They are what they eat
With our NutriBullets, juicers, spiralizers and sugar-free, gluten-free good intentions, we all want to eat right these days. So we asked 10 healthy eaters for the secrets to their nutritional success and discovered home-made protein balls, ginger and cinnamon habits and eggy porridge 'puddings'. Nearly everyone loved breakfast almost as much as they hated food guilt.
What has always worked for me is not denying myself anything and not indulging myself in everything. I was always like that. You know that 5:2 plan? I've probably been doing that most of my life. Because of the way I work, which would be unusual hours and long hours, that whole plan works. I think I do more 6:1, and it works for me.
I try to behave, within reason, during the week, but this week, on Tuesday, a friend was opening a restaurant in Clontarf, so I wouldn't deny myself that treat. At the weekends, I don't worry about what I eat. But the whole family [musician husband Peter Devlin, and daughters Emelia and Romy] all eat healthier; there's always all sorts of veg on the dinner plate.
We're not mad into fried food. I asked the girls recently, if there was only one food they could have for the rest of their lives, what would it be? They said sushi. They see that as a treat. Another mother might bring them to McDonald's, I bring them to Yo! Sushi.
Breakfast is my least favourite meal of the day, unless I was allowed to have a fry, or eggs Florentine and Benedict rolled into one. Other than that, I find breakfast quite boring, because I don't like cereal, so I just have brown toast and tea. That would do me till lunch time.
Quantity is a huge part of eating healthily. When I go on holidays, I put on half a stone, and at my age and after two kids, it takes me two months to lose what I put on in two weeks. But how I make up for that is I walk more and get up on the bike and I do Pilates. And I'm careful. I love chocolate, but instead of having a Yorkie, I'd have a KitKat, because it's better. I don't swap the KitKat for an apple, though, because the chocolate would be in my head then, and I'd only still want it two hours later.
Sushi and juices are my ideal when I'm eating well. And I love that I don't have to make my own juices any more, because there are so many brilliant brands around. Occasionally, I'll swap my cappuccino for a vegetable juice, but really I'm doing it to be healthy, not for weight. If I have a vegetable juice, that's a great way to get my five-a-day, and that's that box ticked.
You have to listen to your body. If I'm eating something, I'd eat half, then take a break. That gives your body time to adjust to the fact that you've eaten and, often, I find that I've had enough. You think, 'That was lovely, but I don't need any more'. Listen to your body; it knows what it wants.
When I was growing up, my parents always gave us very healthy food and not very many snacks. Treats were a weekend thing, - a treat, instead of an everyday thing. In Latvia, people eat quite healthily and don't snack so much on sugar. I don't know how I became a sugar addict, but chocolate is my weakness.
I eat the same at the weekend as I do during the week. All my breakfasts, lunches and dinners are healthy - not too many carbs, butter and salt - but I allow myself a bar of milk chocolate most evenings. Sometimes I make my own, home-made healthy chocolate instead. I make it with coconut oil and cacao powder and honey. But if I don't have time, I'll have a Cadbury's.
For me, that's balanced. It's just a habit in the evenings. It's just a little bit unhealthy.
I like breakfast when I have time for it. When I'm very busy in work, I tend to wake up and have my coffee and coconut milk and grab some fruit to take on the go. I'm not really hungry at that time.
Latvians love porridge and, if I have breakfast, that's what I have. But Latvian food is quite heavy - sausage and potatoes and sour cream - I prefer fresh, raw food.
Lunch and dinner would be my bigger meals; but dinner mostly, because I have time for it. Lunch can be on the go. Dublin has got so much healthier. On every street there's at least one place you can get a healthy option. I'd go to Kokoro for sushi, or get a salad. Or I'll just get a fruit-and-vegetable juice and a bag of nuts. Sometimes I think it's better to eat nothing than to eat crap.
