Eating Right

Eating Right

Jane McClenaghan of Vital Nutrition gives some basic tips on how to eat healthily – on the run. Her advice covers children to OAPs but the basic premise is that to look good you have to eat good and she provides quick and easy solutions.

Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook

In August, at the Irish Medical Organisation conference, obesity in children was a key topic of concern, with Irish paediatricians estimating that between 15 and 20 percent of all Irish children are clinically overweight. Lack of exercise was one factor cited but so too was lack of a balanced diet. It appears that not only the very young but across the whole age spectrum, diet is being ignored. Children are eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods – those high in salts, junk food and sweets. Teenagers, especially girls, spend much of their time on diets, while parents are stressed out, at work and not cooking. Even the elderly, who would have traditionally sat down to meals rather than endure the TV dinner syndrome, are not eating properly.

So whether you have young children, teenagers or elderly parents to consider, what are the simple rules to ensure you get the diet right – especially if you are stressed out and no where near the kitchen?

Jane McClenaghan of Vital Nutrition in Belfast runs courses and one-to-one consultations in nutritional therapy, essentially choosing the right diet, while combining diet with the best choice of nutritional supplements to help people achieve 100% optimum health.


“One of the key factors to a health diet is to watch out for is anti-oxidants,” says McClenaghan. “When people get stressed or are not eating properly, anti-oxidants generate free radicals, which are implicated in ageing, depleted immunity and lack of energy. The old adage of eating five portions of fruit and vegetables will help to counteract these negative effects. Also, another great neutraliser is green tea – try substituting this for regular tea, especially for the elderly.”

While organic is best, price and availability are issues for many people, so McClenaghan advices people to wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly. Pesticides and preservation toxins tend to penetrate right through to the core but to help remove residual wax, she suggests using a vegetable wash available from most health stores, or failing that, using a few drops of vinegar into the washing process.

Snacking is good

Snacking, which is what we do best next to grazing, is very easy with fruit and nuts. It is a question of taking an apple rather than a biscuit and good habits breed good habits. In a government report issued in June, children’s tooth decay, while significantly improved from counterparts in the 60s, is still very high. Again, medical advisers are asking for school tuck shops to offer healthy snacks in addition to regular confectionary.

In terms of using nutritional supplements, McClenaghan suggests everyone could benefit from taking a good quality multi-vitamin with minerals. “Modern living brings with it a lot of stress, pollution and in some cases poor eating habits – even the ‘healthy’ food we are eating is becoming more and more devoid of nutrients, thanks to long storage times, intensive farming and food processing. Supplementing a broad spectrum multi is a good way to ensure you get a decent intake of nutrients.”

Nutritional supplements should not be used in place of healthy eating, but to complement diet.

Stir Fries hit the button

For people on the run, stir fries are an excellent way of getting the right dietary requirements with minimal time. McClenaghan advises go for the greatest colour – the more colour in the wok, the better it’ll be for you. And don’t neglect frozen vegetables too as freezing does not deplete vitamins.”

The fact that vitamin deficiencies such as scurvy have been largely eradicated in Ireland seems to suggest that the diet is adequate. However, marginal deficiencies in both vitamins and minerals can have huge effects on how people feel – tiredness, mood swings, poor skin, headaches, inflammatory conditions, frequent colds or infections – all of these symptoms can be a sign of sub-optimum nutritional status, which can be helped simply by changing diet and choosing appropriate nutritional supplements, with the view to achieving 100% health.

Brown rice better than white

Again, McClenaghan advises go for basics. Brown rice is better than white, wholemeal bread better than white. While brown rice is considered harder to cook than white, for sheer time alone, one solution is to cook the whole bag in one go. Then freeze individual portions. To defrost, simply put in a colander and pour boiling water over.

For the elderly, porridge is a great stable and with good cause. Oats are full of Vitamin B and porridge is easy to make. Rather than adding salt or sugar, McClenaghan suggests adding fruit such as bananas or raspberries. To top it all, add natural yogurt.

Yogurt poses another dilemma. While natural yogurt is good for everyone, typically the majority of flavoured yogurts are also stuffed with sugar. Natural is best and bio even better and is an excellent aid for digestion. While the strong stomach acids will kill live bacteria, it is very good for the mouth and oesophagus.

Fats are needed!

As a nation we are also very short on the Omega 3 fats. In old people, these are good anti-inflammatory aids. Deep sea fish are best, such as salmon and trout, and easy to cook. Again, if you feel not enough fish is being eaten, the best supplements are the high strength fish oils, again found in health shops. Cod Live Oil, while popular, is not as recommended as it is taken from the liver – the organ that detoxifies the fish – and residual toxins may also pass over into the oil.

So, if you only see the kitchen in passing these days, stock up on fresh fruit and nuts, cook colourful stir fries and partner porridge with fruit.