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Kitchen on prescription in New Milton is helping people improve their health

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LAUGHTER is not what you expect to hear at an event attended by people who are dealing with pre-diabetes.

But that is what’s going on at a new cookery course in New Milton, one of only a handful in the country being prescribed to help people “eat themselves healthy” by reducing blood sugar and weight.

It is run by Natasha Beatty, who owns Fresh Kitchen Cookery School, in conjunction with Coastal Medical Partnership and funded via New Milton Town Council with a £15,000 government grant.

Susan Ware says her whole way of eating has changed thanks to the course
Susan Ware says her whole way of eating has changed thanks to the course

Today Natasha is persevering with her lesson while some women on the course are discussing how they have lost so much weight they need new underwear.

Attendee Susan Ware (68) said: “I thought it might be boring, like being back at school. But it’s been great fun.

“We’ve also learnt so much. It’s certainly changed the whole way my husband and I eat now.”

Susan said it came as a “huge shock” when routine blood tests showed her sugar levels were high. She was diagnosed as pre-diabetic and suffering from acid reflux.

Since attending the month-long course her sugar levels have gone down and she feels “altogether so much better”.

Coastal Medical Partnership social prescriber Olly Leicester
Coastal Medical Partnership social prescriber Olly Leicester

Held at the Quaker meeting house in Whitefield Road, most of those attending were steered there by Olly Leicester, a “social prescriber” for the Coastal Medical Partnership.

He said: “I work at changing people’s lifestyles to improve their physical health.

“A course like this is a real investment for the NHS because if we can reverse someone’s Type 2 pre-diabetes, they will not need expensive treatment for full diabetes in the future.”

Linda Beaton (72) has gained friends and lost so much weight she has had to buy a belt to keep up her trousers.

Kim Saunders (left) and Linda Beaton
Kim Saunders (left) and Linda Beaton

A former nurse, she said: “I moved down here just before the pandemic started so found it hard to make new friends.

“I’ve met some great people on the course and my blood pressure has gone down 20 points. My whole persona has changed, I am much happier.”

Pam Wright (64), who has lost a stone, said: “I’ve been a diabetic for 20 years and this course has really helped me. My sugar levels are much lower now.”

Philip, a diabetic for 14 years, said his blood sugar levels which are normally between 10-11 are now seven to nine.

Natasha Beatty passes on tips on what foods to eat
Natasha Beatty passes on tips on what foods to eat

He said: “The course has changed my eating habits completely.”

During the sessions, which run from 10.30am to 2.30pm, Natasha talks about what foods the group should be eating – and avoiding. She also gets them to help create simple dishes.

Today’s menu features smoked mackerel pate made with full fat cream cheese served with homemade keto crackers created from almond flour, chia seeds and egg. This is followed by white fish in a tomato sauce served with celeriac crisps.

This dish is a revelation for Kim Saunders (66), who has never eaten fish in her life. She credits the course for bringing her “sky-high blood pressure” down.

Baked fish in tomato sauce with celeriac chips was one of the dishes prepared
Baked fish in tomato sauce with celeriac chips was one of the dishes prepared

Natasha, who has hosted a cookery demo at the National Diabetic Conference in Olympia, London, said: “The aim of the course is to give patients the ability to help themselves.

“To me, I’ve got one of the most important jobs in the world, guiding people along a journey where what they learn about how healthy eating can prolong, or even save their lives.”

Rose Neary, a GP at Coastal’s Arnewood practice, agreed: “This is an amazing opportunity for patients to take control of their own health.”

Dropping into this week’s session was Cllr Geoff Blunden from New Forest District Council and cabinet member for partnering and wellbeing.

He said: “It was really pleasing to hear the progress that had been made over a relatively short time to reduce not only blood sugar levels and weight but also general health.”

New Milton residents can find out more by emailing olly.leicester@nhs.net or asking at their surgery.

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