In my Herald nutrition column this week, I asked reigning Rose of Tralee, Elysha Brennan, what’s on her plate….
Fridge weekly shop: Whole wheat pasta, Whole wheat bread, Breast of chicken, Bananas, Apples, Peanut butter, Nutella, Rice cakes, Spinach, Tinned tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions, green beans, tea bags, milk, porridge and honey.
Where do I shop: Marks & Spencer for treats & my local Tesco too.
Typical breakfast: Now it’s organic crunchy peanut butter & a mashed banana on whole wheat toast. And porridge during the winter with banana & honey.
Typical lunch: I’m so bad if I’m on the road it’ll always be grab & go. I try to always bring fruit in the car. Like mango, pineapple, banana etc. I’ll grab a wrap too with maybe some tuna, lettuce & tomato.
Typical dinner: I am a carb addict. So pasta is my go to quick & easy dinner. I love to make a tomato & chilli based sauce & add lots of fresh veggies like broccoli, green beans & carrots & maybe grill some chicken too. I always choose whole wheat pasta or gluten free.
Typical daily snacks: I wouldn’t have a huge sweet tooth. So my snacks would definitely be fruit & maybe mixed nuts. Marks & spencer do great nuts (they also do gorgeous chocolate chip cookies 🙂 )
Anything you won’t eat: Calamari. The texture makes me feel violently ill. Not a huge oyster or mussels fan. Mushrooms also don’t do it for me, again the texture is so unsettling!!
What you cook to impress someone: the first time I cooked for my boyfriend I made a Thai red curry. It’s my signature dish. I try to make the paste myself & add lots of marinated chicken & Chinese veggies, with whole grain rice.
Guilty food pleasure: Anything with cheese and carbs. Pizza is my go to comfort food or a big bowl of pasta sprinkled with cheese! Also love tuna pasta bake (with cheese would you believe).
Good hangover cure: A deli crispy brown roll with chicken, cheese & coleslaw. Complete with a can of Diet Coke, treble crunch crisps & a snickers bar. Currently drooling.
Takeaway order: I’m a loyal Dominos customer. It’s just short of me ringing up asking for the “usual”. A thin crust pizza with pepperoni, Pineapple, red onion & jalapeños.! Extra garlic dip too please.. YUM!
It’s fantastic to see that Elysha is such a foodie and enjoys eating a really wide range of foods and different cuisines. She’s obviously a very competent cook, with Thai red curry and marinated chicken amongst her signature dishes. Cooking can be a wonderful stress reliever, and a great way to experiment with different flavours, herbs, spices and recipes.
Elysha’s fridge contains plenty of fresh, whole foods, including loads of vegetables, nut butter and high-fibre pasta, bread and porridge oats. These foods are amongst the key components of a balanced meal, and it’s clear that Elysha knows which foods help to really boost and sustain her energy levels and keep her feeling full for longer.
Elysha opts for a nutritious and well-balanced breakfast of banana and organic peanut butter on whole wheat toast. This meal contains a super combination of complex carbs, protein and plenty of fibre. Bananas are a good food to eat in the morning and especially pre-exercise, as they provide a quick boost of energy. They’re also a valuable source of vitamin B6. This is one of the co-factors in producing your ‘happy’ neurotransmitter, serotonin, so bananas can help to boost your mood for the day.
Elysha snacks on vitamin-rich fruit, which is a brilliant habit to get in to and fruit helps to contribute to good hydration levels throughout the day. She tends to choose a balanced lunch of tuna, lettuce and tomato, providing her with lean protein and raw, colourful vegetables. Choosing a whole-wheat wrap would further boost her fibre levels.
Elysha’s dinner is usually based on a carbohydrate-rich food, such as pasta, with plenty of lean protein and vegetables. This is another well-balanced meal based on whole foods, and especially as she opts for whole-wheat versions. She even makes her own tomato-based sauces, which means she avoids shop-bought versions, which can often be high in added salt and sugar.
Her snacking habits are excellent too, with mixed nuts a top choice. Nuts are one of the most filling snacks, rich in fibre and protein, and I always encourage people to keep a small bag of raw almonds or walnuts in their bag or car for snacking on. It’s best to avoid salted nuts or any roasted in vegetable oil, and stick to about a handful a day for sensible portion control.
Elysha prefers pizza, cheese and chicken rolls and other savoury indulgence foods over very sugary foods. Chocolate, biscuits and sweets can be especially addictive and play havoc with your blood sugar levels, mood, weight, appetite control and even your sleep.
Elysha’s diet is well-balanced, rich in fibre, healthy fat, whole foods, fruit and vegetables, so she deserves to thoroughly enjoy her occasional indulgence foods. Achieving a balance that suits you and your routine is key to living a healthy, enjoyable lifestyle.