Aveen Bannon

Aveen has accumulated 20 years of nutrition experience since graduating from Trinity College with a BSc. (Hons) (Human Nutrition and Dietetics). She is also a current member of the I.N.D.I (Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute) and founder of the Dublin Nutrition Centre.

Aveen is renowned in the Nutrition & Food Industry and has many years’ experience working with medical and health food institutions. Aveen is passionate about food and health promotion. She firmly believes that our diets have a huge impact on our health and lifestyle…

‘What we need is overall education on the functionality of nutrients from an early age coupled with encouraging people to have daily physical activity. We need to reassure people what a portion size actually looks like and get away from the concept of ‘good versus bad food’.

Aveen’s mantra is always ‘there’s no such thing as a good or bad food, only a good or bad diet.’

Aveen first began working with Keelings in 2006 and is thrilled to still be working alongside a company with such great naturally healthy products and also a passion for health and nutrition. Keelings along with Aveen want to work together towards helping people understand nutrition while knowing that they can enjoy food too!

Aveen Bannon - Keelings Ireland

Nutrition Blog

Make a date with apples!

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Aveen Bannon

This November, make a date with apples!

Winter is here, and as the days get shorter, our minds turn to warm soups, comfort foods and wrapping up indoors. There’s nothing wrong with indulging a little in the run-up to the holiday season, but we should aim for a few healthy habits too to ensure our body gets all the nutrition it needs to fight off colds and flu. Early nights and brisk winter walks are a few of the healthy habits we want to incorporate, but don’t forget to eat lots of colour too! As there can be less colourful seasonal fruits in winter, it is important that our fruit intake doesn’t drop. Apples are tasty winter fruits that can adapt to sweet and savoury dishes and are popular choices with kids.

Apples are packed with B vitamins Riboflavin, Thiamin, and Vitamin B-6. These vitamins are essential for a healthy heart and nervous system, are great for digestion, and also provide energy. Apples also contain vitamin C, but one of their great qualities is their fibre content.

A diet high in fibre has been linked to preventing the development of certain diseases and has been said to help reduce “bad” cholesterol in the blood. Fibre is like a natural sweeping brush for the gut. Containing no calories, it slows down the absorption of sugar and fats in the blood, helping to regulate blood sugar levels. High fibre snacks also help you feel fuller for longer, and therefore, apples can contribute to healthy weight maintenance. For maximum fibre, it is best to eat them whole and include the skins!

Additionally, apples are high in fructose (a natural sugar found in fruits); therefore, they are energy-dense. For this reason, they are a great snack in the afternoon if you are feeling the day is dragging and need a pick-me-up to get to the end of the day. (Some even find that eating an apple will give more energy than a cup of black coffee!)

One study looked into the effects of eating different forms of apple on satiety. It found that those who ate a whole apple with lunch reduced their calorie intake by 15%! If including in a lunchbox, you can cut the apple into wedges and piece the apple together again so it looks whole. Then wrap a hair-bobbin around the apple to hold it together. The inner flesh of Apples turns brown once sliced and exposed to air, but this process is an easy way to prevent browning and makes it easier for kids to snack on.

Apart from snacks, apples can be enjoyed in many ways! Apples are great in salads, roasted with pork, sautéed with onions and/or cabbage, baked with butternut squash or sweet potatoes, roasted with bacon and root vegetables, or pureed and used as an apple sauce on porridge or natural yoghurt. Why not try hot apple juice as a winter warming drink?

So, with winter upon us, make a date with apples this November. Incorporating apples into your diet can do some great things. All of the wonderful nutrients can help to ward off infection and keep you energised, not to mention the wonders they can do for your digestion! A great snack for kids and adults alike, in the lunchbox, with your breakfast, in a salad, or as a snack in the evening — there are so many delicious ways to enjoy apples!

Bobbing for Apples

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Aveen Bannon

October is here—time for some Halloween fun with the kids! Alongside the dressing up and collecting sweets, one game which has been passed down through generations comes out every year: bobbing for Apples. This traditional game is a Halloween favourite, but why? The game dates back to the Romans, who celebrated Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit and Trees by incorporating this game into the Celtic festival of Samhain (Halloween). As well as these age-old roots, another reason that apples may have been chosen to celebrate this holiday may have been the fact that they are very much in season in October, which is great due to the health benefits of this delicious fruit. We all know the old Welsh proverb “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but what makes this fruit so special?

  • Apples contain vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant that works against ‘free radicals’ which may cause damage in the body. Vitamin C is also essential for the formation of blood vessels, collagen, muscles, and cartilage, not to mention the amazing role it has to play in the body’s healing process and strengthening of the immune system!
  • Apples are also packed with B vitamins Riboflavin, Thiamin, and Vitamin B-6 (also known as B complex vitamins). These vitamins are essential for keeping the nervous system in good nick and in keeping red blood cells healthy and working well. They are also important for heart health, digestion, and good energy maintenance.
  • Apples are also a brilliant source of fibre! A diet high in fibre has been linked to preventing the development of certain diseases and has been said to help reduce “bad” cholesterol in the blood. Fibre is like a natural sweeping brush for the gut. Containing no calories, it slows down the absorption of sugar and fats in the blood which helps regulate blood sugar levels. High-fibre snacks help you to feel fuller for longer, and therefore apples can contribute to healthy weight maintenance. For maximum fibre, be sure to eat the skins!
  • Apples are high in fructose (a natural sugar found in fruits), and therefore, they are energy-dense. For this reason, they are a great snack in the afternoon if you are feeling the day is dragging and need a pick-me-up to get to the end of the day. (Some even find that eating an apple will give more energy than a cup of black coffee!)

