Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Homemade Stock Cubes - AKA The Easy, Space Saving Way to Store Bone and Meat Broth

Many people are now re-discovering the benefits of
homemade stocks and broths, rather than reaching for supermarket granules.

They're easy to make, and if using leftover bones from meals - cheap.  But perhaps the biggest draw for many, are the purported gut healing benefits and as a valuable mineral source.  You can buy tubs of good quality gelatin such as this, however it's even easier to create a rich stock from a cheap meat cut.

There are a lot of claims made about gelatine, how many are true I have no idea - but here is an interesting summary of proposed benefits.  Either way homemade stock is still an undoubtedly healthier option than shop bought.  Here is what's in a "knorr stock pot":
Concentrated Beef Stock (Water, Beef Extract) (39%), Glucose Syrup, Salt, Beef Fat (5%), Flavourings, Yeast Extract, Carrots (1.8%), Potassium Chloride, Palm Oil, Caramel Syrup, Gelling Agents (Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum), Sugar, Leek, Parsley, Maltodextrin, Lovage Root.
Glucose syrup is right on up there....nom.

There is often confusion over broth and stock, with some using the terms interchangeably.  General consensus seems to be that broth is typically a meat plus some bones affair, cooked for a relatively short period of time, ie up to a couple of hours.  This is what you want to be making if you're doing say GAPS intro diet.

A stock on the other hand is mainly bones, although it can contain some meat; it's simmered for up to 4 hours and should be gelatinous. Bone broth is as per stock, but cooked for a  much longer period of time ie 24-48 hours (until the bones crumble).

It's important to start slowly with bone broth, as it can cause headaches for some people when large volumes are consumed straight off the bat.  Some claim it's a detox effect, others that it's the result of increased histamine levels, which those with a sensitive gut may be intolerant to.  Chicken or fish is thought to be the easiest to start with, even as little as one tablespoon if you suspect sensitivity.

I tend to cook mine for varying amounts of  time, depending on what I want to use it for (and how much other stuff I have going on).  This time I used organic, grass fed "stock bones", which have a little meat, but I didn't add extra.

The first batch I cooked for 6 hours after roasting the bones, which is the darker one in the image above. I then strained, and put the bones back in the pan with fresh water - cooking for a further 12 hours.  I sometimes return them again for 48 for true "bone broth", or pull the first batch earlier and the second batch later; sometimes I add meat and remove that after a few hours, but let the whole stock go 12/24/48 hours (really there's no exact science involved), but I wanted my stove for other things this week.

So normally I chill the liquid, skim and retain a lot of the fat, before reducing the volume by half - ready to portion up and store.

Which is what got me thinking about stock cubes.

Firstly from a storage perspective they're a massive bonus.  But also sometimes I want to add flavour, without loads of water.  Could I turn my stock into stock cubes?  I decided to have a try.

The first batch was the 6hr simmer.  After cooling this was gelatinous, but not solid - more like a wobbly jelly.  I returned it to the pan to reduce as normal, and then carried on reducing.
Ham Hock Stock Reduced

I carried on (turning the heat down as the heat as the amount reduced), until I was left with a thick dark paste resembling caramel.  I stirred constantly for the last few minutes so it didn't stick (see the picture on the right to give an idea of how thick we're talking).  A couple of minutes later it came together so I was pushing around one large "gloop" of meaty goo, and it stopped producing steam (showing all the water had evaporated). I then quickly tipped into a small Tupperware tub and popped in the freezer for half an hour.

Finished "stock strip" is pliable
After that I let it sit at room temp for a few minutes, before flicking it out of the tub.

It's a rubbery, pliable texture whether frozen or at room temp, so you can easily score and cut into portions.  I based how many pieces on how much stock I had initially, and how I would normally have it split for freezing.

In my case the tub I used was quite shallow, and so I have stock "strips" - which actually are probably handier in terms of storage.  They melt quickly when added to hot liquid, yet don't melt if left on the worktop.  They should be stable enough to take camping etc if you have access to water.

There are of course loads of possible variations too, in that you could add onion, celery or garlic powder; or any other herbs usually found in your favourite stock cube or granules.

The reason for this long blog, and why I didn't just say "reduce it down", was the second batch.

This was my 12 hr stock and was completely solid with gelatine when initially cooled ready for the fat removing.  I could have tipped it out and cut into cubes as was. Anyway, I did as before and returned it to the pan to reduce.  This time I found when I got to the point the steam had stopped, what was left was far too solid and sticky to move.  It would have been fine if I hadn't had to move it, however it stuck to the spoon, the side of the pan, the tub and was a solid ball within seconds of leaving the heat.  I think the concentration of gelatine was so much at that stage, it basically made glue!  I have got a plan to try to get around this, but for now plan b.

I chucked it back it the pan with more water for take 2.  This time I reduced it to a thick goo, but removed it before it stopped steaming.  After 10 mins in the freezer I scored and broke into cubes.  It felt more jelly like, and after another hour in the freezer they were completely frozen solid, returning to jelly after 5 mins at room temp.  I would guess these would store for less time in the freezer than the first batch, because of increased moisture content - however the same goes for the huge bags of stock I was storing, plus we use ours well before expiry so not a biggie.

I've also found it much easier to portion.  If I decide I want a small amount of stock for something, previously
Ham Hock Stock
I had to either freeze some smaller portions too (more bagging etc), or defrost a big one.  Then it was a case of prising the whole chunk out of the bag before it defrosted, or letting it do so and then squidging everything off the insides of the bag.

Now I can just cut a small piece off.  They've also worked well for drinks, as a small piece dissolves quickly with boiling water added.

Anyway, I now have two beef variations, ham hock, and chicken stock, all in one tiny Tupperware tub - and I can fit other food in my freezer again.  That alone is priceless.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Children's fire cider/ master tonic

Original "fire cider"
Fire cider, or master tonic as others like to call it, featured in a Facebook discussion a few weeks ago. For those not familiar, it's a traditional folk recipe based around raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. 
To this herbs, onions, roots and various other bits and bobs are added. To clarify there is no alcohol!  It should really be called fire vinegar, but that sounds somewhat less appealing.
"Hot, pungent, sour, and sweet, fire cider is certainly not for the faint of heart. Yet this fiery concoction has been revered for generations as a simple and effective remedy to relieve sinus congestion, ward off colds and flu, aid digestion, and increase circulation."
You can find the above quote and the recipe I used here. 

I didn't need to wait the two weeks plus for it to "mature", to know this was going to be way too strong for the smalls.  Super hot chillies, heaps of horseradish and garlic - I did at one point joke perhaps it keeps you healthy as the odour emanating from your pores following consumption, means most give you a wide berth!

