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Diabetes, Diet and Joy A Fresh Perspective

Diabetes, Diet and Joy A Fresh Perspective
23/01/2017 Olivia

For more details about Diabeatit, visit our website:

Anna Middleton is a raw chef and health educator. As well as working 1-2-1 with clients, combining nutritional support and hands-on experience in the kitchen, she runs raw food classes in Bristol and around the UK, and offers talks for health retreats. Raw cakes and chocolates can be made to order and posted nationwide. Visit her website:

Next Diabeatit Taster Day 
Sunday 5th February
Salt Cafe, Bristol 

About a year ago we had an experience giving a talk when we were describing how to make sweet treats that keep your blood sugar stable.  For us all this was just part of our overall approach, but certainly not central to Diabeatit’s philosophy.  Then one of our audience began to cry.  None of us have forgotten this.  She had been a dedicated home baker before her diagnosis, she was now eating well, but joylessly and had thought that she was condemned to “medicinal” food, that delight, pleasure, and making treats for her grandchildren – that all the deep social and personal pleasures of food – were gone for her, forever.  It was then that all 3 of us realised how important this message of joy with food really was. And this is the message we want to share with you.

For any diet changes or, in fact, any programme aimed at getting yourself back to health, to be useful it has to contain this one essential key ingredient: joy.

The term diabetes comes with lots of baggage. There’s the fear: “will I go blind… lose a limb… die young?” And there’s the loathing: “I’m at fault… I did this to myself. Why don’t I have better will power?” By the way, you didn’t do this to yourself.  That is far too simplistic a view. But more on that in a moment. With these twin monsters running rampage through your head, it is easy to become obsessively restrictive with food as a way to punish yourself for your “transgressions”.

Here are two of the most common, yet least helpful, approaches often taken by those trying to change their eating habits (including many professionals):

1.       Making good food stressful, and adopting the view, “I have to reverse all this damage NOW”

At Diabeatit we see people frightened to add a beautiful organic green apple to their juice because it is “too much sugar” or set on avoiding beetroot at all costs, despite it being a superb liver tonic and great for blood pressure. Overnight, many people try to ditch what was a daily regime of processed food in favour of an intensive and hugely restrictive detoxifying diet. They “white knuckle” their way through a radical change to long-standing eating patterns, which leaves them vulnerable and at war with themselves over food. Forget about whether food tastes good, or whether it can nourish you on an emotional level and contribute to a feeling of well-being. Food becomes about low GI, and what is allowed or forbidden. This approach can profoundly limit one’s ability to improve health and feel good. Firstly, nothing tastes better than forbidden foods. On sure way to induce a craving for junk food is to tell yourself it is forbidden! Taking this approach is quite simply a lousy way to get poor quality foods out of your life. Ask Adam and Eve how well food prohibition went for them!  If you find yourself feeling judgemental, anxious or controlling around food, it’s a gentle sign that your plan isn’t sustainable and that you haven’t found your equilibrium yet. So take a deep breath and ease up on yourself a little.

Secondly, we have found that people can make huge strides forwards in terms of their health, and begin to feel better, by simply cutting out processed foods as a first step. They find that their diets then naturally evolve, becoming increasingly nutritious as their palates change and as their addiction to sugar subsides. Now that is something to get hooked on! But embracing good nutrition is more akin to running a marathon than a sprint; and you are more likely to be eating well in 5 years if you don’t burn yourself out in the first 6 weeks. No one who wants to finish a marathon goes into sprint-mode at the start; and we would argue that no one who wants to achieve their goal of reversing diabetes should start with a green smoothie containing raw onion for breakfast! (Yes, this is the breakfast of a very unhappy person with T2 we spoke with only last weekend).

2.      Believing, “If it tastes good it must be bad for me”, or “I will never have a delicious meal again (see onion smoothie above!)”

So, now you’ve decided that food is your medicine (which is admirable), you may also – even unconsciously – have decided that it needs to taste like medicine too. We may have been led to believe that diabetes T2 is the result of gluttony, and feel that we deserve to be punished by food and by taking delight out of the picture. This is quite simply a myth constructed by the food industry, which avoids taking any responsibility profits from making us believe that all of our health problems are of our own doing, while sabotaging our efforts to get well.

