Archives for the ‘Blog’ Category

The Sugar Rush

This week, social media and office canteens were full of discussion on 2 health related programmes on RTE. Dr Eva’s “Sugar Crash” and Operation Transformation, which is back for another year.

While I was not a fan of Dr Eva, I did find her programme very interesting. She has also written some interesting articles on sugar in the Daily Mail recently. It was quite shocking to see a 4 year old having all of their teeth pulled out because they were rotten. Even more fascinating was that the child hardly ever ate sweets. The culprit? Apple Juice. Now it is possible that there were other factors in losing all of her teeth, but the key message was that we need to be aware of what is in our food. Check the labels for anything sugar related (sugar has over 60 different names such as sucrose, corn syrup, maltose, rice syrup, etc), and understand how much sugar can be in common products. For example, a kid’s carton of juice can have 4 teaspoons of sugar, a fruit yoghurt 7 teaspoons, and a can of coke 10 teaspoons.

Moving on to Operation Transformation. It is a program that really engages the nation and it is great to see people out exercising in groups. You have to credit the leaders for putting themselves out there. They have some great characters on this year’s show. In particular Dan, who is 44, lives at home with his Mammy and likes his pints with the lads. He gave up the pints, cut out the crap and  started some moderate exercise. The end result: he lost 12 pounds in 1 week.

So what can we take away from these programmes. The key messages were:

  • Avoid processed foods. If it is in a packet, it is probably not good for you.
  • Reduce your sugar intake. Learn to read the labels and avoid non-natural sources
  • Exercise regularly. Take the stairs or get out for a walk.
  • And moderate alcohol. Follow the recommended weekly allowances (and not all in one sitting!)


Sugar Crash is available on RTE player at and Operation Transformation is on RTE1 on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

#sugarcrush #operationtransformation


Farm to Table

Do you know where your food really comes from? What does “Produced in Ireland” really mean? And what about pre-packed gas-flushed meat in a supermarket? And what is dry or wet-aged beef?

Last week I was lucky enough to get a tour of a working farm in Inchydoney, Clonakilty owned by Leslie Beamish, followed by an informative speech by local butcher Mike O’Neill. Grazing along the sea are a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle. Their main staple is the naturally salted grass, which adds a fantastic flavour to the beef. The cattle will mature for 18 – 24 months, and are slaughtered just 2 miles away in his abattoir on the edge of Clonaklity town.


Talk to your local butcher to find out where your beef comes from.


What does Produced in Ireland or Origin Ireland really mean?

Bord Bia operates a Q or Quality mark. Ideally you want to see Origin Ireland on the label which ensures that it is produced and processed in the Republic of Ireland. You can find more info here



Dry-Aged vs Wet-Aged Beef

Dry-aged beef is meat that is naturally hung by most butchers after being slaughtered. This helps to break down the fibres in the meat to make it more tender. But dry-aging will lose moisture, and therefore weight, which is why the majority of supermarkets will wet-age their beef. Wet-aged beef is aged in a vacuum sealed bag. For more info see

What is gas-flushing

There is a lot of science around this, but in short, it is altering the amount of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide that is in pre-packaged goods, with the aim of prolonging the shelf-life. The oxygen content is reduced and carbon monoxide can even be added to maintain the red colour of the beef. I read separately that gas-flushing chicken can increase the shelf life from 6 to 18 days!

Mike also mentioned that shoppers generally want the more expensive cuts, but the real flavour lies in the cheaper cuts. We seem unwilling to buy cuts of beef like brisket, oxtail or daube/cheek for a couple of euro, but would happily part with our hard earned euros for the same dish in a Michelin starred restaurant.

Yes, they need a bit more time to cook, but it is so worth it.

So no matter what your budget is, drop into your local butcher. You’ll find they are a world of knowledge and would be only too happy to suggest something different.