Anyway, I digress.

"Fire-ish cider"
I had some bits and bobs left over, so decided to throw together a children's version.  I used a 300ml jar and kept the "fiery ingredients",  but in much smaller quantities.  It's still pretty interesting, but my two had some the other night and said it was doable.

Horseradish isn't recommended for consumption by children under 4.  I'm not entirely sure whether this applies to fire cider as the solids are strained and only 1/2 - 1 tsp of the retained liquid is consumed each time.  However use your own judgement and leave it out if you're concerned.

That's the fun thing about fire cider, you can switch and change ingredients and amounts, depending on what you prefer and what you have locally available.

However I know some people like a "recipe", so here's my version of fire-ish cider :)

  • 3cm piece of horseradish root
  • 2 x shallots
  • 1/4 of fresh hot red chilli (I used cayenne)
  • 3cm fresh ginger root
  • 1 x "finger sized" of fresh turmeric root.  Mine left over were smaller and about widgety grub size, so I used a couple.   If you can't get fresh, you could substitute 1- 1 1/2 tsp of dried.
  • 2 x garlic cloves
  • 2 x small handful of roughly chopped blackberries, elderberries, haws, rowan berries. and/or rosehips.
  • 1 TBSP fresh parsley
  • 2 x sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2  x springs fresh thyme
(you could substitute 1/2 amounts of dried herbs I'm sure!)
  • Quarter of lemon sliced thinly
  • 4 slices of orange (peel on if organic)
  • 2 x star anise
  • Small piece of cinnamon stick, I just snapped a bit off
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 2 dates roughly chopped
  • Raw (unpasteurised) apple cider vinegar.  Ideally use one "with the mother" like Braggs or Ostlers.  If you're super lucky and spot this one by West Lake when out and about, it's extra delish!
You can either slice everything finely (with the exception of the hard spices and peppercorns obviously) and layer into jar as I did; or you can just peel and in a food processor for an even easier option.  This doesn't look as pretty, but would be faster if you're pushed for time.
After 2 weeks 
Add all the solid ingredients, pressing down slightly as you go.

Pour in apple cider vinegar until the jar is full, and continue to push down ingredients gently to release any air bubbles.  If you're using a jar with an unlined metal lid, add a piece of baking paper between the jar and lid to prevent the vinegar touching.  

Shake/turn the jar once or twice per day for 2+ weeks.  There doesn't seem to be any sort of time frame people agree on for this stage, some leave two weeks, some two months, some leave everything in and just strain a small amount as needed.  I left mine 3 weeks.

If you use any dried herbs or berries which will absorb liquid, check it frequently and add more apple cider vinegar as required to keep it topped up.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing all the liquid from the ingredients.   If you used rosehips with seeds, pass a second time through a muslin or jam bag, to ensure any tiny hairs are removed (do not squeeze the bag on the second pass).

Traditional fire cider is often taken with honey, with some choosing to dilute 50/50 at the bottling stage.  I
Finished "fire-ish cider"
didn't do this, as I wasn't sure how my raw or manuka honey would stand up to a vinegar bath.

Instead I added 1 tbsp of hot water (boiled and left to stand) to 1 tsp of fire-ish cider, and added 1 tsp of manuka honey just before serving (don't add boiling water to raw honey or you risk destroying the live enzymes).   You could also add a teaspoon of any other syrups you make, such as elderberry or mixed berry if the taste is too strong :)

Some take one teaspoon daily, upping to several times per day when unwell.  So for younger children 1/2 tsp should suffice.

Other uses for fire-ish cider:
  • Soak a clean cloth in the cider and place on a congested chest
  • As a muscle rub
  • Added to vegetables juices
  • As a salad dressing, combined with a good olive oil
  • To make home-made mustard
  • Splashed into stir fries

Some people retain the solids and use in other food products such as spring rolls.  Can't say I'm entirely convinced what that would taste like, but hey ho let me know if you try it.

Share your finished product widely with friends and family, not least so they won't notice your garlic breath!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Measles, Are We Being Lied To? Part 1

Part 1
I decided to start my reading around vaccines with measles.  The Scary Mary of illnesses, the one people rush en masse to vaccinate for should a local outbreak occur.  Canadian and American doctors have even discussed whether they should ban the unvaccinated from attending their surgeries when there is an outbreak.

I want to make it clear this post isn't an anti vaccine entry, and the information below does not mean people shouldn't vaccinate - far from it (as I will discuss more in part 2); but if we truly support informed choice, we surely need to separate fact from fiction when it comes to risks of a disease? Transparency is key, right? Furthermore I'm not a doctor, my blog is not medical advice and you are responsible for your own decisions.

I can still clearly remember a feeling of nauseating panic when my youngest got a suspicious rash at just over a year - pre even being offered the vaccine.   I had suffered fairly mild measles as a child, and my mother tells of how the doctors advised how much worse it would have been had I not been vaccinated.   

I ended up on Doctor Google and this was the sort of page I landed on.  This particular one belongs to the CDC
"Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. In the United States in 2011, 38% of children younger than 5 years old who had measles had to be treated in the hospital."
"For some children, measles can lead to pneumonia, a serious lung infection. It can also cause lifelong brain damage, deafness, and even death. One to three out of 1,000 children in the U.S. who get measles will die from the disease, even with the best care.
Remember this 1-3 per 1000 figure, we come back to it in a moment!

As luck would have it my son's rash subsided, and I didn't really think about the above again until recently, when I added this timeline of measles history in the UK to the blog.  The chart wasn't intended to prove or disprove anything, it was purely a sharing of historical interest.

But here's what I noticed.

1-3 per 1000 as quoted by the CDC is a mortality rate of 0.1 - 0.3%.  For ease let's average it out at 0.2%

In the UK pre vaccine in 1967, 460,407 cases of measles were reported - and of these 99 died. This is a mortality rate of 0.02%

Hmmmm, so mortality was 10 times higher in 2011 USA  than it was in 1967 UK? Really?

Using their figures, 460k cases would have resulted in between 460 and 1380 deaths, rather than the 99 recorded in the UK? For the record 1967 wasn't a fluke year, the mortality rate had consistently been at 0.02% since 1956.

In fact to get figures even close to those quoted by the CDC, we have to go back to 1940, pre NHS, pre the affluence of the 1950's and pre wider antibiotic use. Even then it was 0.2% i.e. 2 per 1000, not the potential "up to 3 per 1000" quoted.