So, as the days are getting shorter and winter is looming, incorporating apples into your diet can do some great things. All of the wonderful nutrients can help to ward off infection and keep you energised, not to mention the wonders they can do for your digestion! A great snack for kids and adults alike, in the lunchbox, with your breakfast, in a salad, or as a snack in the evening, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy apples!

Breakfast Fuel

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Aveen Bannon

Back to school can be a hectic time, and trying to get the kids out the door with a healthy breakfast in them can seem impossible at times. But it’s not as difficult as one might think!

Why is it so important that everyone gets a healthy breakfast? Skipping breakfast has been linked to obesity and low energy/concentration levels for many years, but now it is also being linked to higher risks of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and high cholesterol (a significant risk factor for heart disease). However, it is important to note that in order to reap the rewards from eating a daily breakfast, you must be sure that the meal is nutritious and filling—another reason to think about our breakfast choices!

The good news is that in Ireland, people are seeming to realise the importance of breakfast, with around 87% of people having breakfast every day and even more on the weekends. Research has shown that fruit is very popular at breakfast time, with variety increasing while people become more conscious of eating seasonally. Including a variety of fruits in the diet is important; for instance, including fruits high in vitamin C, such as strawberries, will aid iron absorption.

Build your breakfast guide:

  1. Choose high-fibre, nourishing carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, oats, wheat cereal, or low-sugar muesli.
  2. Make sure protein is a feature. Eggs, protein-rich dairies such as milk or Greek yoghurt, beans, nuts, and seeds are all great choices.
  3. Make it colourful! Adding fruits and/or veg to your breakfast will give numerous nutritional benefits to the meal. Berries or bananas with your cereal, tomatoes and mushrooms with your eggs, or accompanying breakfast with a fresh smoothie. Adding fruits high in vitamin C such as strawberries will help significantly with iron absorption in the body.
  4. Healthy fats are also important to include: avocado, nuts, and seeds are all great options for this category too.

If you are not one to eat breakfast, you can make an effort to re-jig your morning routine. There are some ways to make adding breakfast into your day a bit easier…

Stock up on healthy breakfast choices. Make sure that the house always has some fresh fruit and healthy fibre options for breakfast such as porridge oats or wholemeal bread. Keep healthy proteins and fats like Greek yoghurt, eggs, and nuts in supply to make breakfast in a rush that bit easier.

Prepare as much as you can the night before. If you are not great at the early starts and find that you don’t have time to make a healthy breakfast in the mornings, you can prepare the night before to make it easier to just grab and go! Try making up a nutritious smoothie or overnight oats and keeping it in the fridge to have on the go!

Another option, if acceptable in your workplace, might be to keep the ingredients for your breakfast in the office to make when you arrive. Make this a routine and you won’t miss breakfast anymore. Especially a good idea for those who don’t feel that they can eat first thing in the morning. This will save you money overall too!

Lunchbox Ideas

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Aveen Bannon

Back to school time already? Over the summer holidays, structure generally goes out the window, and getting back into a routine can be tricky! A great place to start is by making sure your children are meeting their nutritional requirements and forming new, healthy habits for the year. Good food habits set early in childhood can last a lifetime. With lunches providing around one-third of our daily nutritional needs, it’s important to put some thought and planning into them.

A healthy lunchbox that children will actually enjoy can be a challenge to achieve for some. Get kids involved with making lunches—let them know they need one protein, one carbohydrate and at least 2 colours to have a balanced lunchbox.

To keep you on track, try to always incorporate:

  • Wholegrain carbohydrates (e.g. wholegrain/wholewheat bread, pasta, rice, couscous, wrap)
  • Healthy proteins (e.g. turkey, chicken, tuna, smoked salmon, hard-boiled eggs, cheese)
  • At least two portions of fruits/vegetables (e.g. an apple, banana, orange, berries, kiwi, peppers, tomatoes, small salad)
  • Dairy snack (yoghurt and cheese are great options here)
  • And another healthy snack (e.g. rice cakes, wholegrain crackers/breadsticks with hummus, healthy bar options, nuts if allowed)

Here are 10 simple tips to help start the year off right!

