World War II Rations UK and healthy eating

Posted on 11 Jan 2020 In: Uncategorized

Last year I looked up rations for UK citizens during World War 2 out of curiosity.  It is often said that Britons were never healthier, although I’m not sure when we started measuring.  It crossed my mind that it might be an interesting idea to eat the ration for a period.

Although rationing was necessary, research was done when planning it. Dr Elsie Widdowson had been working  Dr Robert McCance for some time, patiently unlocking the energy and nutrient secrets of everyday foodstuffs. Updated, their publication ‘The Chemical Composition of Foods’ is still in use today.

These experts were asked to plan for rationing, and their proposals caused concern – they looked far too meagre.  Along with several colleagues, they lived on the diet for three months, at the end of this, McCance, Widdowson and two colleagues spent a couple of days in January 1940 marching up and down peaks in the English Lake District.

Rationing was never as severe as that tested by the team, but the fortification of bread with added calcium dates from this time.

In 1940s Britain, people were more active (less cars, more walking and cylcing) and lived in colder, draughty houses.  My energy needs are likely to be a bit lower, so I shall have to watch the high GI cabohydrates, but three weeks or four on UK WWII rations could be just the way to kick-start my march back to healthier eating.

Planning a Healthy Fridge and a Healthy New Year?

Posted on 3 Jan 2020 In: Seasonal

Still eating up the festive goodies?  I’ve just found some more chocolate and am nibbling as I write…

Today I considered when to start eating sensibly again and how to do it.

Do you get bored with diets? Done the same thing over and over?  Is something new going to be any better?  Feeling grumpy already?

I’m going to divide my plan into two parts.


My ‘launch’ to reduce my paunch is to challenge myself to follow UK WWII rationing for a month.

My ‘booster rocket’ is going to be a modest plan to keep me within bounds.

Bounds that suit me – my tastes, my need for some variety and some treats.


Whatever your plan, a ‘launch’ phase followed by a realistic, less tough ongoing phase makes sense. You want some results fast, but you also want to stick to your plan long-term, and get back on track after parties, holidays and anything else that drives you off-course.

Plenty of vegetables, some fruit, and carbohydrate control are my mainstays.

Reducing the GI, reducing total carbohydrate, and reducing your eating times are the three main methods.  Having a shorter time between my first and last meal each day suits me better in winter than doing two low-calorie days.

Having three strategies means I can go from one to another every few weeks to reduce boredom.

Questions?  Leave a comment or write to me at lardertales at gmail dot com.

Kind regards, Anne

Book List

Posted on 16 Mar 2019 In: Uncategorized

Some of the books I’ve read:

Agatston, Dr Arthur The South Beach Diet Headline Book Publishing 2003 (GB)

Allport, Susan The Queen of Fats – why omega 3s were removed from the western diet and what we can do to replace them University of California Press, 2007

D’Adamo, Dr James The D’Adamo Diet Health Thru Herbs 1989

D’Adamo with Allan Richards, Dr James One Man’s Food Health Thru Herbs (Toronto)1980

D’Adamo, Dr Peter Eat Right for Your Type

D’Adamo, Dr Peter with Whitney, Catherine Live Right for Your Type G P Putnam’s Sons 2001

Conley, Rosemary GI Jeans Diet Arrow 2006

Lustig, Dr Robert Fat Chance 0 the hidden truth about sugar, obesity and disease Hudson Street Press 2013

Atkins, Dr R Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution 1992 (Vermilion 1999 GB)

Denby, Nigel & Bair, Sue The GL Diet for Dummies John Wiley & Sons Ltd 2006

Harrison, Kate The 5 : 2 Diet Book Orion 2013

Leeds, Dr Anthony, Brand Miller, Prof Jennie,  Foster-Powell, Kaye & Colagiuri Dr Stephen The GI Factor Hodder & Stoughton 1996

