Eat and Move with Derval O'Rourke: New online project and delicious recipes

This week I’m writing about my new online project and giving you an insight into what I’ve been working on. Recipe-wise it’s my quinoa, avocado and spinach power bowl and I’m snacking on delicious chocolate coconut protein balls.

At this time of the year there are a huge amount of New Year, New You plans and lots of people are embarking on new food and fitness regimes. No matter where you look you will be bombarded with messages about fitness, food and mindset to be your best self in 2019.

There is no place like online to get bombarded by messages.

The world of social media has exploded over the last few years, with over 80% of Irish people engaging online either on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

There is more nutrition and exercise information available than ever and a growing number of ‘experts’ ready to give it. Despite this the rates of overweight and obesity continue to rise in Ireland and are now sitting at 60%. Whilst, on the one hand, we are online looking for solutions to our health issues, on the other hand we are still struggling with a big portion of the population overweight.

Personally, I spend lots of time on social media. I have an Instagram, Facebook and Twitter page. I put up lots of healthy lifestyle advice and I spend a huge amount of time engaging with people online. I originally started working in the healthy lifestyle space when I published my first cookbook in 2014.

Since then how people get access to information has changed a lot and whilst I still love books (I might write a third book at some point) I felt that there was space for me to deliver something really valuable in the online world.

I’ve been working really hard over the last year on my website and finding ways to put information on it that I feel people will benefit from. I’ve collaborated with lots of experts in the areas of food, fitness and focus to bring together the best information I could.

I did lots of research and found that while many online platforms are offering plans focusing on food, fitness or wellness, there were none that recognised the importance of using a blend of all three areas.

I felt this is what would make the biggest impact in helping people to be the best they can be so that’s what I set out to do. At various times we need to concentrate on different parts of our health and I wanted my website to really give people options and let them choose their health goals.

My website is built around three key pillars, each of which has content created by me and supported with the help of people who I really feel add value in their respective areas. One of the areas I find frustrating online is people trying to be everything to everyone. I’m also excited to collaborate with experts to come up with the best information to empower others.

The first area on the site is food. I have created an eight-week food foundation plan to teach you the basics of eating well for life — not just January.

This plan was designed by me with the support of a nutritional scientist, Aishling O’Hea, and provides you with a key learning point, sample meal plan and healthy recipe each week. Rather than obsess over weight loss, this eight-week plan gives the foundations of eating well.

It is a very practical guide to your everyday choices. The food pillar has many additional resources including a detailed bank of recipes, workbook, topic discussions and family food.

The second area on the site is fitness. I’ve created an eight-week fitness foundation plan that will teach you the basic principles to moving well. I worked with an experienced personal trainer to ensure the best advice was given. There are 15 minute video workouts to help enhance your fitness, regain your confidence and feel great. In this pillar I have also included lots of tips and easy to follow ideas plus current trends in the area of fitness.

The third pillar is focus. Essentially this is the area that I look at mindset and general wellbeing.

I’ve put together a set of eight life skills that supported me in achieving my success as a professional athlete. They are transferable to everyone irrespective of what your goals are, and still support me in my everyday life today.

There is a series of videos and a printable workbook for you to use. One of my favourite aspects of this pillar is my personal workbook which will give you an insight into my goals and aspirations and will empower you to reach your goals too.

In each pillar I’ve created high quality video content and printable workbooks to support your health goals.

Each pillar has loads of extra resources that will keep you browsing and inspired. There will be weekly live sessions with myself and an expert. I feel it’s really important for my members to be able to chat directly with me, as well as with the various experts.

These chats will cover a different topic each week which will tie in directly with one of the pillars, for example how to reach and maintain your optimal weight, strategies to juggle a busy life and simple tips and tools for incorporating fitness into everyday life. There will be a live Q&A at the end of each session and each weekly live session is archived on the site so that members can refer back to them and watch them back at their own convenience.

New content is being created all the time to make sure people have lots of different areas to help them and that I’m bringing the most relevant help I can. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from people about where they want help and I’m enjoying creating the content that matches that.

