Emma Dabiri was born in Dublin to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father. A regular face on the BBC she has presented Back in Time Brixton, The Sweet Makers and Britain’s Lost Masterpieces as well as making regular appearances in the Irish media. Emma was a podcast guest for The Blindboy Podcast Tour Live in Vicar Street and her first book, ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, will be published this May.
Where do you shop?
Sainsburys and Tesco when I’m in the UK. SuperValu if I’m at home in Dublin. I also like to go to Japanese supermarkets and Nigerian food stores for some of the ingredients I can’t get in the regular supermarket.
Can you list the contents of your weekly shop?
Scotch bonnet peppers
Describe your typical breakfast
Porridge with cinnamon and banana.
Describe your typical lunch.
I lived in Japan for two years which really influences what I eat: udon noodles, miso soup and spinach, or if I can’t be bothered or haven’t gone shopping, then a catfish banh mi (Vietnamese baguette).
Sea bass and pan fried potatoes or a curry of some sort.
Fruit, chocolate, crisps or seaweed.
Is there anything you won’t eat?
I’m a very unfussy eater but I don’t like to eat meats whose provenance I don’t know. I also hate the taste of celery!
What would you cook to impress someone?
Jollof rice (a Nigerian staple and a great gift to mankind) or maybe something Japanese.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
Oreo cookie ice cream sandwiches.
What is your ultimate comfort food?
Jollof rice and egusi soup (a Nigerian spinach and melon-seed stew) with pounded yam. It’s soul food and it feels nourishing in that way. We have a deep connection!
What is your favourite takeaway?
Caribbean food – rice and peas, jerk chicken, coleslaw, mac and cheese… That’s soul food too!
Have you tried any diet fads in the past six months?
Nope! I eat what I like.
What would be your Last Supper?
Ahhhhh so hard! Tonkotsu ramen I reckon.
Emma enjoys a fantastic variety in her diet, influenced by the countries she’s lived in, and she picks up her meal and snack staples in a range of shops and supermarkets. Her normal shopping list features a wide and varied selection of healthy whole foods, including a selection of fruits and leafy green vegetables. Many of us are familiar with the message that we must aim for five portions of fruit and veg a day, recent research suggests increasing that to 7-10 servings for the most health benefits and protection against some lifestyle-related diseases. That may seem like a lot for some people, but there are tasty ways of increasing your intake. Adding fresh fruit to your morning cereal or porridge, as Emma does, a side of sautéed spinach or grilled tomatoes to your morning eggs, packing your lunchtime sandwich with extra salad veggies and choosing a piece of whole, fresh fruit or carrot sticks with a dip over a chocolate bar or packet of crisps are all good options.
It’s super to see that Emma’s shop features fatty fish like salmon and mackerel as the fatty acids EPA and DHA they contain are such a crucial element of the human diet. They’re called essential fats because they cannot be produced naturally in the human body and must be obtained through your diet everyday. They’re important for the structure of every single cell in your body, and deficiencies can sometimes show up first as dry, flaking skin, scalp and listless hair. I really notice the difference in winter if I don’t eat enough essential fats, as my skin looks dull and dry. Wild salmon is known to be an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, essential for healthy skin, joints, heart, eyes and brain. Apart from oily fish, decent sources include raw walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds and micro-algae.
Nuts are one of the best snacks you can eat, as they’re rich in amino acids, fibre and minerals, including calcium, iron and zinc. They help to keep you feeling full for longer and aid in stabilising blood sugar levels. Almonds are packed with skin-protective vitamin E, while Brazil nuts are a super source of selenium. Just two or three Brazils a day provides your daily intake of this necessary antioxidant mineral.
Emma’s breakfast is a bowl of warming porridge with cinnamon and banana, which makes an ideal start to the day. Oats are a complex carb and release their energy more gradually throughout the morning than a sugar-rich breakfast cereal. Cinnamon adds great flavour and contains a mineral called chromium, which helps to control blood sugar levels and carbohydrate metabolism, while the vitamin B6 in banana supports production of our ‘happy hormone’, serotonin.
For lunch, Emma enjoys a typical Japanese meal of noodles with miso and spinach or else a traditional Vietnamese baguette. Miso is a health-promoting form of fermented soy that adds great flavour to foods, while spinach is a useful source of iron and noodles will help to fuel a busy afternoon. Emma’s evening meal is seabass with potatoes or a curry, both of which make nourishing dinners. Adding lots of colourful veggies is a good way to boost the nutrient and fibre profile of a meat-based curry, and bell peppers, beans, mushrooms, onions, broccoli and cauliflower all work well. It’s good to see that Emma enjoys fruit and seaweed for snacks, as seaweed is a good source of iodine to support thyroid health in those with a more sluggish thyroid.
She likes chocolate and crisps too, which are best left to more of an occasional treat as they tend to be rich in refined sugar and salt. Overall, Emma enjoys a varied and nutritious diet with plenty of home-cooked meals and very little processed food. Well done Emma.