Dr. Niamh Shaw is an engineer, scientist, performer and explorer of all things Space. She talks about science and space on radio and TV and makes public events and theatre shows to ignite people’s curiosity.  She is actively pursuing her dream to get to space and has been sharing her global space adventures and expeditions since 2014. 

To book a ticket for Niamh’s show: http://smockalley.com/diary-martian-beekeeper/

Her theatre show ‘Diary of a Martian Beekeeper’ runs at Smock Alley Theatre from March 13th -16th. Niamh admits she’s not a real foodie and would take a tablet for energy rather than bothering with food if she could “which is great for someone who wants to go to space”, she says. 

Dr Niamh Shaw, Artist in Residence at Blackrock Castle Observatory.
Photo: Donal O’ Leary

Where do you shop? 

Supervalu usually or the organic shop for fresh veg and fruit.

Can you list the contents of your weekly shop? 



Spelt Bread

Rice cakes

Pasta – Supervalu goats cheese ravioli


Soup – Thai Chicken Soup




Describe your typical breakfast

My day starts some mornings with very early Skype calls but it’s always at least two strong coffees from my Nespresso machine and then porridge with muesli, blueberries, blackberries and a dollop of Dad’s own honey or Nutella on two slices of toasted spelt. Or just coffee.

Describe your typical lunch

There are many days that I forget to lunch. If I’m not at meetings, I work from home and the day can get pretty hectic. If I do remember, its normally soup and maybe a cheese sandwich with pesto.

Typical dinner

I think at this stage you’re aware that eating is a bit of a chore for me. So dinner is simply an opportunity to get calories in to me to give me energy. If I’m busy, it’s often pasta. At weekends I’ll make myself a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings. I envy astronauts on the International Space Station who just have to add water to their meals. I experienced this diet when on a simulated Mars mission in Utah last year and it was bliss. 


Nuts, fruit, popcorn.

What would you cook to impress someone? 

A meal that was cooked from ‘first principles’ is my way of impressing someone, I mean I’m really rolling out the carpet if I do that! And so in that case, my repertoire is limited to either lasagne, cottage pie or fish pie. And then either Eton Mess or Tiramisu.

What is your guilty food pleasure? 

Chilli or salted dark chocolate.

What is your ultimate comfort food?


What is your favourite takeaway? 

Massaman curry.

Have you tried any diet fads in the past six months? 

Do protein shakes count? 

What would be your Last Supper? 

Has to be the Christmas dinner doesn’t it? But don’t ask me to cook it!!

Rosanna’s Verdict: 

Although Niamh admits that she’s not a huge foodie, her shopping list contains plenty of nutrient-rich foods, perfect for making quick and simple meals and snacks. It’s hugely beneficial to eat a range of fresh berries each day as they’re particularly rich in protective antioxidants to help reduce the impact of daily cellular wear and tear from pollution, cigarette smoke, intense exercise and much more. Both blueberries and blackberries are a rich source of antioxidants, fibre and vitamin C. Raspberries, strawberries and cherries are other good options and berries have the added benefit of being some of the most low-sugar fruits. Tropical fruits, including banana, mango and pineapple are very nutritious but also tend to be higher in fructose. 

Spelt bread, rice cakes and pasta are some of Niamh’s favourite carbohydrate-based foods, helping to give her the energy to power through a busy day. Generally, choosing wholemeal or seeded versions help to boost daily intake of fibre and certain B vitamins. In contrast, white breads and pasta may quickly increase blood sugar levels as they contain lower levels of fibre. Your pancreas releases insulin in response to reduce blood glucose levels as swiftly as possible, and this may cause a crash in energy levels and can even affect your mood, leaving you craving another feed of high-sugar food. Over time, this fluctuation can be associated with weight gain around your middle and type two diabetes, which is why choosing high-fibre versions is thought to be beneficial. 

Hummus features on Niamh’s shopping list, and makes a great wrap filling, snack with vegetables crudités or works well with a simple salad or plate of roast vegetables. Hummus is a good source of both fibre and complete protein, making it a good option for vegetarians. Hummus is also incredibly versatile, providing healthy fats, minerals and amino acids to help support normal health.

For breakfast, Niamh generally opts for coffee with a nutritious bowl of porridge, muesli and berries. As coffee is a diuretic, it’s always a good idea to make sure you drink plenty of water with it to help hydrate your system after a night’s sleep. Water with fresh lemon or ginger is a great option as it also helps to support digestive health and lemon juice is a rich source of vitamin C. Niamh sometimes enjoys spelt toast with Nutella, which is fine as an occasional treat but I would consider it as too high in refined sugar for a more regular breakfast. 

Niamh doesn’t eat lunch everyday and that’s perfectly fine as not everybody needs three meals a day. Plenty of people feel better grazing on food, eating only when they’re hungry or enjoying five or six small meals each day. We’re all metabolically, genetically and biochemically different, so I believe it’s important to listen to your own body’s needs. If she does eat lunch, Niamh goes for soup and a salad. Adding plenty of salad vegetables and a source of protein to a sandwich made with brown bread helps to make it a nourishing lunch, while a vegetable-based soup is a great way to eat more veggies. At this time of year, soups made with starchy and root vegetables including sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash, are especially warming and nutritious. 

For her evening meal, Niamh eats either a pasta dish or roast chicken. With pasta, opting for a wholemeal version with plenty of veggies and a source of protein is a good idea and I would encourage her to add a side salad for the many benefits of raw leafy greens.

Niamh’s diet is generally healthy and low in refined sugar foods, and even her favourite snacks of nuts, popcorn and fruit are healthy and rich in nutrients. Although she views food as a source of energy rather than pleasure, Niamh enjoys a nutritious diet. I would encourage her to focus on eating plenty of leafy green vegetables and healthy sources of fat, including oily fish, avocado and flaxseeds. Well done Niamh.