Tune Up your Mother’s Day breakfast with Dr. Kirstine Bell

May 08, 2020

Dr Kirstine Bell is a Credentialled Diabetes Educator, dietitian and researcher who runs a type 1 diabetes research program at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. You can read more about her research, and what she’s getting up to during lockdown here. She’s also mum of beautiful 10 month old Isla, and tomorrow is her first Mother’s Day. We sat down with Dr. Bell to talk about being a mum, healthy recipes and food science, where she divulged her favourite corn fritters recipe. Thank us later!

We know a lot has changed for you, both personally and professionally in the past year – including leading Australia’s first general population screening program for type 1 diabetes and the very exciting introduction of your baby girl! How are you finding mum life?

Mum life has been wonderful. It’s a brand-new challenge and I’ve had to learn how to give over control of my day to her – but, she’s a very good little girl and she’s made the introduction to parenthood a breeze.

I’m very fortunate that I am able to continue working on this exciting new Australian General Population Screening project from home during this COVID-19 pandemic – with lots of video meetings.  I’m also lucky in that the current situation has given me more quality time with my daughter as I can spend my mornings and afternoons with her instead of commuting into the office. A very unexpected upside to this terrible coronavirus!

So this weekend will be your first Mother’s Day, how exciting! Are you planning anything special for Sunday?

The short answer is I don’t know – I’m very interested to see what my husband has planned. I’m also planning to see my mum and my mother in law now that social distancing restrictions have eased a little, so that will be a nice treat.

We’re sure cooking up something special in the kitchen is going to feature heavily on the Mother’s Day agenda for a lot of our community, so thank you so much for sharing your corn fritters recipe with us. We know our community will have loads of fun whipping those up at home and with the confidence of accurate nutritional information. Is this recipe one that comes with a story?

It does indeed come with a story! My mum actually introduced me to them and taught me how to make them. We’ve always bonded over cooking and baking, but we’re very experimental chefs. Neither of us can ever seem to stick to a recipe (we view them more as a guide!), so this is one is perfect because we can chop and change it depending on what’s in the pantry.

I now regularly cook fritters for my daughter who loves feeding herself and is becoming quite independent. It’s a great way of getting some extra veggies into her diet too.

Sometimes kids can be such picky eaters! Do you do anything differently with the recipe to make it more kid-friendly?

Thankfully, my daughter is young enough that I can trick her into trying all types of food and she eats everything. That said, I do switch around the main ingredients all the time! Just last week, I made her rainbow fritters with corn, zucchini, capsicum and carrot and chopped them up as finger food. She loved them.

For the pickier eaters, it’s all about making it fun and involving them in the cooking process, especially for the older kids. Letting them choose some of the ingredients or help stir will go a long way in getting them on board for your Mother’s Day breakfast.

As a dietitian, CDE and research leader, we know your recipe will not only be delicious, but it’ll also be nutritious as well. Could you explain a little around why it’s such a good option this Mother’s Day for the T1D community?

For Mother’s Day I wanted to share something that would be delicious and special for Mother’s Day as well as a little bit of fun in the kitchen, but you’re right – the corn fritters are certainly a nutritious option too.

Breakfast is traditionally a carbohydrate-heavy meal where a lot of people struggle to fit in the protein and veggies, so this recipe will make sure there’s a good balance of macros across breakfast, lunch and dinner – which will please your tastebuds as much as your stomach.

There’s about 40g carbohydrate (or 3 exchanges) in each serve of fritters.  You’ve also got a great source of protein in one of the key ingredients, egg. Eggs contain all the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for proteins in muscles. Milk and cheese are also a great protein additions to the dish and adds a little extra calcium for strong bones.

Filling the fritters out with veggies & herbs and serving with rocket and roasted tomato adds so much extra flavour and colour to the dish. They also give you an extra hit of vitamins and fill you up with fibre.

What modifications would you suggest for those with lower carb or gluten free dietary requirements?

In terms of making the fritters a lower carb option, you can make them with either a lot less flour, or you could eliminate it completely – almost like a frittata. This version will be runnier, so you might choose to bake it in a muffin tin for individual servings or a dish and cut it into slices.

For those who have coeliac disease and are looking for a gluten free option, you can substitute the flour in the recipe for your preferred gluten free alternative.

The fritters are egg-based, which ties in with your research on fat & protein impacts on BGL and insulin dosing. Tell us some more about this research and why it’s important for those living with T1D.

 When I started as a dietitian, we only ever looked at carbohydrate when we were talking about mealtime insulin dosing and blood glucose levels.  However, the T1D community really highlighted that there was something else happening here, especially for high fat and protein foods – like the now classic high blood glucose levels overnight after pizza.

As a result, I did my PhD looking at the effect of fat and protein on blood glucose levels, and how we should dose insulin for these nutrients.

We’ve come a long way from where we started – it’s now recognised that fat and protein do impact blood glucose levels and some people will need to dose insulin differently for these meals.  However, fat and protein affect blood glucose levels differently to carbohydrates. Carbs impact blood glucose levels quickly, whereas fat and proteins are much more delayed, kicking in 2-3 hours after eating and lasting for many hours afterward. This effect can be very surprising and tricky to get on top of for people living with T1D, so it’s been incredibly rewarding to help validate and explain what people are experiencing.

We’re still figuring out exactly how insulin needs to be adjusted and it’s likely very individualised, so it’s a good idea for people to touch base with their diabetes team if it’s something they’d like to consider.

Check out Dr. Bell’s mouth-watering corn fritters recipe below, and show us the final product on Facebook (@jdrfoz) or Instagram (@jdrfaus) if you give it a go in your kitchen!