I get bored of food quickly. I like to try different things all the time. I like grilled chicken and a big salad, and I vary the salad all the time. Like, I love beetroot and walnuts and goat's cheese one day, but then I never want to eat it again. But I always have lots of vegetables, and I tend to eat quinoa or rice.
I don't do the whole 'eat all weekend until Monday and then eat clean' thing. If I feel like my body wants sugar or chocolate, and wants to be lazy, I just let it. You have to listen to your body. I know a day or two of 'healthy' will make me feel better if I eat too much. I don't beat myself up for it.
But if I really overdo it and eat unhealthily for a week, or I've been on holiday, I find drinking freshly juiced fruit and vegetables works for me. I do a kind of day cleanse, and drink only juice for a day, and that reboots my system and resets me into healthy eating again.
My meals are simple - stir-fries and salads. I like making healthy snacks like protein balls and bars with seeds, nuts, dates, protein powders and oats. They're very handy when I'm working, or on the go. And I like making my own almond butter or almond milk. When I have the time, I enjoy it. But I don't worry if I can't.
You have to have a balance: 80pc healthy, 20pc Cadbury's, that's my balance.
Model, broadcaster and writer
I try so hard to be 70pc healthy to 30pc not healthy, but I'm quite inconsistent. About a year-and-a-half ago, I had a personal trainer and was training every day and eating very healthily, but since I started working in radio, I've relaxed more. That training lifestyle is very hard to do for years on end. I still go to the gym and eat well, but I'd say my diet is more 50pc healthy now.
There are days when I look at what I've eaten and think, 'That was woeful'. If I've eaten badly, I find that eating a good breakfast the next day and going for a swim, or whatever, makes me feel better immediately.
I love breakfast, and I have a breakfast bar, Yogism [in Dublin's George's Street Arcade] with a friend of mine. Breakfast is my biggest meal, and my meals get smaller through the day. Dinner is my smallest meal.
I love all kinds of pancakes; oaty pancakes, protein pancakes, buckwheat pancakes. They're all made with three ingredients and only take a few minutes. I don't use any of those powders. I'm not a fan of those.
Other than pancakes for breakfast, I'll do beans with eggs and avocado and ham or tomato. I buy tins of mixed beans in spring water, put them in the pan, break the eggs into the middle, then throw in whatever else and eat it out of the pan. Or I'll get a cooking apple and put it in the oven with oats and nuts; it's almost like a crumble. Breakfast is my most elaborate meal, but nothing I cook takes more than 15 minutes.
I try to do a really good shop on a Monday. I buy a lot of fruit and vegetables; nuts and seeds to make my own granola. Rye bread is my favourite and makes me feel less bloated than other bread. Then I'll get chicken fillets, maybe a turkey burger, some fish fillets. I keep it simple and colourful.
I try to bring a lunch to work with me. Nothing very exciting - like a chicken salad, spinach-based, because I love spinach; maybe with some fruit in it, figs or blueberries, and a simple olive oil and lemon dressing. Sometimes I'll throw some tamari and hemp seeds on top. It doesn't sound very filling, but a big bowl of it, with a whole chicken fillet, will keep you going till dinner.
I have a very sweet tooth, and if I get hungry, I get terrible sugar cravings, so I often bring a tub of Greek yogurt, cacao powder and some berries with me to work. That will stop me wanting chocolate.
And if I do all that, I can go to Burdock's at the weekend, or eat a load of crap at the cinema and not feel bad. And, some evenings, I come home and eat a bag of Doritos and drink 10 cups of tea. But I try to stay 50pc healthy. I hope it doesn't slip any lower than that.
Food blogger, TV presenter and author
I went on a tour last year [for the Follow Donal To. . . food travel series on foodnetwork.co.uk] and got quite ill afterwards. I could see why I was under the weather: I just wasn't eating right. It can be very difficult when you're working around the world and around Ireland, because you're always rushing. Eating properly is the one thing that gets left behind.
