Healthy meal – what does it LOOK like?

Making wholesome and nutritious food choices for most of your meals and snacks, as well as being conscious of portion sizes can have a profound effect on health, feeling well, high energy levels and long term health.

All too often we are bombarded with confusing and complex messages about diets and nutrition products. The diet industry is a lucrative one, and the media need to sell magazines, papers and advertising space. Diet fads come and go.

A healthy diet (and by ‘diet’ I simply mean a what you eat) you don’t need lots of fancy or exotic ingredients, restrictions of certain foods or food groups, or the feeling of being deprived. Think long term, make small changes, that over a long period of time will make a big difference.

Fill your fridge with vegetables, lean meat, eggs and lower fat dairy, and your cupboards with wholesome starchy food and tinned fish, tomatoes, nuts, seeds etc. Frozen vegetables are just as good, and often better nutritionally than fresh. By all means have things such as biscuits, chocolate, wine and beer, but don’t make it an everyday thing. If you fill up on the good stuff, there’s less room for the food that isn’t doing you any favours.

What does a healthy meal look like?


  • 1/2 plate: salad/vegetables/fruit
  • 1/4 plate protein: chicken, pork, beef, fish, beans, lentils
  • 1/4 plate starchy food: potatoes, rice, pasta, quinoa, cous cous, wholemeal bread
  • use oils and oily dressings sparingly

Most people have far too much starchy food eg. BIG plate of pasta, and too little veg. Many athletes have too little starchy food fearing that carbohydrates will make them fat, too much protein and too little veg. How does this translate to real life? Here are some examples…..


  • Seriously Healthy Pancakespancakes-with-berries-and-cream
  • 1 wholemeal toast, little bit of butter, 2 boiled/poached/dry fried eggs
  • Natural yoghurt & fruit, 1 toast
  • Homemade muesli
  • Summer oats
  • Shake: milk, spoon of yoghurt, banana/berries, honey
  • 2 Weetabix, milk, banana


  • For work packed lunch: Build a Box
  • Spaghetti bolognaise: 1/4 plate spaghetti, add extra veg to bolognaise (grated carrot, extra tin tomatoes). Serve with side salad or Deidre’s coleslawfe0b2420125add7efdf9a7002a5b7261
  • Meatballs in tomato sauce with extra veg & pasta
  • Salmon with Happy Carrots
  • Wholemeal pitta, tuna mixed with natural yoghurt/light mayo, chopped pepper, spring onion & lettuce
  • 1 wholemeal toast, little bit of butter, 2 boiled/poached/dry fried eggs
  • Fiery Noodlesimages-2
  • Super food salad with some chicken/fish
  • Lentil & tomato soup

Snacks (hunger often confused with thirst, so first have a glass water/cup of tea or coffee):

  • Apple & handful almonds
  • Rice cake with peanut butter/quark & small dollop of pesto
  • Homemade flapjack
  • Yoghurt & strawberries image
  • Humous and carrot sticks
  • Glass of milk and banana/raisins
  • Skinny latte & apple

Pre-season Overload Week – we’re on a high. Why?!

Mid-way through the intense Overload week of pre season rugby training, and Dec’s exhaustion levels don’t seem too extreme.

He was even able to hold a conversation last night, and levels of irritability appear low (at dinner he soldiered on admirably when there was no pesto for the pasta – he rescued it with a dollop of hot pepper sauce).

Possible reasons for being cheerful: 

  1. the old body is feeling good: during previous pre seasons he was heavier, weighing in at up to 110kg, making training a bigger effort and therefore more tiring. The attention to diet may be making a difference to fatigue levels…..a balanced intake of real nutritious foods, rather than over emphasis on high protein, low carbohydrate and supplements.
  2. pre season training is going well, with the squad bonding
  3. today was a day off training, just a pilates session and physio
  4. he’s enjoying coaching the boys at Ealing Rugby two nights a week…..a new routine is as good as a holiday!
  5. our two eldest children are in N. Ireland with their Granny and Grandpa for a week. This means a bit of peace (we do like to spend time with our children, it’s just that these two nutters are the antithesis of the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ parenting philosophy)
  6. he’s beside himself with joy at the birth of the nation’s new Prince

So last night’s dinner was rescued with some hot pepper sauce. It had me thinking, what are the food items we always have in the fridge or cupboard? The “Desert Island” products (idea poached from Radio 4 Desert Island Discs, this is my Kirsty Young moment). Obviously we do eat other things, like the staples of meat, fish, vegetables and pasta/rice etc.

