Posted on 1st Sep 2020
Here we are at that time of the year again. Our kids are venturing out into the world again, back at school. This year more than ever, we might feel a bit apprehensive about it. One way we can continue to support and protect them is to provide a healthy lunch every day.
It can be a challenge to think of different foods to put into the lunchboxes day after day. As parents want to feed our kids with the most nutritious foods possible. But we also need to make it affordable – and attractive to them. There is not much point in creating a super healthy lunch only for it to come home untouched at the end of the school day.
Going back to basics, it is useful to think of what our kids are eating over the whole day. According to Safefood, children’s diets should consist of one third fruit and vegetables, one third starchy foods and one third dairy and protein foods.
1/3 Fruit & Vegetables
A variety of fruit and vegetables is important in the diet as they are packed with vitamins and minerals. Children over 5 are recommended to have 5 portions a day, just like adults. The ‘variety’ part is always mentioned because different types of fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of these micronutrients, and if we eat a variety, we increase our chances of getting all that we need. They are vital to our good health, never more so than now with the threat of Covid-19 they are crucial to supporting the immune system. Eat the rainbow!
Fruit and vegetables also contain fibre, which is important for our gut health, and can help us feel fuller for longer and might prevent hunger pangs and reaching for snacks.
Another important aspect of making sure we provide our kids with their 5 a day is helping them to develop a taste for them. Exposure to fruits and especially vegetables seems to be an effective way to increase the amount they eat. They might refuse it 10 times and eat it the 11th time. Persevere, don’t force it, just provide it and gently encourage.
All kinds of fruits and vegetables count – fresh, frozen, canned (in juice) and dried. Allow them some choices, give them variety and watch their taste buds expand.
1/3 Starchy Foods
Foods like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes are important in children’s diets to provide them with energy.
They also contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. Choose wholegrain often, and vary the types of bread in their lunch – pitta, wrap, soda bread, rolls, etc. Use leftover pasta to make a pasta salad to take to school or try using left over stir-fry in a wrap. Making use of leftovers will help keep the cost down and cut down on food waste.
1/3 Dairy and Protein
Dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese are rich in calcium which is vital to children’s growth and to support bone health. 3 portions a day are recommended for children aged 5-9, and 5 portions a day for children from 9-12 and teenagers. Yoghurts and cheese can be easy additions to the lunch box.
A word of warning on yoghurts though – some can be very high in sugar so check the label.
If you choose dairy free, go for calcium added versions.
Protein foods are what we might call meat and alternatives like chicken, turkey, beef, fish and eggs which all make great sandwich fillings along with some salad. Hardboiled eggs are another easy to eat snack. Beans are also great protein sources and can be added into salad boxes or wraps. Nuts however are restricted in many schools because of allergy risk, but can be a tasty after school snack.
Considering most kids have a short break and a longer break, it makes sense to include a snack size portion plus a lunch size portion.
- Bottle of water
- Chicken salad sandwich on wholegrain bread
- Turkey and cheese slices on multigrain bread
- Tuna and sweetcorn wrap
- Mashed egg in pita
- Fruit scone lightly spread with butter
- Thin bagel with cheese
- Crackers and cheese
- Pasta salad box
- Apple / orange / pear / plum / banana / grapes / berries / watermelon cubes / kiwi
- Baby carrots / snack cucumber / sliced peppers / celery with hummus dip
- Unsweetened yoghurt with berries or granola
- Cheese cubes
- Homemade popcorn
Children are more inclined to eat a lunch they have chosen and packed themselves, so allow them that input. If you have a variety of healthy foods in, they can feel that they are making their own choices. Decide not to have high fat, high sugar foods in the house and then they are simply not there to choose from.
And remember diet is just part of the picture. Sleep should be a priority along with at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
If we can encourage these good habits, while discouraging bad ones, we are helping them to be at their healthiest and have a strong immune system to help fight off anything that might come their way.
Nekitsing, C., Hetherington, M.M. & Blundell-Birtill, P. Developing Healthy Food Preferences in Preschool Children Through Taste Exposure, Sensory Learning, and Nutrition Education. Curr Obes Rep 7, 60–67 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-018-0297-8
Posted on 19th Mar 2020
For 7 Day meal plan and schedule ideas for staying at home click here: Covid-19 Stay Home Ideas
There is a lot of misinformation flying around about Covid-19, some of it relating to diet and nutrition. I would like to attempt to clear some of the fog and share some information from reliable sources (listed below).
