Archive for Healthy Eating

You can have your (Christmas) cake and eat it too -- all it takes is planning, says dietitian Elaine McGowan

You can have your (Christmas) cake and eat it, says dietician Elaine McGowan. With a little planning, you can enjoy all the festive trimmings without piling on the pounds

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me… not a partridge in a pear tree but a rich and sumptuous meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, all the trimmings, topped off with an enormous bowl of pudding with lashings of brandy sauce.

Over the next 12 days, there might be a few lords a-leaping all right but rather than drummers drumming or milkmaids milking, we’re likely to see an endless parade of food: mince pies with cream, Christmas cake, biscuits, chocolates, beer, wine… and whatever sinful treat you feel like having yourself.

Of course, a little of what you fancy is a great thing, but remember that having a lot of what you fancy comes with a price. After Christmas, I see many people suffering from stomach problems. They have overindulged in December and are feeling overweight, unhealthy, lacking in energy and guilty – that is not a good way to start the New Year.

However, if you take a little care over the festive season, you can enjoy all the festive trimmings without piling on the pounds. It’s all a question of balance and awareness. And the first thing to remember is that Christmas shouldn’t last for weeks on end. We really shouldn’t be thinking of tucking into the treats until Christmas Eve and then we should think about returning to normal after three days at the most.

If you can, leave buying goodies until the last minute, otherwise, you’ll have them eaten six times over before the holiday even begins. When the festivities do begin, bring in a limited number of sweet things and apply some portion control. For four people, think in terms of eight mince pies, a small Christmas cake, a medium pudding and one large box of chocolates (820g).
Here are some tips to take you through the 12 days of Christmas – and beyond.

Day One
December 25th

Start your day with a breakfast rich in protein. Something like scrambled eggs and salmon on a wholemeal bagel or brown bread would set you up for the day. Then, when it comes to the big lunch, relax and tuck in. Have your turkey and ham and lots of roast, seasonal vegetables like Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips. Have the stuffing, gravy, roast and mashed potato too. Eat plenty of your dinner leaving less room for the goodies.
You can treat yourself to pudding or mince pies, and maybe, later on, some Christmas cake and tea. Spare the cream and ice cream, though. In the evening, have a wholemeal sandwich with fish or turkey or ham and remember to drink plenty of water, at least three pints. Limit the sugary drinks – such as juices and minerals – and if you are having alcohol, try to have one glass of water for every glass of wine or beer.

Day Two
December 26th

Have something filling for breakfast like a bowl of porridge and top it with cinnamon or dried fruit to give it a seasonal twist. You can have your treats today, too, but remember you don’t have to eat everything that is on offer. Exercise a little discretion; it’s not a competition to see how much you can keep down. Your body is a temple not a dustbin.

Use the turkey carcass for stock and make a nourishing winter soup with all the leftover vegetables. Use a variation of the following ingredients – garlic, 3 carrots, 9 mushrooms, 9 Brussel spouts, 1 medium sweet potato cubed, half a pint of stock, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste – to have as a low-calorie snack or as a warming lunch. It is full of immune-boosting antioxidants.

Day Three
December 27th,

You should be thinking about regrouping today and locking all the sweet things away. You can have the odd treat, say a finger of Christmas cake, but remember that it contains about 250 calories which takes one hour to walk off.

It’s a good time to start thinking about exercise too. Over the festive season, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a person will consume between 3,000 and 5,000 calories a day, up to twice the recommended intake. People gain, on average, between three and six kilos (a half stone to a stone) at this time of year because the season of excess has extended by several days. So, take yourself in hand, and get out and walk for an hour.

Day Four,
December 28th

If you find you are craving sweet things, have two satsumas before you dip into the tin of chocolates. The fruit has only 25 calories and its sweetness might take the edge off your chocolate craving. You mightn’t feel like keeping count but remember five chocolates add up to 200 calories – that’s nearly an hour pounding the pavement if you want to undo the indulgence.

Day Five,
December 29th

So, another big night out is on the cards and you don’t want to be the one ordering the sparkling water. Everyone struggles making healthy choices and it’s especially hard when it comes to alcohol. Not only is it full of empty calories but it stimulates the appetite by causing blood sugar to drop, which explains why we often get the munchies at the end of an evening.

Eating before you go out on the town is a great idea. Have something like cheese or peanut butter on wholegrain bread, or hummus on oatcakes with half a glass of low-fat milk. If you can, eat while you drink. You could think about diluting your drinks too, or pacing yourself by sipping on a glass of water between. Start slowly, choose wisely and don’t mix your drinks.

