Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - FOOD MEDIC - MEET DR HAZEL If you missed last week’s in­ter­view with Dr Hazel re­veal­ing her in­spir­ing story, child­hood in Co Louth, per­sonal health chal­lenges, be­com­ing a doc­tor and her route to heal­ing and well­be­ing (@the­foodmedic), go to

In the book I cover the ba­sics of nu­tri­tion in de­tail so you’ll have a solid foun­da­tion of knowl­edge to start build­ing your own healthy diet. One way of en­sur­ing that you’re meet­ing your nu­tri­tion goals is by get­ting your ‘macros’ on tar­get. Macros, or macronu­tri­ents, in­clude car­bo­hy­drates, fats and pro­teins, all of which are nec­es­sary in our di­ets. I give you a lot of in­for­ma­tion to take on board, so – to sum­marise for this spe­cial – let’s pull it to­gether and talk through, step-by-step, how to make a bal­anced meal.


I like to base my meals around pro­tein. I love pro­tein-rich foods such as chicken and eggs, and also whey pro­tein as a pow­der, not just for the nu­tri­tional ben­e­fits but be­cause they keep me fuller longer. If I’m hav­ing one serv­ing of pro­tein for my three main meals a day, plus ad­di­tional pro­tein in my snacks, then I know I’ve roughly hit my goals for the day. How do I know I’m on tar­get? I eye­ball it us­ing the size of my palm as an ap­prox­i­mate mea­sure for each serv­ing of pro­tein.

We need to be aim­ing for, at the very least, 0.75g of pro­tein per kilo­gram of body­weight per day. For those of us who are phys­i­cally ac­tive and in­ter­ested in build­ing and main­tain­ing mus­cle tis­sue, this should be in­creased to 1.2g-1.7g of pro­tein per kilo­gram. So for your av­er­age 70kg per­son, roughly 100g of pro­tein is the per­fect tar­get. (For ex­am­ple, one small chicken breast has roughly 30g of pro­tein and one egg roughly 6g.) Per­son­ally, I aim around the higher in­take or a tad more. So what’s my typ­i­cal pro­tein day like? Here’s an ap­prox­i­mate ex­am­ple:

BREAK­FAST 2 eggs, 40g feta cheese (pro­vides 20g pro­tein) LUNCH Chicken breast (pro­vides 30g pro­tein) DIN­NER Salmon fil­let (pro­vides 25g pro­tein) SNACK Small tub of Greek yo­ghurt and a hand­ful of nuts (pro­vides 20g pro­tein) SAM­PLE DAILY TO­TAL 95g pro­tein So, as a fe­male of my size and weight, I’m con­sum­ing roughly 1.8g of pro­tein per kilo­gram of body weight, which is ideal for my ac­tiv­ity lev­els and goals to main­tain and build mus­cle mass. A man twice my body weight would need two palm-sized serv­ings of pro­tein to meet macronu­tri­ent lev­els.

Even for the less ac­tive among us I would still rec­om­mend max­imis­ing your pro­tein. We should all be aim­ing for the higher marker of 1.2g-1.7g per kg. But you don’t need to go above that. Su­per- ex­ceed­ing your pro­tein in­take will not make your mus­cles grow any big­ger or faster.

There are many apps and sim­ple nu­tri­tion coun­ters out there that can help you cal­cu­late the pro­tein con­tent of in­di­vid­ual foods. Pack la­bels will con­tain a nu­tri­ent break­down too. See page 34 for more guide­lines and my macronu­tri­ent-savvy shop­ping list.


Non-starchy veg­eta­bles, such as leafy greens, broc­coli, cau­li­flower, pep­pers, car­rots, mush­rooms and cel­ery, are packed full of nu­tri­ents and fi­bre. They are also lower in calo­ries than starchy veg­eta­bles such as pota­toes and squash, so you can ben­e­fit from their good­ness by pack­ing out your meals with them when try­ing to main­tain or lose weight. Add a va­ri­ety of colours, tex­tures and nu­tri­ents to your plate with a mix­ture of veg­eta­bles such as bell pep­pers, kale, beet­root and cour­gette.

I al­ways choose at least two or three dif­fer­ent types of non-starchy veg­eta­bles. A rule I like to go by is one leafy green, such as kale, spinach or rocket leaves, and two dif­fer­ent coloured veg­eta­bles, such as aubergine and cour­gette. You should add two hand­fuls, or fill half of your plate, with these nu­tri­ent- dense foods.


Al­though starchy foods such as pota­toes and rice are higher in calo­ries and carbs per serv­ing com­pared to non-starchy veg­eta­bles, they are still rich in im­por­tant vi­ta­mins and min­er­als. Starchy veg is also a great source of di­etary fi­bre, which helps stave off hunger by keep­ing you feel­ing fuller for longer, mak­ing you less likely to graze on snacks. Many of us still have ‘car­bo­pho­bia’ when it comes to starchy carbs. But not all car­bo­hy­drates are cre­ated equal and choos­ing the right kind makes all the dif­fer­ence. Whole­some starchy carbs, which are un­re­fined and un­pro­cessed, such as a whole sweet potato with the skin on or brown rice (which hasn’t been stripped of its nu­tri­tious coat), are nu­tri­tion­ally dense and pro­vide us with slow-re­lease en­ergy. The op­po­site is true of their gen­er­ally white, re­fined or pro­cessed coun­ter­parts.

NOTE I’ve pur­posely ex­cluded sweets, choco­late, honey and syrups such as agave from my build­ing blocks. These foods are non- es­sen­tial to our diet (though may be es­sen­tial for the soul – turn to page 31!), so eat them spar­ingly. STEP 4 AC­CES­SORISE WITH FATS A decade ago, low-fat di­ets were con­sid­ered the way to go in or­der to lose weight and pre­vent heart dis­ease. How­ever, there has been a 180- de­gree turn­around in re­cent years and we now ap­pre­ci­ate how es­sen­tial it is to con­sume di­etary fats for our over­all health and well­be­ing. But – as with ev­ery­thing – too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Fat, re­gard­less of how healthy it is, still has calo­ries (dou­ble the calo­ries per gram of car­bo­hy­drates or pro­tein). I like to use fats to ac­ces­sorise my meals: a lit­tle driz­zle of ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, half a smashed avocado, a sprin­kle of seeds or a tea­spoon of al­mond but­ter of­fers me the nu­tri­tional ben­e­fits of fat and en­hances the flavour of my food, but doesn’t add an ex­ces­sive num­ber of calo­ries to the meal.

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