What you eat


Local resident and dietitian Nikki Ottonaro is keen to help reduce the high rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in our area, and will be running free workshops on healthy eating this autumn

Are you concerned about the health of you and your family? Do you need to know how to nourish your family on a budget with meals you can all enjoy? Are you looking for ideas for fun activities to promote more movement for you and your family? Are you overwhelmed with all the healthy eating information available?

These are frequent questions I have been asked over the last 14 years as a community-based NHS and freelance dietitian. I’m a working mum with three children and have first-hand experience of the challenges we face when trying to provide the family with a nutritious meal and continually trying to encourage a healthy lifestyle in this digital age.

In my years working as a specialist diabetes dietitian, I recognise the important role that a healthy, balanced diet plays in people’s lives, particularly children and young people. I meet many patients who have complex medical needs, which have either been caused or worsened by poor nutrition. It’s so important to have a varied diet with a good level of vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal growth and development. 

In many cases, poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to a number of serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, amongst many others. In my experience, the best way to combat this increasing problem is to tackle the root cause of the issue, which is improving knowledge and awareness of a healthy diet in the home and providing parents and guardians with information on cooking healthy, nutritious meals. Children often develop eating habits based on those of their parents and take these forward into their adult life. I want to impart my knowledge and expertise to local parents and help to debunk some of the confusing healthy eating messages we are bombarded with.

Current figures show there are 3.8 million people living with the diagnosis of diabetes in the UK and 90% of those have type 2. It is thought there are also another million people in the UK living with diabetes who don’t know they have it. By 2030, it is predicted the numbers will rise by 17%. Worryingly, Redbridge has one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in London – currently at 8.66% (the average for London boroughs is 6.51%). Obesity is the main driver for the condition, but age, family history and ethnicity all play a role.

With a background in fitness, I also understand the connection between our physical and mental health. So, it’s essential to have a holistic approach to healthy living, looking at lifestyle and exercise, as well as food.

Nikki’s free workshop will take place at Woodford Community Centre, Prospect Road on 14 October from 2.30pm to 4.30pm. Email n.ottonaro@nhs.net