Eating well and Sport go hand in hand
Sorcha McElchar is a qualified nutritionist based in Donegal. She is also a member of the Irish Wheelchair Association’s Ability Programme, which supports job seekers with disabilities to build confidence and employment skills.
As a child, Sorcha was diagnosed with a number of chronic health conditions including an autoimmune disease. She’s also living with intestinal malabsorption, which prevents the body from getting vital nutrients from the food. This has inspired Sorcha to become a food nutritionist and focus her career on the benefits of healthy eating. If you don’t know how to eat healthily and if you’re confused about where to start, here are a few tips from Sorcha to help you along.
Our bodies need calories.
“Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, and water are called macronutrients because our body needs them in larger amounts. Calories = energy and if we don’t consume enough calories our body will start to slow down to conserve the little energy it has.”
Are carbohydrates evil?
“NO! We need carbs because they are broken down into glucose. Glucose is the only fuel our brain will use (it’s very fussy). You can make healthier choices by choosing whole grain and unrefined sources. Starchy veg like potatoes, turnips, parsnips, carrots, wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, porridge, muesli are all good choices. Anything that’s high in fibre will keep you satisfied for longer.”
Fat has been given a bad name.
“Although fat is more calorie-dense than carbs and protein, we still need it for a healthy body. Healthy fats are unsaturated, and you can find them in foods like olive oil, rapeseed oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and oily fish. Unhealthy fats are saturated and trans fats. These are mainly found in fried foods, baked goods, red meat, ready meals, crisps, and chocolate. What’s important is that you choose healthy fats as much as possible.”
Protein seems to be the nutrient everyone wants right now.
“Protein has an important job supporting our hormones and enzymes, antibodies in our immune system, water balance, and regulating our blood. You get protein from meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. They also have saturated fat so getting some of your protein from plant sources such as legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), nuts, whole grains, and tofu products would help reduce your intake of saturated fats.”
Micronutrients pack a punch.
“Vitamins and minerals may be called ‘micronutrients’, but they are no less important. Try and getting your 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Using raw fruit and veg as snacks and aiming to fill half your plate with veg is a great start.”
A special mention for Vitamin D.
“It’s one vitamin that we Irish don’t get enough. Because Ireland has a northern latitude, the type of sun we get isn’t very effective for making vitamin D and it has very limited food sources – egg yolk, liver, red meat, oily fish, and fortified foods. That is why it is recommended that every adult should be taking a vitamin D supplement, but talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any supplements to make sure they are the right supplements for you.”
Water is a very important macronutrient.
“Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, lack of concentration, irritability, dizziness, headaches, and constipation to name just a few, so it’s important to stay hydrated. If you find you forget to drink until you’re thirsty there are loads of free apps available to download that will remind you to take a drink every hour or whatever you set it for. Your body uses water to clear out toxins, among other things, so why not give it a hand.”
Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet to make sure you have the right food intake and nutrition for yourself.
Check out Sorcha’s guide to ‘Healthy Eating Made Easy’
Sorcha offers one-to-one nutrition consultation, dietary analysis, and personalised meal plans via www.sorchashealthyliving.com.
To find out more about the Ability Programme visit iwa.ie/ability.