Day Six,
December 30th

Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. That is especially important when consuming alcohol but we often tend to get very dehydrated sitting around in the balmy temperatures of centrally heated homes. Caffeine can dehydrate too so try to limit tea, coffee and minerals. Drink lots of water and try peppermint and camomile tea to ease the gut.

No sugary treats today.

Day Seven
December 31st

It’s New Year’s Eve and everyone is letting their hair down. Go out and enjoy it. If you are going to drink, make sure to go out with something in your stomach. If you are having a meal, enjoy that too but bear in mind that there some very simple adjustments can make a big difference. Drink a glass of water and/or eat a piece of fruit before you go to the restaurant, so that you won’t be ravenous when you arrive. Try not to dig into the bread basket before the food arrives. Choose soup as a starter and choose main dishes that are grilled, boiled, poached, stir-fried. Instead of having a full dessert, share one or have a few squares of dark chocolate in your bag to satisfy that sweet tooth.

January 1st
Day Eight

You can indulge a little today and maybe start the day with a fry for breakfast. You could allow yourself maybe two full Irish breakfasts over the 12 days of Christmas. Other mornings, when you might have more time, have a cooked breakfast but reduce the fat content. Have an omelette, or beans on toast, or grilled bacon with mushrooms and tomatoes.

Day Nine
January 2nd

Start the day with a protein breakfast or a smoothie. Protein can be very satisfying and smoothies made with bananas and berries are high in antioxidants, which is good after the festive splurge. They are also full of Vitamin C, which can help prevent colds and flus and boosts the immune system. Go for a healthy dinner, filling up on veg.
Gather up all the sugary treats left in the house and plan to give them away – there are lots of charities who would be delighted to get them.

Day Ten
January 3rd

Alcohol and treats should be completely limited. If you are out and about shopping, beware of the liquid calories in that well-earned cuppa. A frappuccino or a hot chocolate could top 440 calories and if you add a little muffin because you think you deserve it after all that traipsing around, you could be consuming more than half your recommended daily allowance.

Day Eleven
January 4th

It’s time to think fruit. Eat lots of it and eat it in its entirety as that way it’s more filling. It’s a good time to think about the year ahead and the dietary changes you might need to make to give you more energy. Never skip meals, though. Instead, plan in advance and try to eat what is in season – as well as tasting better, it is often cheaper. If you do want to have a treat, just control the portion.

Day Twelve
January 5th

Well done on making it through the 12 days of Christmas. It’s time to weigh yourself. If you have stayed the same weight, that is a real result. Congratulations. If you haven’t, don’t beat yourself up. Fifty pc of Irish adults are overweight and some 300,000 children. If you have gained a few pounds, you will be joining most Irish people but do try to lose it as quickly as possible.
One of the best ways to do that is to keep a food diary. Studies show that people reduce what they eat by up to 20pc when they write everything down. For the new year, resolve to weigh yourself once a week, in the same spot, wearing the same clothes, to keep track of your progress. The very best of luck with it. Here’s to a happy, healthy and energetic new year.

Elaine McGowan specialises in diets for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, stomach problems and weight loss. Tel: 01- 6459617.

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Cut down on foods high in calories, fat and sugar.

In every 100 grams of food:
Healthy Eating Tips from Elaine McGowan Weight Loss Clinic

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses

Limit your intake of red and processed meat
Try to have 1 meat free day per week

Eat less salt

Do not use dietary supplements as a replacement for healthy food

Use the Food Pyramid to help you plan your meals every day

Make a food diary to stay on top of what you’re eating (use an App such as myfitnesspal or go to

Limit your alcohol intake

Aim for at least 30 minutes physical activity everyday

Keep weight within healthy BMI range – 18.5- 24.9 weight (kg) / height (m2)

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Many types of cancer can be linked to being overweight or obesity; these include oesophagus, colorectal, breast, endometrium and kidney.

A diet high in red and processed meat may cause increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Sources: Oireachtas Report Feb 2013 and WHO recommendations

Categories : Healthy Eating
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Elaine’s Recipe of the MonthElaine’s recipe this month is bursting with fl avour and immune-boosting antioxidants (it is an excellent source of beta-carotene and also a good source of vitamin C and fibre). Also, the following provides just 138 calories so it is also extremely low in calories and will help to keep you full for longer.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 6 garlic cloves (no need to remove outer skin)
  • 3 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 9 small button mushrooms
  • 9 Brussels sprouts
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or a few sprays of lo-cal spray
  • Half a pint of vegetable stock
  • Pinch of thyme (fresh or dried)
  • Pinch of pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Place the vegetables and thyme in a roasting tin and lightly cover with your olive oil or lo-cal spray. Roast for 45 minutes, turning the vegetables occasionally until tender.

Serving suggestions: serve on their own as a snack or warming lunch, or as an accompaniment to a meat, fish or chicken dish.

