After a stroke: strive to be happy

We hear how Sharitha Moodley, a Type 2 diabetic, suffered a stroke over a year ago, and how her and her husband, Chico, are adapting to the life changes.

Sharitha Moodley will celebrate her 60thbirthday on 27 September. She lives in Meyersdal, Gauteng with her husband, Chico. They have one adult son and a deceased daughter.

Type 2 diabetes

In 2005, at the age of 46, Shari was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Both her parents and grandparents had Type 2 diabetes. “This is a gift I got from them,” Shari jokes.

Shari was put on Glucophage. However, that gave her diarrhoea so Glucovance (twice daily) was prescribed. Shari was also diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and was prescribed the necessary medication.

Shari admits that she never made any lifestyle changes once diagnosed and continued smoking. “I carried on living my life as normal but my diabetes was controlled,” Shari says.

Massive stroke

The 12thAugust 2017 was just like any other day. Chico and Shari had gone about their everyday duties and then sat down to have dinner. Shari then sneezed and in that moment everything changed; she had a massive ischemic stroke caused by a plaque build-up in the carotid artery in her neck.

“I remember my body went lame and I asked Chico to hold me. He came behind me and I tried to stand up but just fell down,” Shari explains.

Chico battled for an hour to get Shari to the couch due to her weight. Plus, she was kicking and moving the right side of her body as she was panicked and frustrated. And to top it all, she needed to use the bathroom. “I was like Waltzing Matilda,” jokes Shari.

Once Chico got Shari settled, he phoned an ambulance and within half an hour Shari was taken to the nearest private hospital. While waiting for the ambulance, Shari demanded Chico to bring a mirror as she said her mouth was drooping. “I knew I had had a stroke,” Shari says

Shocking treatment

Chico and Shari feel that once Shari was in hospital, the doctors were betting what had happened to her. “Instead of getting down to the job of finding out what happened to her, they kept asking each other, ‘What do think it is?’, ‘I bet it is a transient ischemic attack (TIA).’”

Eventually Shari was sent for a CT scan. However, the blockage could not be picked up. Thereafter an MRI was done, but still the blockage was not located. “It was a small machine (carotid ultrasound) that finally picked up the blockage in her neck,” Chico explains.

By this time, Shari’s sugar levels were crazy so she was put on insulin to stabilise them. Blood thinners were also prescribed.

During the four-day stay in the hospital, not once did a neurologist see Shari and to date – no doctor has told Shari what type of stroke she had. Everything Shari and Chico know about her stroke, they have researched themselves.

Shari came home once she was discharged from hospital, only to be rushed back to hospital again two days later. “It felt like I was having a heart attack and I couldn’t breathe,” Shari explains. Though, luckily, it turned out to be indigestion from eating pawpaw and pineapple.

The long road of rehabilitation

A nearby private rehabilitation centre was suggested by family. Shari was booked in for two weeks, but the couple weren’t happy with the level of care that was offered. So, Shari was moved to a private rehab centre in Pietermaritzburg (where Chico and Shari are from) for two months. At least here, Chico had the support of his family, plus some members of Shari’s family.

Here Shari underwent what she calls a rollercoaster of recovery. She had to do exercises every day even though most days she was in such agony. Added to that, Shari was struggling emotionally. Today, she still finds it hard to accept the results of the stroke.

The doctors suggested she go on an anti-depressant but Shari was adamant to not rely on medication. She knew through her own life’s obstacles – her daughter passed away at the age of nine after being diagnosed with cerebral atrophy at age four – that one needs to face life head on. “I thought I had learnt all of this in life, but no, life has its curve balls. I have learnt a hell of a lot from having a stroke. It has taught me to keep my sanity above all,” Shari says.

Progress made

In Chico opinion’s it was the three occupational therapists at the Pietermaritzburg rehab that have gotten Shari where she is today. “If Shari told them she was tired, they would push to make her finish the whole session. If she started crying, they would hug her and comfort her. They were really supportive,” Chico adds.

After those two months of therapy, Shari could sit up straight whereas before she would fall to the left. She stands with the help of someone and can be moved from bed to wheelchair easily. Unfortunately, she still can’t move her left leg or arm but has slight sensation in her toes and fingers. But the Moodleys haven’t given up hope and trust to see Shari walking again.

In contrast, Chico feels the physiotherapist was useless. “He would just walk in, ask how she is and press a bit on her body and then leave,” Chico explains.

