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Healthy Bars- which to choose

As a population we are snacking more than ever before. There are so many choices available throughout Ireland including vegan, nut and even meat bars! It can be difficult to know if these are “healthy” or just chocolate bars in disguise. I have reviewed some of the most popular. See below!

kind bars

Kind Bars

Calories- 200

Protein- 6g

Added Sugar- 5g

Fiber- 7g

I love these! Real ingredients, high fiber and most importantly the protein content is from plants ie. nuts. We know nuts have a protective effect over heart health. I would definitely recommend these as a filling snack. Some of the flavours are higher in sugar due to chocolate bits and added honey. But overall a great very filling choice.

nakd bars

Nakd Bars

Calories- 140

Protein- 4-5g

Added Sugar- 0g

Fiber- 3g

Another favourite of mine. Yes there is natural sugar in these from the first ingredient-dates. However we know that dates have a low GI index of 42 so are not likely to increase blood sugars as much as table sugar. These taste really sweet and satisfying. Most varieties contain maximum of 5-6 ingredients.

belvita bars

Belvita Bars

Calories- 230

Protein- 4g

Added Sugar- 11g

Fiber- 3g

These bars are a little higher in carbohydrate. The third ingredient is added white sugar. They may be suitable for a more active person or someone training for an endurance event. I do not recommend these for the average office worker.

RX bars

RX Bars

Calories- 200

Protein- 12g

Added Sugar- 0g

Fiber- 5g

These are AMAZING! Very few ingredients, no added sugar and 12g protein. They come in fun flavours and sure to keep you satisfied. Protein can have a “filling effect” on hunger levels.

fulfil bars

Fulfil Bars

Calories- 200

Protein- 20g

Added Sugar- 3g?

Fiber- 6g

These bars are everywhere in Ireland. I can understand why-they taste great and are very high in protein. The ingredients are not ideal for anyone with a sensitive stomach or athlete following a low fodmap diet. Maltilol is a sugar alcohol which can cause bloating and GI distress if consumed in excess. Sugar alcohol are organic compounds derived from real sugar. Sugar alcohols do not increase blood sugar as much as regular white sugar. We know research is inconsistent when it comes to non nutritive sweetners such as sugar alcohols. Some sugar alcohols even have health benefits. I also noticed they use palm fat.

Conclusion: When it comes to snacking in general its always best to stick to a “plants and protein” approach. Vegetables and fruits have a very low calorie density. Protein helps keeps us full. In my opinion, no one food is ever bad. It may help to think about how and why you are using these bars. Are they preventing you from snacking on fruit or helping your avoid regular chocolate bars? When shopping for foods like these, remember that there is no one “magic food” or snack to help you meet your nutritional goals. Most of these snack bars are about 200kcals. For 200kcals you could have 1 apple+handful of almonds or 1 banana+ tablespoon nut butter. You may even save yourself some money too!


Posted on November 2, 2018 and filed under Articles.

Nutrition on race day


Nutrition Marathon Day 

October 27th may just be any other day. For those of you who have spent months tracking miles, setting early morning alarms, pounding footpaths and slugging water bottles… its finally here…marathon day! All the hard work is coming to an end and its just a few short miles between you and the finish line. With race day fast approaching its important that people remember one of the key determinants of race day outcome-Nutrition.  

As a registered dietitian and a runner, I understand the importance of proper nutrition when it comes to performance.  

Here are my top tips for optimum race day nutrition 

 1.Monitor fiber intake 

Fibre is king when it comes to any healthy diet. It can help manage cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and bowel movements. However high fibre foods may lead to GI upset or cramping on race day. Its a good idea to avoid high fibre cereals, bread and grains the night before and the morning of the race.  

 2. Carb-load  

Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate that will fuel your long run. Its important to ensure glycogen stores in your muscles are stocked up before the race. You can “stock up” glycogen stores by ensuring the majority of your meals are based on carbohydrates, in the week leading up to the race. Foods like pasta, rice and potatoes are great sources of carbohydrates. For every extra gram of glycogen stored, the body stores 3grams of water. Therefore, you may find you gain a little extra weight the week before the race. Don't worry, its not all actual body weight.  

3. Morning Meal  

Breakfast is important everyday but especially marathon day. Aim to have a breakfast thats low in fibre, high in carbohydrate and contains a source of lean protein. Most seasoned runners try to eat 2-4hours before the start line. Porridge with milk, Yogurt with fruit, toast with fruit and nut butter are all suitable choices. If you feel like you need an additional snack 1 hour before the start line choose a 100-200kcals, carbohydrate based snack such as banana, granola bar or slice of toast. Eat what worked for you during your training runs.  

4. Stick with your tried and true 

Marathon training is all about practice. Race day is not a time to try new foods. There may be companies handing out samples of new products around the start line. Avoid these if possible and try to stick to what you are used to. Practicing your food routines during training routines is vital. Runners need to understand how their body reacts to foods at different times.  