Mosley, Dr Michael & Spencer, Mimi The Fast Diet Atria 2013

Pollan, Michael In Defence of Food  The Penguin Press 2008

Simopoulos, Aremis P (MD) & Robinson, Jo The Omega Plan Harper Collins 1998

Taubes, Gary The Diet Delusion Vermilion 2008 (US Good Calories, Bad Calories Alfred A Knopf 2007

Drs Eric Westman, Stephen Phinney & Jeff Volek New Atkins New You Fireside 2010

Wolcott, William L with Fahey, Trish The Metabolic Typing Diet Doubleday 2000


On my To Read and re-read list:

Miller, Daphne MD The Jungle Effect

Mosley, Dr Michael The Fast 800

Yeo, Dr Giles Gene Eating

Wrangham, Richard Catching Fire: How cooking made us human

One diet fits all?

Posted on 1 Jan 2019 In: Fats, Seasonal

One book that is definitely on my reading list this month is Dr Giles Yeo’s ‘Gene Eating’. We’ve all heard of or experienced success stories with diets, and seen very different diets work for various people.

Yeo is asking us to be gentle on ourselves, and not afraid of food. He points out that we have our idiosyncrasies (in a radio interview, he admitted being susceptible to pork scratchings, but not chocolate). He asks us to be aware of how we relate to food.

My current questions are: 1) how do we find a diet that suits us? and 2) how do we stick to or modify our eating pattern over time?

I hope to find some good insights in Dr Yeo’s book, as this was exactly what I was after in my Waistline book – helping people to find their own best route to a happy, healthy relationship with food.

I shall also be looking into the assertions of Aseem Malhotra and others – an opinion piece in a newspaper this autumn has stirred hot debate in academic and medical circles.  This seems to me worth looking at as Malhotra is a (London-based) cardiologist who is talking about the role of cholesterol and saturated fat.  Is the dietary advice routinely given in UK and US rather outdated?

Are Low Carb Diets Risky?

Posted on 25 Aug 2018 In: General

Two headlines caught my eye in my newspaper this week; one cautioning against a type of low-carbohydrate diet, the other warning that there was no level of alcohol consumption that did not carry a health risk.

I could of course misuse either food or alcohol or both, and certainly put my health at risk. I might get away with it – I might be lucky – but I wouldn’t chance it.

If aware I had a problem, I would be wise to seek professional help.

But would I stop drinking totally, hoping to benefit from the small increase in health that might accrue from this?

Reading the little detail given in the article about diet, under the ‘Warning on low-carb diets’ headline, the quote from Dr Sara Seidelmann (Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston) suggested that a tweak from animal-sourced fats and proteins to plant-based fats and proteins ‘might’ promote healthy ageing.  The journalist then stated that there had been ‘conflicting’ results from research on the long-term effects on mortality from carbohydrate restriction.

Science is cautious and doesn’t jump to conclusions. How long do I wait to make up my mind?  How big are the gains to be had from changing my diet, or cutting out alcohol altogether?

Common sense tells me to eat a varied diet, to watch my weight and not to loose weight too rapidly.

I choose to try changes in my eating habits over a month or so, based on eating a variety of foods and informed by a book, not an article. What really interests me is when several books are pointing me in the same direction.

I also take a long, broad view on diet – while the twenty-first century continues the rise of the ‘western’ diet which is increasingly implicated in health issues, around the globe people are living happily on a variety of diets, from largely animal-based to plant-based.

A bit more on that next time… camping and fried breakfasts are next on the agenda!

Willpower and healthy eating

Posted on 7 Aug 2018 In: Uncategorized

There’s no doubt about it, mind-set makes a difference.  There are times when I know I need to cut myself a bit of slack, because sustained or big stress pushes us to eat.

Boredom is easier to deal with – if you have a ‘to do’ list which has fun things as well as dull things.  My favourite is to do a job outdoors, or go for a quick walk to re-focus.  Don’t eat, do something!

Misery and worry are difficult. There’s strength in numbers, so making some thoughtful, bite-size (sorry!) goals with a friend is a good way to start.