Other ingredients: Although the above is a particularly delicious combination of vegetables, you could also use red onion, swede, turnip, parsnips, butternut squash or celeriac in this recipe.

Categories : Healthy Eating, Recipes
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Alcohol: Empty Calories

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“At Christmas time, we often turn to alcohol to celebrate the holidays, but remember to go easy as alcohol does no favours to your waistline,” says Elaine. “It is high in calories and provides little or no nutritional benefit. In fact, alcohol contains about seven calories per gram which means that, if you want to lose weight and reduce excess body fat, alcohol is not a good choice! You may be surprised at the calorie content of your favourite drinks!”

Alcohol: Empty Calories

5 Alcohol Savvy Tips

“Many clients ask me ‘how can I cut down on booze at one of the most alcohol fuelled times of the year?’ It may actually be easier than you think – follow my tips to reduce your intake without feeling that you are depriving yourself.”

Eat while you drink – or, better still, eat beforehand as food slows down the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol

Dilute your drinks – water down white wine with soda to make a refreshing spritzer or add more mixer to spirits

Choose wisely – opt for low calorie versions of your favourite drinks, such as low cal or ‘light’ beers or slimline mixers

Start slowly – try to relax and sip your drink slowly – sit back and try to stay in control

Pace yourself – sip on a glass of water in-between each alcoholic drink.

‘A little of what you fancy is good, a lot of what you fancy has a price’

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1 mince pie with 1 tablespoon ofwhipped cream – 350 calories

70g slice of iced rich Christmas cake – 250 calories

5 Cadbury’s Roses or Heroes – 200 calories

30g (small handful) mixed nuts & raisins – 150 calories

2 satsumas – 50 calories

1 Banana – 80 calories

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Facts About… …New Food Pyramid

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Facts About... ...New Food Pyramid - Elaine McGowan Diet Clinic Dublin, Ennis and Limerick

The Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly, recently announced changes to the food pyramid.

The top shelf of the pyramid has changed. It now focuses on typical foods and drinks from this shelf that contains approximately 100 calories and the need to restrict servings of these to a maximum of 1 per day.

Alcohol is now also included in the top shelf as it contributes calories to the diet.

There are also new guidelines on portion sizes and all advice is tailored to the Irish population for people across four age groups from 5 to 51+ years leading active and non-active lifestyles.

For more information, please visit: foodpyramid.html

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Record everything you eat and drink in a diary

Plan meals in advance

Do not store unhealthy foods and snacks in the house

Eat before you become hungry

Do not go shopping on an empty stomach

Avoid fried foods

Use less butter or try low fat spread

Replace whole milk with low fat milk

Increase foods high in fibre, e.g. fruit, veg, pulses, brown rice, pasta and wholemeal bread

Eat a wide variety of foods

Drink plenty of water

Eat slowly

Limit time spent in front of the tv/computer

Try to take regular exercise

Finally it is important to remember that losing weight takes time. Long term healthy eating habits are the best way to lose weight, crash diets tend to cause large weight loss but quick weight regain.

To make an appointment to discuss your weight loss needs and concerns, please contact your nearest Elaine McGowan Dietetic Clinic.

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Healthy Breakfast Ideas from Elaine McGowan Weight Loss Specialists Dublin

To make an appointment to discuss your weight loss needs and concerns, please contact your nearest Elaine McGowan Dietetic Clinic.

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Did You Know? What is Body Mass Index?

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BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure of body fat based on weight (kg) and height (m). Calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in metres) squared. e.g. kg/m2.

Body Mass Index - Elaine McGowan Diet Clinics Dubline

In Ireland, 38% of the population is considered overweight and a further 23% are obese, this means that over half of the population are at risk of weight related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer amongst others.

Want to know your BMI? Check out our Body Mass Index Calculator here.

To make an appointment to discuss your weight loss needs and concerns, please contact your nearest Elaine McGowan Dietetic Clinic.

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Weight Loss Tips at Elaine McGowan Weight Loss Clinic Dublin

To lose 1lb of fat from our bodies we need to reduce consumption or burn off 3500 calories per week, this is 500 calories per day

Making simple changes to your diet can help you cut calories while still eating healthily

For example you could swap this baguette for a sandwich and save over 1000 calories!

Categories : Healthy Eating
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Practical Pointers – Food Labels

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Most of us don’t know what to look out for on food labels. Here are some easy guidelines to help you make healthier choices.

Did you know ?

The average daily calories needed for

  • Children is about 1,800 calories a day,
  • Women is about 2,000 calories a day,
  • Men is about 2,500 calories a day.

Categories : Healthy Eating
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Health Minister James Reilly has pledged to introduce legislation by the end of the year requiring every business that serves food to display calories on their menus, if they are not complying voluntarily.