To me it seems there are three possible reasons for this:
1.  The CDC have grossly exaggerated figures.
2.  Measles is up to 14 times more deadly in the US than the UK.
3.  The death rate from measles is now up to 14 times higher than it was in 1967.

The death rates may actually be a far lower percentage than either source state - because until more recently many may not have sought medical assistance for measles, and thus a significant number of milder cases are likely to have gone unreported. People may have been more likely to call the doctor should the illness progress differently or with more severity than expected. This makes sense as I know a lot of parents didn't see the doctor when their child got chickenpox for example (and thus it would never be recorded anywhere).  Even today people with mild measles symptoms who have received the MMR, may not be tested and thus this figure would not be recorded.

I also recently wrote about how different health authorities described chicken pox, ie if there was a vaccine on offer, it sounded scary and serious - where there isn't it's typically described as a mild self-limiting condition.

In this case, although both countries offer the MMR, the NHS data still isn't comparable to that provided by the CDC.  Instead they say:
"It's estimated that around 1 in every 5,000 people with measles will die as a result of a serious complication. (rather different from the 1-3 per 1,000 recorded by the CDC)
Complications of measles are more likely to develop in certain groups of people, including:
  • babies younger than one year old 
  • children with a poor diet
  • children with a weakened immune system, such as those with AIDS or those having chemotherapy for leukaemia, teenagers and adults
Children who are older than one year and otherwise healthy have the lowest risk of developing serious complications."
So using the CDC figures we would have 10-30 deaths from 10,000 people.  Using NHS figures we would have 2 deaths from 10,000 people.  Hmmm extrapolate that to a wider scale and I'm glad I didn't live in the US when I caught measles!

It gets even more interesting.

In 1967 (several years after the introduction of the first measles vaccine), D.J Spencer co-authored a paper that stated the following:
For centuries the measles virus has maintained a remarkably stable ecological relationship with man. The clinical disease is a characteristic syndrome of notable constancy and only moderate severity. Complications are infrequent, and, with adequate medical care, fatality is rare. Susceptibility to the disease after the waning of maternal immunity is universal; immunity following recovery is solid and lifelong in duration.”(2)
Why is that particularly noteworthy?

Dr David J Spencer was the longest serving director of CDC, a highly qualified and respected professional. So much so the CDC now have a museum dedicated to him.

Why has the CDC information about measles changed so dramatically?

I then remembered a book my children used to enjoy reading...

Mr Mischief wakes up feeling pretty pants:

The book continues with a highly amused Mr Mischief, entertaining himself by thinking about how each will pass it to another and how it might affect them all differently. As it turns out Mr Happy had already had measles, and the book tells us you can't get it twice so he didn't pass it anywhere!

Clearly the Mr Men doc hadn't read the CDC page to warn Mr Mischief of the risks of pneumonia, brain damage or death.  And perhaps it's just me but I can't imagine a similar story playing out for say Smallpox or Meningitis?  It would be more Stephen King than toddler fun?

There is also a Tom and Jerry cartoon featuring measles: 

Polka Dot Puss
7.38 minutes | 26 Feb 1949
"Jerry paints Tom's face while he is sleeping. Jerry convinces the cat that he has measles. He puts himself in Jerry's hands for some rather creative nursing. In the end the hoax is discovered, but Jerry does get the measles and then gives it to Tom."

1949 was pre any sort of vaccine, so again I found it interesting it was treated as an apparently lighthearted subject if the disease were as deadly as the CDC now state.

I decided to dig around more to see how measles was perceived pre vaccine - were people sat in fear like they were of other diseases?  Did they experience complications or did they know of anyone that did?

I asked pensioners - most of whom were children of the 40's/50's and it provoked some really interesting discussion. 

There was reference to measles parties, everyone wanted their child to catch it as they knew it was much
more serious to have as an adult. One developed a chest infection as a complication, his mother hadn't sought antibiotics as his siblings had all been fine, and as a result he developed pneumonia (he made a full recovery).  Another said it was typically mild, but if it was more severe you were just more carefully monitored - but of course this was in the days of the doctor making house-calls.  It certainly wasn't feared in the way some diseases were and most considered it something most children got, typically mildly and got over - with the odd child having a more severe case.  Nobody I spoke to knew anyone who had suffered acute encephalitis or death. Rather like chicken pox then?  Another illness that can cause encephalitis.  They were also surprised at the CDC statistic that 38% of 0-5 year olds ended up hospitalised.

Of course (as one pointed out), there is presumably also potential for doctors who are not used to treating measles (and potentially subject to litigation) to admit a patient "to be on the safe side"?  Particularly if they've stumbled across the CDC page!

Measles though isn't all about mortality.
We also need to explore other potential significant or long lasting side effects.

The CDC state "For some children, measles can lead to pneumonia, a serious lung infection."

We're often told that measles is a virus and thus antibiotics are useless - this is why it's so scary. So it's worth considering that the majority of complications are bacterial and could not only be treated by antibiotics should they occur, but prophylactic antibiotic use in the "at risk/vulnerable" groups could significantly reduce incidence.  A 2006 study confirmed what previous "less rigorous" research had already highlighted, that antibiotic use could result in "80% less pneumonia"(1).

Great Ormond Street say:
"In most cases, pneumonia can be treated with oral antibiotics given to the child at home. The type of antibiotic used depends on the type of pneumonia. Sometimes, if a child does not begin to get better after 48 hours of treatment at home, hospital treatment may be needed."
Of course it's significant to note at this point that given the mass overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals, the crisis we now face is the number of bacteria becoming resistant to them.  This could mean that should we have outbreaks of measles, such complications could again become much more significant - and potentially at a higher rate than the 1950s.  What's perhaps more worrying though is that without antibiotics to fall back on, anything potentially can.   In the vulnerable a chest infection can quickly progress to pneumonia, a urinary tract infection to kidney failure.

One thing antibiotics can't treat is encephalitis, a serious condition where brain tissue becomes inflamed; furthermore nobody seems very sure what the rates of this condition are and it seems hotly debated in many circles.

The CDC (who I think we've established are going to give us absolute worst case, and then a bit more) state 1 per 1000 children will develop encephalitis, and I found this  2004 study linked from a couple of pages.  The problem however is I can't establish whether this figure is just for US children or globally.  It reads:
"Encephalitis occurs in less than 1 of every 1000 children with measles. Concurrent vitamin A deficiency increases rates of complications. Children under 5 years of age, adults, and persons with malnutrition or immunodeficiency disorders are at increased risk of complications.
Others who cite this study refer to "1 of every 1000 patients with measles" ie including adults or those who are at increased risk as highlighted by the NHS.

