There’s a lot of talk these days about healthy eating, but some things I hear make me question if we really understand what eating healthily means


I have teamed up with the butlers pantry to explore the area of healthy food on the go. I have been given some of their winter menu to sample for this series of articles.

The idea of excluding whole food groups from your diet does not seem to me to be a sustainable or healthy way of eating, and I enjoy my food too much ever to be able to give up bread, butter, or good dark chocolate. That said, I love my fruit and vegetables too, and cram as many of them into my daily diet as possible.

What’s clear to me is that it’s important to eat good quality food, and to keep processed food to an absolute minimum, and that includes the so-called ‘healthy’ foods in the supermarkets.

The Butler’s Pantry, which is celebrating 30 years in business this year was ahead of its time when it started out, because it focused on making wholesome fresh food from the very best of ingredients, always putting flavor to the fore. Over the years, some of the dishes have changed to keep up with changing tastes, but The Butler’s Pantry has stayed true to its core values, and its team of chefs and bakers make the food for its shops from scratch each day in its own kitchen in Bray.

Why eat healthily?

It may seem obvious, but to me it makes sense that if you eat good, fresh and nutritious food, you are making the best choice for your mind and body. And freshly-prepared food is far more nutritious than anything made with additives and preservatives to prolong its shelf-life.

Here are some top tips for eating more healthily:

Replace salt with alternatives

Although we all need salt in our diet, the ideal amount is just a teaspoon a day and some processed meals can contain that much in a single serving! If you have elevated blood pressure, restricting the amount of salt in your diet can help lower your blood pressure.

Some great substitutes for salt are pepper, fresh herbs and spices, all of which add flavour to your food. At The Butler’s Pantry, they use dillisk (powdered seaweed) in some of their delicious meals – it’s particularly suited to fish dishes. 

Make sure you are eating real bread, like proper sourdough

Sourdough bread is everywhere these days, but how much of the bread that’s labelled ‘sourdough’ is the real deal? True sourdough bread contains only flour, water and salt, is fermented slowly and has great flavour. The Butler’s Pantry’s bakers make fresh sourdough bread each day, using a ‘mother’ or ‘starter’ that they have nurtured carefully for several years. The slow fermentation using naturally-occurring lactobacilli and yeast that produces real sourdough bread breaks down hard-to-digest gluten into more easily absorbed nutrients, and adds B-vitamins. When you eat proper sourdough, you ingest lots of the good bacteria that are important for maintaining and promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

Commercial sourdough brings none of the healthy benefits of authentic sourdough because neither the process nor the time allowed for fermentation permit the breakdown of gluten or the growth of good bacteria.

How do you spot a good sourdough from an imposter? Cut open a good sourdough and inhale – it’s slightly sour, tangy, and very comforting.

At the end of the day, choose real food 

After dinner once a week have a small piece of a delicious seasonal dessert such as the Winter Fruit Crumble from The Butler’s Pantry. The recipe is below if you fancy making it yourself at home. 




Healthy Apple Crumble

Serves 4 – 6


Plums                          4

Apples                         4

Blackberries                2 punnets

Sugar                         100g

Vanilla                         1 pod

Butter                          50g

Almond crumble

Ground almonds                     100g

Butter                                    100g

Sugar                                     100g

Plain Flour                               100g


  1. Cut the plums into quarters and remove the stones.
  2. Core the apples and cut into eighths
  3. Heat a large frying pan, add the butter and split vanilla pod and, when the butter starts to foam, add in the fruit and sugar.
  4. Toss in the pan and cook for a couple of minutes before transferring to a an 8 inch pie dish.
  5. For the topping, mix all the ingredients together until it becomes a crumb.
  6. Sprinkle on top of the fruit and bake in a preheated oven at 160c/ fan 140c / gas mark 3 until golden brown.
  7. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Research has shown that making changes in your diet, lifestyle and reducing exposure to toxins can boost fertility for both you and your partner and also reduce the risk of miscarriage. 