Starting is hard.  My Dad took a few years to give up smoking, but he did it in the end and stayed off.  He learned from every attempt.  Write down things you have learned about your eating habits and what works for you.  Knowing for example that you need to clear out the food you don’t want to eat (I used to keep croissants in the freezer, now I buy one on very rare occasions for a treat).

Dropping off the wagon is also hard.  DON’T beat yourself up.  Stop, plan tomorrow.  It happens to so many of us, don’t let it do bigger damage by giving up.

I think the main foundation for sustaining a good diet is to know that your eating plan is healthy and works for you, while knowing your strengths and challenges. To know yourself is to help yourself, while being disappointed with yourself is no place to dwell.

Get knowledgeable about both how your body deals with food, and your mind with eating choices, and you are in a strong position to do well in the long-term, and remember we all have blips.

Sugar, Fat, Salt?

Posted on 25 Feb 2014 In: Uncategorized

Have you felt the floor tilting under your feet lately? There are always stories popping up about what we should and shouldn’t eat, little shockwaves most of us have learnt to be skeptical about. But could this be something bigger?

Is sugar worse for you than fat? I watched a television documentary on this not long ago, but it was inconclusive. This is interesting, because when the presenters, a pair of identical twin doctors, ate two very different diets over a month, their results were very different to longer, bigger and more controlled studies.

I had already made my mind up on this one, having read what Mr Gary Taubes has to say on the subject after a minute dissection of pretty much any reputable information and data he could get hold of.

Prof. John Yudkin’s book ‘Pure White and Deadly’ was re-published recently with a foreword by Dr Robert Lustig (his research has led to the opening of a clinic to treat obesity in children and infants) . It is a more old-fashioned read, but short (and sweet!) and more pertinent than ever.

I recommend these books and those by Lustig if you need to read up on this – it is harder to find supportive science for the all-pervasive ‘fat is bad’ hypothesis because it’s been around for so long, the original data being rather old (and flawed, according to a growing number of doctors and scientists).

Remember, there are libraries if you can’t afford all these books! Or share them with friends. I don’t worry about ‘super foods’ and minor adjustments in my diet too much, I think this is far more important, because these are big food groups, which involve the biggest changes to human diets in recent history. Sugar, and sugar-producing foods (carbohydrates) are a novelty in the human diet. Fats have been eaten and relished for millenia – go figure.


Posted on 9 Apr 2013 In: Uncategorized

I’ve been away from this blog for QUITE some time, but have been learning and doing in the time between.  Healthy eating for families is my starting point, I really want everyone to set down at the table together eating the same food.

I have made a breakthrough (one of these days I’m going to photograph all those weighing-machine tickets that show the gradual change and backsliding!) and that was that the root of weight control is carbohydrate control.  We vary in how much carbohydrate we can take, and as we gain years we have also to gain some insight into this to keep trim.  My little Kindle book explains this simply – go look for Waistline by Anne Smith.  The ‘skinny’ version is only $0.99 but the bigger one is more detailed.

Unless we have type one diabetes, our bodies can produce insulin, and they do this in response to our blood sugar going up, to return it to normal.  Modern, refined carbohydrates (flour and sugar products primarily) raise the blood sugar very fast (they have a high Glycaemic Index or GI), which pushes our bodies to make lots of insulin.  A big rush of insulin then overdoes the lowering of blood sugar and we get a bit low and feel hungry again.  We know about this yo-yo effect, but what does it have to do with weight gain?

From what I understand, our bodies can only store calories (energy both from fat and from carbohydrates) if insulin is present in high enough quantities.  The body is in effect saying ‘ too much blood sugar, store that energy for later and make the blood sugar level safe’.   Over the thousands of years we have lived on earth, fattening carbohydrates were not abundant, and most of the time our blood sugar would  have been much more stable, not rising and falling as dramatically as it does on the modern  ‘western’ diet.  We had lean times and times of abundance, but we didn’t have constant access to high GI foods.