A study examining data from 1962-1979 found that of the children who developed encephalitis, around 15% died.  A further 25% suffered long-term problems as a result.

It gets more controversial right about now as some are adamant vaccines themselves are linked with encephalitis, and here whilst others absolutely refute such a condition exists.  A figure generally accepted by official authorities is 1–2 per million develop encephalitis following measles vaccination.  Others claim this figure is not accurate as doctors are not adequately diagnosing mild to moderate encephalitis in post-vaccinated infants.  Going to move along otherwise this piece could run forever I fear - however you can read more about encephalitis here.  It's also interesting to note that the herpes virus (that causes coldsores) is currently the leading cause of encephalitis in the US/UK & Ireland.

Going back to the 2004 study above, they note another interesting point:
In developing countries, measles case-fatality rates are 10- to 100-fold higher than in developed countries; ∼770,000 children died of measles in 2000. Older age at infection, vitamin A supplementation, and antibiotic therapy for secondary bacterial infections have reduced measles-associated deaths in the developing world.
The CDC agree:
"About 150,000 to 175,000 people die from measles each year around the world—mostly in places where children do not get the measles vaccine."
Perhaps it's just me, but this statement appears to imply that lack of vaccine is why some areas have such high figures.  This could lead someone to believe without vaccination we would suffer the same fate.  As the previous paper highlights this is clearly not the case.

I decided to look into any papers published around the time of vaccine launch, and I turned up this - published in the British Medical Journal, London, 1963:
"Before large-scale vaccination against measles is undertaken certain problems must be considered. There can be no doubt that an effective vaccine is needed for children who are especially liable to develop severe measles-for example, mentally defective children in institutions or children in underdeveloped countries.  But the need or desire for a vaccine for the general population of Great Britain is much less certain
Measles is now a mild disease, and many parents and doctors may feel that no protection against it is required. However, it is necessary to consider the encephalitis which follows measles in about 0.1% of cases," for though the risk may be slight for an individual child there will be a significant number of cases of encephalitis in the country during the biennial measles epidemics.
Another problem to be considered is the long-term effect of mass vaccination and the possible eradication of measles in a country such as Britain. The disease has a world-wide distribution, but its effects vary in different populations. In Nigeria, India, and South America measles is endemic, but the disease is severe and an important cause of death in childhood. In Chile'" the annual death rate from the disease rose during the period 1950-60 to 27.7 per 100,000 of the population, and 6.5% of patients with measles died.
This is in sharp contrast to the picture in Britain, where the death rate from measles has been steadily declining.
When measles has been introduced to " virgin soil" in such isolated communities as Greenland, Tahiti, Tristan da Cunha, and Northern Australia devastating outbreaks have resulted in which the entire population has become infected. Like other infections which usually attack children measles tends to be more severe in adults. This has been observed in gold miners in South Africa. Many of the Africans contract the disease when they come to work in urban areas, and in them prolonged fever is common, with temperatures which often exceed 1040 F. (40° C.). No doubt better nutrition and living standards play a part in determining the mildness of measles in Britain to-day, but it is probable that, as Sir Graham Wilson has suggested, there is some natural immunity to the disease in this country. This has little effect in preventing attack but appears to protect against death. If herd immunity were not preserved by clinical attack or by vaccination, the population would be subject to epidemics. Thus if measles was eradicated by vaccination a high rate of vaccination in future generations would be essential to maintain herd immunity. If herd immunity were allowed to wane at a later date-and it is notoriously difficult to maintain a high rate of vaccination against a non-existent disease -then the reintroduction of measles from another country might result in epidemics in both children and adults much more severe than are seen in Britain to-day. These are problems which need further thought." (3)
So, basically measles was typically mild with roughly 0.1% developing encephalitis. What's more, in addition to the risk factors previously identified, socio-economic status also appears influential.  A study entitlted "Measles mortality in the United States 1971-1975" noted:
"Mortality rates were higher in non-metropolitan than in metropolitan counties. Measles mortality rates were inversely related to median family income."
Again, this doesn't mean vaccination isn't a good idea, but I can't help but feel that the methods used to try and increase vaccine uptake by some are worthy of further examination. It's well recognised in several areas of maternity care that health care providers may at times try and obtain control via fear - by the implication of, or direct statement that, one or both parties may die or suffer significant consequences if one does not do as advised.

The shifting language and portrayal of measles has successfully moved it in the minds of most people, from typically mild with complications mostly occurring in the vulnerable, to parents peeing themselves at every blemish their child develops.  

Whilst this is clearly likely to improve uptake rates, it feels deceptive - as though someone somewhere thought had I been in possession of the facts without added drama I might have been less likely to comply.

1.  Prophylactic antibiotics to prevent pneumonia and other complications after measles: community based randomised double blind placebo controlled trial in Guinea-Bissau. BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 14 December 2006)
2. D. J. Sencer, H. B. Dull, and A. D. Langmuir. Epidemiologic basis for eradication of measles in 1967. Public Health Rep. 1967 March; 82(3): 253–256.
3.  Br Med J. Sep 28, 1963; 2(5360): 759–760.
4. Herpes simplex encephalitis treated with acyclovir: diagnosis and long term outcome, J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2002;73:237-238 doi:10.1136/jnnp.73.3.237

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Grain Free Lazy Lunch Box Ideas - Mini Sausage & Egg Balls.

Whilst my blogging friends turn out perfectly pristine sourdough or schiatta (my attempts at the first not a million miles away from my pronunciation of the latter), I'm blogging about sausage balls.  Something which qualifies as a recipe about as much as "mash a banana with baby's usual milk" does, although hey many years ago I bought a book full of such gems.

This is definitely more a chucking together of a few items, but since I keep getting stuck in a lunchbox rut, I thought I would pin some things that go down well.

These are a mini scotch egg without the breadcrumbs.  If you prefer them coated, or have mastered that perfect loaf and have some left - dip the balls in seasoned flour, egg and then crumbs.  Redunk in egg and crumbs again (to prevent splitting whilst baking).

The size of these makes them ideal for smaller hands and with summer on the way, picnic food!  Stick on a cocktail stick for extra glam.

What you need:
Quail eggs
Good quality sausages
Seasoning if sausages are plain
Egg (optional.)

To go a step further in the "how quickly can we pack tomorrow's lunchbox" stakes, some supermarkets sell quail eggs pre cooked and peeled...

Otherwise cook your eggs as per guidelines here, plunge into cold water when cooked.  Then unless you want to spend the rest of eternity trying to pick of minuscule bits of shell from a rather fragile egg, let them cool before peeling.

