Losing weight without 'missing out'
My favourite thing about using Learning Zone is adapting my favourite recipes.
The weird thing is, I actually eat more often now than I used to: three meals and two snacks every day. But I’ve lost two and a half stone since my diagnosis at the start of the year — and it’s been through small increments so I still don’t ever feel like I’m ‘missing out’. in fact, the diet I’ve been supported to adopt through the Learning Zone is the most enjoyable I’ve ever tried.
I properly love a takeaway, but thanks to the Fakeaway Food hacks in Learning Zone we have a ‘fake Nandos’ every other week in our house and haven’t had a Nandos takeaway since last year! I know what’s going in it and can take out the less healthy elements, and my daughter loves it.
The food hacks have made me think differently and consider other possibilities. If I do get a takeaway, I’ve learnt which ones are more healthy. I might get Turkish now instead of pizza, because I know they’ll do lots of veggies and bulgur wheat.
Food is really important to me and I was finding it virtually impossible to find healthy alternatives to West Indian and Caribbean food online, which is what I grew up on. It’s very carb-heavy — you’ll have rice, dumplings, yam, dasheen, eddoes, a rum cake and mac and cheese, and usually at least one thing will be fried too. There's also a lot of pressure in a typical Indian or Caribbean family to eat a bit of everything.
What I’ve been finding helpful from Learning Zone is knowing what are the best choices to make that fit into my life, like brushing food over with oil instead of deep frying it. I’ve started making samosas in the oven instead of frying them, and swapping potatoes for sweet potatoes, which is a game changer.
Even going out to restaurants, I’ve learnt some healthier swaps — cauliflower and aubergine curries in an Indian restaurant are healthier and more filling, and I’ve managed to get my friends into vegetables they’d have never eaten before!
When certain foods and ways of cooking are such a central part of the culture you’ve grown up in, it can take a little while to adjust. I’ve explained to my mum that I’ll eat rice and peas with her, but will cook my own so I can swap the rice for brown rice and use less coconut.
Even if cooking food isn’t something you’re confident about, I’ve found that you get familiar with your favourite recipes from Learning Zone and they start becoming second nature once they’re under your belt. Sometimes there’s nothing like pressing the reset button and Learning Zone really makes that easier to do.
There are so many little things I’ve picked up from Learning Zone that are easy to keep in my routine: I can still have chocolate (which I absolutely love) but instead of having a whole bar of dairy milk now, I’ll get six little Hotel Chocolat low sugar range chocolates, and have one of those as a treat with a cup of tea at the end of the week. They’re so much tastier it’s worth waiting for. And Learning Zone was how I found out that grapes are a big no no, and a lower sugar swap would be having an apple every day — nobody tells you that!
Sharing the learning
Learning Zone hasn’t just helped me. It’s helped make a difference to the children with type 1 diabetes in the school where I work. We bake a lot at school to raise money, and I’ve been able to learn recipes from Learning Zone that I can share with them, and that I can bring into school so they can participate in. Before they'd have missed out on activities like this.
And that’s so important to me. I try to share things that I get from Learning Zone with the parents of the children I work with. The information is out there, but sometimes there is so much, it helps to be given it in bitesize chunks, and from a reliable source. I hope that it’s helping these kids learn from a young age that their diabetes doesn’t have to stop them from taking part in things — and helping them feel more confident about managing their diabetes.