Above all, Shari’s speech has seen the best improvement; her mind is still as sharp as a whip and her sense of humour still has everyone in stitches.

Unbeknown warning sign

Unbeknown to Shari, she had a warning sign. Two weeks before the stroke, after she got out of the shower and was dressing, when she tried to get up from pulling her pants up, she couldn’t. In those few seconds, she felt ‘very strange’. It passed quickly and soon she was feeling normal again.

Only once she explained this to a doctor after the massive stroke, was she told that this was a warning sign, a mini-stroke (TIA) and that she should have gone straight to the hospital.

“We didn’t know that then. But we do now and that is our reason for sharing our story, in hopes of helping other by informing them of the warning signs,” Chico and Shari say.

Coming home

At first, Chico was worried about the townhouse being too small but they both have adapted brilliantly. A motorised wheelchair was donated and a normal wheelchair was given by another family member. Chico bought a sturdy chair for Shari to sit on in the shower, while he assists her. They have a domestic worker, who Chico leaves with Shari if he needs to pop out to the shop, but other than that Chico is Shari’s caregiver every minute of the day.

It was only once Shari was home that her blood glucose levels normalised; throughout the rehab stay insulin was being administrated.

The couple still go away for weekends, visit the casino and socialise with family. “We are not going to stop our lives, we must carry on,” Shari says.

Since the stroke, Shari has stopped smoking. In fact, she can’t stand the smell of it and now Chico must smoke outside. It took a good few months for Shari’s appetite to come back after the stroke. And, in that time, she lost roughly 20 kilograms.

With regards to food, Chico is the one who advocates and pushes Shari to eat healthy and avoid fatty foods. Now that Shari’s appetite is back with a vengeance, this is where love spats emerge. Though, the two have such a beautiful relationship that they can laugh about their quarrels later.

Shari misses cooking the most. “I am Indian and I love Indian food. I remember when I was in hospital, I had a Norwegian dietitian telling me what I should eat. What does a Norwegian know about Indian food?” Shari laughs. “But Chico has become a good cook now with my instructions.”

Her man by her side

Her dear husband, Chico, has played a colossal role in her recovery. “He never gives up on me,” Shari adds. Every day, Chico would arrive at the rehab at 5am and only leave at 11pm in the evening. With every exercise that was done, Chico was there to learn how it was done so he would know how to do it when they came back home.

“She is my queen, I made a vow in sickness and in health,” Chico says. “How are you going to enjoy the good times if you don’t go through bad times? You have to accept life and move on.”

Chico admits that at the time of Shari’s stroke, he was so overwhelmed by everyone’s advice. “I got told to do this and do that, take her here, don’t take here there, and I was desperate. I had never been in such a situation so I just did what everyone told me. All the advice from these people – nurses, friends, family, etc. – can confuse you. They tell you about a place and you think you’re going to take her there and it is going to work like magic and she will be fine again. But, it is not like that,” Chico explains.

Never give up hope

It has been a year since the stroke but Chico and Shari still believe Shari will walk again. She continues with physiotherapy and occupational therapy. “I think of Stephen Hawkins and how much he achieved and I am inspired by him. Then Sharon Stone’s story of a seven-year recovery after her stroke also gives me hope,” Shari says. “My older sister had a TIA. Hers was a minor stroke and she made a full recovery. So, will I.”

When asked to reflect on her stroke, Shari responds while crying, “I never expected this. Chico was retiring and we were going to enjoy our life together…But I am ready for healing now. You can’t heal before acceptance sets in. I have accepted my stroke and I am ready to heal now.”


Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on [email protected]

LesDaChef – living with diabetes

Five months ago, Lesego Semenya, aka LesDaChef, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. We caught up with the 36-year-old chef to see if his love for food has changed.

Lesego Semenya (36) stays in Meredale, JHB south, Gauteng.

Who is LesDaChef?

I’m a former process engineer. I used to wear a tie and suit every day for six years before the madness hit me. After I quit the corporate scene I travelled around SA for a year. Once I got tired of that I enrolled at Prue Leith Chef’s Academy in June 2009. I studied towards a Grande Diploma in Food and Wine (basically I’m a chef with an expensive signed cardboard that says I am).

Whilst at the academy, I entered a World Cup Pie Designing competition run by the British High Commission. I won; the prize was a trip to London to cook in one of the best restaurants in the UK, Corrigans Mayfair.

