Leeds dietician shares recipe tips for diabetics as she challenges misconceptions
Jamaican-born primary care dietitian Ellouise Simpson wants to help people find ways to continue enjoying much-loved cultural foods while safely managing their diabetes. She hopes her Instagram account – @DietitianEllouise – can get the word out to members of BAME communities who might not attend clinics or come into contact with ethnic dietitians usually.
“There need to be more clinicians from multicultural backgrounds,” she said. “What we bring to the table is not something you won’t be taught in college. Universities do what they can – you can have lectures on cultural meals, but that’s just not the same as lived experience.
“We also have to do things a little differently. At the moment we are offering clinics and we find that not many patients from different backgrounds attend. I wonder why I’m not getting South Asian or black patients when the rates are so much higher in those communities when they’re thinking, “why am I going to see someone who doesn’t understand my food?”
As a dietitian, Ellouise said she found that people often perceive foods from places such as the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia as unhealthy. She said: “Within these communities, people also perceive their own food as unhealthy. It could be a combination of information they read online or medical professionals they consulted.
“I always tell my patients, friends and family that our food is really healthy. »
One particular dish that many people consider unhealthy is curry, due to its fat content. Part of Ellouise’s job is to help people understand what’s on their plate and how they can adapt recipes. She said: ‘While there is a cultural tradition from your mum or grandma on how to make a curry, it’s all about sitting down and thinking ‘how can I still eat my curry but make it a bit healthier? “
To reduce the fat content, the 40-year-old suggests changing the cut of the meat or using a combination of cuts. She also recommends considering small changes such as reducing the amount of ghee or butter or reducing the size or amount of chapatis served alongside the meal.
Ellouise also finds that if the development of diabetes is the norm in a community, people will reduce the severity of the disease and often refer to diabetes as “having a little sugar”. She added, “I don’t want the narrative to be that ethnic people don’t take diabetes seriously. It has to do with their understanding, what they are taught about diabetes and what their community thinks about diabetes.
She acknowledges that it’s often only when people are about to need insulin that they start to take it more seriously. “At this point, we’re reaching out-of-control biochemistries that we’d like to reduce,” she said. “Let’s try to provide that knowledge long before that point.”