5. Fluids 

Proper hydration is crucial when it comes to crossing that finish line. Fluid intake should match fluid losses. Runners can ensure they are taking in enough fluid during training runs by weighing themselves before and after runs. Choosing an isotonic drink is great way to replenish fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates at the same time. Getting fluids right is a delicate balance. It is possible to drink too much fluid which can lead to hyponatremia (low sodium levels). Try to consume 100-150mls of fluid for every 15-20minutes of exercise.  For most marathons, there will be water stations every 2-3 miles and lucozade stations at miles 11, 18 and 23. Try to alternative between isotonic fluids and water to stay on top of hydration.

6. Fueling your run 

Training your body to accept food during exercise can be difficult. However if exercising longer than 60minutes, adequate fueling is critical. When exercising for longer than 60minutes, 30-60grams of carbohydrate (120kcals-240kcals) should be consumed per hour. Aim for fast acting forms of carbohydrates such as gels, jelly beans, sports drinks, sports bars. Experiment with different foods during your training season.

7. Post Race food 

Crossing the line has to be one of the best feelings. To prevent injury and painful days ahead, its important to remember to refuel. Nutrition goals should be to refuel with carbohydrates, repair with protein and rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes. Aim for foods that are easy to consume and digest. Chocolate milk with an energy bar, Fruit smoothies, Greek yogurt with added fruit, are all great snacks to have within 30minutes of crossing the line. After all those weeks of watching your diet, your first reaction may be to reach for a burger or pizza. Try to have a healthy balanced meal with 2-3 hours of finishing the race. Meals like a baked potato with tuna, Chicken wrap with salad, or spaghetti bolognese are all great choices. Continue to sip on water and electrolytes over the next 1-2 days to replenish your fluids. 


Taking some of the these tips on board may help you cross that line just a little bit quicker. However important nutrition is, it is just one piece of the puzzle. Preparation, training and attitude all play a role in successful race day outcome.   

Best of luck to all runners! 


Posted on November 2, 2018 and filed under Articles.

The power of beets!


Beetroot have recently shot to fame in the vegetable department and for good reasoning. This versatile vegetable is delicious raw, cooked or pickled. The colourful leaves can also be cooked and used similar to spinach in dishes. There are so many varieties of beetroot with yellow and red being the most popular.

Aside from the taste, consuming beetroot has multiple benefits. Nitrate is found in all vegetables, however it is particularly abundant in dietary nitrate. Consuming dietary nitrate lowers blood pressure by causing our blood vessels to dilate and relax.1

Studies also show that consuming beetroot in the form of juice may enhance athletic performance2-4. Beetroot juice reduces oxygen use during physical exercise and increases blood flow to exercising muscles therefore increasing exercise tolerance.2-3 Many studies have shown that athletes who consume beetroot juice before athletic events can have faster finishing times than those who dont.3-5 Fortunately, the research also suggests its not just elite athletes who can benefit from the perceived benefits of beetroot, average gym-goers can too. One study compared performance between two average running groups. The first group consumed 200g of cooked beets 75minutes before a race and the second group consumed an alternative food. The group that consumed the beetroot portion ran faster and reported less exhaustion than the placebo group.2

Aside from their vibrant colours and dietary nitrate content, beets contain other beneficial plant compounds. Bentanin is the pigment responsible for that rich colour of beets. Bentanin is also a powerful antioxidant which slows the effects of ageing.6 Beetroot has a low glycemic load, high fiber content (3g/100g serving) and low calorie content (40kcals/100g serving). 

Beetroot and beetroot greens can easily be incorporated into anyones diet. Roasting beets in their skin brings out their sweet flavour. After roasting, simply wrap the cooled beet in a cloth and rub gently to remove the skins. Beet greens are delicious when sautéed in garlic and seasonings. Store-bought diced beets or beetroot juice can also be added to smoothies for a quick snack or colourful breakfast. See attached smoothie recipe for some beet-inspiration. 


  1. Hord, NG, Tang Y, Bryan NS. (2009) Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ;90(1):1-10.

  2. Murphy, M., Eliot, K., Heuertz, RM. and Weiss, E., (2012) Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance. Journal Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(4):548-52.

  3. Wylie et al, (2013). Dietary nitrate supplementation improves team sport-specific intense intermittent exercise performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology 113(7):1673-1684.

  4. Cermak, NM., Gibala, MJ. and Van Loon, LJ. (2012) Nitrate supplementation's improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. International Jounral of Sports nutrition and exercise Metabolism 22(1):64-71.

  5. Jones, AM., (2014) Dietary nitrate supplementation and exercise performance. Sports Medicine, 44(35-45).

  6. Esatbeyoglu, T., Wagner, AE., Schini-Kerth, VB. and Rimbach, G., (2015) Betanin--a food colorant with biological activity. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research 59(1):36-47

Posted on November 2, 2018 and filed under Articles.