Why can’t you get healthy food at a medical meeting?

The photograph of  lovely display of cakes you see here was taken by  a doctor at a medical conference the subject of which was….tackling obesity.


Similarly, the sandwiches and chips you see dished up is all to often the only sort of food you will see at medical seminars.  I recently attended a two day course on the subject of how to speak to patients so that they would be more motivated to change their unhealthy eating and non-existent exercise habits when dealing with their diabetes. The group consisted of psychologists, doctors, nurses and dieticians. The food was sandwiches, cut up vegetables with sugary/fatty dips, cakes and orange squash.  At other meetings there have been lots of pastries, vol au vents, potato salad and sausage rolls. It is rare to find lean meats, plain eggs, salad vegetables and fruit.

Some of this is down to cost. It is much cheaper to serve carby/fatty rubbish. But what sort of example is it to health professionals when they are at seminars to discuss the resolution of unhealthy lifestyles for their patients?

Not being able to eat anything at the lunch served, I went to the hospital staff canteen to see if I could do any better.  Potato and leek soup, battered chicken in sweet and sour sauce, vegetable stroganoff, boiled rice, baked potatoes, steak pie and a salad bar which contained some vegetables, boiled eggs but no lean meat. A deli counter made up sandwiches but the single meat filling was heavily covered in mayonnaise.

The chill cabinet contained lots of sandwiches, sweetened yoghurts and fruit juice.

Crisps, Pringles and Doritos were available. So were cakes, biscuits, scones and jelly.

At least if I was having a hypo I would have been easily able to satisfy my dietary requirements.


Invigorate your taste buds with spice rubs


Many of the world’s greatest culinary discoveries were made serendipitously. But very few had greater impact than the discovery of using spices to flavor and preserve food.

Anthropologists have shown that thousands of years ago, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would often wrap their kill in leaves and bark to preserve and transport the contents inside. Only later did they discover that this method of preservation could also improve the taste of their food.

And so the worlds’ love affair with spices began…


Spices & Herbs: The Culinary Curatives


As civilization advanced, the use of spices became ubiquitous in culinary tradition. But it wasn’t just for their ability to enhance flavor. It was also for the health-promoting properties they possessed:

  • Texts from Ancient Egypt (1555 BC) deemed coriander, fennel, juniper, cumin, garlic and thyme as powerful medicine. It is also known that the laborers who constructed the Great Pyramid of Cheops (using advanced alien technology, of course) consumed onion and garlic as a means to promote health.
  • Black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom have been used by Indians for thousands of years for both culinary and health purposes.
  • Hippocrates wrote extensively about spices and herbs, including saffron, cinnamon, thyme, coriander, mint, and marjoram. Of the 400 herbal remedies he created, at least half are still used today.
  • Theophrastus, the “Father of Botany”, authored two books summarizing the knowledge of over 600 spices and herbs.
  • Dioscorides, a Greek Physician of the 1st century, authored De Materia Medica – an extensive medical and botanical guide that was used for over 1,500 years.
  • In the Middle Ages (600-1200 AD), European apothecaries used herbs and Asian spices including ginger, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron and cardamom in their remedies.
  • Plants were used as the primary source of medicine in the United States from the time of the Mayflower (1620) until after World War I (1930).

Science now proves that the instincts and knowledge of our ancestors were correct: Spices and herbs are powerful medicine.


Countless studies show that herbs and spices possess a wide range of phytonutrients that can kill bacteria, viruses and parasites. They also act as powerful antioxidants and can promote cellular health, reduce inflammation, and more.

And one of the most convenient ways to harness the health-and-flavor enhancing power of herbs and spices is a homemade dry rub.



 Five Chef-Inspired Dry Rubs: Potent Flavor – With Benefits


Complimenting just about every kind of food – from meat, chicken, fish and vegetables – a dry rub is a combination of herbs, salt and spices that is applied before grilling, broiling, baking or roasting.

As you know, there are many commercial seasoning blends available. However, these often contain chemical preservatives, MSG, anti-caking agents and other unsavory additives.


By creating your own custom combinations at home, you can ensure a higher quality, additive-free product that is personalized to your tastes.

Using just one or two spices and herbs can produce delicious results. But if you really want to elevate your food to new heights, don’t be afraid to experiment with new ingredients and unique combinations. You can make a dry rub from nearly any combination of herbs, spices and salt. Here are four chef-tested dry rubs to try in your cooking:


  • Use On: This exceptionally versatile Middle Eastern spice mix can be used on every kind of meat, fish or vegetable.
  • The Blend: ¼ cup sumac, 2 Tbsp. dried thyme, 1 Tbsp. roasted sesame seeds, 2 Tbsp. dried marjoram, 2 Tbsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. sea salt
  • Yield: ~2 Tbsp.