But since I got sick last year, I've been very conscious of eating well when I'm travelling, in particular. Before I go anywhere now, I go on Facebook and Twitter and ask people where's good to eat there and I don't just eat the first thing I see. If I don't eat regularly, I get hangry [hungry-angry], and if I eat crap, I get even more hangry. So I now make sure to find something decent wherever I go. Like, in Stockholm, I know where to get the best porridge and juice in the morning, because breakfast is the key thing for me.
At home, I eat well and I get exercise. I love walking, and where I live in Howth, I'd walk about two hours every day. A walk and a good breakfast and I can do anything for the rest of the day.
I've got really into juicing and smoothies. My smoothies would put some people off, everything gets thrown in there: vegetables, seeds, nuts, kale - and there's one I do with almond butter and oats.
At home, I cook much lighter than I do on screen. When I'm travelling, I always order a salad or veggies on the side, because you don't tend to get as much veg as you'd get at home. And that becomes a bit difficult, to continue the healthy routine you have at home.
In a big way, I'm eating less meat than I used to. I love meat, but I'm finding it easier to imagine being vegetarian, and easier to choose a vegetarian option if I'm eating out. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm really loving roast cauliflower lately.
My go-to snack in front of the TV is home-made popcorn, made in a pot. Or roast chickpeas, with a bit of paprika: delicious. But I've also jumped on the kale-chips bandwagon. I would have laughed at them a few years ago, but they're amazing!
Growing up in the west of Ireland, we had no idea how good we had it - veg from the garden, fish from the sea. Fishermen would be up to the door with bags of crab; you think that's normal, ordinary food, until you go out into the big, bad world and realise it's so expensive.
We had nothing fancy, but it was good, fresh food. We had a very simple upbringing. Treats were a treat, not a daily thing. As a grown-up, I probably eat more sugar than as a child, but I say, 'everything in moderation, even moderation'. I'm not skinny and I'd never want to be, but my palate wants to eat well. I'd love to conquer my sweet tooth. I'm in awe of people who give up sugar, and a smidge jealous.
Life has a way of making you sit up and take notice, and, for me, it's been well documented that I had cancer. And that makes you take notice, and it made me more conscious of my eating. I'm now more in tune with my body than I ever was.
Like, at Christmas, we all eat all round us, but my body starts to complain and say, 'What are you doing to me?' I get cranky when I have too much crap in my system; it really affects my mood.
I got into juicing and I wish I did it every day. As soon as I whizz it up and lash it into me, I feel much better. I love earthy, green tastes: spinach, celery, kale, chia seeds for a bit more oomph, apple for sweetness. I like the grassy herbal teas - nettle, and those ones.
I'm a paradox, I love clean, healthy food, but I love a big lump of chocolate cake, too. But I find that if you start the day well, your tendency is to continue in the same vein. So a few minutes of effort in the morning is worth it.
I'm a bit of a freak about breakfast and I share with Grainne a love of a bowl of porridge. It only takes a few seconds to make, and when I don't have breakfast, I'm struggling for the day. I have it with cinnamon, blueberries and honey. I'm addicted to the taste of cinnamon, I put it in my juices, as well, and the fact that it's anti-inflammatory is a bonus. I use a lot of apple cider vinegar, too. It's anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer.
The cloudy apple cider vinegar is so good for your immune system. I throw it into my NutriBullet, just a couple of capfuls, and with the kale or whatever; you can't taste it. If I can, I throw in manuka honey, lemon, cinnamon - and I haven't had a cold for as long as I can remember.
I had cancer; I believe I'm not going to have it again, but I'm not going to ignore it. I need to mind the body I'm in. You have to respect what vehicle you've been given. My granny is 95 and she's so hale and hearty. She makes me think, 'I want that. I want to be around for a very long time'.
Model agency owner
In my time, when I was modelling, you'd arrive and it was all Irish dinners and soup and sandwiches, but we've all moved way on from that. My husband and I, as we reach a different age, we have become very aware of what we eat.
