWant to add another lamb curry to your low-carb repertoire? You’re in the right place. Lamb lends itself to all kinds of spices such as cinnamon, cumin and chillies, and it makes a rich, comforting dish perfect for ‘dreich’ days such as the one I’m writing this on—rain, gusty winds and dark before 4pm.

Serve it with cauliflower rice or just eat in a bowl with a spoon. I like spicy food, so I leave the seeds in chillies and add a generous amount of chilli flakes. If you prefer a softer flavour, remove the seeds and hold back on the chilli flakes.

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 3 onions, chopped finely
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2tsp grated ginger
  • 100ml Greek yoghurt
  • 2tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp mild curry powder
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1tsp chilli flakes

Dry fry the cumin seeds in a small sauce pan for a few minutes and then pound to a powder in a pestle and mortar.

Heat the oil in large saucepan or frying pan, and add the onions. Fry for a five minutes until softened, and add the lamb, chillies, chilli flakes, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon sticks and ginger. Cook, stirring and breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon for five minutes until the mince is browned. Add the yoghurt and tomato puree and bring to a simmer. Cook for ten minutes until the sauce has thickened. Add salt to taste.

15g carbs per portion

Vitamin B12 and Diabetes

vitamin B12 bottle on the Diabetes Diet
Vitamin B12 Gummies by icethim on flickr. Reproduced thanks to Creative Commons 2.0

In the news this week was an article about Vitamin B12 and its deficiency in those with type 2 diabetes*.

A new study by Nottingham researchers has shown that most people (64 percent of those assessed) people taking metformin (for type 2) were not being routinely tested for levels of vitamin B12 in their bodies. The assessment is needed to check for signs of nerve damage, a painful side effect of diabetes. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin the body requires to work properly.

The study’s author, Dr Kaenat Mulla from Hucknall Road Medical Centre said: “Current British Society of Haematology guidelines recommend that vitamin B12 levels are checked only when there is clinical suspicion of deficiency. However, peripheral neuropathy is irreversible and it may be too late once symptoms have developed.”

In an article on diabetes.co.uk, she stressed her warning wasn’t intended to discourage people from taking metformin, but she wanted to encourage doctors to monitor vitamin B12 routinely so deficiencies are picked up quickly and can be treated.

Before you all rush to Holland & Barrett to stock up, there are plenty of food sources that are rich in Vitamin B12. And funnily enough, we have a few recipes that feature them… Here’s what you might want to consider.

Liver and kidneys

Animal organ meats are a good source of the vitamin. A lot of people find the taste too strong—and I for one am never going to eat kidneys as their function puts me off—but chicken liver is more delicate than lamb’s for example, and might be more palatable.

Sardines

Sardines are another source and they are one of the few fish where Omega 3 levels survive the canning process. They are also cheap as chips and packed full of calcium as again the canning process softens the bones enough for you to eat them (and not notice you’re doing so).

Tuna, trout and salmon

More fish products that are super high in vitamin B12. You can find recipes on our site for salmon here and here, and trout here. I prefer trout to salmon as I find the flavour more delicate and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper too.

Dairy products

Milk, plain yoghurt and cheese have decent levels of the vitamin. Make a delicious sweet treat using Greek yoghurt, two teaspoons of good cocoa powder and a tablespoon of granulated sweetener and you’ve got a calcium, protein and magnesium packed pudding. And as for cheese, is there anyone out there who doesn’t love, adore like it? Hard, soft, strong, mild blue or from the cow, goat or sheep, there’s one that suits all. Want to make the most of it? Try our cauliflower cheese, broccoli and Stilton soup or our aubergine and pepper parmigiana.

For more information on vitamin B12 levels in food, check out healthline.com

*Please note—this article doesn’t constitute medical advice.

The Quirky Things About Being a Type 1 Diabetic

Because I am hyper-organised (crap), I scheduled time to write a post for World Diabetes Day—spot the deliberate mistake. Said designated day took place on 14 November, unmarked by we at the Diabetes Diet. Hey ho!

Instead, here I am posting about it more than a week later. You could argue that living with diabetes also takes place on the other 363 days (and the extra one every four years) of the year, so why make the 14th special, although awareness-raising exercises are always useful.

Anyway, I thought I’d list some of the quirky things about living with diabetes. We all know the big stuff, but there are some teeny-tiny bits you put up with which aren’t obvious to those who don’t have the condition…

Gnawing anxiety when parted from your bag. I have an industrial-sized handbag so I can carry around everything—blood testing equipment, two pens, spare needles, jelly babies and a full make-up kit*. When I visit people and they try to take my bag from me to put it with coats, I cling to it. I’m never more than a few metres from that bag.

a picture of a blood testing machine on The Diabetes Diet

A trail of litter that follows you everywhere. I do my best to dispose of it at the time, but I wish someone would invent a small bin that magically appears at your side every time you do a blood test or injection so you can throw away your used needles and blood testing sticks there and then. Every few days or so, I have to do a clear out of my bag where old needles, their wrapping and used sticks gather at the bottom. Once, I was in Regent’s Park in London and I spotted a used blood testing stick on the group and it delighted me. I knew it wasn’t mine**, but the thought that there was another type 1 in the vicinity felt comforting.