I’ve cooked for TV shows, for celebrities, for politicians and high profile people. I’ve worked in restaurants, game lodges, as a private chef and in catering.

Tell us more about your diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in April 2018, a few days after my birthday. My symptoms included fatigue, excessive craving of frozen food items, unquenchable thirst, running to the loo uncontrollably, struggling with sleep and sunken eyes.

I went to the pharmacy to get a vitamin B shot, thinking it was just tiredness from work. The pharmacist on duty told me to first do a blood glucose test.

After a few tests, the nurse at the pharmacy immediately told me to head to hospital. I was admitted for two weeks.

In your blog, you speak about not even knowing what type of diabetes your father had. Please explain.

Even though we knew my dad was diabetic, we kids didn’t know the type he had or what it meant. (He has Type 1 diabetes). As kids, you don’t really see any symptoms of diabetes in your parents. Especially, if they look after themselves well. Without obvious symptoms, we assumed it was a simple thing. We just knew the diet we had at home was different from our friends and relatives but we just thought it was because our father was a health freak. My dad didn’t really go into the details of what his diabetes was about.

Usually Type 1 is diagnosed in childhood. How did the doctors explain your diagnosis in adulthood?

Type 1 can happen at any stage of a person’s life. Internationally, doctors still don’t know what triggers it. My dad only got diagnosed with Type 1 in his 30s as well, like myself.

Are you aware of Type 1.5 diabetes?

No, I’ve only ever heard of Type 1 and Type 2.

What is Type 1.5 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes diagnosed in adults over 30 may be Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), sometimes known as Type 1.5 diabetes. LADA is sometimes referred to as Type 1.5 diabetes. This is not an official term but it does illustrate the fact that LADA is a form of Type 1 diabetes that shares some characteristics with Type 2 diabetes. As a form of Type 1 diabetes, LADA is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and kills off insulin producing cells. The reasons why LADA can often be mistaken for Type 2 diabetes is it develops over a longer period of time than Type 1 diabetes in children or younger adults. Whereas Type 1 diabetes in children tends to develop quickly, sometimes within the space of days, LADA develops more slowly, sometimes over a period of years. The slower onset of diabetes symptoms being presented in people over 35 years may lead a GP to initially diagnose a case of LADA as Type 2 diabetes. (Source:  Look out for our summer issue where we cover Type 1.5 in much more detail.

What insulin are you on?

The insulin I’m on at the moment is Insuman Comb 30/70. I also take Amlodipine (for high blood pressure) and Simvastatin (for high cholestrol).

You bought a Contour Plus glucose monitor? Explain why?

I was given a machine by the hospital, one made by On Call. I used it for the first 30 days after my diagnosis. Though, finding test strips for the machine became a problem. I then purchased a Contour Plus machine. It’s smaller and slicker then the standard machines out there and the strips are available at most pharmacies. It syncs with my phone and has a brilliant app that helps track your nutrient intake, your exercise routine and your sugar levels. This helps in keeping track of what foods spike your sugar levels and how you react to different things. It saves all the data to the cloud so even if you lose your phone your data is always available.

How have you been managing since your diagnosis?

My daily readings have been consistent and steady. There has been one high spike and one extremely low but these were linked to being busy with work and not being vigilant with my water intake and not eating regular small portions. Other than that, I’ve been coping well.

I’ve also slowed down my routine. I have stopped working on Mondays. I schedule my work and my life with more focus on working smart rather than working hard.

Do you find testing and injecting a hassle?

Not really. When I’m catering an outside event, or know I’ll be away from my house for the whole day, I take my insulin pen and test machine along. It’s a quick process and it’s become part of life now. I also am not shy about it. All my friends know and I take my shot and test in front of them…and explain what it’s all about if it’s the first time they see it.

How has your diet changed?

  • I avoid all white maize. So, no mealie meal for me.
  • I avoid processed sugar. Although, I do still taste desserts and cakes now and then but it will only be a teaspoon-sized taste.
  • If I drink alcohol, it’s only spirits or red wine only drink with one or two glasses max and always followed up by a bottle of water. I avoid any ciders, beers or cocktails.
  • Three times a day, I have fruit and never all at once. I avoid bananas, grapes and dried fruits. The less ripe the fruit the better.
  • I drink about three litres of water a day.
  • When I can, I source low-GI breads, -rice, -biscuits and -spices.
  • I only eat sugar-free and fat-free yoghurt.
  • Every morning I try have Mabele, if not then I have oats. The fibre and low-GI quality of these two cereals is good for diabetes control.
  • I watch the amount of salt I consume. Pre-mixed spice blends, like BBQ spice, are a no-no.
  • Condiments and overly oily food are also a no.
  • I don’t eat processed meats like sausages, sandwich ham, etc.
  • I have a love/hate relationship with sweeteners. I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t have an after taste. During my research, I’ve learned a few of these sweeteners aren’t good for you. So, I stay clear.