My husband Gerry had a bypass about 16 years ago, and he became very interested in health. He started blending, when nobody was doing it. Every morning, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, banana, apples, yogurt. He's been doing it about 10 years, and that's our secret weapon.
I think it is what has given us such good health. You read about the benefits of the dark fruits, the blackberries and blueberries, and what they contribute to anti-ageing and the skin, and I think these are what has allowed us to continue as we are.
What Gerry did for years, and I only took up a few years ago, is no sauces on anything, even in restaurants. Maurice Neligan, Lord rest him, was his doctor, and he said to have everything in moderation, but stay away from the sauces.
What I'm noticing now with people - and good luck to them, but it's something we don't do - is that they break out at weekends. They are looking down the barrel of a gun all week, eating nothing, and then attacking food at the weekends. We don't do that. I believe you can eat what you like, if you eat it all in moderation. Talking as an older woman: keep it on an even keel all the time.
But I do have my weaknesses. If I'm out, I enjoy myself. Not the food so much as the company and a glass of wine. We drink all red wine now. Of course, I overdo it at times, but on a sunny day, to sit in the garden with a glass of wine - there's nothing like it. I would never deny myself that, ever, and we quite often eat chocolate, but dark chocolate, 70-80pc.
We do our blending every morning, but if the blend is too thick, or we've no fruit in, I'll have some porridge. For lunch, I like a bowl of soup and a sandwich. Today I had a bit of ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato. And butter.
I don't do any of the low-fat. I eat the wholemeal bread, and I eat bread every day, but I eat the best of butter, full-fat milk and I don't buy the yogurts that are light.
When we cook in the evenings, we keep it simple. Chicken most evenings, stir-fries, fish. I would eat salmon every day of the week if I could. And always with brown rice; we changed to that and I love it now.
When I'm pushing food away or saying I've had enough, I often think of my poor mother: eat everything on your plate and be grateful. I feel a bit of a pang of guilt when I think of her. She brought us up in a time when food was very plain and simple, and then we discovered all sorts of different and exciting foods and we enjoyed them, but now we've gone back to the plain again. The way we eat now is like a U-turn for me.
Model and food blogger
I think I was always pretty healthy, but without really noticing it. Growing up, I always loved home-baked things and I learned to bake with my granny, so I suppose I was always into wholefoods and making things from scratch.
I'd be lying if I said that there weren't periods in modelling where I was told to lose weight in a short amount of time and it wouldn't have happened in a healthy way. That taught me a lot about nutrition, because I was thinner, but I had no energy, and I was really low and I was developing a really bad relationship with food. And that made me sad, because I love food.
I decided to make a radical change and it took longer, but I educated myself in what was going in to my body and how to maintain my shape while eating well.
I always have my breakfast. I never leave the house without it. It's my number-one rule. I make pancakes and home-made granola. This morning, I had cashew yogurt and buckwheat granola. I change it up all the time. One important thing if you're trying to maintain a healthy diet is to have variety, or you'll get bored.
If I'm training for a triathlon, I'll make an eggs-and-porridge combination. People think it sounds crazy, but it's delicious. I make porridge normally, with almond or rice milk, then I whisk in two egg whites, add some raspberries and some desiccated coconut, put it in an ovenproof dish and bake it for about 15 minutes. It's like a pudding; I love it. I make a carrot-cake version, and a banana-bread one. The recipe is on my website.
I usually eat every three-and-a-half hours. Some of my friends have an alarm go off when it's time to eat, but I don't. But I don't let myself get too hungry; that's when bad things happen. But on long shoots, you can't say, 'Can we stop, it's my eating time?' So you have to bring snacks, and I always have a lunch box with me.
I bring home-made granola bars, or I make an amazing seed-and-raw-cacao mix. I bring different salads. One thing is that things can't stink when you open your lunch box; easy and quick to eat are key. But it's good to bring something sweet, because there are always sweet things on shoots and they are very tempting if you don't have an alternative.