The first line of defense is social distancing, which all of us are now practicing. Even at home we should continue the practices of hand washing and covered coughing/sneezing. Disinfect touched surfaces often. Reduce the spread, flatten the curve and reduce deaths.1
Reducing the spread is a responsibility for every single one of us. But that doesn’t mean we have to just sit at home and wait to get sick. We can do our best to make sure we are in our best shape health wise. This will give us the best chance to fight the virus if we catch it, to make a full recovery, and to be available to help other people that might need it over the coming weeks and months.
We talk about eating certain foods to boost our immune systems. In reality, our immune systems boost themselves in response to a perceived threat – like an infection and sometimes in overreaction – like in an autoimmune condition. There is no food or supplement that acts as a switch to boost it. So a boosted immune system is not exactly what we are after. 6
We want to support and optimise the normal functioning of the immune system 2
Many nutrients in food are involved in the functioning of the immune system including:
|Vitamin A||Liver, whole milk, cheese, butter and many reduced fat spreads (retinol). Carrots, dark green leafy vegetables and orange-coloured fruits, (carotenoids).|
|Folate||Green leafy vegetables, brown rice, peas, oranges, bananas and fortified breakfast cereals.|
|Vitamin B6||Poultry, white fish, milk, eggs, whole grains, soya beans, peanuts and some vegetables.|
|Vitamin B12||Meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, yeast extract and fortified breakfast cereals are all dietary sources.|
|Vitamin C||Fresh fruits especially citrus fruits and berries; green vegetables, peppers and tomatoes and potatoes.|
|Vitamin D||Sunlight is the main source. Food sources oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals, meat and fat spreads.
**10ug/day supplementation is recommended in winter**
|Vitamin E||Vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.|
|Copper||Shellfish, liver, kidney, nuts and wholegrain cereals.|
|Iron||Liver, red meat, pulses, nuts, eggs, dried fruits, poultry, fish, whole grains and dark green leafy vegetables are all sources of iron|
|Selenium||Brazil nuts, bread, fish, meat and eggs.|
|Zinc||Meat, milk, cheese, eggs, shellfish, wholegrain cereals, nuts and pulses.|
A healthy balanced diet including a variety of foods including those listed above is the best way to support our immune system from a dietary perspective. Use the healthy eating guidelines 4 and the food pyramid 5 to make sure you are eating the right amounts of the right foods.
There are NO supplements you can buy, either online or anywhere else that will either prevent or cure Covid-19. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is at best mistake, at worst lying to you.
Supplements are only useful where there is a deficiency in a nutrient. For example, Vitamin D – as it is made in the skin using sunlight many of us are deficient in the winter months and a supplement of 10ug/day is recommended.
If your feel your diet is not as good as it should be, it is no harm to take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.
It is a good idea to have a working thermometer in the house and paracetamol, should you need it.
Supplements and older adults
We know that older adults are at particular risk to Covid-19. The International Society for Immunonutrition (ISIN) has pointed out that a diverse and well-balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables is the best source of antioxidants. But specifically, in relation to older adults it may be best to increase the intake of certain nutrients (Zinc and Vitamins C, D and E) to dosages higher than RDA but below harmful levels. 7
If you are self-isolating at home because you have tested positive for Covid-19 2
First and foremost, contact your GP/HSE and follow their medical advice.
It is important to continue to eat a healthy diet to enhance your recovery and hydration is vital. Try to consume at least 2L water every day.
When appetite is poor, try to consume soups, smoothies and again lots of water. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of hydration as well as the nutrients you need to get better.
Breastfeeding and Covid-19 2
According to BDA, there is as yet no evidence that Covid-19 can be carried in breast milk. The risk is in the close contact between mother and baby:
- Hands to be washed before touching baby
- Any coughing or sneezing should be covered completely
- Consider using a pump an allowing someone else to feed baby
- Use strict hygiene with breast pump apparatus
Shopping and food deliveries
Bear in mind good hygiene practices. If shopping, follow the social distancing guidelines.
When food gets to your house – either by yourself or someone else consider what may be contaminated. Disinfect bag handles, food packaging, etc. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly. Evidence suggests cooking kills coronavirus but be more aware of washing foods to be consumed raw.8
Remember, diet is only a part of the immune system. Exercise, sleep and stress management are the other vital factors we all need to be looking after at this difficult time.
Posted on 30th Jan 2020
Making small positive changes in our everyday lives helps us to become the best that we can be.
Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle might seem impossible for you, overwhelming, you feel like you will never be able to do it. But it CAN be done.