Ras El Hanout

  • Use On: The name of this Moroccan spice mix translates to “head of the shop” – as it often includes the best spices the purveyor has to offer. Try on grass-fed steaks, wild salmon and chicken.
  • The Blend: 2 tsp. ground ginger, 2 tsp. ground coriander, 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon, 1½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 1½ tsp. ground turmeric, 1 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1 tsp. ground allspice, ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • Yield: ~¼ cup


Mediterranean Dry Rub

  • Use On: This classic blend goes with just about anything – from pastured pork, lamb and chicken to wild seafood.
  • The Blend: ¾ cup dried basil, ¼ cup dried thyme, 2 Tbsp. dried sage, 2 Tbsp. fennel seeds, 1 Tbsp. sea salt, 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • Yield: ~1¼ cups


BBQ Dry Rub

  • Use On: A classic BBQ favorite that complements pastured chicken, ribs, and brisket
  • The Blend: ¼ cup paprika, 2 Tbsp. granulated garlic, 2 Tbsp. granulated onion, 2 tsp. black peppercorns, 1 tsp. dry mustard, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 Tbsp. cumin seed (toasted), 3 Tbsp. coriander seed (toasted), ¼ cup sea salt, 2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
  • Yield: ~1¼ cups


Tips For Using Dry Rubs


Now that you have a few flavor combinations to start with, I’d like to share how you can maximize the seasoning power and life span of your dry rubs:

Toast to Get the Most: Many spices – especially cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander and cumin – benefit from a little heat. A brief toast in a dry skillet will coax more flavor out of these, in particular.

Grind Fine: Finely milling your spice and herb blends allows more surface area to come into contact with your food and your taste buds, producing deeper flavor. Use a spice mill or coffee grinder to powder your dry rub to a uniform consistency.

Prepare The Canvas: For each pound of meat, poultry, or seafood coat the entire surface with 2 to 3 teaspoons melted lard, tallow, duck fat, avocado or coconut oil. Then apply one to two tablespoons of dry rub.

Coat Well: When using dry rubs, coat the entire surface of the food, ensuring it sticks. Not only will this ensure you get the full flavor, but it will also produce a beautiful crust. To produce a stronger flavor, cover pre-rubbed meats or chicken and refrigerate for up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to penetrate. Then cook as desired.

Store Properly: Spices and herbs lose potency over time. Light, heat and oxygen accelerate the process. Store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container. Use within six months or sooner for best results.

Adding dry rubs to your cooking repertoire won’t just add more flavor to your food, but also more health-promoting nutrients. So season often and liberally with these flavor-packed dry rubs, and change up the spices and herbs you use to get the full-spectrum of their healing powers.

Written by Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet



Five types of mindless eating. Do these habits sabotage your weight goals?

Chinese_buffet2Dr Brian Wansink is a behavioural economist who studies people’s behaviour around food. Specifically he is interested in how the environment can be manipulated to support or sabotage weight loss efforts. In an interview for Diabetes in Control at the ADA conference in 2012 he outlined the five areas in which we tend to eat more than we intend.

Party bingeing. This is the “I deserve a break”, “I’m celebrating”, “It’s only this once”, “It would offend the host” types of excuses come into play and we abandon our regular habits and go a bit mad with the calories. Alcohol increases our appetites and loosens our will power. If we had any in the first place. Unusual or attractive party food becomes hyper-alluring, and for some of us the urge to try a little bit of everything, three desserts for instance, makes us terribly glad that we wore an elasticated waistband that day. The party phenomenon can also translate to longer binges such as holiday eating or even more problematic, the CRUISE.

Eating too much at meals is particularly easy to do if you were brought up in a household where you were encouraged to “clear your plate”.  Thanks to my mother’s pleading, threats, stories of starving children of you name it, I was 40 years old before I was able to leave anything on my plate. I always had the spectre of my mother behind me at every meal. Things were fine as long as I was able to put food on my own plate, but if someone else handed it to me….down it went.

Some of us don’t feel we can leave a meal unless we are absolutely stuffed. After all, there could be an earthquake, flood, famine, ice-age between lunch and dinner, so you’d better be prepared. Although the advice given to young ladies at Charm School was to always leave the table a little hungry… that is not how many of us do it.

