Why Rosanna Davison is the Queen of Nutrition
The former Miss World is as good a poster child for clean, healthy living as they come - and her passion for and knowledge of exercise and nutrition is certainly inspiring.
"Nobody ever asks you about your protein intake," laughs Rosanna Davison, "until, that is, you tell them you're a vegan.
Then, all of a sudden, even perfect strangers are desperately worried about whether you're getting enough - and about whether you're going to keel over from a sheer lack of it!"
Since becoming the first, and so far only, Irish woman to win the Miss World title back in 2003, Rosanna has never been far from the public eye. The roles of model and gossip column staple are well rehearsed by now. However, away from the spotlight, she's a fully qualified nutritionist whose range of tasty vegan-friendly recipes has hoards of followers hooked to her blog, rosanna.ie.
And central to this lifestyle is an impressive training schedule that will inspire even the most ambitious devotees of FitMagazine.ie's 100FITDays.
"I've been going to the BodyByrne gym in Dublin's city centre for a few years now," Rosanna says. "For the last 18 months I've been working with trainer Amanda Kelly."
The 30-year-old, who married Wesley Quirke this summer, attends weights and resistance sessions twice weekly, and explains that every workout is different.
"One day we'll concentrate on chest and shoulders; then the next time it'll be triceps, biceps and abs. We mix it up so my body never gets used to any one particular movement and I don't get lazy."
However, one element of their sessions remains consistent: the intensity.
"It is never, ever easy!" Rosanna says. "Amanda really pushes me to the limit - and then pushes me again when I think I've nothing left. You're red-faced and sweaty; by the end you're grunting just to drive through the repetitions and get to the finish line.
"But it's always worth it - put it this way, I've yet to regret going to the gym."
As well as her twice-weekly sessions in BodyByrne, Rosanna is something of a long-standing Pilates enthusiast.
"Pilates was something that was quite new to Ireland back in 2001, but my mum Diane spotted a leaflet advertising classes in Enniskerry and asked if I fancied going. I was curious and as it was the September before my Leaving Cert I also reckoned I needed an outlet away from the books and study."
These days she still goes to Pilates with her mum - though they've both since moved through the ranks to an advanced level. Under the attentive eye of instructor Mags Clark Smith, who is based in Kilmacanogue, it's now an integral part of Rosanna's exercise routine.
"I love how Pilates gives you so much extra strength and flexibility - it really hits those deeper, core muscles. It's also done wonders for my posture. Carrying yourself well is as important as what you're wearing. And it's excellent for mental clarity or focusing the mind."
Then there's cardio. Even with a busy schedule of gym and Pilates, the model slots in further bike, treadmill or cross-trainer work three or four times a week.
"Sometimes I'll end up doing two things in one day - a weights session in the morning with Amanda, followed by 30 or 40 minutes on the cross-trainer that afternoon.
"I've moved away from running lately. I did a sub two-hour half-marathon a couple of years ago but these days I'm more inclined towards activities that involve less impact on your body."
While acknowledging that hers is certainly an ambitious timetable, Rosanna still reckons that just about everyone should integrate some sort of exercise into their day - and that those sticking to the 100FITDays challenge will see big improvements.
"Stay motivated! Of course there are days when I don't feel like doing anything. But exercise is addictive; you grow to love it and pretty soon you can't do without it. Just putting on the runners and getting out and about is half the battle.
"Even on the days when it's cold and miserable, you can do a lot of the 100FITDays exercises in your living room or bedroom."
Another tip from Rosanna is to remember a time in your life when you were happy with the way you looked: maybe you used to be a size 12, or maybe you were once able to run around after the kids with ease - those simple things can be powerful motivators.
"I always strive to be the best I can be," she says. "If I'm feeling lazy or I need a boost, I compare myself now to the times that I've been in the best shape of my life and then I use that memory as a goal I know I can achieve again."
Meanwhile, Ms Davison remains hugely passionate about nutrition and getting people to eat better, and has converted her family and most of her friends over to healthier diets that contain little meat or dairy.
"You can do all the exercise in the world," she advises, "but if you're not also eating right all that hard work isn't going to make much difference."
She adds: "I understand that not everyone is going to want to give up meat and dairy entirely - it took me time to switch over to being a vegan from vegetarianism - but your body thanks you in so many ways for treating it kindly." She suggests gradually eliminating meat from all but your evening meals, while also sticking to dairy-free snacks.
Still, Rosanna is hesitant to use the "vegan" tag too liberally. "That word can conjure up images of tree-hugging hippies! I rather like the phrases 'whole-foods', or 'plant-based' and I think a lot of people find those more acceptable and less intimidating."
