Chilli Con Carne

This chilli recipe works really well for the whole family. Fabulous for protein and iron from the beef mince, lycopene from tomatoes, vitamin C from red peppers, fibre in all the veg…..the list of health benefits could go on.

I’ll make it without the chilli powder for the kids and call it “Children’s Chilli”. It still images-3.jpegretains the chilli flavour with cumin and paprika but without the heat form the chilli powder. When they’ve been served up, I’ll add the chilli for the adults. It’s perfect with a variety of optional extras: rice, jacket potato, tacos, coleslaw, sour cream or grated cheese.

Watching your weight?

You can swap beef mince for turkey mince, cut right back on the rice (or skip the rice altogether) and images-2serve with coleslaw, salad or any other veg you fancy. Filling a few big iceberg lettuce leaves with the chilli and coleslaw is quite delicious. Aim to fill at least half your plate with veg/salad, and about 1/4-1/3 of the plate with the chilli.


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 500g lean minced beefphoto-5
  • 1 beef stock cube in 300ml boiling water
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • boiled rice or Tacos


  1. In a pan, heat the oil, add the onions and cook over a medium heat until soft
  2. Add the garlic, red pepper, chilli powder, paprika and cumin. Cook on low for a few minutes.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the minced beef, stirring and prodding for about 5 minutes to break up the mince.
  4. Pour in the beef stock
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and sugar
  6. Squirt in the tomato purée and stir well.
  7. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring to stop the chilli ‘catching on the bottom.
  8. Turn off the heat for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop and to cool down.


Chicken Curry in a Hurry



A quick, easy, healthy and tasty recipe for chicken curry.


When time and energy are in short supply, but you want a super healthy dinner, this is perfect. I usually knock this up in about 20 minutes (in-between refereeing bickering children and negotiating their homework)

  • 4 ingredients: onion, tinned tomatoes, chicken breasts or roast a chicken and shred, Patak’s Korma Spice Paste
  • very quick and very easy
  • chocablock full of anti inflammatory nutrients (quecertin from onions, vitamin C and lycopene from tomatoes, and turmeric,  cumin, garlic in the spice paste)
  • High protein: from the chicken, excellent for your muscles and keeps you feeling full up
  • Not too spicy: my children will even eat it

What to do:

  1. chop up a large onion, fry on a medium heat in a tablespoon on vegetable or coconut oil for a few minutes until soft.Unknown
  2. add the 1 tablespoon of the spice paste (more if you like a stronger flavour)
  3. add the diced chicken breasts/chopped up roast chicken – coat in the spice paste, cook for a few minutes
  4. add the chopped tomatoes – allow about half a tin or carton per person
  5. simmer for about 20 minutes, longer if you prefer a drier sauce

Serve with rice or in a jacket or sweet potato……lovely to soak up the juices 🙂

Short cuts for when you’re too knackered or just don’t have the time: use frozen chopped onions, ready cooked chicken and microwaveable pouches of riceUnknown-5






To add some extra nutritional oomph:

  • coriander/spinach, stir in at the end. If you cook it for too long it wilts away to nothing. Lots of antioxidants and phytochemicals
  • tomato puree – for some concentrated lycopene
  • wholegrain rice – extra fibre, more filling and more slowly  than white rice so keeps the blood sugar levels steadier

10 top foods for recovery

You may feel that you have worked out to the max during your sessions burning 100s of calories, so does it really matter if you have some crisps, chocolate, a danish pastry or chips? Time and time again, research shows that the answer is “yes”. Replacing calories isn’t the only objective of recovery.

Between each workout, game or race the body needs to adapt to the physiological stress that has just been applied, so that it can recover and become fitter, stronger and faster. Whether you are a triathlete, a gym addict, or your child is playing in a weekend rugby tournament, optimum recovery nutrition can help you to perform better in the short and long term.

There are many ‘recovery drinks’ and powders marketed for refuelling after exercise. While

Real Food

Real Food

these have their place, they are not necessarily the best option. It can be argued that real food is the best fuel for recovery, providing everything that a recovery drink can, as well as all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals etc that simply cannot be bottled or made in to a powder.

What’s happening during recovery?

