Life Food & Drink

Friday 17 January 2020

Darina Allen's 12 top tips to eating well: 'Learning basic cooking skills will automatically improve your diet'

Chef and food writer Darina Allen at home in the gardens of Ballymaloe Cookery School at Shanagarry, Co Cork.
Chef and food writer Darina Allen at home in the gardens of Ballymaloe Cookery School at Shanagarry, Co Cork.
Darina Allen
Darina and Rachel Allen
Darina Allen
Darina Allen

'Food should be our medicine. We should try to eat real food - fresh, naturally produced, wholesome food in season," says Darina Allen. And while most of us know this intellectually, navigating the huge choice available in supermarkets these days can be difficult, not to mention the temptation to load your trolley up with delicious looking items that might not be healthy is huge.

"There is a considerable difference between food and food products," explains Darina. "It may sound extreme but we need to eliminate highly processed foods altogether from our diet," said the TV chef.

"Doctors tell me that at least 60pc of their patients' health problems are caused by poor diet. Eating well could save on medical bills and visits to the already overstretched GPs.

"Lady Eve Balfour, founder member of the Soil Association reminds us that the health of the soil, the health of the plant, the health of the animal and the health of the human are all connected.

Darina Allen
Darina Allen

"A growing body of research suggests that there is a definite link between the use of artificial pesticides and herbicides and the rise of chronic disease.

"We can no longer argue that we don't know these facts and we can certainly have influence over the quality of 'fuel' we put into our bodies to sustain our health."

The much-loved Irish chef has revealed her 12 easy-to-follow tips to eating well.

1. In the words of Michael Pollen: "Eat food, not too much, mainly plants."

2. Grow some of your own food - a great way to encourage children to enjoy more fruit and vegetables. Grow something at home, even if it's just a few radishes or salad leaves in a window-box. There is no greater satisfaction than growing and cooking your own food.

3. If you can't already cook, learn basic cooking skills and you'll automatically have a better diet.


4. Eliminate processed foods from your shopping basket - they are making us sick.

5. Swap high sugar drinks for freshly squeezed fruit juices, water and herb teas.

6. Porridge is the best breakfast cereal.

7. When supermarket shopping, shop the outer aisles where the fruit and vegetables and healthier options are displayed.

8. A treat cupboard gives the wrong message - a candy bar or sugar treat for being good... how about that for a contradiction.

9. Eat 'real' food, preferably organic or chemical-free, wholesome, fresh and nourishing.

10.Eat more potatoes, less pasta - many times more nutritious, inexpensive, quick and easy to cook in a myriad of ways.

11. Eat around the kitchen table and make meal-times family time - that's what memories are made of.

12. Finally, if your great grandmother wouldn't recognise it as food, don't eat it!

Darina Allen is speaking at the St Luke's Public Meeting 'Staying Healthy in Body and Mind' on October 20 at 6pm at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, No. 6, Kildare Street, D2. The event is FREE and open to the public. Book today @

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