If we can get our blood sugar back where it was before the rise of high GI foods, we can fight weight-gain much more effectively than by semi-starvation (low calorie diets which make our bodies more efficient at hanging on to calories) or exercise.

More soon!


Nettle Soup and Spring

Posted on 20 Mar 2011 In: Seasonal

I always make nettle soup at least once in spring.  The nettle, like other plants credited with being a good spring tonic, has long roots that bring up minerals that may have been washed out of soil nearer the surface.  I get my gloves on, find some young nettle shoots somewhere I am sure they have not been sprayed with weedkiller or polluted and get picking.  My soup this year was all green and white -spring onions (scallions), garlic, leek, a little florence fennel, courgette (not very seasonal but it was there) and a few early chives.  I used some ground almonds to thicken it, left over from Christmas.  Other times I’d make a simpler, more nettly soup with a pint jug of nettles, some onion and a little oatmeal to thicken.  Vegetarian or chicken stock, the choice is yours.

A few winter pounds have shifted, I am delighted to say.  Five less than the January high.  My sister and I have got second hand copies of a couple of GL books recently and she is glad that her son (primary school age) is happy to eat beans in stews and other forms.  I like chickpeas myself – as hoummous and whole in salads and hot dishes.  Butter beans too I find very palatable in winter dishes.  There are so many more – aduki, black-eye, mung, cannelini – that adding a few in the course of the week is not dull.  I’m not a great fan of the bean, but it is very good for lowering the glycaemic load and keeping blood sugar levels steady. 

I sowed some salad in my vegetable bed and harvested a few leaves of lamb’s lettuce.  A few young dandelion leaves will find their way into my salads, before they become too bitter.  People have been known to blanch them (keep them tender by putting an upside-down pot over the top to deprive them of light) but I just get them in season and then move on to other things.

Delighted! Glycaemic Load and Chocolate Treats

Posted on 4 Feb 2011 In: General

Delighted!  Examining my winter waistline, (I did manage four walks over the Christmas week) I resolved to attend to my waist/hip ratio.

This is an important health marker and a poor ratio is a risk factor for both diabetes and heart disease.  In my case creeping middle-age spread has got the better of me – having stayed stable for some months I have put on a few pounds over the winter holidays.  Anyone else?

I was on a quick visit to the library and picked up a couple of useful books; one on self-help for diabetics (diet and exercise largely) and one on Glycaemic Load (GL).  There was a fair bit of overlap between the two.  I reasoned that a diet good for diabetes control would also function for diabetes prevention.

Imagine my delight when both books recommended dark (70% cocoa solids or above) chocolate as a good snack!

Both books were emphasising low glycaemic foods.  I had to learn the difference between GL and GI here – both indices give you a number that tells you how fast that particular food raises your blood sugar levels.  Carrots get quite a high GI because this index is based on enough food to supply 50 grammes of sugar.  As carrots are very high in water, you need to eat over a pound and a half of carrots to get so much sugar!  GL is based on portions, so the humble carrot doesn’t get demonised.  It is much easier to follow when planning meals.

There are demons of course, because sugary and refined starch foods (even wholemeal grain can be high GL if it is very finely milled and highly processed) raise blood sugar rapidly, which ends up with energy being converted to fat for storage.  We often forget that sugar and starch can be turned into fat by the body.  

The heavenly part of this way of eating is that there is plenty of filling food, delicious food and no calorie counting.

For families, the biggest plus is that it is a healthy way of eating for the whole family.   Growing kids need plenty of energy, so your teenager will need bigger portions than you if you are not taking masses of exercise.  Your dinner plate still has vegetables, protein and carbohydrate, but the carbohydrate portion is smaller and it is low or medium GL. 

Following the 80:20 rule I have had Friday night off and had some leeky mash and sausages tonight.  Lots more leeks and less potato would have lowered the GL of the meal, but as long as my indulgent meals are not more than 20% of total, then I am in check if not making progress as fast as I could if I were stricter.