Therefore we will be seeing more calorie information on food and drink displayed clearly and prominently at the point of choice for consumers. The calorie information should be clear and easily seen by the consumer before their choice is made. This will be displayed as calories per food portion such as 120 calories per slice of cake.

Calories may be displayed on a menu as calories, kcals or kcal, all mean the same and represent the amount of energy in a food portion or drink.

Categories : Healthy Eating
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Facts About….Childhood/Teenage Obesity

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The World Health Organisation defined obesity as a disease in which excess body fat has accumulated to an extent that health is adversely affected. Chronically overweight individuals face a number of serious health, social and psychological challenges with their quality of life being adversely affected. Obesity increases the risk of a person developing serious illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and strokes.

Obesity is a major public health challenge in Ireland and across Europe. Obesity rates for both children and adults are growing every year and according to a report of the National Taskforce of Obesity, “39% of adults are overweight and 18% are obese in Ireland”. The report also states that childhood obesity has become the most prevalent childhood disease in Europe. It is estimated that over 300,000 children in Ireland are overweight and obese and this is projected to increase annually by 10,000. A quarter of nine year olds are classed as overweight or obese. One in five children ages 5 to 12 is battling with his or her weight. The “Growing up in Ireland in 2009” study found one in four 9 year olds are overweight or obese.

The report notes the importance of balancing food intake with physical exercise. We know that foods high in fat, sugar and starch such as butter/margarine, cakes and biscuits and confectionary promote obesity. At the moment a fifth of Irish children’s energy intake comes from sweets, snacks and biscuits. It is now widely accepted that adults should be involved in 45-60 minutes and children should be involved in at least
60 minutes per day of moderate physical activity in order to prevent excess weight gain.

Elaine attended a recent conference on obesity held in Brussels, Belgium in April 2012 on Tackling Childhood Obesity in Europe: Comparative Perspectives on Prevention and Policy Implementation. According to the European Commission, some 22 million children in the EU are considered overweight or obese, with the numbers growing by 400,000 per year. A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) showed that 13.3% of EU children aged 11-15 are overweight or obese, with numbers rising for boys in all countries.

The EU has a pivotal role to play in dealing with these challenges through its food safety, public health, education and research policies.

In Ireland, it was recently announced at the annual Irish Medical Organisation meeting that a school screening programme would allow for early intervention and regular monitoring to prevent the complications of obesity. If children have serious weight problems they may be referred to their GP and/or a Specialist. It has been proposed that screening would take place and children would be weighed when they start primary school in a bid to tackle Ireland’s growing obesity problem. This initiative is being proposed at present and we look forward to more work being done in this area.

For further information, see the following useful websites.

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recipe-of-the-monthThis is a tasty simple recipe which is a low FODMAP recipe and suitable for those with IBS.

While following the low FODMAP diet, there are many ways to flavour your food by adding fresh herbs such as coriander, basil, parsley, rosemary or Soy, oyster and fi sh sauces are also suitable to use while following the low FODMAP diet.

Use these FODMAP vegetables and you have a very healthy low FODMAP meal.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (preferably free range or organic)
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 large lime
  • 5 fl oz (150ml) tinned coconut milk (can be low fat)
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and fi nely chopped
  • 1 dessertspoon Thai fi sh sauce
  • 4 heaped tablespoons fresh coriander leaves
  • 4 spring onions, cut in to 1 inch shreds (just the green parts, not white part)
  • 1 bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1 dessertspoon olive oil


1. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl with the lime juice and zest. Stir well and leave them to marinate for an hour.
2. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat the oil in the pan or wok over a high heat, add the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until they’re golden.
3. Add the chilli, stir-fry for 1 more minute, and add the coconut milk, fish sauce and half the coriander, spring onions (green part only) and bok choy.
4. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, and then serve with white, basmati or brown rice and the remaining coriander and chopped spring onions (green part only) sprinkled over the top.

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About Elaine

Elaine graduated from Trinity College with a B.Sc., (Hons) in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. She gained wide experience working as clinical nutritionist in several hospitals prior to establishing her first private dietetic clinic in 1992.

Private Practice Experience
Elaine has gained vast experience specialising in providing private individual dietetic consultations for her clients in her clinics for the past 17 years. In recent years, her main areas of interest are weight management, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and nutrition and gastro-enterology.

Elaine is an active member of the INDI and was chairperson of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic weight management interest group from 2005 to 2007.

Dietetic and Nutrition Consultancy
Elaine has provided dietetic consultancy to a wide range of industries including private hospitals, hotels and catering companies. She has designed, piloted, implemented and coordinated workplace wellbeing programmes for several prominent companies and large international corporations.