  • Don’t make the same cheese sandwich every day; it will get boring! Keep it interesting by introducing variety throughout the week, adding a range of tastes and presentations of food. Be careful though: you know your child best. One idea is, if you are incorporating a food or a taste for the first time, try it at home first. It is important that the lunchbox is healthy, but your child must also enjoy it so that they don’t come home hungry, having had none of their lunch.
  • Cook extra rice/pasta in the evening – these can make interesting salads.
  • Get your child involved in planning and preparing their school lunches. This will help encourage responsibility and an interest in what they eat. It could also be a great educational opportunity.
  • Plan ahead! School days can be so busy, so set aside some extra time during the weekend to get organised for the week. Stock up on healthy ingredients that will last, keep wholemeal bread in the freezer and make sure there is plenty of fruit in the house.
  • Be ‘treat’ savvy. Find something sweet that your child likes that is also preferably on the healthier side and lower in sugar. (Try homemade flapjacks, plain biscuits, dried fruits, etc.). Some schools have banned treats from lunchboxes altogether in a health promotion bid, in which case, you could use natures candy—fruit!
  • Fluids are important for children; 8 cups of fluid should be encouraged daily. Milk and water are the best options. Brightly coloured drink bottles with straws (chosen by the kids, if possible) can make rehydrating more exciting. Add ice to water bottles in the morning to keep drinks cool.
  • If your mornings are hectic, why not make your child’s lunch the night before? Keep it in the fridge overnight.
  • An insulated box or bag can be used to help keep lunches cool. A small ice pack can also be used, or, alternatively, include a frozen fruit juice carton.
  • Discard any perishable food that hasn’t been eaten at the end of the day.
  • Wash and dry reusable water bottles, lids and lunchboxes every day in warm soapy water.
BBQ Pineapple

BBQ Season

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Aveen Bannon

Having dinner al fresco is one of the nicest things about the summer in Ireland (if the weather is cooperating). Barbecues, or BBQs, are a popular al fresco dining choice. Traditionally, the centre of a BBQ is an assortment of meats and bread, with vegetables and salads playing a more minor role. It has been estimated that at one BBQ meal alone, we can tally up to 2,000 calories—let’s look at how we can make BBQs a healthier summer addition to our diets!

Irish diets are rapidly changing; one clear change has been the reduction in meat and dairy consumption in recent years with people moving to more ‘flexitarian’ diet habits (limiting the amount of meat or dairy products in the diet). As the variety in our diets has undergone a welcome improvement, it is worth exploring a host of other suitable barbecue foods which will cater to a range of dietary preferences as well as inject additional healthy vitamins and minerals into this BBQ season.

Fruits and vegetables fit right in with a barbecue spread, either paired with meat or enjoyed alone. Not only can they add variety to the meal, but they also help to reduce the number of calories in the meal by bulking up our plates. Some tasty examples include aubergine, courgette, carrots, peppers, onion, pineapple, tomatoes, corn on the cob, portobello mushrooms, and cauliflower.

And why not try barbecuing fruits for dessert? The natural sugars in fruit will caramelise, heightening the sweetness and flavour. Thinly sliced apple and pear, pineapple, halved bananas, figs, peaches, and plums are all great options alone or with some natural yoghurt.

Some other tips for ensuring a healthful barbecue:

  • Choosing a lean protein: fish, skinless chicken/turkey breast, ground turkey, and cuts of lean red meat are all healthy options. Be aware of portion sizes—an easy trap to fall into at a barbecue is overdoing the protein portions.
  • Try barbecuing bean burgers, marinated tofu or halloumi as meat alternatives.
  • Avoid high-fat meats and reduce the number of additional fats added during preparation and cooking—meats and vegetables produce moisture during cooking, which means less butter and oil are required.
  • Choose healthier sides. Try fresh salads, mixed beans, whole grain rice, or baked potatoes instead of the staple coleslaw and creamy potato salad.
  • Make BBQ fruit a tasty dessert.

Nutrition for your Skin

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Aveen Bannon

Your skin can tell quite the story about your overall health—it is the body’s largest organ and needs to be cared for. Typically, when we have issues with our skin, especially the face, we are much more likely to attempt to remedy from the outside with creams, scrubs, face masks, or any lotions and potions that we hope might give us that “quick fix.” However, it makes much more sense that we remedy from the inside out for longer-lasting changes and improvements in the skin. A good skincare routine (and matching that with a good diet and exercise) should cover all the bases to achieve healthy and glowing skin in time for summer!

Despite popular belief, fats do not cause spots or oily skin. In fact, healthy fats give skin that healthy glow and too little fat in the diet can leave skin looking tired and dry. Focussing on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (found in nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, vegetable-based oils, and fish) will help your skin stay moist, firm, and flexible. Ensuring sufficient protein in your diet is also extremely important for skin health. Your body turns the protein you eat into amino acids, then reuses these to make other proteins, including collagen and keratin, which form skin structure.

Vitamins A, E, and C are very beneficial in ensuring healthy looking skin. Increasingly, you might notice these vitamins are added to creams to help the skin, but they have super benefits for the skin when included in the diet.

Sweet potatoes, carrots, and red/yellow peppers are all great sources of vitamin A (specifically beta-carotene, a nutrient found in plants which function as provitamin A, meaning it can be converted into vitamin A in your body). Beta-carotene is thought to slow skin’s ageing by acting as an antioxidant, reducing oxygen damage caused by the sun, pollutions and other environmental hazards.