Whilst waiting, snip the end off your sausage skins and squeeze out the meat into a bowl.  How many you need depends on the size of your sausages; if they're a chunky cumberland number one per egg would suffice I'm sure.  If they're skinny you might need one and a half.

If you're not using seasoned sausages add that now - if you want them to taste more like traditional scotch eggs, 200g sausage needs approx 1 heaped tsp sage/thyme/parsley, a pinch of ground mace and a heaped tsp english mustard.  If you want a kick add some paprika, cayenne and black pepper.

Sneak in healthy extras like spring onion finely diced, garlic, fresh herbs etc now if desired.

Add a small amount of egg if using, a tsp is usually enough for 6 quail eggs to make it slightly looser and easier to wrap around the egg.

Take a small meatball sized amount of meat, and squash flat to a depth of approx 0.25cm.  Place the egg on top and bring the edges together, smooth out any seams and roll them about until you have neat ball shapes - or until you get bored and figure one flat side isn't the end of the world.

Sit them on a baking tray (or in a muffin pan if you have rolling issues), and bake at 180 for 20-30 minutes as you would sausages.  Turn them regularly to cook all sides evenly.

I should really have cut one in half to attempt a suitably arty shot, however then the kids wouldn't consider it lunch boxable and this was around 11pm - so strategically placed chives were never going to happen.

If you have other quick, grain free lunch box ideas - please share and I will repost :)

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Naturally Healing Ear Infections - Do Children Need Antibiotics?

According to the NHS, earache is cited as the most common reason for a parent to call a doctor out of hours for their child. It will often be the result of a middle ear infection (otitis media).

Many still believe antibiotics to be essential, I once read a comment on a parenting forum that infection could easily spread to the brain and so it should always be promptly treated.  Yikes right!

So firstly, when to call the doc (according to NHS):
  • you or your child has a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • you or your child has other symptoms, such as dizziness, a severe headache, or swelling around the ear
  • the earache does not improve within 24-48 hours
I'm not entirely sure about the temperature thing as I personally wouldn't panic over a 38 degree temperature in an older child compared to a very young baby, however you are responsible for the well being of your child and this blog is not intended as medical advice ie it's your call.

As for treatment, NHS current guidance is:
Most cases of middle ear infection (otitis media) will clear up within 72 hours without the need for treatment.
The routine use of antibiotics to treat ear infection is not recommended because:
  • there is no evidence they speed up the healing process
  • many middle ear infections are caused by viral infections so antibiotics are often ineffective 
  • every time you use antibiotics to treat a non-serious infection it increases the likelihood of bacteria becoming resistant to it, meaning more serious infections could become untreatable.
Antibiotics are usually only recommended if:
  • your child has a serious health condition that makes them more vulnerable to infection such as cystic fibrosis or congenital heart disease 
  • your child is under the age of three months 
  • your child’s symptoms show no signs of improvement after four days
You can relieve your child’s symptoms of earache and high temperature using over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol.
Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age.
Placing a warm flannel or washcloth over the affected ear may also help relieve pain. 


The first question I think should be, why is the child catching ear infections?  This probably sounds bizarre to some who believe it's common to suffer these childhood illnesses,  ie just because we get exposed to bacteria, we get an infection.  Of course a child's immune system isn't mature until around the age of 6, which is why breastfeeding as long as possible to assist their defenses is recommended.  But some children are plagued by recurrent infections, whilst others don't suffer at all - so there is clearly more to it than inevitability.

Bacteria don't grow well anywhere and everywhere, conditions have to be suitable.  Some environments help good bacteria to flourish, whilst others make it difficult for them to survive allowing more harmful, opportunistic bacteria to move in and thrive.  We know the gut flora ie the profile of bacteria that resides in our body, directly impacts on the immune system.

Gut health is rather like a game of draughts (or checkers if you're over t'other side of the pond) when you've
lost too many of your pieces, it's easy for the other team to quickly take over, including fungus like (but not limited to) candida.

Lots of different things can weaken the defenses of good bacteria - antibiotics and many if not most other medications, nutritional imbalances, environmental toxins, food intolerances ie things that create inflammation.

In some cases the good guys don't even get to start with a full team; colonisation is disrupted from birth during cesarean sections, early antibiotics or by formula and you have to ask, where are the good bacteria even supposed to come from?

We also need to remember the body is linked from top to toe, like a network of pipes if something is working ineffectively at the top - problems may occur further down.

Birth can be an interesting time for babies, rapid, long, intense, or even straight forward and calm but perhaps a larger baby snuggled into a smaller mum. At birth the skull isn't fully fused, instead membranes separate the cranial bones, these create the fontanelles or "soft spots" that can be felt on new babies. These areas allow some movement between the bones, so that the developing skull is partially compressible and can slightly change shape, enabling them to pass through the birth canal more easily.

This is an interesting case study outlining how one mum resolve her daughter's case of severe recurrent ear infections with osteopathy, and this study also shows promising results.  Other studies that also show improved outcome can be found here and here.  It's worth noting this study did not note improvement - but I haven't delved into the paper.

Dealing with the current infection

Again a study suggests osteopathy or chiropractic treatment may be worth exploring, beyond that the first important guideline is:
"Eardrops or olive oil drops should not be used if the eardrum has burst."

Natural Alternatives


NHS recommends a flannel, but many find heat packs are much more effective.  I find these intended for eyes are easier for children to hold over a specific area than a big heavy bag, but if both ears are sore, something like this could be used to cover both sides at the same time. 

You can also make heat compresses with various household things (according to the internet)  ranging from onion to ginger crushed and wrapped in cloths.  Some I'm sure would be easier to convince children about than others.


If you have some, always worth a try.


1.  Shop bought:
  • Hear No Evil, containing Mullein, Scullcap, Goldenseal Root, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Yarrow and Rosemary combined with essential oils of Garlic, Tea Tree and Peppermint (kosher,vegan, wheat free etc)  Suggested use is in or around the ear. (these are pretty pricey as they're imported)

  • Herbs for kids ear drops, containing garlic and willow oil.

  • Herb Pharm ear drops, containing mullein garlic compound
2.  Home made 
Consulting a medical herbalist for a custom made remedy is often recommended.


Highlands infant earache drops containing  Belladonna, Calcarea, Carbonica, Chamomilla, Lycopodium, Pulsatilla, Sulphur - they have a picture of a baby on the box, new packaging shows a child and lists as suitable for 3 and under.

Highlands earache drops are listed as suitable for 2 and over.  According to their website "they've been clinically shown to reduce earache symptoms during the first 48 hours of the episode", but I haven't delved into the research.

Consulting a homeopath for a custom made remedy is often recommended.