Three months is the optimum period of time for these changes to take effect because it takes approximately three months for the follicles on the ovaries to develop before one is mature enough to release an egg at ovulation. Although as a woman you cannot change the number of eggs you have (ovarian reserve), you can certainly change their quality and this is the important point. By improving the quality of your eggs, you are increasing your chances of conceiving naturally and also preventing a miscarriage. If you are going for an assisted conception technique, like IUI, IVF or ICSI, you will also want your eggs to be as healthy as possible so as to give the technique the best chance of success.

Many women I see in the clinic are told that they have ‘old’ eggs and that there is nothing wrong with the IVF technology, the problem is with them.  That is devastating terminology and it is true that the eggs in a woman of 35 are older than when she was 20 but as long as she is ovulating it is possible to change the quality of those eggs to either give her the chance of conceiving naturally or achieving success on an IVF cycle with her own eggs. 

With men, it also takes at least three months for a new batch of sperm cells to mature, ready to be ejaculated. Men produce sperm all their lives so it is always possible to not only improve the quality but also the quantity of sperm by making certain lifestyle and nutritional changes. 

Although it goes without saying that a healthy diet is crucial to a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby, many people are unaware of the fact that what you eat may affect your ability to conceive.   Also you want to avoid the three main fertility busters; caffeine, alcohol and smoking as they have all been linked to an increased risk of infertility in men and women.

Having four cups of coffee or any caffeinated drink a day makes it 26% less likely that a woman will conceive and drinking only 2 cups of coffee a day is associated with a 25% increased risk of miscarriage. And problems with sperm health are connected with increased coffee intake.

Alcohol will also make it more difficult to get pregnant with only just three alcoholic drinks or more a week. The same is true for male fertility and alcohol will also block the body’s ability to absorb fertility boosting nutrients like zinc.

A woman is twice as likely to get pregnant if she doesn’t smoke compared to a woman who does. And smoking is linked to 5,000 miscarriages per year.

Chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA in sperm which can make it harder to conceive because fertilisation can’t take place or if it is does, it can increase the risk of a miscarriage as nature will always work on survival of the fittest.   

Stress for both the man and woman can affect fertility and this needs to be addressed.

If a couple has a combination of four negative lifestyle factors (including tea/coffee, smoking and alcohol) it can take them seven times longer to get pregnant.

As well as looking at what you eat and drink there is now a great deal of scientific knowledge about the use of nutritional supplements and their beneficial effects on both male and female fertility.   The most important nutrients for fertility are zinc, folic acid, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin C, omega 3 fatty acids for you and your partner plus two amino acids, arginine and carnitine specifically for boosting male fertility.  In my clinics we test for nutritional deficiencies and supplement to correct those deficiencies where necessary.  I also use NHP’s Fertility Support for Women and Fertility Support for Men available from good health food shops.

The aim is also to make sure you are a healthy weight.  Women are most fertile when they are neither too thin nor too heavy. You need at least 18% body fat to ovulate and the best chance of conceiving is when 20-25% of the body mass is fat tissue. On the other hand, the menstrual cycle can be disrupted by too much fat, which affects oestrogen levels. Being 25% over your ideal weight can stop ovulation. It’s important for the man to keep his eye on his weight too as there is an increased risk of infertility or poor sperm quality and quantity in men who are overweight or obese.

Don’t miss this opportunity to come and see Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD, the UK’s leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health. You will find out how to use food, vitamins and minerals to increase your energy, eliminate mood swings, improve your memory, reduce stress and lose weight without dieting.

Dr Marilyn Glenville will be visiting Ireland from October 24th to 26th in Dublin, Galway & Cork.

For more information please visit:   

Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD is the UK’s leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health.  She is the Former President of the Food and Health Forum at the Royal Society of Medicine and the author of a number of internationally bestselling books including Getting Pregnant Faster.  Dr Glenville runs clinics in Dublin, Galway, Cork and Kilkenny, for more information see

The Sun is shining, bees are buzzing, we are dining outdoors and every young lad in the country has a big aul farmers tan. This can only mean one thing. Summer is here and while it seems to last for just one day rather than a full season, it is still the perfect excuse to whip up a cool treat to beat the heat.