  • refuelling of muscle and carbohydrate stores
  • replacing fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat
  • manufacturing new muscle protein and blood cells
  • allowing immune system to manage damage caused by exercise


What are the recovery ‘rules’?

  • multiple daily exercise sessions – if less than 24 hours until next session e.g. professional athletes, weekend rugby tournament, compulsive gym exercisers: recovery nutrition after your session ASAP, ideally within an hour. If next session starts within an hour, recovery drinks or anything low fibre and low fat to help with faster digestion (lasagne not a good option!)
  • more than 24 hours between exercise sessions – generally no need to eat soon after exercise, try to have your next usual meal. consisting of some protein and carbohydrate. If trying to gain muscle, then you can add a recovery snack to fuel this catabolic process. If trying to lose weight and hungry after training, be careful not to increase overall daily calorie intake. Have something light to eat e.g. yogurt.


Why carbs & protein are important

Immediately post exercise, good recovery nutrition will consist of protein & carbohydrate. Aim for 1g carbohydrate per kg of body weight, and approximately 25g protein (a chicken breast is about 25-30g, a mug full of rice is about 70g carbohydrate). Unfortunately, eating lots of extra protein does not make bigger muscles.

Carbs and protein work together: carbs help to shuttle protein in to the muscles, and protein helps to stimulate faster muscle glycogen replacement. Low fat helps the food to be absorbed more quickly, as does low fibre (so don’t be too concerned about choosing ‘healthy’ whole grain carbs like whole wheat bread). Fruit & veg can be included in the next meal to provide antioxidants.

If you don’t feel like eating food or don’t have the time or facilities, then recovery drinks or shop bought milkshakes can be useful. Here is a more in-depth look at some of the most popular commercial recovery drinks. If you are trying to lose weight, then watch the calories……..don’t increase overall calories through the day.


10 snack foods for fast recovery:

330ml Milkshake – e.g. Yazoo, Frijj, For Goodness Shakes

Homemade recovery smoothie

Post exercise shakes have their place, but watch the extra calories!Large skinny latte & handful of nuts


Bagel with peanut butter

Milk: perfect recovery protein & carbs

Breakfast cereal with milk e.g Cornflakes, Rice Krispies, Cheerios

2 Eggs on 2 white toast

Sandwich/roll/wrap/pitta: filled with chicken, fish or eggs

Jacket potato with cottage cheese/tin of tuna/Baked Beans

Banana or yogurt

Yogurt & Banana

Homemade Seriously Healthy Flapjacks

Pre season – even more food, and first game at Nottingham

Pre season training has always been pretty full on. In the Rugby Union calendar, June to August is a time for pushing fitness, strength and skills to prepare for the playing season ahead. With the first warm up game next week against Nottingham, there has been more emphasis on ‘contact’ sessions in preparation for actual games, rather than a focus on fitness eg. running hills. Dec likens it to getting beaten up on a daily basis.


Day off lunch at GBK  800kcal – stopped the chips, fried onion rings and milkshake this year.

At 33, retirement is on the horizon, and the cross over to life beyond playing is taking root. Dec is is embarking on a coaching career, so after his own day of training, he’s passing on what he has learnt over the past fourteen years to the academy lads at London Irish.  It’s a long day, and hard work both physically and mentally. But like anything, if you do something you love it is a pleasure and a privilege rather than a chore.

Oddly, for an old guy (33), Dec is feeling pretty good. Apart from the usual longterm niggles originating from two ACL repairs in two consecutive years, he feels that he is in the shape of his life. It’s always tricky to put this down to any one reason. One of the main factors is that after 14 years of messing around with various diets and supplements, he is taking the sensible, and, sorry folks, ‘boring’ avenue of eating healthy balanced meals. Don’t get me wrong, diets or lifestyles such as low carbing or the Paleo diet have their merits, and can work for many, however, for most athletes in hard training they won’t enable optimal performance and can even impact on susceptibility to illness.. As well as the good food, and obviously the daily training, rest is another important aspect. So no late nights, and as much of a lie in as possible!