Propolis is made from resins gathered by the oldest bees, once brought back to the hive they are mixed with some wax and salivary secretions before using to sterilize the hive against infection.  There is some evidence here and here suggesting it may be useful to treat and prevent recurrent infections.

You can buy propolis in a number of forms.  In its sticky raw state here (it's quite hard to source in the UK, apart from the link eBay seem to have regular listings), or as a tincture,

For the treatment of ears, two methods are commonly listed:

1.  10% alcohol tincture mixed 1:2 with olive (or other good quality vegetable) oil, if you have a stronger propolis dilute accordingly.  A piece of gauze is soaked in the emulsion and place in the ear for 2-3 hours before changing.  A typical course suggested is 10-15 applications is depending on severity.  Always check the ingredients of ticture as it should be simply propolis and alcohol.  Some cheaper varieties contain Mono Propylene Glycol
2.  A propolis oil used as you would olive oil ie a few drops in each ear.

Propolis oil is difficult to buy in the UK but there are instructions of how to make your own, plus your own tincture if feeling adventurous are given here.

For older children you can also buy propolis capsules to be taken as directed rather than applied topically.

Can topical/alternative treatments help infection?

The NHS says:
"Ear drops or olive oil drops should not be used if the eardrum has burst, and they will not help an ear infection."
This is echoed by may other sources including this page belonging to ENT consultants who state using ear drops of any kind is ineffective as they cannot get behind the eardrum to where the infection is located.

The ear drum is a membrane, made up of thin connective tissues, skin and mucosa.  So whilst something can't run freely into the ear, is it true nothing can make it through?

Given a 2006 study found middle ear infections actually responded better to antibiotic ear drops than when taken orally - it would seem not.
"That’s in line with previous research and other findings that support increased use of topical antibiotics over oral antibiotics in other cases involving middle ear infections, one of the most common childhood afflictions", said Dr. Roland, who heads the Clinical Center for Auditory, Vestibular and Facial Nerve Disorders at UT Southwestern and who is also chief of pediatric otology at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. 

A 2003 study handily compared a herbal remedy to oral antibiotics. They found:
"Patients who were given ear drops alone had a better response than patients who were given ear drops together with amoxicillin."
Because ear infections usually self resolve within a few days, researchers cautioned this could explain the results.  However they significantly also added:
"Because no evidence was found that systemic antibiotics alone improved treatment outcome, if antibiotics do not change the natural course of otitis media, then the main goal of treatment, as in the present study, should be to alleviate the ear pain. The alternative, naturopathic herbal extract medications, may offer many new possibilities in the management of ear pain associated with AOM."
"They are also well-absorbed with good penetration into the tissue surrounding the tympanic membrane. They have been found to enhance local immunologic activity. Finally, herbal extracts are well-tolerated (owing to their long elimination time), easy to administer, and less expensive than the new antibiotics. There are no documented side effects."

Recurrent Infections:

A 2006 study found that chronic middle ear infections were linked to resistant biofilm Bacteria - ie a heap of bad guys moved in that aren't killed by antibiotics.

Garth Ehrlich, Ph.D., principal investigator and executive director of the ASRI Center for Genomic Sciences, co-author of the study said:
It appears that in many cases recurrent disease stems not from re-infection as was previously thought and which forms the basis for conventional treatment, but from a persistent biofilm,"
"Given that bacteria living in biofilms are metabolically resistant to antibiotics, this study makes a definitive, scientifically-based statement against the use of these drugs to treat children with chronic ear infections. It simply does not help the child and increases the risk of breeding more resistant strains of bacteria."
Oral supplementation of good bacteria, in particular S.salivarius K12 has been shown to be helpful in dealing with recurrent otitis media.

Ruptured Eardrum:

How can I tell if an eardrum is ruptured and is it serious? According to Dr Internet:
"Infection of the middle ear sometimes causes the eardrum to burst and this may result in a yellowy-green discharge, sometimes blood-stained, to ooze out of the affected ear.
The eardrum usually heals over again and although some scarring of the eardrum may occur this doesn't usually cause any significant long-term problems with hearing.
There may be some temporary hearing loss for a few weeks after a burst eardrum but this should gradually return to normal."
What are your favourite remedies?

Friday, 21 March 2014

History of Measles UK Timeline 1940-2013

I was browsing some data today, exploring the history of measles in the UK.  I thought it might be interesting to see the data alongside vaccine introduction and uptake rates:

Monday, 3 February 2014

Grain Free Paleo Primal Chocolate Chip Cupcakes / Muffins

paleo chocolate banana muffinsThese are called cupcakes but I recon they're more of a muffin,  in fact locally they would be a "bun".  They're also called "chocolate banana", but everybody agreed you couldn't taste banana when baked, so don't let that put you off if you're not a fan.  Anyway they're a chocolatey cakey hit sans wheat monster.

I know from comments on the new Facebook group, some are totally new to grain free baking and might not be familiar with all the ingredients - so I've dropped links to help you identify what you're looking for.

I made a couple of adjustments to this receipe by Yummy Mummy, namely adding 1 tablespoon of lucuma powder and 1 dessert spoon of mesquite powder.  From raw chocolate making I find they help create more of a milk chocolate taste (lucuma tastes quite like a sweet milk starch and mesquite is sort of sweet smokey) - a lot of the grain free recipes I've tried result in super rich dense chocolate, so I fancied a change.  I also added a pinch of salt as all chocolate tastes better with a dash right?

This made the batter quite dry, so next time I will probably try a tablespoon of water/milk/virgin coconut oil - simply for ease of moving to baking cases.  They tasted amazing anyway and did rise, I was skeptical given it was more like a dough than batter by this point.

In the recipe it says to use a dropper of stevia or 2 extra tablespoons of honey.  If you use honey I think it would be worth adding an extra couple of tablespoons or so of almond flour, or another dessert spoon of coconut flour - as typically when subbing with honey the extra liquid needs to be offset to prevent a soggy middle. I used 2 1/2 tablespoons of Natvia and the lucuma also adds sweetness.

Lastly unlike lots of flour free recipes, these don't need a ton of eggs, just one - but if you're egg free this should work fine using a chia or flax egg - let me know how these taste if you try it out.

3 very ripe bananas
2 tablespoons coconut oil or melted butter
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1 dropper of liquid stevia* (or 2 additional Tablespoons honey)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal
¼ cup coconut flour
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, plus 1 tablespoon, divided

Method: See how to make the cupcakes here.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Fines for term times holidays? Poor parents, rich government?

Last week this couple were fined over £300 for taking their three children
on a one week holiday during term time.  This rose to nearly £1000 after they delayed payment.

