Low GI is the new wonder diet. It means low carbs, high fibre, no sugar, no animal fats and wholewheat everything. ANGELA SINGER went on a Low GI cooking course called Yo-Yo No More. It has been designed by Clare Birkin from St Ives to help people lose w

Low GI is the new wonder diet. It means low carbs, high fibre, no sugar, no animal fats and wholewheat everything. ANGELA SINGER went on a Low GI cooking course called Yo-Yo No More. It has been designed by Clare Birkin from St Ives to help people lose weight and keep it off. You can eat chocolate cake but not bananas.

A HEALTHY cooking course has been set up by a mum who lost three and a half stone in three months - and then wanted to keep the weight off - which she has done for over a year.

She has called the course Yo-Yo No More because most of us have lost weight only to put it back on again - the same stone over 30 years. Some of us have two sets of clothes.

"I eat a lot of food and I eat nice food," say Clare Birkin, who you have to admit is slender.

The trick apparently is to eat foods which are low GI (that is low on the glycaemic index). In English, that means low on sugar - and carbohydrate which turns to sugar once you have eaten it

It means out with white bread, flour and rice and in with wholewheat everything. It means out with sugar, in with sweetener and out with animal fats.

But believe, it or not, Clare says she eats a lot of chocolate - 70 per cent cocoa, Green and Blacks. I wondered what she meant by "a lot".

The diet is designed to be suitable for people with diabetes or who need to combat cholesterol. On a pilot course last year, one of her pupils lost two stone in six weeks - remarkable even though she was going to WeightWatchers at the same time.

This year's course, which started on Thursday, is an evening class in the training kitchen in Hinchingbrooke School.

Clare, 38, from St Ives, whose husband, Jeremy, is a trained chef, is an audit officer for the restaurant chain which includes Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Strada. So you could say her life has, for more than most of us, been a study of food.

But she appreciates that healthy eating has to be convenient - she has a career and a five-year-old son, Charlie.

For the first meeting, she brought along some delicious muffins, chocolate and wholemeal with pieces of apple, cinnamon and raisins.

She said: "I used to run restaurants and I was always running around and then my job changed to a field and desk job so that I was either sitting in the car or sitting at a desk, and I had a baby so that over five years, I put on a lot of weight.

"I lost weight with Lighter Life (which replaces meals with liquid supplements) but then I wanted to know how to keep the weight off and I realised that this could be useful to other people, too.

"I teach healthy cooking. No one wants to be on a diet for the rest of their life. We use a lot of pulses, beans and bulgar wheat, things that are slow burn so that you feel full for longer, combined with low-fat dairy products and low-fat protein.

"The recipes I teach are really easy. It is an easy way to eat and it's easy to stick to."

Three of the class on the new course had also lost weight on Lighter Life, Miriam Cooper, a nurse at Papworth Hospital lost six stone over nine months.

Miriam, 63, from St Ives said: "I had to lose the weight for medical reasons, my blood pressure was high and I was suspected to have diabetes though I didn't. I want to lose another stone."

Most people in the class wanted to lose just a stone and a stone they said they had been losing and gaining all their lives. They all said they had yo-yo-ed.

Tina George, 47, a mother of two girls aged four and 11, from Hinchingbrooke said: "I have been yoyo-ing for the past 30 years.

Tracey Hodge, 31, a nursery nurse, from St Ives, said she had yo-yo-ed for the past 10. "I just want to be a size 12," she said.

Clare says, there is a "bad list" of foods but these can be an occasional treat. After all if you go out to dinner - that is not something you do every day. What matters is what you do 90 per cent of the time."

See The Hunts Post on Wednesday April 15 for Angela Singer's report on how the cooking course went.

The course

Week one: is a discussion. Nine pupils will cook three dishes in groups of three. They are given the recipe cards, told what they need to buy and where they will find it.

Week two: The group cooks breakfast.

Week three: The group cooks lunch.

Weeks four and five: The group cooks dinner.

Week Six: The group cooks desserts.

The course costs £135 for the six weeks, or £22.50 per session, not including ingredients.

Contact Clare Birkin at Yo-Yo No More on 01480 468723. See www.yoyonomore.co.uk

Recipe for dinner

Beef Stroganoff

500g sirloin or rump steak cut into strips

Half teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

One tablespoon each of olive oil and Flora extra light margarine and tomato puree

Three shallots, chopped

250g mushrooms sliced

250ml beef stock

1 teaspoon each of Worcestershire sauce and dried mustard powder

150g tub low-fat natural yoghurt

1. Sprinkle the steak strips with salt and pepper. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over a high heat. Add the meat in single layer (working in batches if necessary) and cook until just brown on the outside, about one minute per side. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.

2. In the same pan, melt the margarine. Add the shallots and cook until starting to soften, about two minutes. Add the mushroom and cook until tender and all liquid has evaporated, about 8 - 10 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the stock, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder. Return the steak to the pan and pour the stock mixture over. Simmer until the liquid thickens, about 10 - 12 minutes. Stir in the yoghurt and cook on a very low heat until heated through, taking care not to curdle. Serve with brown basmati rice.

Serves four.

Berry Crumble

675g fresh or frozen berries, such as raspberries, blackberries and sliced strawberries

1 large apple, cored and chopped

2 tablespoons each of wholemeal flour and sweetener (Splenda)

Half a teaspoon of cinnamon

Topping

120g large flake oats

60g chopped pecans or walnuts

5 teaspoons of Splenda

50g Flora extra light margarine melted

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1. In a 20cm (eight inch) square baking dish, combine the berries and the apple. In a bowl, combine the flour, sweetener and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the fruit and toss gently.

2. Topping: in a bowl, combine the oats, pecans, brown sweetener, margarine and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the fruit mixture. Bake in 180c oven for 30 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the top is golden. Serves six

The good, the bad and the fattening

Eat

Fish and lean meat

Beans,

Humous,

Quorn, Soy, Tofu, Quinoa

Seeds

Stoneground 100 per cent wholemeal bread

Wholegrain pasta (just 40g servings)

Brown rice, Oat bran, porridge oats, pearl barley, bulgar wheat, wheat berries and wheatgrain.

Fruit and vegetables

Eat cautiously

Higher fat meats and tinned fish in oil

Low fat diary

Whole eggs (marked omega 3 )

Don't eat

High fat meat

Whole milk products

Products made from white flour

Potatoes

Animal fats

Alcohol

And strangely: melon, dates, dried fruit, broad beans, parsnips, swede and turnip.

Contact: Clare Birkin

01480 468723. See www.yoyonomore.co.uk