Berries are deliciously full of antioxidants that may help to clear up blemishes. Strawberries are particularly good for delaying skin’s ageing because they are chock-a-block with vitamin C, aiding collagen production as well as fighting “free radicals,” which damage cells and break down collagen, leading to those fine lines.

In addition to the foods outlined above, keeping active, getting sufficient sleep and staying hydrated are also extremely important for healthy functioning of the skin. Water cleanses your body, helping to eliminate toxins. Water keeps skin hydrated, making it appear plumper and less wrinkled, so drink up!


May is Mediterranean Diet Month!

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Aveen Bannon

The Mediterranean diet has been hailed by health experts as one of the healthiest, balanced, and most nutritious diets in the world! Inspired by the traditional eating and healthy lifestyles of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, this diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil and is admired for being low in saturated fats and processed foods. It is a way of eating rather than a formal or prescribed diet plan. As May is Mediterranean Diet Month, why not explore this renowned diet…

One standout characteristic of the Mediterranean-style diet is its fresh taste; meals are seasoned with herbs, spices, citrus, flavourful vinegar and high-quality olive oil and are prepared in ways that make the flavours pop. This is also a diet that is known to consume red wine, but what you will find is that it is enjoyed in moderation with a meal. One might enjoy one glass of red wine per day, with water as the main beverage of choice.

Following a Mediterranean diet has many health benefits and has been shown to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and improve blood sugar control for those with type 2 diabetes. Those with arthritis have reported that the Mediterranean diet helps their symptoms, including a reduction in swollen and tender joints and the duration of morning stiffness as well as improved general well-being; some early research backs up this theory.

Each country surrounding the Mediterranean Sea has access to different locally grown foods, and the people have different preferences based on culture. However, there are many similarities, and a key part of Mediterranean dining culture is eating with others, being social and sharing healthful nutritious meals.

So how do you give your diet a Mediterranean touch?

  1. Eat more colour! Aim to include some rich, colourful fruits or vegetables at mealtime.
  2. Snack on nuts (unsalted).
  3. Use olive oil: This heart-healthy monounsaturated fat is a great addition to any salad or dish.
  4. Include beans and pulses in diet: Aim to include them 2-3 times per week.
  5. Ditch the salt! Flavour food with spices, herbs, garlic and onions instead.
  6. Eat more fish: Aim to include at least two servings of fish each week.
  7. If you drink wine, enjoy a glass of wine with your meal…and keep it 1 glass a day. But remember: You don’t need to drink wine to follow a Mediterranean diet!
  8. Limit sugar. Enjoy the natural sweetness of some fruit.
  9. Drink water.
  10. Enjoy a Mediterranean lifestyle! Keep active, get enough rest and eat and share mealtimes together.

New Season Strawberries

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Aveen Bannon

The days are longer, the sun is brighter, and the strawberries are getting sweeter—hello, strawberry season! Thanks to Keelings’ state-of-the-art strawberry glasshouses, Irish strawberry season runs from March to the end of November. This means we get to enjoy tasty, Irish-produced strawberries for longer! And there are many perks to eating seasonally…

Why is eating seasonally produced fruit so much tastier? If the fruit is produced out of season, it can typically be harvested before it is ripe and transported significant distances to where it will be sold and consumed. The ripening process is then controlled to cause even, uniform ripening. While this is a completely safe process, it can alter the taste and, of course, add air-miles. Seasonally produced fruits, on the other hand, happen naturally or with the assistance of greenhouses. When a fruit naturally ripens on the plant and is harvested when ripe, it results in tastier and sweeter-tasting fruits. Strawberries are a great example of how sweet and delicious in-season varieties are!

As we know, strawberries are a powerhouse of nutrition, full of vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and fibre. As well as their undeniable health benefits across the board, strawberries are special because they are sweet, fun and versatile, making them an attractive choice for kids. Often, even the fussiest eaters will be partial to a juicy strawberry. Their vibrant colour and the tactility of eating them by hand makes them fun and interactive for kids when tucking in. From adding fresh strawberries to breakfast to eating them as a snack in school or even savouring them as a dessert, the options for strawberries really are endless.

Eating strawberries fresh and whole is best for health benefits, but there are plenty of ways to get them into children’s (and adults’) daily diets if this is not preferred. Here are some healthy, fun ideas that are quick and easy to increase strawberries in the diet this Easter:

Healthy Strawberry Milkshake (Serves 2 Adults)


  • 500 ml of milk (your choice what kind)
  • 160 g fresh Keelings Irish strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

(Add one frozen banana to thicken if preferred, or transform into Strawberry Smoothie.)

Simply blend and serve. Get everyone involved in chopping and blending for this delicious drink the family will love.

Strawberry Pancakes (Makes 6 Pancakes)


  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 350ml milk
  • 200 g fresh Keelings Irish strawberries (chopped)
  • 30g butter, melted

Sieve flour into a bowl. Add egg, milk and butter, whisk until well blended and a batter is formed. Stir in half of the strawberries. Heat a greased large pan over medium heat. Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of pancake batter into the pan. Flip the pancake when bubbles begin to appear and then cook until golden. Serve with the remainder of the fresh strawberries and other chosen toppings.