Bite Size Bowls

This week we are thrilling and chilling that sweet tooth with gluten and dairy free ice cream. This recipe is perfect for those of us who (like myself) are currently staring into a fruit bowl full of almost over ripe bananas. So chop them all up and pop them into the freezer. What you don’t use now for ice cream you can always use later for a smoothie.

Bananas are full of potassium and vitamin B6 but aside from their health benefits they also provide the perfect texture for our vegan ice cream.

This heavenly dessert tastes so good that it must be a sin, but it’s really a saint as we are adding sweet zinc filled strawberries, anti oxidant packed blueberries and magnesium rich cacao nibs (which deserve and entire blog of their own).

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 Bananas
  • 2 Tbsp Raw Cacao Nibs
  • 2 Tbsp Crunchy Organic Peanut Butter
  • Handful of Blueberries
  • Handful of Strawberries
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract (optional)

Ice cream


  1. Slice and freeze the bananas.
  2. Once frozen add them to a food processor and blend.
  3. Chop the strawberries and add them to the blender along with the blue berries, cacao nibs, sea salt, peanut butter and vanilla extract.
  4. Whiz it all up until the texture is similar to ice cream.
  5. Drizzle with maple syrup and serve in a wafer, cone, bowl or any way you like. 

All the ingredients mentioned above can be found at The Green Door Market. Like us on Facebook and follow me on Instagram as I continue my culinary adventures.      

You would be forgiven for thinking that all fruit and vegetables are in season all year round, after all they are available all year round in our local supermarkets!

However, eating seasonally could actually be the best way to eat sensibly as there are real health benefits in sticking to fruit and veg that’s in season.

Here’s why:

  • Produce tastes better – When you eat produce that’s in season it’s a taste sensation as opposed to produce that’s in transit for nearly two weeks. The transit time alone and chilling reduces the flavour. When a fruit or vegetable is ripe and picked fresh not only will it taste better but it’s nutritionally superior too.
  • It’s better value – it stands to reason that when a farmer harvests produce in season it will not only be plentiful but cheaper because storage and transport are not necessary as its usually heading somewhere local.
  • It’s better for the planet too – our planet needs all the help it can get these days and every little helps. Buying local produce reduces fuel to fork costs, helping to reduce pollutant gases into the atmosphere. Growing fruit and veg in season requires lower levels of artificial inputs like heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers, making it better for the environment and you.
  • Seasonal vegetables suit our body – Our bodies our wise and we need to move with the seasons. What’s grown in nature each season is what our bodies crave for nourishment and optimal nutrition. In the summer we lean towards berries and salads but in the winter hearty soups and stews made from root vegetables is what we need. So build a comforting friendship with your crock-pot. After all, winter is all about grounding yourself and we can do this through food too.
  • We can support our local farmers –support and connection is really important for our health and wellbeing. When you buy local you not only help to support your local farmer but you also make a real connection to where your food came from.

Here’s a list of what’s in season now:

All year round you will have onions, carrots, chard, mushrooms, spinach, garlic, potatoes and salad leaves.

liz cook veg seasonal winter veg Liz Cook charts BUY HERE

December: Chestnuts, field mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, leeks, turnips, pumpkins, celery, rhubarb, red cabbage, kale, cauliflower, swede, cabbage, celeriac, beetroot, pears, cranberries, cooking apples and apples

January: Cabbage, Red cabbage, cauliflower, kale, swede, Brussels sprouts, celery leeks, parsnips, turnips, celeriac, beetroot, rhubarb, apples, pears, cooking apples

February: Purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beetroot, cabbage, kale, turnip, rhubarb, celery, celeriac, red cabbage, apples, pears, cooking apples

I love shopping local and my! it’s a very different experience to the supermarket. My son is 6 and has built a relationship with the people at my local market. He knows where food comes from and is interested in the process. From farm to fork without all the logistics is preferable where possible. So please try and support our own and shop locally. Here’s a link to the market I attend in Dublin 8. Check it out The Green Door.

Christy Stapleton greendoor

healthy kids food

Do you think that the habits we instill in our kids during their formative years as babies and children will affect their health later on in life?

Well the simple answer is they will and they do which is why we have got to take action and get our kids healthy.