List the foods that you’ve found spike your blood sugar

  • Very sweet/low fibre fruit, such as strawberries, bananas and watermelon.
  • Popcorn and white starches, like crackers, chips, white bread and white rice.

Since getting diabetes, has it changed your mind-set of making food?

It has changed my mind about needles! Before, I was freaked out by needles and blood. Now I don’t even flinch at them. When I wake up each morning I drink water, prick my finger, do a blood glucose level test and then inject my insulin before having breakfast. It’s a daily routine, it must happen. If I skip breakfast, my sugar levels will plummet to critical levels.

I’ve had to get my mind into the concept of having regular meals throughout the day. Even when I’m not hungry I still eat a fruit or snack (a spoon of peanut butter or crackers). It has also affected how long I stay out if I go out. I can’t have dinner too late at night.

Something I’ve tried to explain over and over to deaf ears is that I’m a chef and the food I post on social media is work and not my lunch. Then people tag me in green, unappetising health-freak posts! I understand it comes from a good place but the information overload is real and sometimes some of the facts on these health-freak sites are incorrect. 

Have you been inspired to make tasty diabetic dishes?

Yes. I’ve always been health conscious in terms of the type of produce I use. Fresh and seasonal has always been a mantra for me but now I’ve become even more vigilant about ingredients and products I use.

I have been playing around with diabetic friendly recipes and dishes. More to keep myself away from the usual bland and boring stuff people normally associate with diabetic-friendly diets. I’ve been asked to put together a diabetes focused cookbook, which will focus on African taste.

Are you the designated cook in your household?

I live alone so I have no choice but when my girlfriend is around, we take turns.

What’s next on the table?

Currently, I do private events and functions. I also own a culinary business that does monthly classes and monthly chef’s table. Soon, I will be releasing my own product range. My first cookbook is coming out in October and there is a TV show in the pipeline for later this year.


Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on [email protected]

Albany Bread-A-Betix Omega MEGA Muncher


  • 1-2 slices Albany Bread-A-Betix Low GI Wholewheat Brown Bread
  • Zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • 80ml cottage cheese
  • 5ml dill chopped + extra for garnish
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • Sliced red onion
  • Smoked mackerel fillet


  1. 1. First create the lemon cottage cheese by mixing together lemon juice, zest, cottage cheese and chopped dill.
    2. Spread mixture onto 1 slice of bread.
    3. Layer on the sliced red onion.
    4. Flake the mackerel fillet and place on top.
    5. Garnish with spring onion and dill.
    6. You can close up your sarm with another slice of bread if desired!

Albany Bread-A-Betix Do The Salsa!


  • 2 slices Albany Bread-A-Betix Low GI Wholewheat Brown Bread, toasted
  • 1 avocado
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • Corn (fresh or tinned)
  • Fresh coriander
  • For the salsa:
  • 15ml chopped coriander
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 tomato
  • A squeeze of lemon juice


  1. First, make the salsa by mixing finely diced red onion and tomato together.
  2. Stir in chopped coriander and lemon juice.
  3. Next up – smashed avocado! Mash the avo with lemon juice.
  4. Time to assemble. First spread the smashed avo on the bread.
  5. Top with corn and red onion salsa, and garnish with fresh coriander.

DSA News


Western Cape Diabetes SA Annual Camp for children with Type 1 diabetes

The 2018 Western Cape Diabetes SA Annual Camp for children with Type 1 diabetes took place, from the 31st of August to the 2ndof September, at Soetwater Environmental Centre in Kommetjie.

It was a wonderful weekend filled with fun, laughter and new friends, and even the weather was kind to us. On Sunday, we were tired enough to be ready to go home but sad to see everyone leave.