We received a letter home a couple of months ago, warning us of the consequences of the children missing a day at school.  No absences would be authorised, even if for educational reasons.  Holidays during term time would result in a fine of £60 per child.

Bearing in mind here we're not talking about a group of teenagers about to take their GCSEs, we're talking about 4-11 year olds who aren't going to be job hunting anytime soon.

Did someone forget the state don't own our children?  Since when did the British education system start to resemble HM prison service?  At what point did parents become completely unable to consider the welfare of their children and make an appropriate decision?  When it became profitable?

Despite what many parents believe, in the UK children don't have to attend school.  The legal requirement is that every child receives an education - so this can be via school or home education.  Some may claim therefore that if you choose a school, you should suck it up and follow the rules.


Our education system is state funded, making parents entirely entitled to an opinion.  Just like choosing an hospital birth doesn't mean you have to shut up or put up with the level of care received regardless.

So it seems whilst schools can decide to take our children on trips they consider important (at cost to us of course), we their parents can't be trusted to make such a decision.

No doubt this is to protect the children who are forever missing school for non educational purposes, perhaps to help run a business or simply because the parents can't be bothered taking them - so this means the entire parent population must suffer because schools can seemingly not apply discretion?  Is there no ground that can be found between an odd authorised day or week and taking the p&£$?

According to The Guardian:
"A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Poor attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect and children who attend school regularly are nearly four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly absent."
But hang on we're not talking about penalising repeat offenders who have "poor attendance" and are "regularly absent".  We're talking about a school refusing a single authorised day even if the purpose is educationally beneficial.

The authorities claim that taking time away from school "disrupts learning", seriously with that many kids in the class you would think a few missing would help rather than hinder - but really at no point in the next 7-14 years of education (depending on the age of the child) can they make up what they miss during a short break away?

What annoys me even more is the ridiculous assumption that the only learning that is worthwhile takes place in a classroom - that a child couldn't possibly learn anything of benefit from a two week holiday away experiencing a difficult culture, language or perhaps learning to build camp fires in the woods.    Of course school organised trips away appear to provide benefits which cannot be replicated by us humble parents.

The fact a holiday may result in a child coming back happy, recharged, and keen to learn, thus potentially making them far more productive - not given any consideration.

But it should be.  Because the very real fact is that if parents don't take non term time holidays, a great many families wont be able to have a holiday at all.

Taking a non term time holidays costs up to £1000 more for a family of four - with significant differences whether you look at Centreparcs or a fortnight abroad.  I hit the Thomas Cook website and searched for a holiday in Spain for two adults and two children.  The first search I picked the two weeks that would finish just before the end of the academic term, the second I selected the first two weeks of the summer holidays.

The price results for a pretty bog standard 3 star hotel:
Spot the half term week at Centreparcs?

You can't really blame the travel companies, of course many parents want to go abroad in school holidays -the basic economic principle of demand and supply highlights a premium will be charged for this.  Money made during the holiday weeks probably subsidises cheaper rates the rest of the year - which is what a great many parents took advantage of.  If rooms are going to be empty more frequently during term times because children aren't allowed to go, prices have to increase for the spaces they can fill for the business to survive. On a larger scale, less visitors outside of peak times may also mean the amount of employees needs to be reduced during those periods too.

This leaves parents divided - some will take the holiday and pay the fine, because £120 for two children still saves them so much it's a no brainer.  But the reality is this classed as a criminal offence, and parents could be prosecuted. The result surely is that some children simply wont get time away as a family.  There are also of course some parents who work in industries that are busiest during holidays, and thus can't take time off then - but hey, as we've discovered someone somewhere decided there was no value to a child spending quality time with their family anyway.

The result however is pretty profitable for the government.  In Sussex alone parents were fined a total of £97,295 for taking their children on holiday during term time.  Add that up across the country and whilst parents might find themselves struggling, the authorities clearly wont.

As for me I'm thinking of taking up a new religion.  According to the guidelines:
"There are exceptions to the rule – missing school for religious observance (a code R absence) must not be treated as unauthorised absence."
I find it quite fascinating in 2014 that religion is the only thing that seems to "trump" the state education system - but what determines "a religion" is a very grey area, so perhaps parents can get creative ;)

Monday, 20 January 2014

Why we will continue to eat full fat dairy (regardless of what Change4Life say!)

Update:  This entry has received a fantastic 193657 hits and I've received huge amounts of mail from people equally unimpressed with the Change4Life initiative.  You can give feedback about the scheme here

Last week my eldest brought a leaflet home from school produced by "Change 4 Life, this week a similar advert has been shown on TV.

It's a scheme backed by the NHS, and Nestle is one of their partners.  Perhaps it's just me who finds it ever so slightly ironic that the most boycotted company in the UK (and one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet), who are frequently accused of "contributing to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world", gets to partner with our National Health Service.  And yes I know Nestle are often accused of a whole host of other things, but that alone could fill a whole blog.

The Change4Life promotion feels like something generated off the back of a social marketing survey, ie someone decided there was no point trying to convince people to opt for healthy, instead we should aim for healthier.  Or perhaps Nestle didn't want their profits hit by a decline in confectionery sales - regardless "Swap it don't stop it" is the slogan.

Note the first example, swap your sugar laden fizzy drinks for sugar free fizzy drinks.  A healthy dose of aspartame *thumbs up*.

Next on the list is milk, there is a whole separate advert telling us to swap from full fat to semi when a child is two, then semi or skimmed milk at age five - but is this really a good idea?

Evidence would suggest not.

"Our original hypothesis was that children who drank high fat milk, either whole milk or two per cent, would be heavier because they were consuming more saturated fat calories,’ said Dr. Mark Daniel DeBoer, an associate professor of pediatric endocrinology."
‘We were really surprised when we looked at the data and it was very clear that within every ethnicity and every socioeconomic strata, that it was actually the opposite, that children who drank skim milk and one-percent were heavier than those who drank two-percent and whole.’

I dug out the study which consisted of 10,700 children:

"1%/skim milk drinkers had higher BMI z scores than 2%/whole milk drinkers. In multivariable analyses, increasing fat content in the type of milk consumed was inversely associated with BMI" (1)

In response David Ludwig of Boston's Children's Hospital said:

"Somehow this low-fat milk has become so entrenched in the nutritional psyche, it persists despite the absence of evidence.  To the contrary, the evidence that now exists suggests an adverse effect of reduced-fat milk."

Perhaps someone should tell Change 4 life this?

Perhaps given the study was only last year, we should give them the benefit of the doubt that this information hasn't trickled down to working level yet?