Having just spent the time in Germany at a nutrition conference I am now more passionate than ever about getting our kids to eat better. I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with David Sandoval who is one of the world’s leading wholefood nutritionist’s. His philosophy is very simple: “kids don’t do what you tell them to do, they imitate what you do”

If your kids see you eating take out and processed packaged foods all the time and drinking fizzy drinks they will think nothing of doing it themselves. Fast food joints like McDonalds should not be a treat even for birthday parties. Let me put it this way: if every parent decided that once a year for their own kid’s birthday McDonalds is allowed, but every week your kid has a different birthday party to attend which means that, now your kid will be having McDonalds every week! So really your decision as a parent now affects so many other children too. We need to take responsibility for all of our kid’s health and there are so many other ways to celebrate keeping it healthy!

I know we are all sick of hearing that obesity is on the rise but the reality is that if we don’t do something we are setting our kids up for a lifetime of disease and struggles. A poor diet has been shown to contribute to a lowered immune system, poor energy levels, concentration and behavior problems in school and at home and a wide variety of illnesses like diabetes, digestive issues, mental and emotional problems.

You might not think mood is related to our lifestyle but they are intrinsically linked. We have a chronic problem with mental health in Ireland and instead of medicating why can’t we look at nutrition first?

David shared a couple of key recommendations with me that will help parents ensure the entire family eats better. With babies its important to train their taste buds and brains early on by giving them a wide variety of foods and remember a baby might need to taste and be offered a food up to 8 times before they will accept it so persistence and patience is key.

Let them know early on that their opinion matters and that they have choices but limit their choices to an approved food list. I have a rainbow food chart that I bought from on the wall in the kitchen.

colour chart

This activity chart has been designed as a fun way to help children (and adults) to eat the recommended five portions of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables every day. Each family member gets a set of re-useable animal stickers so they can see their healthy fruit and vegetable food intake, aiming to get one sticker on each of the five rainbow colour food groups every day. Because I’m so passionate about greens I take it one step further and ask for 3-4 stickers a day on the greens alone and then there is a reward of the playground or a trip to smyth’s or the movies at the end of the month. This works with James and taking it one step further again it encourages him to choose different coloured fruits and veggies in the supermarket.

Variety and colour stimulate the mind. There is a great website called Food and Spirit and I had the pleasure of hearing Dr Deanna Minich speak recently at the NTOI (nutritional therapists of Ireland’s) conference. She maintains that “The doorway to our health and well-being is before us, rooted at the dining room table, at the restaurant, at the grocery store, at the farmers market, and in the garden. And, within the eating experiences are planted the TRUE ROOT OF WHAT NEEDS HEALING at our innermost core.”

So with all this is mind the final step is how we present food to our kids. It needs to be kid friendly so again colour and kid friendly sizes are key. David recommends cutting oranges across and not down so that kids taste the sweetness not the bitterness first, bananas and apples should be cut into slices. Purple and red grapes and great and full of nutrients but David said never green grapes as they have far too much sugar. Freeze the red grapes for treats (never give these unsupervised to small children as they can be a choking hazard) and if your children eat a lot of treats and processed foods start retraining their taste buds one substitution at a time. For example if they were eating gummy bears now switch to raisins, cranberries and dried fruits.

I always encourage James to eat his water and in my opinion this relates to everyone, as most people are not sufficiently hydrated each day leading to many health problems including overeating as very often thirst is mistaken for hunger. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables like watermelon, oranges, tomatoes, cucumber, celery and berries are all great.

The most important thing is to create desire. A great and very simple way to achieve this is by using a simple psychological trick. When you are eating say things like yum yum this is delicious and it will encourage your kids to imitate you.

Adding a little salt and butter to veggies (not for weaning babies) is also a great way to help make them taste better and butter is actually a great source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. In fact, the vitamin A that is contained in butter is best absorbed in this form than any other. But not all butter and salt is created equal so sea salt or pink himalayan salt is best and real butter not processed spreads.

The most important thing is to have fun with food and if you keep offering delicious healthy food they will accept it eventually. Get them involved in the process and let them help with preparation. Kids love nothing more than feeling important and remember that health and vitality is possible for every family just take it one step at a time.