Strawberry FroYo (Serves 4 Adults)


  • 240g Keelings Irish strawberries that have been frozen
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 200 ml of plain yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients into a food processor and blend until creamy (about 4 minutes). Consistency is best when served immediately but this FroYo can be frozen in an airtight container for a later time too.


St. Patrick’s Day

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Aveen Bannon

March already?! And with it comes St. Patrick’s Day! In Ireland, that means shamrocks, flags, and an excuse to break Lent! This month, along with the usual festivities, why not give your Céad Míle Fáilte to all the beautiful green fruits and vegetables, as well as the health benefits that come with them…

Start your day green with some smashed avocado on whole grain toast for a healthy breakfast. Avocados are known as a heart-healthy food as they are naturally free from cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. They are also a great source of fibre, folate, and vitamin K. One-third of a medium avocado (50g) contains 80 calories, gives 3.5g of fibre, contributes to “good” fats (monounsaturated), and also provides around 20 vitamins and minerals, including 250mg of potassium! When choosing avocados, look for ones with firm skin and no soft spots. They should be firm while yielding to gentle pressure when ripe.

Go green for snacks with kiwis by adding them to a juice or smoothie or simply cut one in half and go for it with a spoon. Kiwis are versatile and convenient as well as being packed full of nutrients for health and immunity. They’re also a good source of fibre, with more vitamin C than an orange and a good source of potassium and vitamin E. If you eat the skin, you can triple the amount of fibre you’ll get from the kiwi!

Give lunch a pop of green with peas. The perfect addition to any meal, peas can add life to salads, rice, pasta, soups, casseroles, or stews! Some might find it surprising that peas are an excellent source of vitamin C, with just 100g providing 66% of your recommended intake. Green peas are also one of the best plant-based sources of protein. This, along with their high fibre content, works to slow down digestion, promoting a feeling of fullness.

Bring broccoli to dinner to finish off your green day. Like many whole foods, broccoli is packed with soluble fibre that helps to reduce cholesterol in the body. This is because the fibre in broccoli helps bind with bile acids in the digestive tract, which makes it easier to excrete cholesterol out of our bodies. Broccoli is a particularly good source of fibre and protein and contains iron, potassium, calcium, selenium, and magnesium as well as the vitamins A, C, E, K and a good array of B vitamins including folic acid. The list goes on… Enjoy cooked or raw!

As well as the above examples, consider other dark leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, and spinach. These are all great sources of folate and therefore contribute to heart health by lowering homocysteine (an amino acid known to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease) levels in the blood. Some other great green ideas for the trolley are green beans (full of fibre, potassium, folate, protein, iron, and zinc), lettuce (refreshing choice with small amounts of folate, calcium, vitamin C, and potassium), cucumber (promoting hydration as well as providing vitamin K), asparagus (fibre, folate, and vitamins A, C and K), courgettes (nutrient dense and full of fibre, potassium, vitamin K and C), green peppers (vitamin C and fibre), green apples (fibre, vitamin A and C), and green grapes (antioxidant properties and full of vitamin C and K)!

By focusing on green this St. Patrick’s Day and mixing up your shopping list this month, open your eyes (and taste buds) to new foods you never knew you loved, experiment with flavours and cooking methods, and aim to make something green part of your daily diet routine! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Valentine’s Day

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Aveen Bannon

Valentine’s Day is all about love, romance, and treating that someone special in your life. Along with intimate meals, chocolate has become a staple gift for Valentine’s Day. This year, rather than indulging your loved one with chocolate, why not show how much you care about their health too! As fruit has been seen globally for many years as a food group symbolising love, passion, and romance. Swap that box of chocolates for a thoughtful fruit basket that will show originality while also injecting a healthy boost of nutrients into the special day.

Strawberries…a perfect red little heart. Now, if that is not romantic, what is? Strawberries have been considered an aphrodisiac since the times of ancient Rome. The heart-shaped fruit was said to be the symbol of Venus, the goddess of love! And the French are said to have fed strawberry soup to newlyweds in order to promote honeymoon romance! In addition, strawberries are a powerhouse of nutrition, as they are a great source of vitamin C to boost your immune system, aid the growth and repair of body tissue, and aid the absorption of iron. In fact, one serving of strawberries gives you all the vitamin C you require for the day—a simple, yet perfect seduction tool!

Grapes are one of the finest symbols of romance. Grapes have always been associated with love and fertility. In ancient Greece, newlyweds were given clusters, as they believed that grapes’ seeds would bless the couple with lots of children! In addition to essential vitamins and minerals, grapes are rich in polyphenols such as flavonoids, which protect you against health problems such as heart disease and cancer.

Indian culture pays great respect to the mango and its romantic prowess—mango leaves are hung above the door to the bride’s new home as a fertility charm. Mangoes are also believed to increase male virility. Mangoes are rich in beta-carotene, which helps in the production of Vitamin A. The powerful vitamin helps improve vision and boosts overall eye health.

