Eat to beat diabetes | ‘Well-woman’ salad!

well-woman salad

On my route to creating a go-to lunch that will help with my new low-carb healthy eating programme, this delicious and easy to make salad has become a firm favourite. There is a plant-based element in the salad ingredients providing important fibre and vitamins and the protein comes from the soft boiled egg and oily fish in the form of mackerel fillets which also provide valuable omega-3 fat. This totals just under 4gms of carbohydrate; fat and protein don’t flood your body with glucose that it might not be able to process effectively, unlike even small portions of bread, grains, rice, pasta and potatoes. I mix this up quite a bit with different salad ingredients but I make sure a varied selection appears on my shopping list every week so I can throw together a slightly different version every day that I won’t get bored with. Choose whatever you like but read food labels carefully and you’ll soon become brilliant at making better choices.

  • A large handful of crisp lettuce. I don’t buy bagged salad as it never seems to keep long once opened and turns a bit slimy. Instead, I buy a whole Cos or Gem lettuce – wash and dry it (I use a salad spinner) and keep it in an airtight tub in the salad drawer until I want to use it.
  • Cucumber – about a 2 to 3-inch piece, sliced or cubed
  • Radishes – about 6, sliced or quartered
  • Small avocado about 80g = 2g carbohydrate, 17 g fat, 152 calories
  • 1 free-range soft boiled egg, peeled – I generally cook a couple at a time so I’ve always got one in hand so to speak. 1 egg is pretty much zero-carb, 5.5g of fat and about 75 calories
  • 1 raw carrot, grated
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped including the celery leaf
  • A few chopped or torn fresh herbs – coriander, flat-leaf parsley or basil all work well
  • I x 125g drained can of Princes mackerel fillet in olive oil or brine (not the ones in sunflower oil which is high in polyunsaturates or the mustard or tomato sauces that usually contain hidden/high levels of sugars) OR one of those whole mackerel fillets from the chilled fish counter which has a higher omega-3 content
  • Options: crumbled feta cheese (v low in carbs) or a tablespoon of cooked Puy lentils instead of the egg. Swap the mackerel for cooked or smoked salmon, also classified as an oily fish with beneficial omega-3 oils
  • Salad dressing: I make my own in a small screw-top jar. It’s easy and, more importantly, I know what’s in it. Commercial salad dressings are often chock full of sugar, this will keep in the jar for a few days.

To make…

Serves one

  • Make the salad dressing. Allow the salt and mustard to dissolve in the vinegar in the jar first, add the olive oil and pepper. Put the lid on. Shake until fully mixed and emulsified, taste and rebalance with a little more oil, vinegar or seasoning to taste. It needs to taste quite gutsy as, once it’s on the salad, the flavour won’t seem so strong.
  • Add the salad ingredients to your salad serving bowl. Serve it an attractive bowl if you can, it all adds to making the meal more satisfying experience. Add a tablespoon of the dressing and gently toss the salad until each piece is thoroughly coated.
  • Top with the fish and boiled egg (I like to sprinkle with a pinch of celery salt), or the lentils and feta. Enjoy!

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NB: Always consult an appropriately qualified health professional before adopting a dramatic lifestyle change – we’re all different, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.
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Eat to beat diabetes | Getting started

So, I had my NHS ‘Well Woman’ health check last year that included being weighed and measured, a blood pressure check and a fasting blood test to check my cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Next thing I know, I got a letter to say I was at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and was invited to join a prevention and management programme run by X-PERT Health on behalf of the NHS.

Anyway, long story short, I started last September and we’ve been having weekly classes and we were given a brilliant reference book to teach us about how our bodies process what we eat and drink and how we can avoid developing Type 2 by managing our weight, our carbohydrate intake, exercise, stress management and so on. We were equipped with the tools to understand why we needed to make changes and information on all the different dietary approaches with their relative pros and cons such as Low Fat, Mediterranean, Low Carb and Intermittent Fasting but it was up to us to create our own plan that suited our own circumstances to make it a viable and effective reality. This is how I’ve gone about it and it’s definitely working for me.

The first thing I did was to keep a food diary for a couple of weeks and then look to see where I might be going wrong. No one meal I had would appear to be ‘unhealthy’ by current standards but I quickly realised I had a lot of carbohydrate at virtually every meal during the week. Overnight oats with yoghurt, fruit and nuts for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch at work, an evening meal that usually included either potatoes, rice, couscous, bulgur wheat, pasta, bread or pastry at its core. I wasn’t eating much animal protein as I’d been cutting down on meat – a message we’re hearing almost every day in the media that’s ‘a good thing’ – so most of my diet was coming from a lot of grains, some fruit and vegetables and a little bit of animal protein and dairy.

Hmmm, once I started measuring the amount of carbohydrate I was eating, it became apparent that I couldn’t possibly use that much glucose swimming about in my bloodstream. We’re only supposed to have between 5-7g (1 teaspoon) in our blood at any time and it was plain to see why mine would be too high. It’s not like I’m in training for a marathon after all! We had a whole class on carbohydrate awareness and I’ll cover that in another post but back to next steps…

So, once I knew what my current diet looked like, I could start to tweak it and see how that felt. Then, I started to educate myself about the carbohydrate content of all the foods I normally ate, I’ll do another post on how I did that later. It was pretty enlightening to see how different foods compared and even how different brands compared per 100g.