There are so many health experts in Ireland and to be able to tap into them and then create something to help people reach their health goals is amazing.

There is a private Facebook group that gives a really great community feel to my online venture. I know that being part of a community increases your chances of achieving your health goals and that being supported by others undertaking the same journey as you is beneficial to your health and wellbeing.

I love to see the different ways people are benefitting from the site and how the use my content.

Another key element of my online project is that I wanted to give people value for money. I kept the membership fee at €7 a month to make becoming a member accessible. Additionally I’ve built a loyalty club and approached like-minded businesses to help me in providing savings to members.

One example is Jump Juice bars who are offering a free smoothie and energy ball to each member when they join.

2019 will be a busy and exciting time for me. I’m thrilled to be finally chatting about my website and hope all my members love it as much as I do.

To find out more head to



Danny Lennon is the founder of Sigma Nutrition and Sigma Nutrition Radio. He has a BSc in Biology and Physics Education and an MSc in Nutritional Sciences from University College Cork.

He has worked as a nutrition practitioner with a wide variety of clients and oversees the Sigma Nutrition online coaching service.

His podcast is well worth a listen if you are looking for evidence-based advice and information on all things nutrition this New Year.

Quinoa, avocado and spinach power bowl

This one isn’t called a power bowl for nothing; it’s quite literally bursting with goodness. The honey lime dressing is a great one to add to the repertoire and tastes delicious on any salad. I love to serve this with some chicken or a dollop of hummus for an extra protein hit.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

Nutritional information:

Protein – 7g

Fats – 20g

Carbohydrates – 28g

Calories - 310

For the quinoa

100g cooked quinoa

rinsed under cold water

200ml veg etable stock or


Tbsp coconut oil

1 lime, juiced and zest finely


Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing

Tbsp olive oil

1 lime, juiced

Tsp honey

To serve

1 small punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 handful coriander roughly chopped

4 scallions, sliced

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (optional)

1 small bag of baby spinach

2 avocado, diced or sliced

To make the quinoa

Add the quinoa and the stock or water to a saucepan over a high heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all the liquids absorbed. Stir in the coconut oil, lime juice, lime zest, salt and pepper.

Set aside until you are ready to assemble the salad.

To make the dressing

Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice and honey. Set aside with the quinoa.

To serve:

Stir together the quinoa, halved cherry tomatoes, coriander, scallions and jalapeno pepper, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the spinach between four bowls, place the quinoa salad on top and drizzle with the dressing. Top with the avocado and serve.

This salad can be eaten immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Do not cut the avocado until just before serving as it may turn brown.

Chocolate and coconut protein balls

I always have a batch of these protein balls on the go. They’re easy to make and a perfect post-training snack or healthy addition to a cup of tea.

They’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Prep time: 5-10 minutes

Cook time: None, just a few minutes to set

Serves: 8 balls

Nutritional information:

Protein – 10g

Fats – 4g

Carbohydrates – 6g

Calories –117

½ scoops of vanilla protein powder

20g raw cacao powder or cocoa powder

40g porridge oats

40g unsweetened desiccated coconut, plus extra for coating

50ml almond milk

Pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Keep mixing until all the dry ingredients stick together. If you still find the mixture to be slightly dry, add in an extra tablespoon of almond milk.

Divide into eight equal portions and roll into balls between the palms of your hands.

Roll in the remaining desiccated coconut. Leave to set for a few minutes, ideally in the fridge, until they are firm.

These bars are best stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

More on this topic

McDonald’s launches vegetarian nuggets

Try an Indian breakfast recipe with Darina Allen

A growing awareness to grow, cook and eat

Restaurant Review: Sublimely tasty food at Monk’s Lane in Cork

More in this Section

Can a craft exhibition have Brexit influences?

Should you be applying SPF to your eyelids?

Irish author’s mental health memoir shortlisted for prize

Debate: Should you drink in front of your children?

Latest Showbiz

Empire creator reveals cast’s ‘anger and sadness’ over Jussie Smollett case

Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach welcome first child together

More From The Irish Examiner