The Aztecs believed that avocados had strong fertility and aphrodisiac powers…so much so that the Catholic Spanish priests found avocados so sexy, they forbade their parishioners to eat them! Avocado is incredibly nutritious, loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre, and more potassium than a banana. Adding avocado to a romantic breakfast for you and your valentine might be a great way to start off the day while also controlling hunger and reducing the temptation to pick on other sweet treats throughout the day!

On a holiday all about love with hearts everywhere, a gift of fruit can help you look after your loved one’s heart too! So this year, why not fill your Valentine’s Day with lots of colourful fruits to show your loved one that you love them and want to nurture their health too!


Detox Diets

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Aveen Bannon

Detox diets – Fact or Foe?

New years resolutions promise a host of possibilities; gym memberships, healthier living, and then, of course, the quick fix solutions like the detox diets!… They may seem like the perfect solution as they promise to lose 6kg in 2 weeks and decrease stress and tiredness levels as we succumb to the January blues. But don’t be fooled…  often these extreme diets will only mean a quick fix result and are not a long-term solution.

Before we start lets state some facts…The body has its own amazing detoxification systems: the liver and the kidneys. These organs work by filtering the blood and removing bad toxins from our body naturally so it is never necessary to embark on a detox diet.

Always think twice before embarking on overly strict diet routines that encourage you to cut out entire food groups out of your diet. Often these diets are fat-free, wheat free, sugar-free, dairy-free, alcohol-free and caffeine free. The problem with these strict regimens is that they are unrealistic, imbalanced and make us feel like all of these foods are bad for us…

Take caffeine as an example…many of us enjoy our morning cup of coffee and there’s nothing wrong with that. An Americano is calorie-free and provides an average of 100mg of caffeine per cup. The ‘lethal dose’ of caffeine is estimated to be around 10,000mg, which is equivalent to about 50-100 cups of coffee. So there’s nothing wrong with having 2-3 cups per day. Often we are led to believe that coffee is dehydrating but recent evidence suggests that caffeine-containing drinks are not as dehydrating as was previously thought.

Avoiding dairy is another common recommendation with detox diets which is of great concern. Some may need to avoid dairy for digestive reasons and can seek their calcium from plant alternatives. Dairy is the main source of dietary calcium in the Irish diet and is imperative for bone health. The bone is live tissue and we lose calcium every day so we need to replace calcium daily. Milk on cereal, a yoghurt or a latte can all count towards our daily calcium requirements.

Avoiding carbohydrates can lead to eating less insoluble fibre foods like whole grain cereals and high fibre bread which are important for bowel health. This can lead to problems with constipation and tiredness as you are taking out many carbohydrate-rich foods which are important for providing us with energy.

As there are so many conflicting health messages out there when it comes to New Year dieting, it is difficult for people to know what to do. The best way to approach the New Year is to make long-term changes…chose a high fibre breakfast, drink more water, including more fruit and vegetables in your diet and look at your portion sizes. Not only will you feel a million times better, but you will have a balanced diet and see lasting results instead of a temporary fix.

Surviving Christmas

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Aveen Bannon

Surviving Christmas…

With the festive season upon us, we can easily end up overindulging. However there are some ways to hope you stay on track while still managing to enjoy Christmas. On average, we will put on 0.5-1kg over the Christmas period and this weight can be stubborn to lose! That is equivalent to eating an extra 300 calories per day.  So a few drinks and canapés at a party or maybe a take-away on the way home after a night out, or perhaps a fried breakfast the morning after seasonal excesses!

  • Firstly make sure you eat at regular intervals; Have a fibre rich breakfast like porridge topped with fruit to kick start the day.  Skipping breakfast can result in us over compensating for calories later in the evening. Do not starve yourself at lunchtime because you know you will be eating out later! Have a warming bowl of vegetable soup or a wholegrain sandwich to keep you going during the day.
  • Never go to a party hungry! We often eat faster and therefore more than we need when we are hungry – If you are going to a party straight after work, have a snack like nuts, fruit, soup or a yogurt with some fruit before you go.
  • Our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs and studies have shown that the greater the choice of food on offer, the more calories we tend to consume…. So rather than trying a little of everything from the buffet, stick to a couple of smart choices. Also avoid standing right beside the food table or bar while you are talking. Easy access to food or beverages will be more of a temptation during any lulls in the conversation…
  • Just say ‘No’ to food…. It looks delicious but I´m full’, ‘I already tried it and thought it was amazing’ ‘I ate before I came but thank you’ or the best option can often be “I’ll try some in a minute…” that way you aren’t saying no but not committing to eating it either!
  • Quit while you´re ahead! Avoid the mentality of “I’ve already blown it so what difference does it make now”. When you are full, get rid of your plate and napkin and grab a glass of water.
  • Choose smaller wine glasses, switch from pints to bottles and measure rather than pour spirits. Remember if you do overindulge in alcoholic drinks, drink plenty of water before you go to bed and keep more by your bedside, as rehydration is key to help reduce the effects of a hangover. However do try to be sensible.  Avoid drinking too much alcohol…as each gram of alcohol is around 7 calories and remember alcohol offers no nutritional benefits at all!Have a glass of water between each drink…doing this will not only save you calories but help you drink less alcohol too.
  • Be wary of the tin of chocolates! Just two small chocolates have the same amount of calories as a slice of bread! Step away from the tin, put the lid on the tin when done and put them out of sight especially when watching TV!
  • Be realistic. Trying to loose weight at this time of year is both unrealistic and socially unpleasant! Food and tempting treats are everywhere aim for weight stabilisation.
  • Above all, keep active. Anyone can survive the party season if they keep active and get fresh air. Don´t let the weather get you down, wrap up and get out for a brisk walk this will keep you fit over Christmas and help you burn of any extra calories you may have enjoyed over the party season.

