How To Be Healthy

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Aveen Bannon talks about taking charge, and ultimately, how to be healthy.

Being healthy is one thing… but to really make lifestyle changes that will optimise both the quantity and quality of your life you need to make sustainable changes. If you are motivated and ready to make changes, the first thing to do is set clear and achievable goals. These goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time specific.

There are many steps that need to be taken to walk in the healthiest direction… But here are the priorities….
Drink plenty of fluids. Water has many roles in the body. It flushes out toxins, helps keep our body the right temperature, transports nutrients and is the property to which all chemical reactions take place! To optimise hydration levels, ensure you drink adequate fluids and focus on changing your diet to be low in salt and high in potassium. In order to achieve this, eat lots of vegetables and some fruit, avoid adding salt to meals and choose wholefoods over processed foods. You’ll know when you’rr adequately hydrated as your urine will be pale in colour.

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Susan Jane White’s Beginner Quinoa

Next… eat wholefoods as much as possible! Simply put, if it used to swim, walk, crawl or grow, it’s usually a healthy option. Limit processed foods, i.e. foods that don’t look like they do in nature. The main reason for this is that elements were removed from the food (often fibre), and things were added (usually salt and sugar).

Eat a balanced diet. This doesn’t mean that you should eat a balanced amount of foods across the day or week… it means that every meal or snack that you eat needs to be balanced. Balanced meals usually contain more than 3 food groups.
Do not cut out any one food group from your diet, unless you have a very rare medical reason that requires you too. They are all needed.



A healthy diet is one that is based on fruits and vegetables. They are the foundation of good health. Often people think that you should eat 5 a day… well it’s actually at least 5 a day! Why is this important? Well they provide;
The antioxidant vitamins A, C and E which protect us against signs of aging and damage from pollutants.

Lots of important micronutrients including the minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium and phosphorus.
An abundance of fibre including both insoluble (roughage) and soluble (gel-like) which help our digestive system stay healthy and keep us fuller for longer.

Potassium, the enemy of salt (!), which helps keep us well hydrated and is therefore important for preventing muscle cramps, for healthyblood pressure and even for the stimulation of nerves!
Phytocompounds or plant nutrients that help protect the body against illness and disease.

A portion of fruit or veg is about 80g or 1 handful. Make sure to get lots of different colours into your diet, for example blue/black/purple, green, yellow/orange, red and white. Each colour provides a different array of nutrients and is therefore protecting your body in its own unique way.

Edward Haydens brwon bread; brown bread recipe; i love cooking brown bread
Edward Hayden’s Brown Bread


Your body breaks down carbohydrates, a large complex sugar, into smaller carbohydrate sugar pieces and is used to feed your brain, nervous system and your muscles. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrate, your body will make it from other sources such as protein, as it is vital for health.  There are healthy carbohydrates present in fruit, milk, natural yoghurt and starches. Less healthy carbohydrates are found in sweets and ‘junk’ food, as well as processed starches.

The glycaemic index (G.I. factor) of foods is simply a way of ranking carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrate foods that break down quickly during digestion have a high G.I. factor i.e. the blood response is fast and high. While carbohydrate foods that break down slowly, releasing sugars gradually into the blood stream, have low G.I. factors. All carbohydrate foods are given a number from 1 – 100. It is better to focus on having low rather than high GI carbohydrates. Generally speaking, if it grew out of the ground looking like how it ended up on your plate, then it is a good, high fibre and therefore low GI carbohydrate!!

Carbohydrates are a bit like adding petrol to a car, you’ll need more for longer journeys and less if you’re not going very far! When it comes to sports performance, you’ll lack the top gear if you go not get enough before exercise. Most brains need about 450-500kcal worth of carbohydrate to function each day. This is achieved by having a small amount at each meal.


Fructose, a type of carbohydrate, is both a valuable and traditional source of energy and nutrients. The natural sweetness in fruits is attributed to the simple carbohydrate fructose. Fructose is a Low GI food so it releases its sugar slowly into the bloodstream. This coupled with the naturally high fibre content of fruit helps keep blood levels stable and you feeling fuller for longer!

Crispy Chicken


The main function of protein in the diet is to help repair and build muscle and tissue. As muscle is an active tissue, the more muscle you have the more efficient your metabolism will be. Muscle tissue is also dynamic, meaning that it is constantly breaking down and rebuilding. To avoid losing muscle tissue, the engine of the metabolism, it’s important to provide you body with the building blocks to replace it. So aim to have a protein source at each meal! It also helps you feel full and stay full! This is why protein is so important when aiming to achieve a healthy body composition….


Many people fear fat… when actually fats are essential for optimum health! Nonetheless, all fats contain the same calories, 9 calories per gram (more than twice the number provided by carbohydrates or protein). So you need to be conscious of how much you are using in each meal! Similar to poor quality carbohydrates and proteins, it is important to limit poor quality fats in your diet. Hydrogenated fats form when oil hardens through processing. They fats are found in fried foods and some processed foods.
Two fats that Irish people need to focus a little more on include;
Mono-unsaturated fats e.g. olive and rapeseed oils, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Omega 3 fats as found in oily fish, rapeseed, flaxseed and walnuts.


The Recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for salt is 4g/d (DH, 1991). However, it was discovered in a UK survey (NDNS, 2003) that men consume on average 11g/d and women 8g/d of salt. These levels are well above the RNI! The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN, 2003) published a paper entitled Salt and Health which suggested a population based intervention to deal with these high levels and recommended a target of 6g/d of salt which should have been more attainable that 4g! However intakes still remain above the 6g mark….

Intakes remain high simply because about 65-70% of salt comes from the manufactured foods… So either the population needs to wait for further co-operation from the food industry or they need to reduce the amount of processed foods in their diets!

In one famous study called The DASH study, the researchers looked at the effects of low, medium and high levels of salt and saw a stepwise decrease in Blood Pressure in response to a decrease in salt intake. High blood pressure is strongly linked to poor heart health. Considering that heart disease is one of the biggest killers in Ireland, reducing your salt and replacing the taste with lovely herbs and spices will do the body the world of good!

aveenAveen Bannon, Consultant Dietitian

BSc. (Hons) (Human Nutrition and Dietetics), H Dip DBSIT, M.I.N.D.I

Born in Dublin, Aveen has practiced widely in hospitals both in Ireland and the UK prior to setting up the dublin nutrition centre in 2003. She graduated from Trinity College with a BSc. (Hons) (Human Nutrition and Dietetics) and is a current member of the I.N.D.I (Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute).

Since qualifying Aveen has gained a wide range of experience in various different medical fields. Having trained in St. James’s hospital, her professional experience began in the Dietetic Department of the Luton & Dunstable Hospital NHS Trust, UK. On returning to Ireland, Aveen rejoined her training ground hospital, St. James, as a senior Clinical Nutritionist.

Since setting up the dublin nutrition centre Aveen has provided a consultancy dietetic service to many health institutions including the Beacon Renal Unit, the Beacon Cancer support centre, RehabCare, ARC Cancer Support Centre, Lucena Clinic and the Marie Keating foundation. Aveen regularly gives talks and presentations to companies at health & wellbeing seminars and provides regular nutrition consultancy for food companies.

Aveen runs weekly clinics in the dublin nutrition centre and has a keen interest in health promotion and weight management.

Aveen provides regular nutrition consultancy for media communications such as print, TV and radio and made regular appearances on RTE’s the Afternoon Show during its four year run. Aveen wrote a weekly food labeling column for the Sunday World Magazine for five years and a weekly column in the Irish Independent health supplement for 3 years.

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