Actor Rory Cowan discusses his favourite foods, his recent type 2 diabetes diagnosis and his fantasy Last Supper…
Where do you shop?
I do my food shopping in M&S. I’d starve if it wasn’t for M&S. Because I’ve been recently diagnosed as a Type Two Diabetic, the M&S brands give me all the information I need on how much sugar and carbs are in each product.
Can you list the contents of your weekly shop?
The M&S Count On Us Range of Chicken Curry, Fish Pie, Braised Beef Dinner and Cod Mornay Dinner
Describe your typical breakfast
A bowl of porridge and two poached eggs on toast.
Describe your typical lunch
An open sandwich with an Americano. If I really want comfort, I’ll have the coronation chicken open sandwich in The Restaurant by Johnnie Cooke at Brown Thomas or a Club sandwich (minus the bacon) in the Shelbourne Hotel.
At home it’s an M&S meal but I love going to The Trocadero restaurant. My meals there vary: steak or monkfish with mash and vegetables or cannelloni with salad. I’ve had to give up the desserts.
Oh God! I used to love snacks! Chocolate bars, sweets and crisps. I can’t eat them anymore. I’m still trying to meander my way around this diabetes thing so I’m not up to speed yet with what I can eat.
Is there anything you won’t eat?
Any meat from a pig. I’m thinking of cutting out dairy too because of the dairy industry’s cruelty to animals. We need to stop that bad treatment of animals.
What would you cook to impress someone?
Chicken with mash and roast potatoes and a selection of vegetables. I’d make sure there was plenty of wine so that people wouldn’t mind so much that had they left their homes and got a taxi to come to my house for a chicken dinner!
What is your guilty food pleasure?
Tiramisu! I still sometimes have it, even though I shouldn’t because of the diabetes, but I love it.
What is your ultimate comfort food?
It used to be a bag of broken up crisps with a small bag of salted peanuts thrown in. Give them a good shake up and voilà – the perfect comfort food.
What is your favourite takeaway?
Roast breast of chicken and chips and a fresh sliced pan to make a sandwich with some of the chips. Oh, and a small bottle of coke to wash them down with. Can’t do that anymore either but I did love those takeaways.
Have you tried any diet fads in the past six months?
I tried the “no sugar no carb” and “eat only protein and veg” diet. It works until the minute you stop the diet and then every single pound goes back on. But a couple of months ago I was diagnosed with diabetes and that’s the best diet I’ve ever tried because you have to stick to it. I’ve lost five kilos.
What would be your Last Supper?
At that stage I wouldn’t be worrying about having diabetes. I’d be like Henry VIII and have a banquet and I’d be eating so fast I’d be throwing the chicken bones over my shoulder while reaching for more food. There’d be mashed potatoes, chocolate cake, tiramisu, pâté, chicken, lots of wine, port and vodka. And to keep things healthy an apple!
It’s encouraging to know that Rory is taking a responsible approach to his recent type 2 diabetes diagnosis, and is following the guidelines given to him by his doctor, while figuring out what foods will be most suitable for his new dietary plan. For T2 diabetes, it’s important to choose foods that don’t spike blood glucose levels, so that means focusing on high-fibre whole foods, lean protein, lots of vegetables and healthy sources of fats. In fact, fibre is key to insulin control for everybody as it slows down the speed at which digested foods hit your bloodstream and encourage feelings of satiety and a longer more sustained energy release.
Animal-based foods are basically devoid of fibre, which is why including an abundance of plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and wholegrains is so important for supporting overall health and normal digestive function. Rory’s shopping basket features plenty of healthy whole foods including porridge oats, potatoes and vegetables, plus lean protein and ready meals for convenience after a busy day of Panto rehearsals and performances. Regular potatoes are a useful source of fibre and vitamin C, but sweet potatoes provide even more goodness, including antioxidant beta-carotene, plus they digest more slowly than regular potatoes and therefore have less of as blood sugar impact. Despite their name, sweet potatoes are considered a low-GI food and appropriate for anyone with a focus on blood sugar control.
For breakfast, Rory opts for porridge and two poached eggs on toast. Packed with fibre and slow-release complex carbs, porridge is a super option to fuel an active day and releases its carbohydrate more gradually for sustained energy. He may want to add a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseed, which offers plant-based fatty acids and plenty of fibre to help support gut health and normal digestion. Other excellent sources include fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel for their crucial long-chain poly-unsaturated fatty acids EPA and DHA, plus walnuts, chia seeds, avocado, chlorella and spirulina.
As an excellent source of complete protein, eggs help to support your body’s growth, repair and production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes, amongst many other functions. The essential amino acids must be eaten in your diet regularly to encourage normal growth and development, and it’s generally advised to eat a protein-rich food with every meal and snack. Protein also help to stabilise blood sugar levels to maintain energy levels and help you to stay feeling full for longer. Rory may also want to add some spinach or avocado to his egg breakfast for a boost of fibre, as avocados are packed with minerals and healthy fatty acids.
Furthermore, I would encourage him to choose seeded brown or wholemeal bread rather than regular white bread, to support blood sugar control. Rory’s lunch is usually a chicken or club sandwich, and again I would suggest he chooses the brown bread option to reduce the speed at which his system digests it. White flour and refined sugar products are notorious for disrupting blood glucose and insulin control. I would also advise that Rory orders a green salad on the side to increase his intake of fresh produce and key nutrients, including magnesium. Known as nature’s sedative, magnesium helps to relax muscles and reduce nervous system tension, even supporting lowered stress levels and improved sleep. It’s a great idea for most people to increase their intake and aim to eat steamed, lightly sautéed or raw green veggies a couple of times a day.
Rory’s evening meal tends to be either a ready meal or a restaurant dish. Both options can be relatively healthy options depending on what you choose, but both can also be high in salt, sugar and vegetable oils, so I would strongly encourage Rory to consider cooking at home from scratch when possible. Chicken stir-fry dishes, healthy stews and curries would all be suitable for him and he can control what exactly goes into the meals. Filling up on fresh salads and vegetables is one of the most effective ways to increase fibre levels and support blood sugar control. Suitable snacks for Rory include raw unsalted nuts, which offer healthy sources of fat and essential minerals, but don’t hugely disrupt blood sugar. Fresh berries are a useful low-sugar fruit and rich in protective antioxidants, and carrot sticks with hummus or guacamole is another suitable option. Good luck Rory and keep up the positive changes.