Tuesday 18 September 2018

Foodie resolutions - tips from Ireland's top foodies on healthy eating for 2018

  • If you are making changes to your diet in the new year, you're not alone. Katy McGuinness discovers how some of Ireland's top foodies are approaching healthy eating in 2018

  • Sponsored by Healthy Ireland, a Government of Ireland initiative

For a healthy heart - try to get 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
Oliver McCabe. Photo: Tony Gavin
Derval O'Rourke
David Gillick
Darina Allen at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Photo: Tony Gavin
Orla Walsh

While some of us are still sneaking the odd chocolate from the stash in the kitchen cupboard, others hit the ground running at the start of the year and are either still talking about their detox and exercise routine or are keeping very quiet because they've fallen by the wayside.

But what about the people who eat healthily all year round? How do they deal with healthy new year resolutions? Here, foodie experts tell us their resolutions for 2018, and dietician Orla Walsh gives her verdict. For the rest of us who are looking to form our own good food habits, Healthy Ireland, an initiative of the Government, aims to support us all in making those changes. The healthy eating section on gov.ie/ healthyireland is a good place to go for the new food pyramid, and lots of other tips...

Good food resolutions

1 Eat more vegetables: Aim to get five to seven portions of fruit and veg a day.

2 Bring in homemade lunch: Lunches out are not good for your purse or waistline. Leftovers of dinner are a staple.

3 Eat more fish: White fish, shellfish and oily fish are nutritionally very different. All of these should be eaten weekly.

4 Learn a new recipe: Busy schedules can result in unopened cookbooks. This year you could change that.

5 Check out the new food pyramid: use the pyramid as a guide for serving sizes.

6 Chart my treats: and limit intake of food and drinks that are high fat, sugar, or salt .

7 Sleep eight hours a night: Sleep improves physical and mental health.

8 Eat more vegetarian meals: It's good to be environmentally conscious. More vegetarian meals are a must!

9 Drink more water: Staying hydrated is important for optimal health.

10 Cook with as little fat or oil as possible: grilling, oven-baking, steaming, boiling or stir-frying are better ways of getting tasty results.


I'm using beans, pulses and legumes



David Gillick

"When I was still competing, my year ran from October to September, so it takes a little while to get used to thinking of January as the start of the new year. I'm into my food, and this year we've made a decision to eat more vegetables and a broader range of vegetables and plant-based protein. Our son Oscar is nearly two, and we cook a lot from scratch and then whizz up a portion for him. He's a good eater. I do most of the cooking at home, and lots of one-pot meals. I'm using beans, pulses and legumes, with good stocks, herbs and spices, to make dals and other dishes. I don't add too much salt or make things too spicy for Oscar. I throw everything in - I'm not much of one for following recipes all the time, although sometimes I will. I like Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredients, that's a great book. I roast lots of vegetables, too - butternut squash, sweet potatoes, that kind of thing. I toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and a bit of smoked paprika. Oscar loves them.

"We're trying to take a holistic approach to all this, so there's a new rule in the house that I'm not allowed to have my phone in my hand in bed at night. We're trying for a bit more balance overall."

Orla says: Plant proteins like beans, peas and lentils have oodles of health benefits. They lower cholesterol, help keep blood sugar levels stable and provide the body with lots of minerals. Oscar sounds like a great eater. It's important that children eat a variety of veg at this age to help prevent picky eating later on.

'I am on a mission to improve the cooking skills of the nation'



Darina Allen .jpg
Darina Allen at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Photo: Tony Gavin

"I suppose my resolution is to practise fully what I preach! I am lucky living where I do, eating different foods every day, with many of the ingredients produced on the farm, and I do appreciate that it's not as easy for everyone. It is important to eat real fresh food, that has been produced as naturally as possible. If you can cut out food with 'sell by' and 'best before' dates, that's a good start. Growing up, my mother cooked every day and she always said that if you don't put the time and effort into cooking, then you'll be giving your money to the doctor or the chemist.

"We all have to prioritise how we spend our time and money, and if food is too far down the list of priorities then our health suffers. Any investment pays back, and eating well doesn't have to take ages or be expensive. I'm on a mission to improve the cooking skills [of the nation]. It's much easier to make a delicious dinner out of inexpensive ingredients if you have some kitchen skills.

"We should all be eating more chemical-free food and including a higher percentage and greater diversity of plant-based foods and Irish-grown vegetables in our diet at the same time.

"The other thing that would make a big difference is if we threw out all the breakfast cereals and ate porridge for breakfast. I have mine with a little cream and soft brown sugar, but there are lots of different ways of eating it. Forget superfoods and clean eating - I'm so glad that trend seems to be over - traditional foods are hard to fault, and you can give them a bit of a twist to make them contemporary and edgy."

