Part 1: The Focus Group

On Saturday 8th August, clinicians and UCL postgraduate students gathered at "Pod", City Road, together with patients and their relatives and/or friends for an "Eating for Eye Health" focus group. Dr Rosie Gilbert started by welcoming the participants and introducing the "Eating for Eye Health" Project.

Mr Zubin Saihan, Consultant Ophthalmologist gave a short interactive talk on "AMD and the AREDS Trials" and Dr Melanie Dani, Specialist Registrar in Care of the Elderly Medicine and PhD Research Student on shared her research on "Preventing neuro-inflammation and cognitive decline with lifestyle and dietary modifications". On hand to aid the discussions were UCL Institute of Ophthalmology PhD students, Ms. Rita Pinho, Ms. Garima Sharma and Dr. Chrishne Sivapathasuntharam.

In this image there is about 8 people sat around a table in a cafe. There is food on the table in front of them. Some in pots and some on trays. They are in a discussion.

There were a selection of delicious, healthy food from Pod including falafel, salmon cream cheese and wasabi sandwiches, "slow burner" salad with lentils, bee pollen and handmade superfruit booster bars! Throughout the tasting, there were interesting discussions about how diet and nutrition can influence health. Participants also shared stories of how their eye problems impact their life, their thoughts on changing trends in diet and nutrition and the barriers to changing their lifestyles.

The morning was concluded with a short questionnaire on dietary habits and an evaluation of the event by the participants, who were all keen to participate further in the project. The responses from this questionnaire will feed into the later stages of the project.

The project organisers would like to thank Pod, UCL Public Engagement Unit and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and NIHR Moorfields BRC for their help and support in organising the focus group and to thank the wonderful and enthusiastic participants for coming along and for their valuable contributions.

Part 2: Cookery Session

There are 6 people in this image. They are all wearing aprons. Most of the group are looking at someone who is explaining something. They look like they are having a good time, laughing and smiling. One person in the group is looking down at a booklet and reading it.
The picture is taken from above. It is looking down at a table where 8 people are sat. They are looking at pieces of paper and some are chatting. Stood around is another 6 people, who are wearing aprons. In the background there is a mirror, shelves, a lamp, high chair and a lamp.
In this image there is two people. One is nearer to the camera and is washing his hands. Behind him you can see another person they are reaching up to something on the windowsill. In the background you can see people discussing.

Inspired by the enthusiasm and positive feedback from the participants of the focus group, Dr Rose Gilbert set about organising a Community Cookery Day in collaboration with Siobhan Mannion, the manager of the Community Kitchens Project at Manor Gardens Centre, Islington. Rose and Siobhan were also helped by Susana Irving, a clinical and research nutritionist to make a Eating for Eye Health team. The team combined their expertise and set about designing a three course menu, rich in antioxidants which are thought to be good for eye health.

The Menu Plan

Starter - Butternut squash soup

Main - Honey and soy-marinated salmon fillets with red onion, peppers and sweet potato and a spinach and orange salad

Dessert - Blackberry and apple sponge.

These recipes were from a “tried and tested” collection that Siobhan had used in her community cookery classes, and which were adapted with colourful ingredients to boost the nutrient content for eye health. Participants were invited from the NIHR Moorfields BRC Research Community to take, and the team was joined by Richard from Moorfields BRC and two PhD students, Rita and Garima, from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology on the day, to support the participants.

The Cookery Day, November 16th 2015

The day got off to a great start with a game of"food bingo”, which got everybody talking - a fun icebreaker! Then came the explanation of how the session would run, including a health and safety briefing covering basic food hygiene.

In contrast to the focus group held at Pod, we said that there was to be “no free lunch” today, because they would need to cook the food themselves in a “Ready, Steady, Cook!” style session with all the ingredients provided. Again, we were blown away with the enthusiasm of those who attended and their engagement with preparing the part of the menu assigned to them.

Whilst the food was cooking, we had a food tasting featuring a selection of so-called “superfoods”, for example sauerkraut, dark chocolate with raw cocoa nibs, and merlot grape juice. Susana explained some of the science behind the superfoods and answered participants’ questions.

When the food was ready, we all sat down to enjoy the meal together, with Susana explaining what the specific health benefits were whilst the food was being served. The participants were asked to rate each course by holding up a “yum” or “yuck” sign. It was positive feedback all round with the majority of reporting that they felt “very confident” about cooking the dishes with the recipes provided! You can find some of the recipes for the dishes here.

If you would like to join the NIHR Moorfields BRC Research Community you can find out more information here.

Find the recipes made during this day here

In this image there is a man wearing an apron using a magnifying glass to read the back of an empty container. In background which is blurry there is 3 people and a saucepan. In the saucepan is butternut soup.
There are 6 people in the image. They are in a kitchen. They are all working in pairs and they are cooking.
In this image there is a person in a purple jumper they are looking at the camera. They are holding an orange. On the counter in front of them is a chopping board with some orange peel on a chopping board.