Nutrition and Cancer

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Aveen Bannon

Nutrition and Cancer

Nutrition and cancer is a very topical area. However, frustratingly, a lot of the research linking diet and cancer is “substantial, yet inconclusive,” according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). This is because it is so difficult to establish a definitive link between cancer and specific foods or nutrients. Most findings come from tracking dietary patterns in different populations. What we do know is that 1/3 of all cancer deaths are linked to lifestyle behaviours including diet and exercise. What this tells us is that we need to look at a package of healthy lifestyle choices.

  1. The first step is to be a healthy weight – It is estimated that 20% of all cancers are related to obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight may not only help prevent cancer but also may reduce the risk of other chronic diseases. Reducing obesity with healthy food choices along with portion control and keeping active are important steps for reducing cancer risk.
  2. Fibre! We know that those who reach their daily fibre requirements tend to be leaner. Including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils as part of your daily diet will help boost your fibre intake. Research has shown that eating 30g of fibre or more per day can protect against certain cancers. One example is that for every 7g increase in fibre there is a 7% reduced risk of colon cancer! Fill 1/3 to 1/2 of your breakfast, lunch and dinner plate with fruit, vegetables or salad each day to help meet your fibre goals. Try to eat a rainbow every day and get as many different coloured fruits and vegetables in your diet daily.
  3. Reduce your intake of foods with added sugars that may provide a lot of calories but few nutrients. Although there is no direct link between sugar and cancer one of the biggest risk factors for cancer is being overweight or obese. Eating or drinking foods that are high in sugar can make you gain weight. There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese is linked to 12 types of cancer. The other factor is that if you fill up on these foods you may displace intake of healthier options!
  4. Moderate your meat portions! Red and processed meats have been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer. Your best bet is to enjoy a small portion of meat and fill the rest of your plate with whole grains and vegetables. Limit red meat to about 3 times a week in your diet and include more fish and plant sources of protein in your diet like tofu, tempeh, beans and pulses.  White meats haven’t been associated with an increase in colorectal cancer.
  5. Focus on Plant Proteins  – Beans, pulses, nut and seeds are all great sources of protein that also proved fibre too. Aim to include them in your diet 2-3 times per week.
  6. Keep alcohol to sensible limits, enjoy in moderation. Ideally, for women to limit to no more than 11 units and for a man 17 units per week.

For more tips on reducing your risk or managing diseases through nutrition, consult a registered dietitian.



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Aveen Bannon


Did you know that almost 80% of Irish people don’t get enough fibre in their diets but fibre is like a natural
sweeping brush for the gut? Fibre contains no calories and is not actually a nutrient as we do not absorb it
but it is imperative for good health. It slows down the absorption of sugar and fats in the blood which help
regulate blood sugar levels. And those who eat more fibre tend to be leaner!

Fibre has many benefits, one of which is keeping our digestion regular. I find that most people think they
are eating enough fibre by having a high fibre breakfast cereal or 1-2 pieces of fruit or vegetables per day .
However this is not the case, in fact in Ireland the average person eats less than 14g per day! We need to
aim for 24-35g of fibre per day. For kids up to the age of 18 they need their age plus 5g so e.g. if you have
a 10 year old they would need 15g per day. To meet these goals you need to include some fibre at each

As fibre helps you feel fuller for longer choosing foods that contain fibre will help you feel more satisfied.
For example a pear contains about 80-calories with 5-6g of fibre so you will feel fuller afterwards than
you would if you ate a 80-calorie snack with no fibre. Because of this, fibre can help you maintain a
healthy weight. The easiest ways to increase your family fibre intake of fibre is to ensure some colourful
fruit or vegetable at every meal, include fruit or vegetables as snacks, chose higher fibre breakfast cereals,
use wholegrain breads & cereals and keep the skin on your potatoes.

On average most servings (80g) of fruit or vegetables will offer between 2-4g of fibre. Berries happen to
yield one of the best fibre-per-calorie ratios. Since berries are packed with tiny seeds, their fibre content is
typically higher than that of many other fruits. So an 80g portion of raspberries will provide about 5g of
fibre in just 20 calories!