5 minute Pecan Chocolate Brownies

Once in a while, you come across a recipe that is so good, you almost can’t bring yourself to share with someone. But I’m a nice guy and I’m in a generous mood today; no cook, gluten free, dairy free (in fact everything free) chocolate brownies. My wife makes these with the intention of giving the kids a healthy treat, but they manage to get at very few of them. These brownies take all of 5 minutes to make and must be eaten from frozen. Hide well at the back of the freezer!

Check out the recipe here

I’ll have my cake and eat it!

So the #30daychallenge is over. It coincided nicely with a christening we were having, so I enjoyed the food, the cake and the wine even more. I found the last 4 days very hard. Probably because I knew the end was in sight and I was sick of limiting myself to certain foods.

Overall, I found it a very beneficial exercise. I’ve a lot more energy and I am sleeping sounder each night. I did lose weight at the start, but as that was not what I wanted, I added some extra food into my diet and finished at the same weight I started, although much more toned. I do have the before and after photos and the difference is very noticeable. (My wife won’t let me post the photo, so you will have to take my word for it!)

Will I keep to the changes? I’ll keep to the majority of them. First back into my diet is oats and dairy and having tried a few paleo/gluten free/sugar free attempts at cakes, I think I’ll just treat myself to the full on, sugar laden, fat filled authentic version of Tiramisu every now and then (and less than before.)

I’ll definitely be cutting out the bread, pasta, grains (excluding oats) and pulses, as well as significantly cutting back on sugar. But if a recipe calls for some soy sauce or some baking powder, then I’ll have no problem using it.

For something healthy-ish, here is a recipe for tasty banana bread.


Preparation is Key

With less than 10 days to go, I feel I am now in a fairly straightforward routine. The key to eating healthy during the week for me is ensuring I am prepared on a Sunday for the week ahead. This week, I put a large 3 litre pot of chicken stock (2 chicken carcasses from the butcher, chopped carrot, leek and onion) on the hob and headed in to town.

When I came back a few hours later, I sautéed some onions and garlic and split it into two pots. In one, I put chopped sweet potato, lemongrass and ginger. In the other, I put carrot, parsnip and leek. I cooked these for 5 minutes, before adding enough stock to each pot and left to cook for 30 minutes.

When they cooled slightly, I blitzed them up, and portioned it out into containers with enough for 2 servings. I kept enough out for 3 days and froze the rest. Lunches sorted for a few days.

I put the remaining stock in the freezer for the following week. I even put some in an ice-cube tray so that I could quickly add some flavour to a dinner or sauce. Today we had chicken and chorizo stew (recipe below) where we used some of the left-over stock.


A lot of people are saying they are not sure what to eat. So below are some examples.

07:30   Grapefruit and Scrambled Eggs (3 eggs)

10:30   Banana and a handful of Almonds or Brazil Nuts

13:00   Sweet Potato Soup with 1 Chicken Breast

16:00   1tbsp Almond Butter and 1 Apple

17:30   Gym

18:45   Chicken and Chorizo Stew with Baked Potato and Butter

22:00   Coconut Milk (Homemade) and a spoon of Almond Butter


07:30   Smoothie with Almond Milk, Banana, Protein Powder and Almond Butter

10:30   Handful Berries and 1 Hard Boiled Egg

13:00   Homemade Carrot, Parsnip and Leek Soup and 1 chicken breast

16:00   1tbsp Almond Butter and 1 Apple

18:45   Beef Burger (Homemade) with Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges and Steamed Broccoli

22:00   1 Hard Boiled Egg

Chicken and Chorizo Stew
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 100g chorizo, fresh if possible, sliced
  • 6 chicken thighs + 2 chicken breasts, chopped
  • Red and yellow pepper, chopped
  • 300ml Chicken Stock
  • 15 baby tomatoes

  1. Cook the onion for 5 mins and then add the garlic
  2. After 1 minute, add the chorizo and cook for 1 minute
  3. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes
  4. Add the peppers and the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute
  5. Finally, add the chicken stock and cover with a lid, cooking for 30-40 minutes until the stock has reduced.