The easiest way I have found to approach it is to take it in small steps. Bite size pieces – please excuse the pun! Planning to get up next Monday morning and become a whole new – green smoothie drinking – yoga at 6am – person all at once might be what you WANT to do. But in practice it does not usually last too long, it is just not sustainable. Trying to change lots of things at once can overwhelm us all to easily. And that can then end up making us feel like a bit of a failure.
So – one small step at a time. Be realistic. Set goals for yourself that you know you will be able to achieve with just a little bit of effort.
- Week 1 – I will drink 1L of water every day and reduce my 8 coffees down to 5
- Week 2 – I will drink 1.5L water and only have 4 coffees
- Week 3 – I will get out for a walk 3 days this week for 20 minutes
- Week 4 – I will walk 5 days this week………….. and so on
Recognise it when you reach your goals and reward yourself with something nice – a bubble bath, a facial, or a trip to Penneys! Whatever makes you happy.
Looking at all the shiny pictures of the shiny people on Instagram, its easy to think and feel a million miles from their glow of health. But just remember, what we see online is very seldom the whole true story. Every single person has their own journey to manoeuvre and everyone hits bumps in the road.
And plenty of them know how to take a good picture!
All anyone can do is their best. Taking small manageable steps in the right direction will still get you to your destination in the end.
Posted on 29th Jan 2020
Gluten free foods, especially snack foods 🍪🍩🍰🎂 are thought of by some people as being lower in fat or sugar content or ‘healthier’.
Safefood found in a recent study that more than 90% of people buying gluten-free products have no medical reason to avoid gluten.
They found “a misperception of the health benefits of gluten free products”.
“Many gluten-free food products are promoted by media personalities and sports stars as part of a trend for “clean labels”, including “free-from” food products.”
But the truth is that there is NO nutritional benefit to gluten free food products other than for those people who are coeliac or sensitive to gluten.
It is great to see so many gluten free options on the market nowadays, it gives great choice to people who have to avoid gluten for their health.
However, for everyone else who does not have a medical reason to avoid gluten but are doing so, I would ask you why? There is absolutely no health benefit. And in truth, when gluten is removed often many other things are added to give the characteristics of gluten.
So give it some thought. Don’t be fooled into thinking no gluten means healthier. Don’t be convinced to pay a higher price for what may well be a lower quality product.
Posted on 27th Jan 2020
Counting calories is not a sustainable, or enjoyable way to make food choices.
It is far more important to consider the whole food, and what nourishment it provides.
Whatever it is you want food to do for you and your body, it is the nutrients that have the power, not the calories.
Calories are simply the measurement we use to count the energy a food provides in the human body. Breaking food down to simply fuel might suit some people, but not most of us.
Thinking of food only in terms of calories is not looking at the big picture:
100cals of broccoli does not equal 100cals of chocolate in terms of nutrients
Not all calories are created equally. The broccoli is a great source of vitamin C and fibre, but it might not taste as good with a cup of tea after a hard days work! Food can nourish our spirit, as well as our body.
The traditional approach to planning a healthy diet, especially for people wanting to lose weight has been to cut calories. Slimming clubs for example are part of this culture. I have seen quite a few clients over the years who were told not to eat nuts, never to touch an avocado – they are so fattening! There is no regard at all for the rich nutrients contained in these foods!
Yes, to lose weight, we need to be in calorie deficit, but not at the expense of nutrients.
Often foods that are advertised as low in calories are low in nutrients too. They might leave us unsatisfied – leading us to eat more of them than we would have of the whole food version.
If we choose our foods based more on the nutrients they give us, we will begin to appreciate food again. We should not regard foods as good or bad. Educate yourself on nutrition and make your own informed choices.
Some days we need the broccoli, and some days we need the chocolate!
Over the next few weeks I will share some nutritional information on foods that clients have been previously warned against. I hope you will get some benefit and insight into the value of looking at a whole food – and not just its calories.
Posted on 11th Jan 2019
1 in 4 three year old’s in Ireland is overweight.
I find this statistic shocking and scary.
But with 60% of adults in Ireland overweight it should not be a surprise.
Paediatrics Dietician in Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Kizzy Moroney, has said the problem of overweight in children has become a major issue. Ms Moroney suggests fast food and sweets are the main culprits, so it is critical parents are on top of their child’s diet.
With 1 in 3 Irish people eating fast food 3 times a week, she definitely seems to have a point. Fast food – whether its is a takeaway or a ready meal, tends to come in big portions with a high fat content while being low in nutrients. These foods should be seen as a treat, to have now and again – not 3 times a week.