As he is still trying to gain weight, total daily intake now needs to be in excess of 4200kcal. That’s a lot of food! This is where sports supplements would come in very useful, but Dec is reluctant to rely on these, preferring to reap the benefits of real food, benefits that a powder mixed with water simply cannot replicate. Practically, this can be tough, requiring careful planning of what and when he is going to eat.

Here are the current dietary regimen principles:

  • regular meals – roughly every 3 hours, that’s 6 meals to spread the food throughout the day and timed around training sessions
  • at least 700kcal per meal
  • not excluding any food group eg. carbohydrateWhen training, carbs are your friend!
  • adding extra calories using nutrient dense foods eg. olive oil (100kcal per tablespoon), extra nuts & seeds added to recipes, lashings of peanut butter on bagels, avocados, grated cheese on top of meals
  • using supplements when necessary – a carb/protein recovery drink during weight training when eating is not possible, followed by a meal asap after the session

Here’s what he had yesterday (all meals, one serving with no seconds!):

7am: large bowl porridge, 1/2 bagel with butter, jam, peanut butter

10am: meal at work – pork, mashed potatoes, vegetables


Yoghurt, nus and apple

1pm – meal at work – beef fajitas

4pm: yoghurt, nuts, apple, supplement bar

7pm: meal at home – chicken, spinach, cherry tomatoes and puy lentils with brown basmati rice


Tuna mayo wrap

10pm: tuna mayo in a wrap with pepper and spring onions

So it’s just a few days until the first warm up game oop north (that’s anywhere past the M25 for Dec). For me, every game is a nerve racking experience. The phone call that comes about 30 minutes after the final whistle is always eagerly anticipated, so that I can breathe a sigh of relief that he has come through relatively unscathed (black eyes and wounds that can be sewn up pitch side don’t count as proper injuries!)

Pre season training – a day in the life……

7 weeks in to pre season training, and we’re starting to feel the physical strain. Pre season (June-August) is the time when fitness and strength training are pushed to the extreme in preparation for the playing season ahead. I say ‘we’re’ starting to feel the strain as having a husband in pre season training is like adding another child to the equation. His exhaustion at the end of the day renders him pretty much helpless!

This morning, Monday 22nd July, sees that start of ‘Over-load Week’, when the boys are pushed even more physically, with the reward of a week off from Sunday. As I sit here typing at 6am, Dec’s alarm is jolting him out of his comatose state. With the first training session at 7.15am, he needs to be up with enough time to fit in the first meal to allow it to digest. Here’s the schedule for today:

7.15am: 45 minutes weights (‘hypertrophy’ short, sharp and intense lifting, to increase muscle mass)

8am: breakfast

8.30am: stretching session

10am: 1 hour rugby training

11.30am: 1/2 hour conditioning (fitness/running)

12pm: lunch

2.30pm: Weights (legs)

4pm: afternoon meal

4.30pm: physio/massage

6ish +: return home

So it’s a long day of weights, rugby and fitness training. The forecast for today is 32 degrees C………… on top of food and snacks, fluid, fluid, fluid is as important to maintain hydration.

After the long day at the Sunbury training ground, Dec will return to (ahem) our tranquil home. Perhaps I will rephrase that. Dec will return home to the tears and tantrums lively and spirited debates between our two girls (6 and 3), and our 1 year old toddler, who is going through a clingy/moaning phase. All the poor man wants to do is just sit down and zone out (reminds me of that quote from Winnie the Pooh: “Sometimes I sits and thinks, sometimes I just sits).

With 3 kids entertain, shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. etc. an extra body sitting near comatose on the sofa can be, to be polite, frustrating. However, I have to remind myself that recovery and rest are a fundamental phase of training, as important as the physical sessions throughout the day.

The huge calorie intake needed to meet the requirements of the extra physical activity AND to promote weight gain, can be tricky to achieve. Even with a personal dietitian who also happens to be his wife at his disposal.

I always say that an athlete can meet their nutritional needs using real food, with supplements eg. protein/recovery drinks/bars, used to support the diet if necessary. Real food gives a multitude of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre, fatty acids, as well as probably many other substances that science not discovered yet. A manufactured product simply cannot replace a meal for nutrition.