The camp may be just three days, but the role it plays in the life of a child with Type 1 diabetes can be transformational. During camp, children learned about treating hypo- and hyperglycaemic episodes; how to eat to achieve the best blood sugars; and managing ketones. But most of all, campers learned that they are not alone. There are so many others like them who test, inject, and deal with the many other challenges of living with diabetes on a daily basis.

We enjoyed fellowship whilst experiencing many fun activities, including a bird and snake show, an incredible obstacle course and a sandcastle building competition. Due to all the activity, we had plenty of low blood sugar levels on Saturday afternoon but it was definitely worth it!

We also had ‘morning madness’ to start each day off with a bang and show how morning exercise can affect blood sugar levels positively throughout the entire day.

Thank you

Thank you to our junior leaders who planned the morning madness class and led it very ably.

This camp could not have happened without the generous sponsorship of the My School Foundation and a range of incredible volunteers and support from various companies with donations in kind. Thank you so much to each one of you.

We could not hold these camps without the onsite help of medical volunteers. So, we give special thanks to Dr Adnaan Mia; Sister Barbara; Sr Gloria from Tygerberg Hospital; and Sr Tina and Sr  Salomie from St Joseph’s Home.

Thank you to Shelly Schutte for the programme and Lesley Mc Clure, the camp photographer, and Michelle Wridgeway who took care of the children on pumps. Last but not least, thank you to the many others who make up our camp team and without whom we could not hold camps.

See you again next year!


Winning duo: Estelle and her dog

One of our members, Estelle Lamont-Turner, who has had Type 1 diabetes since 1988 and who is involved in dog training and dog shows, travelled to Bloemfontein with her dogs to attend the Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA) National Championships that were held 9 to 12 August.

Estelle and her little Jack Russell, Bailey, won the 2018 KUSA Nationals Mini Senior Carting. Estelle was also a member of the Eastern Province team for the Inter-Provincial Dog Carting competition. Eastern Province came first, followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal. Congratulations Estelle and Bailey.

Estelle receives the trophy for the KUSA Nationals Mini Senior Carting Dog 2018.
The Inter-provincial team winners: Estelle is second from the left.

Branch management board members selected

At the Port Elizabeth Branch Annual General meeting that was held recently, the following branch management board members were elected to serve our people:

  • Martin Prinsloo – Chairman
  • Surendra Daya – Treasurer
  • Paula Thom – DSA Young Guns Convener
  • Elizabeth Prinsloo – Branch Manager and Editor of Sweet Talk
  • Lofaine Van Niekerk – Librarian
  • Clive Bourke — Springdale Convener
  • Kaylee Buchner – Secretary
  • Pamela Molefe – Nursing Advisor
Standing: Martin Prinsloo, Surendra Daya, Paula Thom and Elizabeth Prinsloo. Inserts (top): Lofaine Van Niekerk and Clive Bourke. Inserts (below): Kaylee Buchner and Pamela Molefe.


DSA Pretoria Children’s camp

Date: 26 – 28 October 2018

Attendees: Children with diabetes ages 6 – 16 years

Venue: Camp Wag ‘n Bietjie

Cost:  R600 per child

For more information: Mariaan 079 319 0887 / [email protected]

Budget meals

Noy Pullen shares her budget recipes that she serves at the Agent for Change support group meetings.

Health starts with the health provider

As food prices rise so does the obesity rate and prevalence of diabetes. According to participants of the Agents for Change ‘Empowering the Patient’ courses, conventional health education counselling is not helping patients to change their habits.

The secret to the success of the Agents for Change project is that we have found that health starts with the health provider. Whether it be home-based care, the professional nurse, the pharmacist or even the doctor. When they decide to change their health habits, the patient also changes. It is a symbiotic relationship of mutual support and encouragement, where each takes a living interest in the other. When we recognise that we all have struggles, empathy sets in.

At Agents for Change, we do not preach about healthy eating. We make freshly-prepared platters during our courses so the participants can help and see how it is made. Then, they can taste this good food. We show that healthy food is much cheaper than regular processed food that is commonly used these days, such as cereals, refined carbohydrates and take-out.

Most popular dishes

Here are some of our most popular prepared dishes to try at home, or to demonstrate live at your support groups. There is no salt, sugar or oils, and most of the ingredients are VAT-free.

Beetroot salad

Less than R10 per bunch – VAT-free. This is enough for a family of five and is the healthiest combination of ingredients. Beetroot is one of the cheapest VAT-free foods you can eat.