In Ireland, an average family spends: 19% of the food budget on treats like crisps and sweets, only 10% on fruit and 7% on vegetables. It has been estimated that around 20% of a child’s daily calories are from treat foods. As with fast food, these sweet treats are no longer regarded as “treats”, they are part of our kids diets every day.
Causes of overweight in children
- High calorie low nutrient diets
- Not enough physical activity
- Too much screen time and gadgets
- Sleep routine
Consequences of overweight in children
- Physical: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, joint problems, digestive problems
- Psychological: anxiety, depression, low self esteem
- Social: stigma, bullying
More likely to be an overweight adult and the associated problems of increased risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and premature death.
How to help an overweight child
- Be a good role model
- Involve the whole family in healthy lifestyle changes
- Avoid weight talk, focus on healthy changes
- Discourage dieting and encourage healthy eating and physical activity
- Be positive – reward achievements
- Be patient
- Get active together
- Portion sizes should be age appropriate
- Child size plate
- Don’t tell them to clean their plate
- Have set mealtimes and eat together
- Don’t treat or reward with treat foods – use non food rewards
- Be positive
- If you give food treats make them very very small – fun size
- More moving and less sitting
- Limit devices to <2 hours each day
- From age 2 and up kids should be active for 3 hours per day
- Play with them – if they see you being active they will learn from you
Studies have shown that the less sleep a child has, the greater chance of them being overweight. Establish a good bedtime routine in your family, with set bedtimes. Make bedrooms a gadget-free zone.
- Discourage high fat high sugar high salt foods
- No fizzy drinks
- Don’t have salt at the table
- Don’t have sweets in the house
- Don’t give in to protest behavior, stick to your guns. You are being kinder in the long run
- 5 fruit and veg every day
- Encourage water
- Regular meal pattern, together
- No TV or gadgets at mealtimes
- Base meals on starchy carbohydrates + lean protein + vegetables
- Kids generally don’t need to diet, the aim is to maintain weight as they grow into it
Involve them in:
- Meal planning
- Food shopping
- Meal preparation
- Fruit salad
- Chopped vegetables
- Rice cakes
- Corn cakes
- Low sugar yoghurt
- Slice of toast
- Handful of pasta shapes
Calcium and vitamin D are very important for bone development in childhood. Dairy products are a great source of these nutrients.
- Full fat should be given until at least the age of 2.
- No skimmed milk until at least over 5
At the end of the day it is us parents who decide on the foods being fed to our children.
It is our responsibility to be good role models and to teach them how to eat a healthy diet.
Posted on 2nd Jan 2019
13.5 million #detox posts on Instagram 😭😭😭
There really is no need in the world for anyone to do a detox diet.
Putting “detox” on a product makes people buy it. It’s a marketing scam and it’s a million-euro industry.
Our liver, kidneys, skin and lungs are how we “detox”. They get rid of the waste or “toxins” in our bodies.
If our bodies could not detox without these products, we would be dead!
At this time of year people can be sucked in because they feel guilty for pigging out at Christmas. We should not allow the industry to take away our enjoyment, to make us feel guilty instead of happy about a big night out or a family dinner.
All we really need to do is get back on track to eating healthily, whatever that means for each of us.
Limiting certain foods (or lots of foods!) might just lead you to lose weight. But you will also lose a lot of calories and nutrients. You will lack energy. Your skin will suffer. You might even feel depressed. Some products contain laxatives so you feel like you are getting rid of bad things, but you are not.
🤢 These types of diet are not healthy or sustainable long term. Some are actually dangerous.
🤦♀️ And when you go back to eating like a human being you will regain the weight anyway!
🚫💩 Do not be taken advantage of by these detox diets and products
🍏Eat normal healthy foods in the right amounts. Drink water. Move. ✅
📃Make a plan. Take one step at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself and you are more likely to make long lasting changes.✅
Posted on 14th Dec 2018
Christmas party season is here!
It’s a great sociable time of year, but if you are trying to follow a healthy lifestyle it can be challenging!
It can be the best time of year to enjoy ourselves and to indulge a little, but nobody wants to start the new year feeling like crap.
A few treats are great, but it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of pigging out for a week, and while this might feel good in the moment, it does not feel so good in the long term.
Here are a few tips to help you stay on track:
Christmas Nights Out Tips:
- Have a good lunch to prevent snacking after a few drinks
- Drink at least 1.5L water during that day
- If there is a buffet don’t graze, eat then put down the plate
- Dance your socks off = burn calories + eat and drink less
- Try milk thistle to help your liver process any alcohol
Eating Out Tips:
- Choose a starter or dessert, not both
- Fill up on vegetables at the main course
- For dessert choose something fruit based.
