Good nutrition is all about balance. Forget about fad diets or restrictions, a real diet plan for women consists of all the main nutrients with a few treats every now and again thrown in! As a hockey player who studied Food Innovation in college, I have learnt a lot about good nutrition not only for myself as an athlete but even for various lifestyles. Of course, daily calorie intake for women is based on a few factors such as age, height, current weight and level of physical activity. The general recommended daily calorie intake is approximately 2,000 calories per day but if you can focus more on what you eat than counting calories, you’re on to a winner in my opinion!
Breakfast is personally my favorite meal of the day. It is an important contribution towards your daily nutrient intake. Orla Walsh, an Irish dietitian once told me, think of your body like a car, you can’t start your car without enough petrol. It’s the exact same as our bodies. If we don’t fuel up in the morning we won’t have enough energy to complete our daily tasks to the best of our ability. I always thought this was a great analogy.
I make sure I have time to fill up on something wholesome in the morning, like a big bowl of porridge. I usually measure out 40g of Flahavans progress oats (these are my favourite as I think they just cook so well). I pour in about 200 ml of milk and let that cook away on the hob. My go-to toppings would be half a banana, 1 teaspoon of peanut butter, a pinch of coconut shavings, milled flax seeds and a blob of homemade raspberry chia jam. I love porridge because you can play around with so many different toppings and it always tastes so good. This porridge ticks all the boxes when it comes to nutrients. The oats are rich in carbohydrates and fibre. They are high in a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, also known as the healthy heart fibre because it is linked to improving cholesterol. The milk and peanut butter are great sources of protein. It is important women consume enough protein to keep bones strong and healthy. Bananas are a great source of vitamin C, potassium and manganese. Raspberry chia jam sweetens the porridge without the excessive sugar that a regular shop-bought jam would provide. The milled flax seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids which improves digestive health, lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol.
Some other good breakfast recipes:
- Overnight oats – 4 ways
- Pear and blueberry breakfast bowl
- Protein pancakes
- Banana and raisin baked oats
My happy hour
I love coffee. I would usually have one or two per day. Dietitian Orla Walsh supports coffee drinking, even for pregnant women! She just mentions not to overdo it, which makes sense of course, and brings us back to our point on a balanced diet. I vary what type of coffee I order based on how I feel and what my day consists of. If I’ve done a workout I would take a coffee with full fat milk to ensure there is enough protein for muscle recovery. If I’m trying to lower my calorie intake that day I would choose an Americano. Sometimes, If I feel like a plant-based option I would order a coffee with oat milk. Coffee time always comes with a snack for me. Blendi are the perfect treat alongside a coffee. They are filling, lower in calories compared to the usual baked goods sold beside coffee, and are high in protein and fibre. I always feel like I’m getting in extra nutrients so easily when I snack on a pack. They are ridiculously good and so easy to store in the car or your handbag.
Other snack options I enjoy:
- Any fruit
- Chopped up peppers and carrot sticks with hummus
- Plain rice cakes with some peanut butter
- Natural Greek yogurt with some berries
One recipe I love to cook for lunch is an omelette. I went for a vegetarian omelette and side salad. Omelettes can be ready in 15 minutes and honestly keep me full for so long. If I’m working, I sometimes cook the omelette the night before, throw it in the fridge and bring it to work cold the next day. It still tastes great! You can add in lots of different chopped vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, spring onions, mushrooms, the list goes on. Adding cheese on top is a must. I like to make sure I have eggs at lunch time, whether it be hard boiled in my salad or scrambled in my sandwich. Women generally don’t meet their recommended protein intake daily. It is so important to get protein in at every meal. I find using eggs to increase my protein intake the easiest way. Sometimes I might even have a yogurt with my lunch to really make sure I’m hitting my protein goals. It is particularly important as a sports person to consume enough protein to prevent injury and repair muscles after tough training sessions.
Lunch time recipes I like:
A popular meal in my house is a Mexican bowl using chickpeas, black beans, tomatoes, lime juice and herbs as the salsa. The rice offers carbohydrates, the avocados contain healthy fats and the yogurt contains protein. It is exactly what a colorful and balanced meal should look like. This is my own recipe I throw together but there are so many other vegetarian mexican bowl recipes online.
Dinners I love:
- Wild salmon veggie bowl
- Roasted vegetable pasta bake
- Creamy spiced black bean quesadilla
- Spiced grains with peas, spinach and eggs
Perhaps something sweet
Sweet treats but better for you:
- Healthy jaffa vegan cookies
- Quinoa rice krispie squares
- Peanut butter stuffed dates
- Chocolate rice cakes
The Health Safety Authority offers healthy eating guidelines in the form of downloadable leaflets and daily meal plan samples for women on their website. They define different types of foods we should be eating and in what proportions. Just remember, balance is key when it comes to nutrition.