Now I’m a food label ninja and shop deliberately for particular brands, I make sure that I eat a low amount of carbs every day (less than 50g) with more protein, vegetables and good fats, evenly spaced throughout the day preferably, and adapt my recipes and meal plans to swap high carb foods for low to no carb alternatives e.g. cauliflower mash instead of potato mash, lactose-free milk instead of standard milk etc. You’ll start to see that come through in all my new #TheFridayRecipes and I’ll try to alter some of the archive recipes when I get time. It hasn’t been a chore once my new routines were established and my partner is enjoying it too.

Next, I made sure the battery was replaced in my weighing scales and I weigh myself at the same time every day so see how the choices I’m making are impacting my weight – 5kg lost since the start of the programme and, impressively, no gain or pain over Xmas – phew!

I also use my electronic weighing scales in the kitchen to ensure I’m not being slapdash about the weight of any foods that I really need to portion control. I can measure by eye usually once I’ve established the weight of something and fixed that image in my mind. I don’t count calories because I find I don’t need to, just controlling the carb intake is enough to make sure I’m not hungry, I’ve got plenty of energy and the weight is coming off.

Anyway, more posts to come on this healthy eating programme that I hope you’ll find interesting and useful and of course lots more #TheFridayRecipes that taste amazing!

Have a good week,



You can hear more about the programme here if you’re interested.

The Big Interview – Dr Trudi Deakin, The Diabetes Times

NB: Always consult an appropriately qualified health professional before adopting a dramatic lifestyle change – we’re all different, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.
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Eat to beat diabetes! | Healthy eating 2020

January is the classic month for setting all kinds of well-intentioned health-related goals and trying to ditch the post-Xmas pounds. For me, the healthier-eating journey started last year when I had a routine fasting blood test which revealed that I had a blood glucose reading of 6.6mmol/l (normal is below 5.5) which put me in the so-called ‘pre-diabetes’ range i.e. at high risk of developing type two diabetes.

So, I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in an NHS diabetes prevention programme run by X-PERT Health last September and I’m going to start sharing some of the tips and recipes that have already seen me shed 5KG in weight and shave 10cm from my waistline as well as helping me to better manage my blood glucose levels throughout the day. I’ll still be publishing delicious examples of #TheFridayRecipe but with an emphasis towards those that help to reduce carbohydrate intake as part of a balanced diet and the impact that has on blood glucose levels, weight and other health indicators such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Pre-diabetes? Moi? How did that happen?

I’m not a snacker, I don’t consume sugary food or fizzy drinks, I pretty much eat food that has been made from scratch nor do I eat commercially made junk food or takeaways. My blood pressure, cholesterol readings and blood sugar levels have always been fine in the past and I used to be naturally skinny. So, this blood test and my increased BMI result came as a bit of a wake-up call. As we get older, our bodies change and our ability to metabolise our food intake into energy changes too. Coupled with my age, my ‘apple’ body shape where fat tends to accumulate around the waist, previously high levels of stress at home and at work and a sedentary job/not enough exercise, it’s all been a bit of a toxic cocktail. It can happen to anyone. It’s happened to me.

So, what actually is diabetes?

Even if you don’t have diabetes, you’ve probably heard it mentioned in the media quite a lot lately and with good reason. According to Diabetes UK, more people than ever have diabetes and more people than ever are at risk of Type 2 diabetes. If nothing changes, more than five million people will have diabetes in the UK by 2025. Around 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. Around 8% of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. About 2% of people with diabetes have rarer types of diabetes.

Put simply, diabetes is a common condition where the amount of glucose in the blood at diagnosis is too high because the body cannot use that glucose as energy. Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin (the hormone our pancreas creates which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood), or produces insulin but cannot use it properly.

Diabetes can cause serious short-term and long-term health problems such as tiredness and lethargy, impaired healing, blurred vision, heart disease, kidney damage and many more horrible conditions that are bad for us as individuals and cost the NHS millions and millions to deal with. So, I’m taking responsibility for my health in a refocused way and hopefully, I’ll do my bit to relieve the pressure on our beleaguered NHS too.

The way forward

Anyway, I’m now taking the steps I need to do to reduce my risk of developing Type 2. It hasn’t been a chore and it just means making the right tweaks to what I eat, when I eat it and staying really active. I’m not a qualified nutritionist or a Doctor but maybe I’ll inspire you to think more carefully about your diet and consider making some lifestyle changes too. We’re all different so, standard disclaimer, think carefully before embarking on anything drastic and don’t self-diagnose!

I’m happy to share my new-found tips and tricks because the programme I’m on was written by a Doctor and is delivered by health experts in their various fields. If I mention any health jargon or stats, I’ll make sure they are referenced to official/credible sources, not flaky fake news sites, celebrity Instagram accounts or self-styled diet experts with no real substance. I’ve also been on the programme with about 25 other people (men and women of varying ages and backgrounds) so it’s been interesting to hear how others have coped and the difference that a few sensible and practical changes have made to them too.

Happy new year dear readers – here’s to a brilliant 2020!

Janet Davies

Pigeon Cottage Kitchen

NB: Always consult an appropriately qualified health professional before adopting a dramatic lifestyle change – we’re all different, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.
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