What’s healthy food these days? It’s not detox juice regimens, that’s for sure, and neither is it extreme diets. With so much contradictory advice around, and fads coming and going, we’re focusing on food experiences that celebrate whole, natural foods and the very best of Irish ingredients.
1 Eat less but better-quality meat
In other countries, grass-fed, hormone-free beef is a luxury product priced beyond the budget of most. In Ireland, we take it for granted. And Irish lamb grazes on natural pasture. Irish lamb and beef are a source of high-quality protein, and protein is an essential component of a nutritionally balanced diet. The quality of Irish pork, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. The bulk is industrially reared and the animals don’t enjoy a good quality of life. Either avoid it or buy from farmers who raise free-range animals that produce high-quality meat, such as Andarl Farm and The Whole Hoggs. See andarlfarm.ie; thewholehoggs.com
2 Buy irish chicken
We Irish love our chicken, but many of the processed chicken products on the shelves of Irish supermarkets are made with poultry that originates as far away as Brazil. Buy a good Irish free-range or organic bird and use every bit of it – it’ll give you dinner, sandwiches and soup (from the bones and scraps) for four, for less than €5 a head.
3 Cook from scratch
If you want to know what’s in your food, and you don’t like the idea of all the additives and preservatives in ready- meals, cook it from scratch. If you don’t know how, buy a book or look up a recipe or two online. It’s not complicated – if you can read, you can cook. One of the best cookery books for beginners is Neven Maguire’s new Home Economics for Life (Gill Books).
4 Try overnight oats at Two Boys Brew
You can, of course, make your own, but the Bircher muesli at Two Boys Brew in Dublin’s Phibsborough is soaked in oat milk, flavoured with apple, cranberry and mint, and served with cinnamon-baked apples, blackberry compote, hazelnut butter and lemon balm. It costs €6.50. See twoboysbrew.ie
5 Say hello to buffalo
Buffalo meat tastes like beef but it contains less fat and more protein. Liam Byrne raises Macamore buffalo in Ballygarrett, Co Wexford – and it’s delicious. See macamorebuffalo.ie
6 Drink quality coffee
Coffee consumed in moderation is thought to reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. And with so many excellent Irish roasters around, why drink imported brew? Red Rooster small batch artisan coffee in Co Sligo is just one of many – and the Bantam’s Brew (Strength 4) is my personal favourite. See davenportcoffee.com
7 Butter up
Irish dairy produce is the envy of the world, and Irish butter makes everything taste better. It’s a real, rather than manufactured, product and it’s superior to any spread from a tub. Supermarket butter is great, but the butter that you get from small producers such as Cuinneog and Abernethy is exceptional. At farmers’ markets, you’ll sometimes find raw farm butter – don’t pass it by.
8 Eat your greens
We all know that we should be eating more fruit and vegetables. Ten a day is the new five. You can now buy Irish apples in Dunnes Stores (hooray!) and Irish vegetable producers have upped their game in recent years, increasing the range of vegetables that they grow. If you can shop at a local farmers’ market, it’s an education in seasonality. McNally Family Farm sells organic vegetables grown in North Co Dublin – buy them at their farm shop, or at Temple Bar, People’s Park in Dún Laoghaire or Naomh Olaf in Sandyford, and they have fresh greens all year round.
9 Veg out at Café Paradiso
Ireland’s best-known vegetarian restaurant was 25 years old last year. The Cork restaurant is as good as it ever was. See paradiso.restaurant
10 Take a cookery class
Learning how to cook is empowering. Try a course such as Fumbally Home Cooking, a six-week series of classes in healthy, sustainable and delicious home cooking, which starts on January 9 at the much loved Dublin café, priced €300. See thefumballystables.ie
11 Nibble some nobó
If dairy is off-menu for you, then Irish-made Nobó dairy-free ice-cream is a compensation. Made with avocados and coconut, flavours include Passion Fruit & Mango and Irish Salted Caramel; it’s no penance. See nobo.ie
12 Eat more fish
Stop eating farmed salmon and start eating oily fish such as mackerel. Online fishmonger Stefan Griesbach – eatmorefish.ie – has a fantastic range from which to use, with plenty of sustainable wild and Irish options. Even if you live inland, there’s no excuse.
13 Savour vegan ‘fish’ and chips
At Vish Shop on Dublin’s Blessington Street, vegans can chow down on cauliflower wings and “vish ‘n’ chips” (vish is Veginity’s plant-based version of fish, made from cassava and wild seaweed coated in batter).
14 Go for goat meat
If you’re cutting down on your red meat consumption for ethical reasons, or because you prefer meat with less fat, consider goat, which is about as sustainable as it gets, as the meat comes from male animals which are redundant in cheese/dairy farming. The goat mince curry at Pickle on Dublin’s Camden Street may convince you. You can order goat and rose veal online. See broughgammon.com
15 Get goodness to go
Husband and wife team, Ronan Ryan and Pamela Flood, started their business in the recession and are now the go-to folk for healthy office catering in the capital. Who wants a bready sandwich platter when they can have vibrant, sustaining food that’s all but guaranteed to foster teamwork and stimulate creative thinking?