One word of warning though is to go slowly when increasing your fibre! If you normally eat very little
fibre you will need to increase it gradually over a couple of weeks as your bowel adjusts to getting more
fibre. And drink lots of water…fibre soaks up lots of fluid in the bowel which helps keep your stool soft
and moving. For most people 1.5-2L of water per day is the right amount. If you find you have a little more
wind or altered bowel habit at the beginning down worry this should settle down quickly…and then you
will get to enjoy all the health benefits of having a fibre filled diet!

How can I add more fibre?
You need to think about fibre at every meal
Make sure you get your ‘5-a-day’ from fruit and vegetables – this will give you about 10g of fibre
Go for a high fibre cereal for breakfast – check the labels and look for cereals with ‘6g of fibre or
more per 100g of cereal’
Add more beans – beans on toast, bean salads, chili-con-carne with kidney beans.
Add lentils to soups, stews and casseroles.  Try adding a handful of red lentils to Bolognese
Go for brown rice, brown pasta and baked potatoes (and remember to eat the skins!).
Make sure half of your plate at lunch and dinner comes from vegetables or salad.
Add seeds like sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds to cereals, yoghurt and salads.
Snack on nuts and dried fruit – go for mixed peanuts and raisins; apricots; brazil nuts and hazelnuts.

Top ten fibre rich foods to include in your weekly shopping basket for the family;
Breakfast cereals with more than 6g of fibre per 100g.
Wholegrain breads, rolls and pitta pockets.
Peanut butter.
Fruits and vegetables.
Dried fruit e.g. raisins, apricots, prunes.
Fruit and vegetable juices.

There’s something about Strawberries

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Aveen Bannon

There’s something about Strawberries

There is something undeniably romantic about the strawberry…. their Latin
name is Frugaria, meaning fragrance and they are actually a member of the
rose family; they taste utterly delicious and are bursting with nutrients
including Vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and fibre.

Strawberries are heavenly for your taste buds and are little angels when it
comes to improving the health of your body! The great thing about them is
that they are naturally so sweet yet they provide a multitude of health benefits
in so few calories….

Firstly, strawberries are a great source of vitamin C. One serving of
strawberries gives you all the vitamin C you require for the day! Vitamin C is
well know to help boost our immune systems but also it is involved in the
growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body. Vitamin C also helps the
body absorb iron from non-meat sources like fortified cereals and green
vegetables. So top your cereal or salad with these little sweet nutritious gems
to helps increase your absorption of iron.

Did you know that strawberries are the only fruit to have their seeds on the
outside? And despite being so tasty strawberries can be used in beauty
treatments as an exfoliator for your skin and in some cultures for teeth
whitening! However it is because of these tiny seeds that strawberries fibre
content is typically higher than that of other fruits. Strawberries have one of
the best fibre to calorie ratios when compared to other foods.

Serve them with yogurt instead of cream, add them to your breakfast or top on
a salad. Their tastiness combined with the fibre and antioxidants make
strawberries a healthy choice…. And who doesn’t love strawberries!


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Aveen Bannon

Magnesium…one to think about! 

Did you know that magnesium is involved in over 300 functions in the body and is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body?  The majority of the body magnesium is stored in bone (about 60%) and muscle (about 25%).

In the past it was recognised that magnesium could aid sleep and was important for good bone health. It can also help relieve muscle cramps and constipation and plays an important role in supporting the nervous system and heart health. Magnesium also helps you take energy from food and make new proteins. More recently it has been recognised for its role in reducing anxiety…in fact some even refer to it as natures tranquilliser!

Vitamins and minerals often work in synergy and magnesium is no exception. Magnesium is needed to activate vitamin D in the body. So if you are getting your vitamin D from sunlight or supplements you need to ensure that you are getting enough magnesium in your diet too.

So where does magnesium come from… a good rule of thumb is the greener the vegetable the more magnesium it contains e.g spinach, broccoli, kale…another reason to eat your greens! Other sources include beans, legumes, whole-grains, nuts, seeds and fish. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggest that women aim for 300 mg per day and men 350 mg per day. Girls aged 7-18 aim for 250 mg and boys aged 7-18 aim for 300 mg per day. Those who may need to consider looking at boosting their magnesium are expecting mums, those with muscle cramping, sports individuals, or those taking calcium or vitamin D supplements.

Magnesium is a mineral that you need every day for good health and by eating rich green vegetables daily, getting your 6 or more a day of fruit and vegetables, including whole-grains, nuts and legumes in your diet regularly you should get enough from food.


Magnesium Content of Common Foods

Food Serving Size Magnesium (mg)
Pear 1 fruit 88
Spinach, cooked 125g 83
Potato, with skin, cooked 1 medium 44-55
Quinoa, cooked 125 g 63
Beans (black, lima, adzuki, kidney, pinto, chickpeas), cooked 175 g 60-89
Pumpkin seeds 30g (2 tblsp) 158
Nuts – Almonds, cashews  30g 44-55
Salmon cooked 90g 110

* Magnesium from supplements should not exceed 350 mg per day unless advised by doctor or dietitian. It is safe to consume more than your daily magnesium needs from food and water.

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