She cites the likes of beans, lentils, butternut squash, sweet potato and nuts as examples of foods that are filling and satisfying, adding that quinoa and brown rice are also always in plentiful supply in her kitchen.
And, despite those common misconceptions, she assures there is plenty of good-quality protein in her diet.
"Though I do have a scoop of vanilla Sunwarrior powder on those days I know I'll be hitting the weights in the gym hard - just to help speed up muscle recovery."
Finally, when pressed to reveal her ultimate superfood, Rosanna says it's hard to beat kale. "However, it can be tough on your stomach when raw," she warns. She recommends popping a generous bunch into a bowl with plenty of lemon juice and an avocado.
"Mix it around gently with your fingers and leave it aside for few minutes - the lemon juice helps break down the kale and afterwards makes it far more digestible, but without removing any of its goodness."
Rosanna Davison is as good a poster child for clean, healthy living as they come - and her passion for and knowledge of exercise and nutrition is certainly inspiring. While you may not quite be at Rosanna's impressive level of fitness yet, stay motivated, keep going - and be sure to congratulate yourself on your 100FITDays achievements.
I compare myself now to the times that I've been in the best shape of my life and then I use that memory as a goal
Rosanna's top five favourite snacks:
1. Raw, unsalted almonds
2. Coconut chips
5. Roasted kale
Crispy Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges
When following a fitness programme, it’s really important to eat sources of high-fibre carbohydrates that release into your bloodstream slowly to give you plenty of prolonged energy. Sweet potatoes are a wonderful starchy vegetable as they’re full of antioxidants and beta-carotene. I have used coconut oil, which, unlike olive oil, is safe to cook with as it has a high smoke point.
Ingredients (two servings)
2 medium sweet potatoes
2tbsp coconut oil
1 heaped tsp curry powder (or more if you prefer)
half a tsp smoked paprika
Black pepper and pink rock salt, to taste.
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C
2. Scrub the sweet potatoes well. I like to leave on the skin as it’s an excellent source of fibre, but peel if desired.
3. Cut the sweet potatoes roughly into wedges and spread them out on a baking tray.
4. Melt the coconut oil in a small bowl and add the curry powder, spiced paprika, salt and pepper if desired. Mix well.
5. Pour the oil mixture onto the wedges and mix them around well until they’re well coated.
6. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until they start to turn brown and crisp.
Smokey Cumin Hummus
This is a really easy dip to whip up for a quick meal, or if friends happen to call by. It’s low fat and full of fibre, as well as being high in plant protein and healthy fats. The smoked paprika and cumin give it a delicious smokey flavour. Great to eat with chopped peppers, carrots and cucumber, or with sweet potato wedges.
Ingredients (two servings):
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained (try to use organic)
2tbsp tahini paste
3tbsp lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, crushed
n 1tsp smoked paprika
half a tsp cumin powder
Black pepper and pink rock salt, to taste
1. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or good blender, serve and enjoy! Stores in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Curried Lentil Soup with Coconut and Quinoa
With the cooler autumn weather fast approaching, this soup makes the perfect warming lunch, dinner or snack. Lentils are extremely affordable and the perfect source of plant-based protein, fibre and antioxidants. They also keep you feeling full for hours and are more digestible than other types of beans.
Quinoa is a seed rather than a grain, and is a gluten-free source of high-quality plant protein without the cholesterol and saturated fat. It contains all eight essential amino acids, plus plenty of magnesium, fibre, manganese, calcium and phosphorus, plus B vitamins and iron to boost energy.
Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tbsp organic coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 tbsp root ginger, chopped finely
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp curry powder
half a tsp chilli flakes
4 cups vegetable broth ( I use Kallo organic stock cubes)
1 cup Koko coconut milk
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1ƒ cups dry lentils
1 cup dry quinoa
3 handfuls chopped spinach or kale
Black pepper and pink rock salt, to taste
Chopped fresh coriander to garnish
1. In a saucepan, heat the coconut oil over a medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic and ginger for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the tomato paste, curry powder and chilli flakes, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the coconut milk, vegetable broth, tomatoes and lentils. Cover and bring to the boil, then simmer on a low heat for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
4. Rinse the quinoa well and place it in a separate saucepan. Add a cup of water, cover and allow the quinoa to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the seeds have opened out. Remove the lid and stir the quinoa until the remainder of the water has evaporated.
5. Remove the lentil soup from the heat and stir in the kale/spinach and allow it to wilt. Add the quinoa to the soup and stir well.
6. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve hot.
Health & Living