  • Take a bunch of beetroots. Boil until soft. Peel after cooking and grate with a coarse grater.
  • Grate two medium raw carrots into this (with a fine grater).
  • Add two grated two apples (coarse grater) and the rind of half a lemon (fine grater) and the juice of half a lemon.
  • Mix together thoroughly and serve.

Cabbage salad

Less than R10 for half a cabbage- VAT-free. Cabbage is one of the cheapest fresh products on the market.

  • Grate half a small cabbage (coarse grater).
  • Add a handful of raisins and Ina Paarman’s Lemon and Black Pepper seasoning.
  • Mix together half a cup of full cream yoghurt (which gives a good flavour) and half a cup of regular mayonnaise.
  • Combine all the ingredients and leave to mature for a few hours.

Banana and apple salad

These are also VAT-free foods. This salad is very popular with the men during our training as it complements a braai.

  • Mix half a cup of mayonnaise with two tablespoons of curry powder and a dash of chutney. Add more if needed.
  • Cut up five bananas into slices and cover with the mayonnaise mixture to prevent them going brown.
  • Cut two apples into small blocks and add to the mixture. These lower the GI of the salad.

Fruit platter

This adds colour and variety, and is economical.

  • Choose any two fruits that complement each other. We love to use grapes (and introduce them to the children as balloons).
  • Stick a grape ‘onto a toothpick and add another small block of fruit – fresh pineapples, peach or pear. Another good combination is halves of strawberries and blocks of pawpaw.

Meat platter

  • Choose a good quality boerewors and grill it.
  • When cold cut into 2cm slices, and stick onto a toothpick with blocks of cucumber or/and mini tomatoes to make the meat go further.
  • Add a loaf of low-GI seed bread and you have a full meal.

Lunch boxes

These food items can be kept in the fridge and used in lunch boxes. It is best if you have small containers/compartments for each salad.

Note to support groups

Have the ingredients ready and give your support group members one of the recipes to make. They will remember it because they helped to make it and taste it. Change starts with a single step and the more real you make it, the more effective it will be.

Please contact Noy Pullen if you would like more information on the booklets: Rainbow In My Kitchen and Gardening is Child’s Play: [email protected] or 072 258 7132.



A tale of a diabetic pastry chef

Type 1 diabetic, Carla Claasen, tells us why she became a pastry chef: to open a diabetic bakery with the most amazing and mouth-watering pastries, cakes and desserts.

Carla Claasen (23), a Type 1 diabetes patient, lives in Centurion, Gauteng.

No more “sweeties”

I was diagnosed at the age of 11 with Type 1 diabetes. After some scary weeks – where I was watched over by truly amazing angels at the hospital – my mom and dad explained, to ease my mind, that diabetes is not an illness, disease, or disorder. Just like some children can’t eat nuts or drink milk, I could not have any sugar. So, as a family, our goal would be to focus on a healthy lifestyle which excludes sugar.

Though that was easier said than done. I had grown up with a “sweetie” as a special treat and when we went out to eat I couldn’t wait for the dessert menu. Plus, pudding after Sunday lunch was my favourite. Suddenly being a diabetic became very real. Add to that, now my poor sister could not have any sweet unless there was something that I could eat. She never said anything, but I think deep down she must have resented my diabetes.

Sowing the sugar-free seed

I guess, this was where the seed was planted. Surely there must be something that is sugar-free and still tastes like a special treat?  My mom and aunts were on a perpetual search for “treats” so I could have a dessert (and so relieving my long-suffering sister from her banishment to the land of no sugar).

Not believing in accidents and coincidences, my life took an interesting turn. In Grade 8 I was presented with an option to take Hospitality as an extra subject. Not knowing what I wanted to do after school, my parents suggested that I explore it. And, so, a whole new world opened to me.

My Hospitality teacher, Fiona Muller, nurtured my natural talent and complimented my passion as a budding chef. The seed planted so long ago – there has to be amazing desserts and pastries for diabetics – suddenly started growing. I can be a chef that specialises in diabetic pastries.

From there it was a short hop to my ultimate dream of opening a diabetic bakery with the most amazing and mouth-watering pastries, cakes and desserts made with no sugar.

Setting the foundation

My family was amazing. They supported me without any hesitation from day one. After school, we spent hours investigating culinary schools. After lots of research, my heart was set on 1000 Hills Chef School.