Orla says: Darina's wholefood approach is excellent. By eating less processed foods, you'll effortlessly increase your fibre, vitamin and mineral intake while reducing the amount of sugar and salt in your diet. Add some fruit and nuts or seeds to porridge for full marks.



I don’t keep treats at home



Derval O'Rourke

“I don’t really get into the idea of making big changes at the start of the year, but I do see it as an opportunity to reinforce things that we are already doing well at home. I’m very conscious of food as an enjoyable social experience; it’s not just fuel.

“Peter and I eat healthily at home and the thing that I’m going to focus on this year is getting my daughter, Dafne, who’s two and a half, to eat the same as us. I’ve got into the habit of preparing ‘guaranteed’ dinners for her — as in meals that she’s guaranteed to eat — and cooking something else for the pair of us. I’m going to cop myself on. I want her to eat a variety of different foods, so I’m going to give her the same as whatever we are having, and if she doesn’t eat a lot of it I’ll take a few deep breaths. She will not starve if she doesn’t eat very much of her dinner a couple of nights a week. Before I had a child, I would have said, “Why would you not just feed your child the same as what you’re eating?” but I hadn’t appreciated what an emotional thing it is for a mother to see their child not eating, which is what led me into it in the first place.

“My job is to focus on what makes us healthy long-term rather than what makes Dafne happy in the short-term, which is why I don’t keep treats at home. If she ever has chocolate it’s away from home and she doesn’t think of it as a ‘treat’, it’s just something that she associates with other places, like the soft play space we go to.”

Orla says: Derval’s experience with ‘guaranteed’ meals is something to which most parents can relate. Her aim of increasing the variety of foods  is a crucial step to better health. After all, nutritional science is evolving. Every food is a superfood, its superpowers just haven’t been discovered yet!

I'd advise people to make small changes that are sustainable, rather than big ones that are more difficult to maintain



"For me eating well is an everyday thing so I don't put too much pressure on myself. I am a bit more mindful of the food that I am eating, though, and thinking about eating more plant-based meals, because of the environmental impact of eating meat. I'm not cutting out meat completely, and it's important to have a good source of meat, although I think that a lot of the scaremongering about meat is more relevant to the US where there are big factory farms. Meat should be antibiotic free. Most Irish beef and lamb is grass-fed anyway, so I tell people not to stress about it, although if you are eating less meat there's an argument for spending a little more, if you can afford it, for better quality.

"I don't see January as a time to counteract Christmas - like everyone else, I ate more because I was at home - but I do see it as a chance to change my vegetables around and eat a bit fresher.

"This year, I'm trying to make more things from scratch myself. I do really enjoy experimenting in the kitchen with things such as sourdough bread, jams and fermented foods. I'm making kombucha and I think I've got the hang of it.

"I'd advise people to make small changes that are sustainable, rather than big dramatic ones that are more difficult to maintain."

Orla says: Hazel makes a good point about the environmental impact of our food. It is something that we need to be mindful of. We're lucky to live within the EU with such tight regulations on food and to live in Ireland with high quality produce being produced by Irish farmers.


I'm a big advocate of eating breakfast, for its mental health benefits



Oliver McCabe. Photo: Tony Gavin

"I eat pretty well day to day - I know what to buy and where to buy it. Generally, we all need to think more about ingredients rather than supplements, because we are what we eat. So even though it takes a bit more time to prepare, I'm about cooking from scratch. For that to work, it has to be stress-free, which means having a plan.

For breakfast, we usually have porridge with seeds, nuts, hemp oil and flax seed. I'm a big advocate of eating breakfast, for its physical and mental health benefits. Even if you don't feel like eating breakfast early, bring it into work with you and have it at 11am.

"For dinner, it'll often be a stew that'll stay in the fridge and last for a few days. This winter I'll be making lots of chunky vegetable sauces and cooking with herbs and spices.

"When I'm on the road for work, I'll try to have my dinner in the middle of the day, as there isn't always much choice in rural Ireland in the evening. I think it's better for digestion, too. Then if the only healthy thing I can find in the local convenience store for dinner is nuts and water, it's not too bad.

"This year, I'm going to make an effort to eat more greens. I tend to use lots of root vegetables in my stews - I think lots of people do; I'm not seeing many greens. I make a green smoothie with kale, celery, parsley, cucumber, baby spinach, non-dairy milk (you could use regular milk) and linseed, so I'll try and have one at least every second day."

Orla says: Music to my ears! Breakfast is incredibly important for the health of your body and mind. Eating this fantastic breakfast, rich in healthy fats and fibre is a recipe to better health. The evidence behind anti-inflammatory diets is growing. Herbs and spices are a must!

Weekend Magazine

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life