Dec, being Dec, has taken this on board, wanting most of his nutrition to come from food, with recovery/energy drinks used a few times during training. In theory, this is music to the ears of a dietitian. However, in practise this means 5 meals per day, which is tedious (shopping, cooking, cleaning up), not to mention expensive.

Rob, the Strength & Conditioning coach at London Irish, has the boys on strict diets to meet their various nutrition and training needs. Dec’s aim is to increase weight from 100kg to approximately 105kg, while maintaining body fat at 10%. He’s on target, having upped the weight to 102.5kg (that half kilo is VERY important!)

Meals yesterday: porridge; bagel & scrambled eggs; salt beef ciabatta; pasta with pesto, chicken, pepper & spring onion; salmon, rice, happy carrot salad; wrap with chicken & coleslaw.

happy carrots

happy carrots

Snacks/training: apples, yoghurts, almonds, recovery drinks, energy drinks.


almonds, yoghurt, apple

Healthy ice cream – high protein, low fat

Here’s a recipe for ice cream made with protein powder. I used Kinetica Whey Protein Strawberry flavour. It is a much healthier version of standard ice cream, as it is low in fat, and high in protein, and has healthier carbs. Perfect as a post workout recovery snack, or just for something delicious on a hot day.


Per serving:

  • 208kcal, 18g protein, 25g carbohydrate, 4g fat
  • Normal ice cream per 100g (3/4 cup): 200kcal, 3.3g protein, 23g carbohydrate, 11g fat

Why it’s better than standard ice cream:

  • cream replaced with whey protein powder, yoghurt and milk.
  • higher in protein – for muscle repair and muscle building, makes you feel full up for longer.
  • lower in fat – 17% calories from fat, compared to 50% in standard ice cream
  • healthier carbs – banana and milk replace sugar. Carbs used for muscle repair and building (helps to shuttle protein in to muscle), replaces glycogen used up during exercise.
  • banana provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and soluble fibre.
  • you can have a larger portion size than standard ice cream as it is lower in kcal.

You can use any flavour of protein powder that you like, I used strawberry. I don’t have an ice cream maker, but I’m sure the results would be even better using one!

And the recipe…..(makes 2 servings):

30g any whey protein powder 

250ml semi skimmed milk

1 banana

2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Whizz the ingredients in a blender, and pour in to a bowl. Place bowl in the freezer.

After about an hour, take out of freezer and stir using a whisk or fork. This is to break up the ice crystals. Try to get a smooth consistency.

Repeat this every 30 minutes/1 hour until the ice cream has been in the freezer for approximately 4 hours. If it is left longer than this, it can become quite solid, and will need to be left out of the freezer for a while to defrost a little before serving.



Breakfast Omelette (sweet!)

Most of us have become used to having something sweet in the mornings, rather than savoury. Think breakfast cereal, porridge with raisins, muesli, toast and jam, fruit and yoghurt etc. All perfectly great breakfasts.


Omelettes usually fall in to the savoury category, so I thought I’d change ingredients to make it sweet. It sounds a bit odd, but bear with me, and give it a go. All you need are eggs, oats and some honey. Cinnamon if you are feeling adventurous!

Why this omelette is great!


  • contrary to popular belief, cholesterol in eggs does not raise blood cholesterol
  • nutrient dense superfood, choca-block with vitamin and minerals
  • high in choline (neurological benefits) and leucine (for muscle building – found in many sports protein drinks)
  • High protein – help you to feel full up for longer and for muscle building
  • cheap!


  • low GI, for slow energy release
  • high soluble fibre and B vitamins
  • lowers cholesterol, prevents heart disease
  • also cheap!


  • balance of fructose and glucose sugars (similar to sports carbohydrate gels, but without the additives)
  • easily absorbed by the body, increasing energy levels quickly

Here’s what you do:

1) whisk 2 eggs, add to hot non-stick omelette/frying pan

2) sprinkle in a small handful of oats, with cinnamon if you are using

3) give the pan a shake every so often and just a few times give a stir (stir too often and you’ll have scrambled eggs, equally delicious I’m sure)

4) drizzle some honey over the omelette

5) plate up! Add some extra honey if you wish.

Nutrition info: 320kcal, 16g protein, 30g carbohydrate