Except this isn't the first study to link reduced fat milk with increased weight.

A 2010 smaller study of just over 800 children found:
"Higher intake of whole milk at age 2, but not reduced-fat milk, was associated with a slightly lower BMI z score" (2)
OK still within the last 5 years, let's go again.

A 2005 study of 12,829 children found:
". Quantities of 1% milk (boys) and skim milk (girls) were significantly associated with BMI gain"
"Contrary to our hypotheses,dietary calcium and skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not." (3)
Which was EIGHT years ago!

In fact I couldn't find any studies at all that showed better outcome when children drank reduced fat milk.

For some that's no surprise.

Last year during a discussion on the Facebook page, a pig farmer replied that it was a well known fact skimmed milk fattens pigs.    Turns out they were right and a quick Google shows it's a well recognised tip.

For those who follow my main blog and work with babies - we can also see this effect in breastfed infants. Consider a mum with a huge milk supply, or a baby not transferring milk effectively at the breast.  Both may result in a feed higher in lactose (sugar) and lower in fat, often called lactose overload - yet we can see huge weight gain in these babies.

Fat slows the digestive process and thus the passage of lactose through the body, giving time for the production of lactase (the enzyme required to digest lactose).  Without fat, lactose travels much more quickly; the body converts the sugar to fat, resulting in weight gain - yet burns off quickly leaving baby hungry again quickly.

So reduced fat = higher sugar.  Hang on isn't that what is actually shown to be harmful to health?

Check out whole and skimmed milk at Tesco and you will note that the latter carries 5.0g of sugar per 100ml, whilst full fat has 4.7g.

The other problem is that cutting fat also makes milk less nutritious.  Full-fat dairy is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K - when you absorb the fat, you pull the nutrients through with it.  Remove the fats, bye bye vitamins.

If Change 4 Life actually want to make people healthier, the best "swap" would be from standard supermarket milk, to full fat organic, grass fed.  

But that would be too out there right?

A 2013 study examined 384 samples of organic and conventional whole milk over 18 months taken from around the United States, found that organic milk contained 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids and 25 percent fewer omega-6s than non-organic milk. (4)

Researchers highlighted that over the last century, intakes of omega-6 fatty acids in western diets have dramatically increased, while omega-3  intakes have fallen. The resulting imbalance has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, excessive inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
You can read the more about the nutritional differences here.

Change 4 Life then go even further in telling us we should be swapping full fat butter for low fat spread.

If you're working from archaic evidence, this might make sense - but oh dear NHS you are distributing this guff to a nation of school children and their families.  It's really inexcusable.

If you would like to learn more about butter v margarine, click here, here, here and if that isn't enough Google "butter healthy" to read pages and pages more.

The trouble is that Change 4 Life are still working from the premise saturated fat is bad, and I guess it's hard for a health care system to hold their hands up and admit that for the last 20 plus years they got it wrong.

Sweden, a country that has consistently better health outcomes than Britain (5), has however done just that.

Following the publication of a two-year study by the independent Swedish Council, during which the committee reviewed 16,000 studies, came a switch in dietary advice; the report advocates a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, as the most effective weapon against obesity.

"Butter, olive oil, heavy cream, and bacon are not harmful foods. Quite the opposite. Fat is the best thing for those who want to lose weight.

Committee member Prof. Fredrik Nyström said:

“I’ve been working with this for so long. It feels great to have this scientific report, and that the skepticism towards low-carb diets among my colleagues has disappeared during the course of the work. When all recent scientific studies are lined up the result is indisputable: our deep-seated fear of fat is completely unfounded. You don’t get fat from fatty foods, just as you don’t get atherosclerosis from calcium or turn green from green vegetables.”

Professor Nyström has long advocated a greatly reduced intake of carbohydrate-rich foods high in sugar and starch.  This means doing away with sugar, potatoes, pasta, rice, wheat flour, bread, and embracing olive oil, nuts, butter, full fat cream, oily fish and fattier meat cuts. “If you eat potatoes you might as well eat candy. Potatoes contain glucose units in a chain, which is converted to sugar in the GI tract. Such a diet causes blood sugar, and then the hormone insulin, to skyrocket.”

And that's the problem isn't it?  Many schools are still teaching an out of date food pyramid, often referred to as the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Take a look at what that claims we should eat most - carbs.  Probably wont shock you to hear it was the US Department of Agriculture that developed this beauty ;)

I asked nutritionist Michael Walne BSc PHNutr of Your Nutrition Matters for his thoughts:
"Dietary Fat and Body Fat are synonymous. High fat foods = Obesity, Heart Disease; Stroke; etc … Right?
I have treated clients who have suffered from high blood cholesterol levels for most of their adult life; their condition ‘hereditary’; having followed the standard approach to managing their cholesterol – reducing fat intake, reducing saturated fats with regular often intensive exercise – they watched their cholesterol levels creeping closer to that pivotal figure where the mighty statins step in (global market value c.$20b) and make everything ‘alright’.
What did these people need? Were there any hidden fats in their diet? Was their metabolic rate to blame? Or was it their genes?
Do you know what fixed their blood cholesterol levels? They cut out sugar. They cut out carbohydrates of the refined kind. Not just sweet carbs, but white flour carbs; all of them.
True health cannot be achieved if we limit truly good fats. Fat, not sugar and spice, is what we are made of… If we listen to this standard approach to fat we allow the refined carbs of the West to supply us with an excess. And it is this excess that the body has no choice but to turn into unhealthy body fats."
So please Change4Life, if you can't get it right, leave it alone.

Your claim that "These days, school lunches are almost certainly healthier than most packed lunches - and tastier too!" is frankly insulting.  Perhaps if school lunches were lower in carbs and higher in fats, concentration and behaviour may even improve?

Distributing material via schools and media is powerful, most parents want to do what is right for their children and will follow this guidance. My own daughter was concerned about fat consumption after reading the leaflet, if things don't change the next generation will be lost to the myth fat makes you fat as well.

  • 1. Arch Dis Child 2013;98:335-340 doi:10.1136/archdischild-2012-302941
  • 2. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Apr;110(4):563-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.12.025
  • 3. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jun;159(6):543-50
  • 4.Organic Production Enhances Milk Nutritional Quality by Shifting Fatty Acid Composition: A United States–Wide, 18-Month Study Charles M. Benbrook, Gillian Butler, Maged A. Latif, Carlo Leifert,
  • Donald R. Davis, Published: December 09, 2013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082429
  • 5.  Civitas, Healthcare Systems: Sweden & localism – an example for the UK? Oct 2013