An aversion to ordering drinks when you are out that are in a glass. How do you know it’s the diet version? I only feel secure when my drink comes in its bottle or can. Otherwise, you might end up drinking the full-sugar one which will hit you like a sledge hammer almost immediately.

Puncture-marked fingers. I’m still on the waiting list for the FreeStyle Libre so in the meantime, my fingers keep that little collection of black dots that marks frequent finger pricking. You are supposed to vary the fingers, but my right hand bears the brunt of tests because I’m left-handed.

Toilets are very important. High blood sugars make you pee a lot and the first thing I work out whenever I go anywhere is—where’s the loo? Also, I’m not fussy. I have friends who won’t use dirty toilets such as the ones you get on trains. I don’t care. It’s a loo and it’s going to take me from bursting discomfort to huge relief in minutes.

It’s a full-time job. Managing diabetes takes up a lot of time and energy. You don’t get holidays and you can’t quit, and you have to do it on top of everything else you do. The boss is often a moody cow too. The skill-sets needed include arithmetic (figuring out insulin doses to match food), organisation (making sure you have everything you need when going out and keeping on top of your prescriptions), an understanding of biology and how your body works, and the ability to forward plan for most aspects of your life.

 

*Strictly speaking, not needed for diabetes

**On second thoughts, it could have been. Those things get everywhere. I’m always finding them in weird places.

Slow Cooker Low-Carb Beef Pot Roast

slow cooker pot roast beef recipe by Emma Baird of the Diabetes DietSeasonal eating is valuable, I know but here’s a confession… I don’t mind eating soup and stew all year round, even though the dishes are usually associated with autumn and winter.

Can you blame me? Imagine meat and vegetables soaked in lusciously thick and flavoursome sauces, or onions, carrots and celery melded together and used as the basis for the best soup in the world. [Cauliflower cheese soup, since you ask.]

That said, it’s now the tail end of autumn in the UK and I’m digging into beef stews a-plenty. The miracle of carrots and beef is a flavour combination you can’t beat. Cut those carrots in big chunks, nestle them in your stew and leave to bubble away for hours. I could almost fish them out and eat them as a soup with the juices from the stew.

Recently, I adapted a Mary Berry recipe for pot roast. Mary’s method used suede or turnip as we know it in Scotland. I’m not that fond of it (sorry Rabbie*) and I decided to substitute celeriac. It worked a treat.

One of the rules of stews and casseroles is that they improve the day after cooking. This depends on your self-discipline. If you’ve had a pot of stew simmering on your stove for a few hours or cooking away in your slow cooker, your whole home will smell heavenly and resistance will require added steeliness.

Slow cooker Beef Pot Roast with Winter Vegetables

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.2kgs (roughly) beef topside or brisket
  • 4 onions, cut into wedges
  • Half a celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 150ml white wine
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Put the oil in a large frying pan or wok and add the beef. Cook over a high heat, turning occasionally until it is browned all over. Place in your slow cooker along with the vegetables tucked all around the meat, and pour the wine around. You might want to add up to 100ml water, but the vegetables will give off a lot of water anyway.

Cook on slow for eight hours. Add plenty of salt and pepper and dot with a little butter to serve. The dish goes well with steamed cauliflower or broccoli.

Allow about 10-15g carbs per serving.

*Scotland’s national dish is haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties, and it’s traditionally eaten on January 25 to celebrate Robert Burns’ birthday.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Diabetes

olive oil pic taken by Emma Baird, author of the Diabetes DietWe’re just back from Crete and enthused with the joys of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Yes, readers, splash it everywhere with gay abandon just as the Cretans do.

The island’s average inhabitant consumes 36 litres of the stuff every year—more than any other nation in the world. Even the Italians, also fond of the EVOO, manage only ten litres of it and they are the third highest consumers.

Does it have implications for we sugar-challenged folks? The factory I visited while there had a sign claiming health benefits for sufferers of all kinds of things, including type 2 diabetes. The Cretans produce mainly EVOO (and they harvest the olives by hand rather than machine), and they don’t bother with the ‘rule’ that you only use it for salads or to dress vegetables. They stick it in marinades, cook with it and even use it to deep-fry chips.

Positive benefits

In the Mediterranean region where olive oil is the main dietary fat, there are lower levels of deaths from cardiovascular disease. A Medicine News Today article also claimed positive benefits for stroke risk, breast cancer, liver protection, Alzheimer’s, ulcerative colitis, acute pancreatitis, maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels and even depression. [The article quoted from different studies, all of which used the words ‘appear to’.]

Anyone with diabetes has an increased risk of all the above conditions. The so-called Mediterranean ‘diet’ isn’t that dissimilar from the low-carb diet we promote. Broadly, eat tonnes of vegetables, some fruits preferably berries, plenty of fish, full-fat dairy, some beans and pulses if you can tolerate them and dress your salad and veggies with plenty of olive oil*.