Half Way Point

So 15 days in and it’s time to look back. The first 2 days were fine. I didn’t notice anything different. But days 3 and 4 were the toughest. I was feeling dizzy, I was hungry and I even had pains in my teeth for some reason. I didn’t think I ate that much sugar before I started, but when I look back, I was probably eating enough to warrant serious consideration by the Irish government to bring back our sugar beet industry! After 7 days I had lost over 2 kilo’s in weight; not something I really wanted, so I needed to increase my calorie intake. I added some sweet potatoes, fresh coconut milk (made in the blender) and started adding a large blob of butter to my veg in the evening. I’m back up to my starting weight now so I seem to have found the right balance.

So what do I miss? I miss my porridge in the morning and I miss milk and yoghurt, but nothing serious. Whenever I feel the hunger coming on, I reach for my reliables. For me it is Almond Butter, Coconut Butter, Avocado’s, Nuts, Apples and Hard Boiled Eggs.

How do I feel now? I definitely feel more energised, even if there are two night-owl children trying their best to change that. But the biggest change is the disappearance of the afternoon slump, and for that alone, I’m determined to keep the majority of the healthy changes going. Does this mean I’ll never eat a chocolate brownie or a Tayto sandwich ever again, absolutely not – because life’s too short.  But I’ll certainly eat them a lot less and enjoy them a lot more.

Let me know how you are all getting on.

Food on the Move!

This weekend was all about food on the go. Had a very stressful weekend as we were moving house. Made even more stressful by 2 crying kids looking for their barbies and play-doh. And the internet is gone for 2 weeks! If I didn’t reach for the Ferrero Rocher this weekend, I should make it through the rest of the month.

We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For me it definitely is. I normally eat porridge and eggs, so needed an alternative to the porridge for this month. Below is my all in one smoothie that keeps me going for a few hours. I like to add almond butter for some healthy fats. Feel free to substitute other ingredients.

With all the saucepans in boxes, we needed something that we could grab and go. These tuna cakes are perfect for lunch, dinner or even breakfast. I normally bring a few to work. Make sure you make a large batch as they will keep in the fridge for up to a week. They can be eaten cold or re-heated. If you like tuna, you’ll love these.


Breakfast Smoothie

Almond or Coconut Milk

1 banana

60g berries

1tbsp flax seed

Super Greens Powder

1 tbsp almond butter (optional)


Thai Style Sweet Potato and Tuna Cakes (makes 12)

3 tins (approx 350g) tuna in brine, drained

2 large sweet potatoes, baked and mashed

3 tbsp butter (or coconut oil), melted

1 stick lemongrass, very finely diced

Large handful coriander, finely chopped

1 heaped tsp chilli flakes

Zest of 1 lime

1 clove garlic, grated

Salt and pepper to taste


Pre-heat oven to 180 C

Grease a 12 hole muffin tray with some of the butter

First mix the lemongrass, chilli, coriander, lime zest and garlic.

Add the tuna and mix.

Then add the butter and sweet potato mix.

When combined, put the mix in the muffin tray evenly and press down with the back of a spoon

Bake for 30 mins.

Bye Bye Sugar Slumps

3 days in, and so far I’ve had no incognito missions to the sweet shop yet. I can notice a difference already. I’ve had no tiredness or sugar slumps in the afternoon. But I did find that when I trained yesterday evening, I didn’t have a lot of energy. So I need to add some extra calories, especially before the gym.

Most people are asking me what am I eating or for a sample menu. So here is what I had to eat today along with a recipe for what we ate for dinner. It even includes a bowl of ice cream for dessert. By the way, this dairy and sugar free option tastes a lot better than any sugar laden shop bought version.


07:30   3 egg omelette with ½ courgette (grated)

60g fresh blueberries

10:30   Handful of Almonds or Brazil Nuts

13:00   Homemade Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Soup and 1 chicken breast

16:00   1tbsp almond butter and 1 apple

17:30   Gym

18:45   Chargrilled Chicken with Guacamole and 2 minute Red Onion Pickle (recipe below)

Healthy Banana Ice Cream (recipe below)


Healthy Banana Ice Cream

Serves 2

Put 2 peeled ripe bananas in a freezer bag and place in the freezer for at least 3 hours (or overnight). Break them up and place them in a blender with approx. 125ml of coconut milk. Blitz until smooth, adding more coconut milk if required. You can flavour with ground cardamom, cinnamon or cacao powder.



Spicy Chargrilled Chicken with Guacamole and 2 minute Red Onion Pickle

Serves 2

2 large chicken breasts (cut in half lengthways and flattened) – marinated in juice of 1 lime, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper for 20 mins.


2 ripe avocados

Zest and juice of 1 lime

½ tsp chilli flakes

½ clove garlic, grated

Handful coriander, finely chopped


½ red onion, finely sliced in rings

Juice of ¼ lemon

Pinch of sea salt


Lettuce leaves to serve


Heat a griddle pan to high heat and cook the chicken

Combine the avocados, lime zest, lime juice, chilli flakes, garlic and coriander and mash or blitz to create the guacamole.

Combine the onions, lemon juice and salt together about 2 minutes before serving.

To serve, place some salad leaves on a plate, top with guacamole, chicken and garnish with the onion pickle.

Clean Eating Challenge

Anyone up for a challenge? A healthy eating challenge! I’m going to try something new for October. My local cross-fit gym is running a 30 day challenge for October where we have to focus on healthy eating based on Paleo or Primal foods. You’ve probably heard of Paleo. Up until recently I thought this was the reserve of the beardy hipster types. Quite frankly having given a beard a daycent attempt and with it itching like bejaysis until I shaved the thing off, I decided Paleo probably wouldn’t be for me either.  I joined Guerrilla Fitness in Clonakilty a couple of months ago, and low and behold this Paleo thing cropped up again. My sister in law is hooked on it and my wife had begun to dabble in it as well. So if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em I guess. So I did a bit of reading and discovered that Paleo makes a lot of good sense, it has less to do with its mascot cavemen and how they ate, but more to do with how our grandparents ate. I don’t have time for fancy recipes or hard to find ingredients, so I am going to try and make it as simple as possible for anyone that would like to give it a try. I’ll post up what I am eating along with how I feel I am progressing. In short, I will be cutting out processed foods, grains and sugar, and focusing heavily on fresh vegetables, proteins and healthy fats. If you want to be extra strict, you can also cut out dairy.

I also took the obligatory pre-challenge selfie to see if there is a noticeable difference. I’ll spare you that photo for the moment, but after 30 days, I might post a before and after photo.

For an idea of what types of food you can eat and those you can’t, check out this handy guide I found.

If you fancy an extra challenge, you can follow Guerrilla Fitness Clonakilty who will also be posting a daily challenge.

Cold Soup Anyone?

Cold Soup anyone? It’s time for something healthy and refreshing for these warm summer days. I’ve just purchased a Vitamix and I wanted to try out something that would test how smooth I could get a soup. If you haven’t heard of a Vitamix, then for those of you with young kids, it’s a bit like the Nutri-Bullet that you have all seen on the Shopping Channel or on TV3 at 6.30am. But this does so much more and with much more power. It blitzes the living be-jaysus out of anything and will even cook a soup for you in 5 mins.

This version of gazpacho is very easy and is based on a version by Felicity Cloake in The Guardian. Soak the bread in cold water for 20 minutes, and then chop all of the ingredients and throw them all into a blender. Blitz it until it is smooth. Adjust the taste by adding extra sherry vinegar or salt as required. Chill until ready to serve. To serve, top with a drizzle of olive oil and some diced cucumber, hard-boiled egg, parsley or mint.

For a more extravagant twist or if you are having a dinner party, why not add a shot or two of vodka to the mixture until you can just taste it.



1kg ripe tomatoes – the riper the better

2 ripe peppers (red, yellow or green)

1 cucumber

2 cloves garlic

150ml extra virgin olive oil

2tbsp good quality sherry vinegar

100g stale crusty bread