Restaurant behaviour can follow on from the meal stuffing habit. After all, you’ve paid for it! And you are jolly well going to eat it. Things get even worse around buffets. For many of us, buffets are a terrible source of temptation. We have just try a little something from every dish. And when it is an all you can eat buffet….well, there is nothing like a challenge. In any restaurant, no matter how stuffed we may feel, there always seems to be room for a delicious dessert. These are particularly hard to resist if you can actually see them as opposed to just reading about them off of a menu.  For most of us, restaurants are a treat, so the party bingeing mentality, “It’s just the once…I’ll go back to eating properly tomorrow” come into play too.

Snacking and grazing are what many of us to between meals. It should be meaningful work, time with those who matter, or physical activity, but no. The most popular activity is probably more eating.  Snacking can be brought on by genuine hunger. In this case Dr Wansink’s best advice is to eat a hot protein breakfast at the start of the day to get out of the elevenses habit. For others snacks are freely available in the workplace or in the home. Most of the time these are not vegetables with dips or fruit, nuts and cheese but crisps, Doritos, maltesers, chocolates, sweets, biscuits and cakes.  On trains and planes they can include booze as well. Calorific drinks such as hot chocolate and syrup enhanced coffees are popular too.

So when does snacking not count? Well, when you can’t actually remember doing it? Does that make it not count? When you are watching the television, in a cinema, using the computer or even driving it is amazing how dextrous human beings can be. One hand can be employed on mouse skills or on the steering wheel with the conscious brain and eyes engaged on really pretty complex tasks. Meanwhile the non-dominant hand and the subconscious brain are totally absorbed in hand to container to mouth skills just as finely tuned as the finest snooker player can pop the balls into the holes.

Brian says that essentially the first step for anyone is to become aware of any of these habits. You then need to devise strategies that interrupt the unwanted patterns of behaviour. He suggests that people start with one habit and change that first. Starting with what seems easiest and most achievable can give a feeling of mastery that can be worked on. For most things changing the environment around the problem is much more effective than reliance on will-power.








Public Health Collaboration: A Group Of Doctors Are Crowd-funding To Solve The Obesity & Diabetes Epidemic


Eatwell_PlateIn the UK 25% of adults are obese, the highest prevalence in Europe, and type 2 diabetes has risen by 65% in the past 10 years with no sign of slowing down. Together they cost the NHS £16 billion a year and the UK economy at large £47 billion a year.

These perilous percentages and shocking statistics have presented themselves despite the fact that as a population Britons are following the dietary advice that is being recommended.

Based on the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey published in 2014 by Public Health England, our total food consumption is on average 383 calories below the recommended, our total fat consumption is just below the recommended 35%, we’re just one portion shy of the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables a day, and lastly we’re only 1 g over the recommended amount of daily red meat intake.

Seemingly the issue of obesity and diabetes in the UK isn’t that Britons are over consuming but that they are following the dietary guidelines, known as the Eatwell plate given by the NHS.

A complete overhaul of these dietary guidelines is needed based on the most up to date scientific evidence in order to improve the health of the UK.

From Monday 1st February – Monday 29th February a group of 12 doctors have come together to solve the UK’s obesity and diabetes epidemics by crowd-funding to set up an independent public health charity called the Public Health Collaboration (PHC).

The group of doctors include deputy chair of the British Medical Association Dr. Kailash Chand OBE, dietitian Dr. Trudi Deakin, cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, psychiatrist Dr. Tamsin Lewis, general practitioner Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, clinical psychologist Dr. Jen Unwin, diabetologist Dr. David Cavan, general practitioner Dr. Katharine Morrison, general practitioner Dr. David Unwin, general practitioner Dr. Joanne McCormack, general practitioner Dr. Ian Lake and general practitioner Dr. Ayan Panja.

The PHC needs to initially raise £5,000 to publish it’s first public report on healthy eating and weight loss guidelines given by the NHS. Alongside funding it’s ambitious campaign for change within the NHS.

Director of the PHC, Sam Feltham, is closing down his fitness business and only taking a London Living Wage in order to fight for the cause and says “Our £5,000 fund-raising target doesn’t sound like it’s enough to change anything on such a large scale, especially if you’re used to big budgets, but we’re in a fortunate position that our founding members of doctors are not taking any money for helping write our reports and supporting our campaigns.

The PHC will have it’s first public report published in April 2016 on what the scientific evidence tells us should be the dietary guidelines for optimal public health. Once published we recommend that the NHS read the report and takes it seriously for the sake of the nation’s health and economy.”