- Share high calorie desserts with a friend or a partner
- Have fun! Bear these tips in mind but don’t obsess over calorie content. One night won’t make a big difference in the long term.
- Alcohol can be very high in calories which is worth bearing in mind during party season. Alcohol has 7 kcal per gram which is almost as much as a gram of fat.
- Extra calories might then be added with mixers.
- People often have more unhealthy snacks like crisps and nuts when they are drinking, not to mention the takeaway on the way home!
Daily recommended units (standard drinks):
Men 3-4/day Women 2-3/day
- Try alternating water or a sugar free soft drink with your alcoholic drinks
- Choose a drink with a lower % alcohol
- Avoid drinking in rounds so you can set your own pace
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach
- Wait until after you have eaten to start drinking
Be aware that some drinks have a lot more calories than others:
Calorie equivalents in drinks:
|1 pint 5% Beer||170 kcal||Packet of crisps|
|175ml 12% Wine||126 kcal||A Cadburys Heroes Bar|
|1 glass of Baileys||118 kcal||A Milky Way Bar|
|330ml Bottle Alcopop||237 kcal||3 Chocolate Teacakes|
Healthy Drink Swaps:
|Pina Colada||Mojito||326 kcal|
|Pint of Lager||Pint of Lager Shandy||100 kcal|
|Double Rum & Coke||Single Vodka, Soda, Lime||107 kcal|
|Large White Wine||White Wine Spritzer||35 kcal|
Check out drinkaware.ie for more information and have a happy and healthy Christmas 🎅
Posted on 5th Nov 2018
Having a well-stocked pantry and freezer means you have all the basics for healthy cooking at your fingertips.
It will save you time and money and help to improve your family’s health.
If you make the healthy option the easy option, you are more likely to choose it!
|Cupboard Staples||Cereals & Grains||Meat & Dairy|
|Extra virgin olive oil||Porridge oats||Eggs|
|Wholemeal flour||W/grain bread||Sliced chicken / turkey|
|Plain flour||Rice or corn cakes||Chicken / turkey fillets|
|Low salt||W/grain rice||Tin salmon & tuna|
|Black pepper||W/grain pasta||Salmon fillets|
|Tomato puree||W/grain bread rolls||Mackerel fillets|
|Reduced salt soy sauce||W/grain pitta breads||Whole chicken|
|Sweet chilli sauce||Ryvita||Lean lamb / beef / pork|
|Worcestershire sauce||W/grain paninis||Olive oil spread – low fat|
|Bouillon stock cubes:||Oatibix||Yoghurt full & low fat|
|beef, chicken, vegetable||Special K||Natural Greek yoghurt|
|Lemon juice||All bran||Soya milk & yoghurt|
|Curry powder||Skimmed milk|
|Chilli powder||Nuts & Seeds|
|Mixed herbs||Mixed nuts and seeds||Stir fry vegetables|
|Oregano||Popcorn||Quorn chicken pieces|
|Thyme||Cereal bars||Frozen fruit pieces|
|Tin chopped tomatoes||Almonds||Drinks|
|Passata||Pistachios||Orange juice NFC|
|Kidney beans||Apple juice NFC|
|Mixed beans||Fruit||Cranberry juice NFC|
|Lentils||At least!||Green tea|
|Dried fruits||Chamomile tea|
|At least!||Bottles water|
Posted on 16th Oct 2018
🍏 Portion size is the amount of a food or drink you choose to consume at one meal.
🍉 Portion distortion is the term used to describe the (almost unnoticed) growth in portion size over time.
🍩 For example, take a plain bagel:
💖 A study by The British Heart Foundation (2013) found that the majority of portion sizes had increased substantially over the preceding 20 years.
🥘 An average individual shepherd’s pie or chicken curry ready meal had doubled in size!
👶 Young children tend to eat what their body needs, but as we get older we tend to eat what is presented to us as a portion.
🥣 Plates and bowls are bigger, ready meals are bigger, restaurant portions are bigger.
🍟 Just one super-sized fast food meal may contain more calories than you need in a whole day!
When trying to eat a healthy balanced diet we are told to follow dietary guidelines.
Guidelines tell us to eat a certain number of portions of a food each day.
But if we don’t know what a portion is they are useless!!!
Because our perception of portion size has become so distorted:
➡ We all need to first learn what a portion size is.
➡ Then we can follow guidelines and make use of the food pyramid.
➡ And then we can re-learn what it is to eat in healthy amounts.
Check out safefood.eu for some great portion size guides: