At the beginning of January I decided to do a few videos over a few weeks on basic concepts of nutrition as well as practical information and tips on how to implement them in the kitchen. I also answered commonly asked questions and addressed topics that I have noticed confusion around. I called it BaseLevel2NextLevel. The response was bigger than I could ever have expected. Here is an outline of what we covered.
Over those few weeks, I covered:
- Kitchen essentials
- Overnight oats
- What is a portion of fruit and vegetables
- Recipes to include more healthy fats and Omega-3 in your diet
- Eat don’t drink your fruit
- The simple process to start so many great tasty recipes.
- The mixed meal concept
- Saturated Fat
- Pre gym smoothie
- Protein bars
- Pecan Oat Cookies
- Easy Lasagne
- Cottage Pie
The idea came from my new book – ‘Eat Up The Next Level’. This book is based on my belief that when we invest in the key areas of our lifestyle, we can all perform better – not just athletes, but everyone! When I set out to write this book, the primary goal was to separate the noise in nutrition from the real science and present it in a way that would help to reduce the doubts, anxiety and often guilt, associated with food.
The feedback from the book has been overwhelming, and I could not have imagined the impact it has made. I have received hundreds of messages and been stopped countless times by people to tell me how they are using the book and the meaningful changes they have made as a result.
Here at some ways that people have told me they are using the book as a tool for improved health and performance and outcomes they have experienced as a result:
- Better understanding of nutrition
- Enjoying the experience of cooking
- Less stress when it comes to cooking and planning meals
- Improved cooking skills and variety in the diet
- More consistent in their meal planning and preparation
- Fuelling better for training and competition
- Improvements to performance, energy levels and getting PB’s as a result
- Gaining confidence and clarity in their recovery from injury journey
- Eating together as a family for the first time
- Teaching their children how to cook
- Saving money on eating out and premade meals.
The book is available at Easons and all good book stores.
To conclude the series, I want to share with you some of the key lessons I have learned personally and while working for the past 12 years as a performance nutritionist…
I’ll start by asking, how many times have you heard the phrase ‘it’s about having the right mindset’ when it comes to your nutrition or exercise? I would imagine many times. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds. There are many layers to having the right mindset with your nutrition and many things to consider when you are striving to build a consistent way of eating healthy.
Here are top 10 lessons I have learned over the past 12 years from working with elite athletes to recreational athletes, those who just want to improve their health and my own personal journey with nutrition.
- Think about food and nutrition in a positive way. Allow it to grow and evolve as you continue to learn about it.
- Knowledge does not necessarily translate into l best practice. Healthy eating is a habit. You have to put conscious effort into creating habits and routines into your daily life if you want to see consistent positive daily outcomes.
- Nutrition is one of many pieces of a jigsaw that fits together to make a healthy lifestyle. No one component works in isolation.
- Building a positive relationship with food is an absolute necessity for long-term, sustainable healthy eating habits. Having a guilt driven and negative orientated relationship only creates a vicious cycle of negative emotions and a short-term focus on your goals.
- Create values for your home around food and cooking. If you live with a partner, family or friends, try and get them involved and ‘buy in’ to these values. These can be based around; Avoiding food wastage, Cooking your own meals, Eating together, Limiting take away meals, Eating seasonal foods.
- Be patient!! We underestimate how long it takes to create new habits or to make changes to our body composition. Meaningful change to your body and health is a by-product of patience, commitment, and trust in the process.
- Expecting big changes too soon sets you up for disappointment when you fail. Understanding and mapping your large
- Consistency, consistency, and more consistency! Understand it, embrace it , and take pride in being consistent. Being consistent can result in extraordinary outcomes, but mastering it only comes with lots of practice.
- Good food choices are an investment in your health, your future, and your family. Think of each meal as an opportunity to make a small but positive investment in your health for these reasons.
- Don’t underestimate the powers of reflection. Reflection is giving careful consideration to your actions and behaviours in a manner that is honest, humbling and comfortable for you. In high performing environments feedback is regularly given to athletes on their performance and they are expected to understand plans, details and practices that allow them to consistently improve and strive towards being at their best. If we don’t have this type of feedback, we can integrate it into our lives through reflective practices. This can be just once a week thinking back over what went well and what you can do better and keeping it logged and dated in a journal (this is beneficial for all areas of our lives, not just our nutritional habits)
Here is a summary of what the series included over the past few weeks #baselevel2nextlevel
Your kitchen can be a place of great enjoyment or equally an environment that creates frustration and stress. The more enjoyable your cooking and eating experience the easier it will be to stay on track with your nutrition and lifestyle goals. With that in mind take the time to think about your kitchen layout, what equipment is there and how you can improve the efficiency, flow and overall cooking experience. It is not going to be easy to create a mindful experience in the kitchen if you have a disorganised kitchen or bad quality cooking utensils.
- Sharp knife – makes the job of chopping your food in preparation to cook a lot more enjoyable meat, potatoes, vegetables,garlic, fruit
- Peeler – take the hassle out of preparing your vegetables with a good quality peeler potatoes, vegetables, apples
- Strainer – you will use this repeatedly, a lot safer than draining water using the lid of a pot too pasta, rice
- Compost caddy and compostable bags – sustainable and cost effective, the bags and lip of the bin keep the smells contained
- Jars for dry ingredients – keep the foods fresh and allow you to bulk buy ingredients like nuts and seeds and store them together in an airtight container ready to be used.
- Can even bring these jars to a refill store for more and save on packaging.
- Grater – makes the process simpler than finely chopping foods like cheese, potato, dark chocolate
- Baking paper – handy to line a tray with for cooking potato wedges, vegetables, fish or cookies
What is a portion of fruit and vegetables?
When it comes to fruit and vegetables, we are recommended to eat a minimum of 5 portions per day, spread out across the day optimally.
One portion is about 80g, but what is this in food terms?
Put simply, it is generally about one fruit or vegetable but for smaller fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, grapes, brussels sprouts, we can use our palm as a practical guide for one portion.
In my video I weighed different fruits and this was the result:
Nectarine – 80g (with skin)
Banana – 150g (with skin)
Grapes – 80g
Do you consume more than 5 portions of fruit and veg per day?
Consumer research suggests that Irish people are only eating about 3 portions on average daily.
Where is there opportunity to include more fruit or vegetables to your diet?
The mixed meal concept which we coach all our clients and athletes on, one of the most impactful ways of improving energy levels!
Aim to eat a source of carbohydrate, protein and fat at each main meal – this is a mixed meal.
If you have a meal with carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats, your blood sugar will rise followed by a slight dip, but overall it remains relatively stable.
Compared to if you have a slice of toast it will spike and dip more drastically. Follow that with another high carbohydrate meal at lunch that also hasn’t got a source of protein, ie. pasta with a tomato sauce and you will experience another sudden spike in energy, followed by a more sever drop in blood sugar levels.
What you’re looking to do is stabilise your blood sugar levels across the day. This can be powerful for controlling energy levels, and giving you a feeling that your energy levels are really consistent.
A general guideline is 2-2.5 litres of fluid per day depending on body size, sweat rate, environment.
A good indicator of hydration is to check your urine colour when you wake up in the morning. A darker colour urine will indicate more severe dehydration. We are aiming for a pale straw colour to indicate good hydration.
Have a glass of water in the morning and sip on water across the day.
Fruit and vegetables will contribute to overall intake across the day too.
Add cordial, or fruit juice i.e. squeeze of a lime to help uptake and enjoyment of the drink
Consume 1 litre of fluids following an hour of intense exercise.
A few thoughts on alcohol and finding ways to even further improve my relationship with it and reduce my consumption for better health & function. For those who drink, it’s a path we each need to navigate ourselves while being very honest about its role in our lives.
50% replied to my story said doing dry January, other 50% said they are doing it or sort of are doing it.
I have found that reducing alcohol in my own life has left me feeling better and more alert. I have noticed that I am also sleeping better and my digestion has improved.
Excessive alcohol consumption is shown to be linked to cancer diabetes, neurological disorders, mental health and more.
I think our relationship with alcohol can be even better
In 2023 I want to improve my relationship and habits around alcohol even more so than before.
I will pick the nights I will go out and enjoy it, make it about the quality of the alcohol, the experience and the conversations I have on the night.
Be clear about the excessive consumption and manage it as best you can.
Milk – Skimmed, Low or Whole Fat
An incredibly nourishing food. If you’re not lactose intolerant or with some allergy there is no real reason to avoid it in your diet.
If for taste preference you would rather a milk alternative then go for it, but otherwise it is not necessary.
It provides you with a great source of nutrients such as calcium, good source of protein and carbohydrate.
If you tolerate milk well, enjoy it. Have it in your porridge, coffee, smoothies, etc. Whether or not it is low fat or whole milk is very much personal preference – both are nourishing foods.
An example of a time you may need to moderate your consumption is if you drink a lot of it and you’re trying to control your calorie intake.
For example, personally, I tend to have whole in coffee, or porridge, low fat to drink or in a smoothie.
What’s the proportion of healthy vs Saturated fat in your diet? What about butter?
The one we want to reduce is LDL cholesterol – the bad cholesterol .
The American Heart Association recommends that only 5% of calories from sat fat sources (13g for 2000 calorie diet).
Proportions of fat types matter most – more calories coming from healthy fat sources – nuts, seeds, avocados, oils, fish, flaxseed to bring in healthy sources of fat and lower proportion of saturated fats.
There was some confusion from some research over the past 10 years but by in large the research suggests that lower intake of saturated fat is associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality.
Keep in mind that 1 tbsp of butter has almost 7g of saturated fat, that’s 2 tbsp could bring you over daily recommended intake of saturated fat.
Is there any difference between table salt and Himalayan salt and how much do we need?
The evidence suggests we do need to consume it in moderation, we generally have it in abundance in a western diet.
3-4g is the recommended intake, definitely consuming less than 5g per day, with the exception of athletes who may have a higher requirement due to intense training and fluid losses.
We can usually make that up in our food or perhaps adding a little extra to our food to replace losses.
Both table salt and Himalayan salt are made up of 98% sodium chloride. There is only about 2% difference between them, and that 2% is made up of potassium and trace elements – which means we are not gaining a huge amount of health benefits from such a small amount.
Personally I would notice a slight difference in flavour and prefer using rock salt or pink Himalayan
If you eat your apple or mandarin for example, the digestion process is very different. You get the additional fibre from a whole piece of fruit and how you will feel after eating it is quite different. Also, if you have a glass of fruit juice, it is about twice the amount of calories as a small piece of fruit
Unless you’re an athlete who is trying to increase your carbohydrate intake, drinking fruit juice will offer no real benefits
The simple process to start so many great tasty recipes.
Garlic fresh or minced
Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant!! Then add your vegetables and protein source.
Start your cooking with this simple process and then go ahead with your recipe ie, chilli, curry, lasagne.
Made with premix kept in glass jars ready to go.
50g of the pre mix – (Oats, nuts, seeds, chia seed and flax seed)
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Sprinkle of Cinnamon,
Dash of Milk
Mix it all together and top with blueberries.
Leave in the fridge overnight
Top with honey and peanut butter the next morning
Could include whey protein for a higher protein content
Similar recipe published on the website – Run down the stairs overnight oats
3 Salmon fillets
2 cloves Garlic
1 cup Peas or Broccoli
4-5 Sun Dried tomatoes
3-4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp Lemon juice
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
See full recipe here – Salmon Spaghetti
1/2 cup Blueberries
1 scoop Whey
1 tbsp Yoghurt
Suitable for pre or post workout.
1 cup Oats
Dash of Milk
Blitz in a food processor until smooth.
Heat oil on a non-stick pan.
Pour batter onto the pan, flip when you see bubbles forming.
Cook on both sides.
Repeat until the batter is all used up.
Top them how you like, yoghurt and berries work well.
Similar recipe – Fuel Up Banana Pancakes
1 scoop Whey protein powder (optional)
Mix well together
Top with peanut butter, Raspberries & Blueberries
Leave in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight for breakfast the next morning
Similar recipe – Chia Protein Pudding
The easiest pasta bake you can make with so much goodness.
You will need:
Garlic, onions, mushrooms, rapeseed oil
Salt & pepper
Full recipe – Creamy Salmon Mega Mix
4 scoops Whey
2 Peanut butter crunchy
2 tbsp Honey
100g Dark chocolate
Splash of milk
Similar recipe on the website Protein Bombs
Fresh pasta is key 🔑
Greek yogurt, olive oil and ricotta or cottage cheese for the white sauce
Salt & pepper
Few slices of chorizo
With a little rapeseed oil
Whisk 4-6 eggs depending on how many you are feeding
Pour the whisked eggs over the veg, top with cheese and finish in the oven for 5 minutes
Similar recipe – Roast Broccolini Frittata
The big hitters for flavour on the mince
- Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp tomato relish & 1 Tbsp. Tomato purée
- Mixed dried herbs
What a healthy cookie 🍪
30 g pecans
3 Tbsp peanut butter
Honey for sweetness
1 Tbsp desiccated coconut
3 Tbsp milled flaxseed
Approx. 100g oats
Form into cookie 🍪 shapes and oven bake on a lined tray for 12-15 min at 175 degrees
Lot’s of healthy fats from the nuts, peanut butter and flax as well as fibre, beta glucans from the oats – a health supporting snack to have for the week.
Similar recipe – Peanut Butter Banana Cookies