Our Desert Island List:

    1. Oats – for the porridge in the morning, essential slow release carbohydrate for the training day ahead. Made with milk for calcium and protein, raisins and some sugar for faster releasing carbs and to make it taste better. Also use oats to make biscuits, flapjacks and in smoothies.image
    2. Eggs – powerhouses of nutrition. One of the best sources of protein, containing all the essential amino acids, including leucine (big selling point of many protein supplements). Don’t worry about the cholesterol as it is poorly absorbed by the body. Scrambled, boiled, omelettes, egg fried rice.
    3.  Yoghurt – I prefer to buy natural unflavoured yoghurt as it has no added sugar and usually has probiotics (good for gut health and immunity). Any brand will do, but I’m a fan of the massive tubs from Lidl (about £1.50 for 1kg). I can add berries/chopped fruit/put in smoothies etc. Dec likes the new Danone ‘Danio” higher protein yoghurts (13g protein/pot) which are sweetened with fruit and sugar.2013-04-01 15.58.55
    4. Fruit – for snacks, no explanation needed for the benefits of the vitamins, antioxidants, fibre, carbohydrate etc.
    5. Nuts – a handful of almonds as a snack, or peanut butter on toast. Healthy fats (cholesterol lowering), high protein so filling and good for muscle repair/building
    6. Coffee – for a wake up kick, afternoon kick, evening kick. Means we don’t have to physically kick each other to wake up! Contrary to imagepopular belief, it’s not dehydrating and has many health benefits. Also useful to have pre training as caffeine enhances performance (ergonomic)! At London Irish, some of the boys are in their Coffee Club, where they enjoy a swift Nespresso before hitting the training field/weights room.
    7. Hot Pepper Sauce – as previously discussed, this can rescue a meal

      Hot Pepper Sauce

      Hot Pepper Sauce

      that may be lacking in flavour. Used like tomato ketchup. Personally, I think it destroys any hope of actually tasting the food you put it on (mmmm, not saying a lot for my cooking skills, is it?!)

    8. Cherry Diet Coke – this is the Desert Island luxury item, Dec’s ‘treat’. I get a bit twitchy and Food Police when he reaches for the 3rd or 4th can of the day. There’s not much good to say about Diet Coke, it’s nutritionally sparse, and there are question marks over it’s long term health affects.

So here’s hoping the happy state remains with us until Saturday when a week off training starts, watch this space!

The Exercist: Mind the (Thigh) Gap

The following question and response is from an interesting website The Exercist, which is a site focusing on health and body positivity, and strives to myth bust within the fitness community……….

Question from a teenage girl:

Why is a thigh gap attractive? Why is being sickly skinny hot? What is wrong with society, making every one of us teenage girls think that to be beautiful, we must starve ourselves. Some of us aren’t even built to have a god damn thigh gap or have our ribs poking out.

What happened to hot women with curves, not angles?

Please remember that a woman can have a thigh gap without starving herself or being “sickly.” Everyone is built differently – Some people are healthy at a lower weight with wide set hips, while others are healthy at a higher weight with narrow set hips. There is no reason to insult or demean one body type in order to praise another.

There are certainly a lot of problems with the way that society currently promotes one “ideal” body type for women, forcing many people to hurt themselves in an effort to attain that form of beauty. But when preaching for body acceptance and body positive thinking, it’s important to remember that the “ideal” isn’t just a mystical concept – Some people look like that and that’s cool too.

Women can have curves, angles and everything in between.

I fully understand that people can be perfectly healthy and have a thigh gap… Or “sickly skinny”.

But my point is to be happy with WHO YOU ARE.
Not to feel pressured into being skinny or unhealthy. Or a thigh gap.

That’s an awesome mentality to take on – Being happy with who you are is a huge step forward in self-love.

Just be careful with the sort of language that you use – When discussing different body types, it’s important not to associate negative terms and descriptions with certain characteristics. Inherently linking “sickly” with “skinny” is a problem, for example, as is making unfavorable implications about “angles” and “ribs poking out.” Keep in mind that these are not necessarily bad things.

It’s the idealization of thinness that presents a problem, not the body types and physical characteristics themselves.