Now, how do you sidestep these two appallingly useless but incredibly common approaches to healing yourself with food? We believe that the answer lies in following your joy!  Joy is a brilliant antidote to the fear and shame that people with type 2 have lumbered with.

We get delight from food that we linger over or share with loved ones. If you adopt a healthy diet consisting of food that is pleasant and deeply satisfying, then your eating plan will be stress-free and easy to stick to. So, go forth, experiment and embrace a joyful approach to cooking and eating! Enjoying incorporating new foods into your diet that keep your sugar levels stable, and you will find new sources of sweetness that wont cause your blood sugars to spike.

We believe that in order for food to be good for you, it also needs to taste pretty good. You might have to push a little at the beginning, to familiarise yourself with new tastes, but persevere! The recipes below contain some more unusual ingredients, and we’ve included them deliberately, to encourage you to start playing. It can be a tightrope to walk. If your diet has, until now, been rich in high-sugar fatty foods then wholefoods will taste different, and your poor brain will be craving that dopamine hit that it has been used to receiving from those foods. But be persistent, and be patient. Your taste buds will change completely within a few weeks. Challenge yourself, but never make yourself miserable. Make a commitment to walk the tightrope!

We hope that you will find the following two recipes both delicious and comforting. They will keep your sugars stable and nourish you. Initiate an honest and loving dialogue with yourself about what you enjoy, when are you hungry, and when are might be eating out of habit. These gentle conversations with yourself along with some lovely AND nourishing foods will be a faster route to getting well and staying well. Research suggests we need about 9 exposures to a new food to learn to really enjoy it. So be kind to yourself, be persistent in your attempts to eat well and, most importantly, enJOY.

hot choc (1)Spiced Chocolate

Raw chocolate is particularly high in nutrients, and this is one of those nourishing treats that can help you through dark evenings when you might feel tempted to indulge in foods that aren’t quite so good for you!  Yacon is a root vegetable that tastes sweet but contains no sugar at all.

200ml of your favourite mylk (we like coconut or almond more than cashew for people with diabetes – they are lower in carbohydrate)
150ml hot water
4 teaspoons of raw cacao powder (full of antioxidants)
1 teaspoon lecithin (go for organic sunflower if you can.  Lecithin helps you digest fats and is important to your liver)
2 teaspoons of Peruvian carob (naturally sweet and doesn’t spike blood sugar).
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (helps combat insulin resistance. Get as much of this spice into your diet as you can)
30ml Yacon syrup
2 teaspoons of coconut oil

Optional extras
– a pinch of cayenne pepper great for your circulation and makes this an amazing spicy almost Mexican hot chocolate)
– orange rind or clementine skin (citrus is particularly good for lifting moods, so if you are feeling a little flat, steep a little rind or skin in your hot chocolate while you drink)

  • Boil the kettle
  • Place all of the ingredients in a blender and whizz together for a more velvety hot chocolate
  • EnJOY! (NOT in front of the telly. Pay complete attention to every sip!)

turmeric cauliflower soup (1)Cauliflower, Turmeric & Cumin Soup

Soups are good for weight loss because of their low calorie density, or relatively low number of calories compared to their serving size. Fibre and protein are filling nutrients, so choose a soup with ingredients such as vegetables, beans and a lean protein.

3 white onions
3 cloves garlic
1 medium cauliflower
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp turmeric powder
Pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp coconut oil
3 tsp veg powder


  • Roast or dry pan fry cumin seeds and put them to one side for later
  • Add onions, garlic and cauliflower to the pan with a little oil then, on a low heat, sweat them down with a pinch of salt for 30-40 minutes. Adding a pinch of salt at the beginning help
  • If you can hear them frying the temperature is too high. The aim is to sweat them down to release the natural sugars not fry them.
  • When the vegetables are soft, add the turmeric and toasted cumin seeds and cook for another 5 minutes
  • When the vegetables are coated, add organic vegetable stock and cover with water. Cook for another 40/50 minutes then blend
  • Season with salt and pepper