Move over Atkins, here comes the NHS diet

For anyone with doubts about the viability or long-term health effects of the Atkins diet there is good news. A sure-fire method of losing weightalready exists and has been tested on millions: the NHS diet.

I can attest to its effectiveness. I lost a stone, possibly two, on the NHS diet while recovering from a broken elbow at St Mary's Hospital, London in March. The clinical care was excellent, but I have to say I am a little surprised that St Mary's has achieved an "amber" rating for its food.

The secret of the NHS diet is a combination of small helpings and inedibility, something the late Dr Atkins never seemed grasp. To be fair, some of the meals weren't too bad. There is after all, a limit to the liberties you can take with pasta bake.

But there were some culinary atrocities. The unforgettably worst was something innocuously called "fish in sauce". Actually, not so innocuous because we all know that, like finding "meat curry" on a menu, that vagueness of description could be hiding something life threateningly awful.

I think the fish was cod, but without access to the hospital's excellent pathology facilities it was impossible to be certain. The sauce was similarly unidentifiable as it was "drizzled" with some brown gravy. Was it an accident or some crazed scheme dreamt up by Loyd Grossman? I do not know.

The problem, as with some airline food, is that hospitals try to do miniaturised versions of "proper" meals, but these dishes just don't scale down very well.

I'd have preferred a lump of wholesome bread, a chunk of cheese and some fruit to a micro-portion of roast chicken and two veg. Anyway, at least I can fit into clothes I never thought I'd wear again. Thank you, NHS.

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