I love dinner, because I have more time for cooking. I live with my sister and Bressie and I love cooking dinner for them. I'm like MacGyver; I can make dinner with whatever happens to be in the kitchen. It's downtime for me. My favourite dinner is salmon in a quinoa pastry, because the fish is so moist and the crust feels like you're eating something bad. I do a coconut-carrot mash that's really good as well. I love courgette linguine; I'm obsessed with that.
My plate is always really full. I grew up eating huge portions and that hasn't changed. My motto is, 'don't eat less; eat right'.
I suppose I was always a healthy eater, but I grew up on a farm in New Zealand so everything was fresh and basically healthy, but it was plain. There wasn't the same emphasis then on healthy eating, but it was always important to me.
I wasn't very well when I was a child. I was a bad asthmatic, so I was quite aware of my health. I was always good with fruit and veg, and I've always drunk a lot of water. I've never drunk a cup of coffee in my life. I was always involved in sport and I trained as a gym instructor, but in my early days in Ireland, fitness and healthy eating weren't run-of-the-mill. I could barely find a gym when I moved over here.
I don't read every nutritional magazine, but I think it's important to stay informed, and I read a lot of nutritional magazines. That's not to say that I'm a saint, though, and I look forward to the days when I'll have a burger, or fish and chips, but that's good for you. You have to allow yourself time off.
For a guy that's nearly 17 stone, I'm not a big eater. I know they say you should breakfast like a king, but, for me, the evening meal is still the most important one.
In the morning, I would have porridge, or muesli with yogurt, or wholemeal toast with an egg. I like to juice and I use a lot of ginger. My mother had bowel cancer, so I'm a wee bit conscious of that, so I use the ginger, and celery, pears, carrots. I have apple and pear trees, and I put that fruit through the juicer when they grow. Don't ever juice leeks; I was up all night.
I'm not a big snacker, never have been. And I never had a sweet tooth, so I generally give desserts a miss.
People laugh at my cooking habits, but I don't stray from them. I eat the same meal most nights and I eat early, at six o'clock. Any later is bad for your digestion.
Most nights, I cook a stir-fry with a whole host of veg, like carrots, celery and broccoli, and seeds, like chia, pumpkin, and sesame. I love it. I always cook the veg al dente, because if you cook it too much, you lose the nutritional value. I have it with wholegrain rice and sometimes, if I'm training, I'll throw in some meat or prawns.
Unfortunately, the weekend is my danger zone, when I'm working on the TV. I try to eat well on the Friday night before, and early on a Saturday, knowing I might indulge later. You go in to RTE and the menu comes out and it all sounds great and there's a few chips with it, and I can't resist. I'm not a saint.
I'll notice it if I don't get my water. I'll get a bit of psoriasis if I don't have enough. I feel like when I eat correctly, my body says, 'thanks very much'.
Model and nutritionist
I was lucky to grow up in a home where we always ate fresh food, home-cooked meals, and my mum always put an emphasis on fruit and vegetables. She grew her own produce in her veggie garden at home, and that was a big influence for me, growing up.
Eating healthy has always been about health and wellness for me, thanks to my mum's balanced and sensible approach. I've always been really into sports and fitness, so I see food as fuel and a way to stay healthy and free from illness.
There's no big difference between how I eat during the week and at weekends. I'm consistent with my wholefoods, plant-based diet, and I avoid gluten and sugar because I find gluten difficult to digest and sugar makes me feel quite ill. I enjoy going out for dinner at the weekend, and the majority of restaurants are very accommodating.
If I ever overdo things or eat too much, I don't beat myself up about it, because it's important to have treats from time to time, and it would be bonkers to go through life without them! I simply start the following day with warm water and lemon, and a green smoothie, and get back on track with a workout.
