TV preview: The World’s Best Diet

Jimmy Doherty and Kate Quilton.
Jimmy Doherty and Kate Quilton.
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Now Gillian McKeith has flown the prime time TV nest, it seems Jimmy Doherty has taken over her unusual mantle.

“When was your last [bowel] movement?” the chirpy farmer and TV presenter inquires mid-conversation.

There may be a bit of nervous laughter and faltering on my part, but not on Doherty’s when the question’s splutteringly returned.

“Well, I’m not bad as it goes,” confides Doherty, with an enviable ease of tone. “For rural Africans and Ethiopians, it’s around [every] 15 hours, where for the average Brit, it’s around two and a half days.”

Poring over poo is where the similarities between McKeith and Doherty end, though.

Whereas McKeith’s best remembered for probing dieters’ faeces to find the source of their nutritional woes in her show You Are What You Eat, Doherty’s taken a more scientific, global stance.

In his new Channel 4 documentary, The World’s Best Diet, he and co-presenter Kate Quilton head to the likes of Ethiopia, France, Mexico and around the UK, to find out how our diets impact our health.

With the help of experts, the one-off programme ranks 50 of the world’s diets from the very worst to the very best, in a bid to understand what we in Britain should be eating and how we can improve our health and quality of life for our own families.

As a farmer, restaurant owner, passionate foodie and best friend of Jamie Oliver (with whom he’s co-presented various TV series), Doherty is ideally placed to tackle this weighty subject.

“People want to get back to understanding [healthy eating] rather than [it] being seen as posh food or food for those who are well off,” he says. “We should spend more money on food. It’s a necessity and there’s a weird dichotomy in this country, where the very poor tend to have the very worst food, and then if you look at Ethiopia, in the rural areas where they’re desperately poor, they have some of the best [diets].

“It’s wholesome food but food is key and central to everything [in Ethiopia], whereas in our culture it’s seen as an annoyance and we want it quick and easy, cheap and cheerful, and yet we’ll have extra money to spend on our Sky subscriptions or our latest phones.”

Doherty is ardent that we start giving food more prominence for all our sakes.

“You know, seeing someone with the latest phone in one hand, and their shopping basket with the cheapest food in the other seems a bit weird. You’re going to put that in your body!” says Doherty, warming to his subject. “There are lots of things we can do without. We can do without emails and phones but you can’t do without food, and the poor quality food you put inside you will have an effect.”

Like many parents (he has two daughters, Molly, three, and one-year-old Cora with wife Michaela) Doherty is aware of the strain many families are under at mealtimes. “As a realist and a parent, there are lots of time pressures and concerns, there’s a lot of outside influence and if one kid has something, your kids will want it,” he admits.

Balance is something the passionate foodie, who hosted BBC Two series Jimmy’s Farm, which followed his attempts to raise a drove of rare pigs, is keen to keep in mind when it comes to his family’s eating habits.

“Do I give my kids crisps? Well they do have crisps but it’s not every day, it’s seen as a treat and they’ll have a small amount,” says the farmer, who met Michaela when she was working as a researcher on Jamie’s Kitchen, which was partially filmed at the Cumbrian farm where Doherty trained. “But equally, my kids will fight over a tomato and a cucumber.”

“At the end of the day, we’re the ones who are in control of what we eat, we’re not children, we make informed decisions.”

THE WORLD’S BEST DIET, Channel 4, Monday 9pm

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