Apart from the health benefits, a decent splash of EVOO does miraculous things. Steam some broccoli and then finish it off in the pan frying it with olive oil, thin slices of garlic and sea salt and you get to eat something that is three hundred times nicer than the boiled stuff.

The best Greek salad

And naturally a Greek salad needs the stuff… the best ones are simple. Large chunks of cucumber (peeled for purists) and tomatoes, black olives, thin slices of red onion and topped with a slab of feta cheese, plenty of salt and pepper and a generous drizzle of EVOO.

Sadly, because we’d opted for the hand luggage only flight, we could only bring back a 100ml bottle. One of the big issues with olive oil, and especially the extra virgin variety, is fraud. Most olive oil distribution is done through Italy, including the Cretan stuff. Investigations in recent years have uncovered wide-scale issues where virgin olive oil is passed off as extra virgin. There have even been cases where the oil was blended with sunflower oil and others..

The Guardian has a useful article that contains advice about buying genuine EVOO. Basically, it’s best to buy it in small quantities and if you think that stuff in supermarkets is too cheap to be the real thing, you’re probably right.

Olive oil recipes

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for olive oil recipes here are some suggestions from our blog:

What’s your favourite olive oil recipe or use?

*If you are overweight, you might want to be a little more cautious with your use of it, as it is calorie dense.

 

 

 

The FreeStyle Libre—a two-week report

a sensor and reader on a post on the Diabetes DietYou find me, un-sensored and sad… Yes, I’ve completed two weeks on the FreeStyle Libre sensor and reader system, and now I’m back to finger pricks, at least temporarily.

At my last diabetes clinic appointment, my consultant* agreed that I’m a candidate for flash glucose monitoring (which is different from blood glucose testing, but more on that later) and sent me off with a 14-day sensor while I wait for bureaucracy to kick in.

So, what’s flash glucose monitoring like? For the uninitiated, the system comprises a sensor you wear on the back of your arm and a reader that can be used any time. Type 1 diabetes tends to encourage obsessive compulsive behaviour, and the FreeStyle Libre system facilitates that, though it’s no bad thing.

Where flash glucose monitoring differs from blood testing is that the sensor reads levels from interstitial fluid, so it lags about four and a half minutes behind blood glucose readings. If you drive, the DVLA requires you to do blood tests, rather than scans beforehand to avoid the risk of hypos while driving.

Parents love them because they can check children with type 1 diabetes while they sleep, able to work out if they are risk of a hypo, and they are also routinely prescribed for pregnant women who have diabetes as frequent testing makes it easier to maintain the tight control you need while growing a baby.

The accompanying app can be downloaded by others, who can gain access to your information if you give them permission. Again, something that is useful for parents although such scrutiny would have horrified the teenage diabetic me.

Here’s what I found:

Frequency of testing

After a day or so of overcoming the hesitation—I can’t do another test, I just did one an hour ago… Oh. Yes, I can—I averaged 11 scans a day, and about two blood tests usually at the same time to check accuracy and a few times because I was hypo.

Ease of testing

Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! You can use the reader through clothing, it only takes a few seconds. It’s much easier than pulling out a meter, sticks and finger-pricker—especially when you’re out and about.

Accuracy of readings

I had the odd bit of disparity—usually if my blood sugar was low, as the sensor lags behind blood glucose readings. However, most of the blood tests I did at the same time varied only by 0.1 o 0.2 mmol, and I did get hypo readings that registered at the same time.

Sensor adhesion

No issues there. That thing stuck to me for the two weeks. I didn’t do any swimming in that time, so I can’t attest to how well it works in that setting. Nor did I try it out in the sauna/steam room as threatened—though one suggestion a fellow user came up with was using cling film to bind it onto your arm. The reader lasted on the battery charge for the full two weeks too.

Most useful bits

There are lots of things that sell flash glucose monitoring to me—ease and frequency of testing two of them—but there are other super-useful components. One is the pattern tool. You can see where you have the most glucose variability and when you tend to have hypos. In the two-week period, I had (ahem) 17 low glucose events, most of them between 11am and 5pm and that corresponded with the time of day I have most glucose variability.

I’ve never been good at logging my blood tests. It just feels too much like hard work. I know you can download from your meter, but the checks I made on the flash glucose monitor gave me a clear idea of what happens. And, more importantly, some ideas of how to fix it.

The excess hypos may have been because of the half-marathon, which happened not long after I started my 14-day sensor and because I’ve been eating more carbs. As we say in the Diabetes Diet, more carbs mean more insulin. Bigger amounts of insulin mean bigger mistakes. A salutary reminder, then, that it’s back on the low-carb for me.

Thanks too, to Steven Morrison—my blog and book co-author’s son—who emailed me in detail about his own experiences using the FreeStyle Libre. He’s a convert too, and the cling-film tip came from him.

So when does my prescription come in? I’m now on a list for a short course at the hospital and once I’ve taken part in that, the organisers write to my doctor recommending she add sensors to my list of prescribed diabetes medications and gear. Fingers crossed, it doesn’t take too long.

 

* #LovetheNHS