You can contact Sam Feltham for further comment or to get in contact with our group of doctors by emailing info@phcuk.orgor by calling 07734944349. Website http://igg.me/at/PHCUKorg


Giving Up Diet Coke – an Update

diet cokeThere’s no point in making grandiose announcements on a blogging account and then failing to follow them up so here is an update on my attempts to give up diet coke…

A success. I no longer drink diet Coke in the quantities that I used to (a litre and a half a day, ahem!). I have saved myself considerable money as, like many others addicted to the fizzy stuff, I insisted on the real thing and I liked to drink individual servings rather than buying it in big bottles. It’s “fresher” that way, if you can ever use words such as “fresh” to describe Diet Coke.

[EDITOR’S NOTE – “ER… NO???!!]

I lasted almost four weeks without any diet coke. I stopped having chewing gum at the same time so that I could limit my exposure to any kind of artificial sweetener entirely. After week four, I had one (a 500ml bottle). One a week. That lasted roughly four weeks and then it crept up to two, then three and then one a day.

Which is where I am now – a one-a-day girl. When I used to drink three of these 500ml bottles a day, it used to take a lot of willpower not to drink any more. That same willpower comes into effect with drinking just one a day. So it’s willpower that has had a lot of practice. Continue reading “Giving Up Diet Coke – an Update”

How to Calculate Carbs

It’s all very well embarking on a low-carb diet, but how do you work out how many carbs are in the food you eat?

Here at the Diabetes Diet we encourage people to cook for themselves as it’s the best way to eat a good diet, but home cooking comes without the handy labels you get on ready-made food complete with their nutritional breakdown.

Meat, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts and fat have few or no carbohydrates, but vegetables and seasonings and ingredients used for thickening stews and sauces do have carbs. If you made a chilli con carne, for example, there would be carbohydrates in that from the onions, tomato sauce and kidney beans.

Myfitnesspal recipe calculations.
Myfitnesspal recipe calculations. Click on image to expand.

One easy way to work out carbohydrates in the dishes you make is to use a carb and calorie counting app or website. One example is myfitnesspal, where you can enter your recipes and the app will give you a nutritional break-down of what’s in your recipe – calories, carbs, protein content, fibre content and fat content.

If you don’t want to use an online tool, you can also use resources such as the Collins Gem carb counter. Bear in mind, for both ideas you’ll need to be weighing and measuring everything going into your recipe.

It does sound obvious, but many people have recipes and dishes they make where they don’t bother weighing or measuring anything simply because it is a dish they have been making for years. I prefer digital scales for their exact measurements and because you can weigh food in bowls or saucepans by setting the scale to nil.

If you have set a daily carbohydrate limit for yourself (we explore carbohydrate limits in the Diabetes Diet and what limits are suitable for different people, according to their health goals), then it is probably easiest to take that total and divide up by your meals.

In theory, if you were on a limit of 50-60g, then that equates to roughly 20g a meal, but you might want to stick to very low carbohydrate breakfasts and lunches and keep back a bit more for dinner.

And vice versa of course. You need to find a way of eating that you like, that fits in with your life and that you can keep up.


Pic thanks to Wikipedia.

Low Carb Dips

At the moment, I’ve got a thing about guacamole… Traditionally, this Mexican style dip is eaten with tortilla chips, but you can skip the chips when you are eating low-carb and use it for much more.

  • Use it as topping for chilli, for example.
  • Or cut up red peppers into strips for an easy starter.
  • And then there is my all-time favourite – a thick dollop topping a good burger…

I can’t claim authenticity for my recipe, but it is pretty delicious and full of good-for-you ingredients – raw garlic and avocado. Try not to eat it all at once.

Guacamole – makes roughly one cup/container

  • 1 large, ripe avocado*
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
  • 1tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ to 1 chilli, chopped finely**
  • 1-2tbsp mayonnaise or Greek yoghurt
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone. Place in large bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Add the garlic, tomato, chilli and mayonnaise or yoghurt. Mash well with a fork until the whole mix is combined.
  2. For a smoother dip, use a hand blender to process. If you used mayonnaise, you probably won’t need to add salt, but you will need salt to season if you have used yoghurt.
  3. The dip doesn’t last very long so use it up within one to two days.


*To ripen an avocado quickly, place it in a brown paper bag with an apple or a banana, or ripen it in the microwave. Prick it and cook it for 20-second bursts on high until it softens.

**Chilli is an individual preference. I love strong spices so I would add the whole chilli, seeds and all. For a milder taste, de-seed the chilli and use a mild one.

Pic thanks to Wikipedia.