Quinn on Nutrition: Irish insights

March 19, 2018

Itís that time of year when this Irish-descended nutritionist paints her toenails green and makes sure she has currents and caraway seeds to make Grandma Quinnís famous (in the Quinn family, anyway) Irish soda bread. I also look for funny limericks, like this one from

There once was a farmer from Leeds,

Who swallowed a packet of seeds.

It soon came to pass, He was covered with grass,

But has all the tomatoes he needs.

And then I start thinking about Tom, a cheerful Irishman I met several years ago when he was in the States visiting his daughter, Avril. 

When we met, he shook my hand with a smile and announced, "Iím Toum." 

ToumÖ? Oh..! Glad to meet you, Tom.

He smiled some more. Then he told me that he had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and could use a bit of advice. At that point, he had only had one round of nutrition counseling in Ireland with "a wee girl in her twenties who sent me off with a bit of paper."

As we shared a cup of tea, he explained that, after his diagnosis, his vigilant daughter put him on a strict diet when he came to America for a visit. 

"I was 11 and half stone," he said. 

I looked at Avril. 

"A stone is 14 pounds," she explained. We did the mathÖ161 pounds. 

"And when I got back home from America, I was a waif. I had lost a stone (14 pounds). I had to tell the girls in the chemists shop who I was."

Chemists shop? I looked at Avril again.

"Pharmacy," she interpreted.

What do you usually eat for breakfast? I asked.

"A plate of porridge." 

"Oatmeal," Avril clarified.

"And sometimes bacon and eggs. We use potatoes a lot...and bread."

I was not surprised. Do you check your blood sugar with a glucose monitor? I asked.

He produced a familiar-looking meter with numbers that had me a wee bit confused. We finally figured out that in Ireland, blood sugars are measured in millimoles per liter. To convert that to American milligrams per deciliter, the Irish values need to be multiplied by 18. 

Do you eat any sweet foods? I inquired.

"No, I donít eat sweets," he said.

His daughter eyed him sternly. "What about the apple tart?" 

"Oh, yes, the apple tart," he smiled. "I thought you meant candies."

I havenít talked to Tom in a while. But according to Avril, heís doing just fine in Ireland, riding his bicycle around the countryside, generally staying away from candies and cutting his helpings of soda bread and potato bread to just a "bit of a loaf." 

Good health to ye, Tom. Happy Saint Paddyís Day.



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