16 Feel juicy with green beards
While the days of the juice cleanse are behind us, there’s no denying that a well-timed green juice can make you feel as if you can conquer the world (or at least your hangover). Green Beards’ cold-pressed juices are among the best. See greenbeards.ie
17 Hail the happy Pear
The Happy Pear: sunrise swims, handstands, cookbooks, pesto, vegan ready meals, free porridge and two cafés. Love ’em or loathe ’em, the Happy Pear are Irish health-food royalty. See thehappypear.ie
18 Taste Holly White’s new menu at the Merrion
A new vegan menu from Holly White, author of Veganish, launches at The Merrion hotel in Dublin later this month. It’s tasty. See merrionhotel.com
19 Have a cup of intelligent tea
Herbalist Freda Wolfe makes beautiful herbal teas that help with digestive issues, inflammation, hangovers and other physical complaints. They taste gorgeous, too. See intelligenttea.ie
20 Sip natural wine
It’s an obvious follow-on that if you prefer your food to be additive- and chemical-free, you want your wine to be pure too. Thankfully, natural wine, made with minimal intervention, is right on trend. Find it at wine bars such as Tartare in Galway, and Bar Giuseppe, Loose Canon, Green Man and 64 Wine in Dublin.
21 Try top Thai at nightmarket
Sometimes food that’s marketed as “healthy” tastes dull and worthy. There’s no such issue at Nightmarket in Ranelagh, where you can eat fresh, vibrant flavours from Thailand that’ll clear your sinuses and blow away any midwinter cobwebs. See nightmarket.ie
22 Nourish your body
The Nourish health-food stores are brilliant. Go for Clearspring seaweed snacks, which are almost calorie-free and completely delicious. But they have lots more besides. See nourish.ie
23 Pick up a Poké at nutbutter
The LA-style poké bowls are so virtuous, they almost come with a guaranteed halo at this café in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock. Thankfully, they taste as good as they look. Also try Shaka Poké in Blackrock. See nutbutter.ie
24 Go nuts for nutshed
Evie and Eliza Ward specialise in wholefoods. They say that they “believe in eating consciously and are wholly committed to a life of decadent, virtuous treats without gluten, dairy or refined sugar”. Find them at Limerick’s Milk Market and you’ll see their products in cafés and coffee shops around the country. See nutshed.ie
25 Open up to Oysters
Irish oysters – full of zinc; what more reason do you need?
26 Plump for porridge
Cheap as chips and much better for you – Kilbeggan Organic Porridge Oats are creamy and delicious.
27 Enjoy real bread
Many people who suffer from IBS and other digestive issues assume that they have a problem with gluten, when in fact they have a reaction to all the other ingredients in the standard industrial loaf. Find a baker near you who makes proper sourdough with just water, flour and salt. See realbreadireland.org
28 Try speedy health food at sprout
The Kirwan brothers’ “healthy, seasonal and local” Sprout & Co chain is unstoppable. Wholesome food at reasonable prices. See sproutfoodco.com
29 Hop it to the Hopsack
One of the longest-established health-food stores in the country, The Hopsack in Dublin’s Rathmines sells everything from organic vegetables to kefir to peanut butter containing nothing but peanuts. The juices are magnificent too. See thehopsack.ie
30 Enjoy a ‘Jamu’ turmeric Tonic
Ruth Calder-Potts and Clovis Ferguson come from food-producing families (Highbank Orchards and Gubbeen Farmhouse, respectively) and have recently launched a new business, MuTonics. Their first product is Jamu – a turmeric-based health drink originating in Indonesia. It is an infusion of certified organic fresh turmeric, ginger, tamarind, lemongrass, cinnamon, lemon juice, West Cork honey, black pepper and Atlantic sea salt. Turmeric is a wonder spice and often used as an anti-inflammatory. It is also an antioxidant and helps support the immune system. Find it in the Camerino café on Merrion Square, Dublin. See mutonics.com
Three to try: gut health
Fermented foods are good for the gut, and good gut health is increasingly thought to be key to mental and physical health. Make your own using recipes from the new Noma Guide to Fermentation (Artisan Books) or let someone else do the work for you and buy kimchi from White Mausu or another good producer.
Another one for good gut health, Blakes Irish Organic Kefir – a fermented milk drink – is widely available. If you prefer a dairy-free option, you’ll find King of Kefir’s water-based kefirs (guilt-free fizzy drinks that contain only 10 calories a bottle) in selected branches of SuperValu and independent retailers.
Cork-based April Danann’s kombuchas – more good gut bacteria – are delicious. To learn how to make your own herbucha scoby, visit aprildanann.ie
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