Five simple tips to live well when you are super busy

Derval O’Rourke with nutritional scientist Aishling O’Hea: understanding the different elements of your food is important. Pictures: Leah Barbour

Derval O'Rourke shares some healthy eating advice for busy workers and two tasty recipes

I recently did a talk for 160 interns and gave them advice on simple tips to live well when you are super busy – this week I’m sharing the main advice I passed on. For my recipe, it’s my homemade mayonnaise and crab stuffed lettuce boats.

A few weeks ago I spoke at the PwC Summer Intern Summit in Co Kildare. I did a presentation with Aishling O’Hea (the nutritional scientist who works with me) for the 160 new interns.

Corporate engagements are a big part of my work schedule and I really enjoy them. What I’ve found is that much of what I speak about in these settings is applicable to us all. My background is a former professional athlete but I combined that career with college and then work. I understand really well the struggles that come with lack of time and a desire to do your best at work/college and the challenges that come with staying healthy.

Top tips for busy people:

1. Knowledge is power

We know that diets don’t work long-term. They are a risk factor for low self-esteem, poor body image and disordered-eating patterns. They do not teach you how to eat well for life.

Instead they teach you how to eat well while following their rules and buying their products thereby ensuring you remain trapped in the yo-yo diet cycle and keep coming back. The best way to break free from this is to upskill on food, such as investing in a weekend cookery course. Ireland is packed full of cookery schools run by amazing people.

2. Start your day the right way

When you’re busy you need to fuel yourself to deal with the stresses that brings. Eating breakfast is associated with increased focus and concentration, better blood sugar control and maintenance of a healthier body weight. Think of breakfast as the first job of your day.

Ideas for a balanced breakfast to fuel your day:

Eggs and avocado on wholegrain toast with cherry tomatoes and spinach

Overnight oats topped with nuts, seeds and mixed berries (a super option for when you’re in a rush)

Smoothies with milk, oats, protein powder, nut butter and banana.

3. You are the boss

If you have a busy lifestyle then being prepared is key. Food preparation in reality can be as simple as cooking double portions for dinner and taking leftovers for lunch the next day.

Additionally, making a big batch of healthy snacks to eat during the week is a great idea. Preparing your own food puts you in control of the ingredients and portion sizes plus it saves you money in the long run. When cooking from scratch I try to focus on getting a variety of fresh foods into my diet, firstly because our gut bacteria thrive off variety and secondly because it means we get an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

4. Portioning and snacking

When you’re organising your work/college lunch think of it in terms of a balanced plate. I look at my plate of food with half plate vegetables, quarter plate protein, quarter plate carbohydrate and a thumb- size serving of healthy fats as a guide. It’s a simple way to have a healthy lunch or dinner without spending too much time thinking about it.

When it comes to snacks I focus on those with minimal ingredients and try to get some protein in to help keep me fuller for longer over the day. My favourites include Naked bars, apple with nut butter or homemade energy balls.

5. The big picture

When it comes to living a healthy and happy life, eating well is only one pillar. Other factors like getting enough sleep, moving your body, managing stress levels and having people to speak to are incredibly important. Everything has a knock-on effect on everything else. For example, if we sleep less our desire to exercise can be reduced. It’s also more difficult to make nourishing food choices when we are tired and we are more likely to overeat.

Fitspiration: @athleticsnotasthetics

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🙌🏻 R E B E C C A. . ☀️ Rebecca thanks so much for such awesome advice on how to keep clients cool! If you’re a fitness instructor and are teaching clients in this hot weather check out her tips below. You’re so right about not editing our sweaty pics too! Thanks Rebecca - you’re awesome. Ps pass me the Solero. . #Repost @a_helping_of_healthy_ with @get_repost ・・・ Those workout heatwave vibes 😱😰😱 A few things I’m doing with myself and clients to manage exercise during the heatwave: 1️⃣ Wet towel during the workouts. Place on pulse points as they are most sensitive and will help cool you down more effectively. 2️⃣ Lots of water and rest during sets 3️⃣ Focusing on weight lifting rather than a circuit style of training. Less demanding aerobically in the heat. 4️⃣ Encouraging everyone to try a Solero Exotic ice cream 🍦 100 calories and taste delicious 😬 (not during exercise - obvs!) 5️⃣ Staying as close as possible to the air con or fan as possible 💨 - - I’m loving the @athleticsnotaesthetics account where they are sharing pictures of what we really look like, unedited when we work out. Fitness and exercise isn’t meant to be pretty and edited. #justsaying

A post shared by Athletics Not Aesthetics (@athleticsnotaesthetics) on

Created by Hollie Grant (@thepilatespt) this page aims to rebalance the perception of what exercise actually looks like. Unfortunately, the images we see of women exercising in the media do not reflect how women actually look when they do exercise. This makes many women feel uncomfortable and self conscious. Hollie is trying to show the real side of exercise, the sweaty, red- faced and empowering side of it. Check her out.


I go to Baltimore in West Cork every year. I always go to the Waterfront bar and my favourite meal is a shellfish platter with homemade mayonnaise and fresh bread. It’s so lovely to go somewhere that makes its own mayo, served with fresh fish. I don’t eat very much mayo but if I do I like to eat a quality one that is made with simple ingredients.

Homemade mayo issurprisingly quick and easy to prepare. This is one to make every now and thenas a treat. I’ve put thenutritional information in but this recipe should be seen as a real indulgent one.

Makes: 1 jar

Prep time: 10 minutes

Nutritional information(per jar): Protein — 7g; Fat — 378g; Carbohydrate — 2g; Calories — 3,461

  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2-3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 400ml rapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Place the egg yolk and vinegar into a food processor and blend on high speed until it turns pale yellow. Very slowly start to trickle the oil in a little at a time until combined. Season to taste. Eat immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge.


    I adore shellfish. If I’m out for dinner I’ll always look out for it on the menu.

    Crab meat is something I consider to be a little bit of a treat. I always try to buy the best quality I can afford and source it from the fishmonger where possible. Using lettuce leaves to hold the delicious mixture keeps the whole thing nice and light, perfect for a fast lunch or dinner. This would be great to serve to friends if they are popping over in the evening.

    Prep time: 10 minutes

    Serves: 4

    Nutritional information: Protein — 15.75g; Fat — 40.75g; Carbohydrate — 3.75g; Calories — 446

  • 280g fresh crab meat
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 200g mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • Handful fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 baby gem lettuce heads
  • Strain all water off crab meat and add to a large bowl with lemon, mayonnaise and dill. Mix well to combine.

    Pick the individual leaves of the baby gem lettuce heads and fill with the crab mixture.

    Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy immediately

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