NZ Cafes Could Play A Part In Turning Around Obesity And Diabetes Epidemics

A Few Changes Can Make A Big Difference

This week we revisit an excellent 2009 national campaign Eat For Keeps ran with Robert Harris’s in their 52 cafes across NZ. This campaign was popular with cafe patrons and, had it continued, could well have played a part in helping to turn around our shocking national weight and diabetes statistics.

I’ll take you back through some of our experiences and food changes and show you why we are so confident of such a major positive result. And talk about how you can benefit from these simple and practical food changes yourself.

All great campaigns need a champion, and Robert Harris’s operations manager was our champion. With Susanne Irwin’s help at the Tauranga cafe we made changes to a number of recipes and integrated these into all of the cafes across the country. Tracey coordinated this and arranged a first class media programme to showcase the campaign and the recipes.

Tracey now owns two top end cafes in South Auckland called Urban Soul. When she left Robert Harris to set up the cafes, our champion had left the building. This very promising campaign sadly died a quiet death.

So what was this all about and why was it so significant? Most of the thousands of cafes in New Zealand, and around the world, offer a wide range of scones, cakes, muffins, slices, paninis and other white bread products. On average, each item produces way too much glucose and cumulatively this widespread daily consumption certainly plays a significant part in our weight and diabetes woes. 

Here’s the formula…   

Basically, we need glucose for energy and the glucose comes from carbohydrate. If we exceed the amount of glucose we need, the excess is stored as fat. If we continue to do this year in year out then our mechanism for clearing the glucose from our bloodstream fails. High levels of glucose damage our blood vessels and circulatory system, resulting in life threatening conditions like diabetes, stroke, heart attack, amputations and kidney failure.

We use the Harvard University Glycaemic Load (GL) principle. For simplicity we call it glucose load. We estimate that, on average, a person requires a daily load of 80.  This varies according to your size, gender, occupation (activity level) and ability to process glucose.

Some examples

A few examples put this problematic area in perspective.

  • An average scone can weigh as much as 200 g and has a massive GL of about 60
  • A small 100 g muffin – 30 , they are often twice this size like the scones
  • A small 100 g lamington – 50
  • Doughnut – 17, people will often eat two or even more
  • Slice of banana cake – 25
  • Panini – 30, this is only the bread portion. Fillings like salad, cheese and chicken have a GL of practically zero. 


The problem is immediately obvious! It’s made worse as so many of us enjoy our brilliant cafe scene for our daily coffee fix and catch up with friends.  

Dont’ forget that eating a cafe food item is just one of the many food items we eat every day.  The glucose load of all other meals and snacks need to be added to the total. Add four sushi rolls and you have a further 28, courtesy of the sticky white rice.

Our legendary simple carbohydrate excesses are well known and documented.

GL = 60

GL = 30

GL = 50


GL = 17

GL = 25

GL = 30

The Solution!

The solution is relatively simple. To dramatically reduce the GL’s of the cafe items mentioned above, requires around a 50% reduction of white flour in the baked goods, which is the key driver of these large GL’s. 

Back in 2009 this is exactly what we did. We  used inexpensive low GL ingredients like rolled oats, buckwheat and spelt flour as low GL substitutes for the flour. 

White flour has a huge GL of 64 per 100g. By using these other low GL substitutes, the GL of a baked goods can be reduced by 50% or more.  

We also replaced some of the sugar content with ingredients like honey and yoghurt.

Other ingredients in many of these products include butter, milk, cheese and cream cheese which are protein and fat-rich and have a GL of zero.

Now imagine, if all cafes offered their customers a range of these lower GL food items! The benefits are impressive – they keep you fuller for longer, provide sustained energy and help to maintain normal blood-sugar levels.

Our obesity and diabetes epidemics are in full swing and the benefit of consuming more of these sustaining cafe food items is significant.     

How you can help

Talk to your local cafe owner. In our experience, many are very interested in simple ways to improve the quality of their food.

Have a look at the very tasty frittata recipe in the news story above and try out some new recipes yourself. Just google “low GI” or “low GL” recipes.

If you are a cafe owner yourself and interested in talking about this concept with us, you can call me on 027 294 1980.

Join Our FREE Online Programme – The EFK Method

This free online programme has been developed using our 20+ years of experience in helping people overcome
weight-related and diabetes-related issues.It’s a simple, practical guide and takes less than one hour to complete.

Get started now and tell all your friends and family about it.
Click on this link, follow the prompts and enter your details.
You will be directed back to the Home Page.
Go to My Dashboard in the top menu select ‘Edit’ and change your password.
You’ll see the EFK Method in your my My Courses tab.

There’s nothing like word of mouth and social proof to help get a big movement going! And we need your help to achieve this.

Even if you have no weight or diabetes issues yourself, you will still get some benefits by learning these simple and practical food and life skills. Pass the programme  on to your friends and family, its free and of so much value. 

The EFK Method can be completed in about an hour. You can immediately start to practice your new skills, at the supermarket or in a cafe or any other food outlet.