Following a gruelling interview with Chef Sharmine Dixon, my road of two years of training and endless discovery started. She understood about being a diabetic and supported me in my quest to become a master pastry chef for a diabetic market.

Chef Dixi wanted me to be able to hold my own anywhere in the world, as well as being able to offer something unique. Her belief in my passion and her relentless requirement for perfection is what prepared me for my first adventure.

Five Palm Jumeirah

I spent 15 months working, at Five Palm Jumeirah Hotel in Dubai, as a pastry chef under Michelin-star chefs from all over the world. This extraordinary experience unlocked a whole new magical world. With me always in awe, saying “I never thought you could do that with pastry!”

At the end of my contract I came back to South Africa, wanting to hone my craft closer to home. I have, however, found that there still seems to be a lack of understanding and availability of sugar-free pastries and desserts in South Africa. So, looking at the glass as half full I saw this as my opportunity.

How can a diabetic be a pastry chef?

For most people, being diabetic and a pastry chef seems quite absurd. Though it is easy. If I work with sugar, I ask one of the other chefs to taste, and if I work with sugar substitutes, I do the tasting myself.

I must say the internet is not very helpful with appetizing alternatives to sugar either. With some diabetic recipes indicating the use of avocado or beans. Not the first thing that comes to mind for a yummy dessert!

The easiest tip I can give readers that want to make sugar-free desserts is to replace the sugar with a sugar substitute like xylitol, stevia, etc. It sounds like a no-brainer but it took me a while before I tried it.

I was unsuccessful the first time (I did not know that sugar substitutes taste much sweeter than real sugar), but had amazing results the second time around. I halved the said sugar amount. That is how new recipes are created…try and try again.

My favourites

My most popular desserts (and family favourites) are sugar-free lemon cheesecake and sugar-free tiramisu (non-alcoholic). Interestingly enough, I now have numerous weight-conscious admirers of my desserts and pastries.

And so, with every set of challenging circumstances, we are also provided with opportunities – if that is how we choose to look at it – and this is mine.

Click below for Carla’s recipes:

Lemon Cheese Cake
Lemon Cheese Cake
Chocolate Jellies

Hunger games of a teenage boy

What doesn’t a growing teenage boy like about food? Aiden Nel tells us.

If you know me, then you will know that I really love food. Due to my Type1 diabetes, I try to maintain regular snacking throughout the day, but when it comes to mealtimes I eat a lot. What can I say? I’m a growing teenager.

My dad says that the only time I say “No” when it comes to food, is if someone says, “Have you had enough to eat?”

Seriously though, I’m not that bad. The point I want to make is; it doesn’t matter that I am a Type 1 diabetic. If I roughly know the amount of calories that I am eating, then I am able to have the corresponding units of insulin.

Remember, I have been diabetic now for 10 years, so I am quite good at estimating my insulin units. And besides, I either test myself before a main meal, or 15 to 30 minutes afterwards.

Favourite food: Pork, veggies and rice

Mmmmm. I really enjoy pork! It’s my favourite type of meat to eat. When I smell that pork in the kitchen, I get excited. Our family has pork probably two to three times a week.

When we have pork, we also have veggies and rice. I really enjoy eating veggies and it’s an important part of my diet. We have veggies every day of the week for supper and on a Sunday afternoon lunch.

Rice is also popular in our family meals. During the week, we probably have it three or four times. I like rice a lot, but I have to say that I prefer veggies more.

My favourite way to eat pork is when it has been fried in the pan. I don’t really enjoy pork when it has been on the braai as it loses too much of the moisture. The way I like my veggies cooked is for them to be roasted in the oven, so that they are soft and just melt away in my mouth.

Aiden’s favourite recipe: Meat and veggie soup


  • 500g beef goulash
  • 3 carrots (grated)
  • 2 potatoes medium (grated)
  • 2 celery sticks (chopped into pieces)
  • 4 spring onion leaves (chopped into pieces)
  • 4 – 5 handfuls of soup mix
  • 20ml tomato sauce
  • 20ml chutney
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2ml dried chilli
  • 1 beef stock cube

You can add any other veggies too.


  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot and pour enough water in covering all the ingredients, then add an extra 500ml of water.
  2. Allow to simmer for at least two and a half hours. Once veggies are soft and meat is falling apart, it’s time to dish into soup bowls and enjoy!

Aiden Nel lives in Port Elizabeth. He is 14 years old and has Type 1 diabetes.