My favourite snacks are raw almonds, berries, apples and kale crisps. I always have breakfast, but I don't function well on a large, heavy one, so I stick to a green smoothie, and a handful of almonds, if I'm still peckish.
My secret is to eat foods in their most natural and unprocessed form, making plants the basis of my diet. Keep it simple, and let your body do the rest for you! I'm not into counting calories or macros [protein, carb and fat values of food].
I love using my spiralizer to make 'courgetti' and other spiralised salads and I use nutritional yeast on all my savoury meals, soups and salads. It's made from inactive yeast and has a nutty, cheesy flavour. It's a bit like vegan Parmesan and makes everything taste delicious, plus it's rich in protein, zinc and B vitamins.
I generally make food from scratch at home, but I also try to eat a lot of raw food, so I make plenty of big salads for dinner, with things like kale, avocado, mixed seeds and cherry tomatoes. But I love quinoa, sweet potato, chickpea curries and soups, and I try to make big batches of them to keep me going for a few days. I share all of my favourite recipes on my new website.
If I fancy a sweet treat, I'll make energy balls or my new favourite - chocolate-chip cookie-dough brownies! They're a healthy version, though, and the recipe is also on my website. It's about choosing the healthier option, but never feeling like you're missing out on flavour.
I really like to make creamy smoothies, such as my 'Toffee Crisp' protein thickshake, which is a rich, chocolate smoothie that tastes like a dessert, but is free from refined sugar.
When I was growing up, my parents were more extreme than they should have been. There was no rubbish in our house, so I've always been a healthy eater and since I was very young, I've had a very experimental palate.
Now, I eat very cleanly and healthily. I should have listened to my mother years ago. She has been saying all this stuff about fermented food and alkalinity in the blood for years; all this stuff that's regarded as a new way of thinking now. My mum has always been quite a wholefoods person and because my dad is coeliac, our house was all fresh, all the time, and gluten-free. Also, she was way ahead on the war on sugar.
In LA, I've found more like-minded people in terms of diet and understanding food. My eating has changed a bit since moving there. Now, if I don't get fruit and veg for a few days, I really feel dreadful. The farmers' markets there are so different. When I was in Ireland, kale was something that was never present on the dinner table, and in LA I eat it every other day, either juiced or as a smoothie, or roasted as a snack.
Breakfast is one of my favourite meals. My husband and I are the same. He wakes up earlier than me and brings me breakfast in bed. And when I'm in Ireland, my dad does the same. I love porridge, with flaxseeds, goji berries, whatever fruits are in the fridge, and natural organic Greek yogurt. Or if it's a juice from the NutriBullet, it'll be fruit and veg and a couple of teaspoons of Udo's Oil. When you have something proper as your start, you are more sharp for the rest of the day. If I don't have my breakfast, it's a naughty day for the rest of the day.
I went off carbs for the week before the Iftas and it was hard. I love chocolate and I've trained myself to eat dark, so I have that most evenings, and a glass of red, full-bodied wine. I went off those for the week, too, and I really saw my stomach shrink, but I couldn't do it all the time. I love food too much. I think about it 90pc of the time. I think about food the way teenage boys think about boobies.
Clean eating for me is grilled white fish and green vegetables. Fish is my number one, and it can be exciting. A bit of paprika and parsley; lovely. I also love butternut squash, roasted with sage, and I love kale and Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts rank so highly for all their immunity properties. I eat with immunity in mind. Purple stuff is great for your lungs. If we have colds, I'll throw chilli and cinnamon bark into everything. My healthy take on sprouts is to shred them raw and make a salad of them with dates, Parmesan and a home-made vinaigrette.
What could be put on my tombstone is raw garlic. Maybe people will think I stink, but I eat it every day of my life. It goes into salads most days, and if I'm doing a recipe that calls for one clove, I put in four. It's anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial; it's magic. Sometimes my husband asks me to ease off, but I say, 'Em, no'.
Photography by Kip Carroll.
Styling by Nikki Cummins Black
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