Eat & Move with Derval O'Rourke: Questions from food demonstrations answered

Derval O'Rourke and Aishling O’Hea.

In recent weeks I’ve done lots of corporate talks and food demonstrations; it’s always great to meet people and chat through their experiences whilst trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

This week I will share some of the topics I was asked about at recent events.

Recipe-wise it’s a delicious soup and brown bread combination perfect for these colder Autumn days.

Nutrition is an essential part of life, the combination of nutrition knowledge and practical skills is really important to live your best life.

Thanks to fad diets and food trends people can really struggle with the basics. The truth is that while the basics may not be as exciting or instagrammable as drinking activated charcoal lattes or eating bee pollen topped Acai bowls, they are backed by a huge amount of research, are achievable and they do work.

Myself and Aishling O’Hea, nutritional scientist, have put together these topics that we’ve come across in recent weeks whilst we’ve been at events.


‘Is eating too many eggs per week bad for you?’ This belief dates back to the 1970s and is based on the theory that eggs contain cholesterol and that eating eggs raises blood cholesterol levels, leading to a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

We now know, however, this is not the case. Our liver produces most of the cholesterol in our bodies and works hard to balance production with dietary cholesterol intake. In fact, consuming eggs is consistently associated with elevated HDL ‘good’ cholesterol.

Not to mention the fact eggs are affordable, versatile and packed with goodness.

I’m really fortunate we have chickens behind our house and we get all our eggs from them. My three year-old adores eggs and its one of my favourite foods to feed her.


‘Is sugar free much healthier?’ Yes sugar can be harmful to us if consumed in excess but in small amounts as part of a balanced diet it’s not a big issue. Many people talk about being ‘sugar free’ when in fact they are not; be careful when reading information about peoples ‘diet’.

Fruit contains sugar but is also packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is a great source of fibre which slows down the absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream meaning you don’t get the huge spikes and subsequent drops in blood sugar levels that leave you craving more sugar. Keep an eye on added sugars.

Eat whole fruit instead of fruit juices, fresh fruit instead of dried and load up on your vegetables too. For me personally I don’t like to see people pushing ‘sugar free’ diets as it’s really hard to achieve this and can cause issues with perception of food. Try to focus on balance and non processed foods rather than unattainable food goals.


“Is soya bad for you?” Soya beans are a complete protein source packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.

Soya contains isoflavones, plant compounds with a similar structure to oestrogen but they do not behave like oestrogen in the body.

The majority of studies claiming soya has ‘bad’ side effects have been carried out on animals using very high doses of soya, meaning they are not directly applicable to humans and use levels of consumption rarely seen in a real life setting.

Overall the European Food Safety Authority, World Health Organisation and World Cancer Research Fund conclude that soya foods are safe to include as part of a healthy balanced diet. So while you certainly don’t have to include soy in your diet, it can be an affordable, nutritious and versatile alternative for those looking for plant based options.

Alkaline diet

“Should I do the alkaline diet?” This diet is based on the belief that consuming more alkaline and less acidic foods, will help change the pH of the blood and hence improve health.

I have seen claims that it can treat cancer and prevent osteoporosis which is worrying.

Bottom line is that our blood PH is tightly regulated and difficult to change to any great extent, which is a good thing because if it did you would become very ill very quickly.

As a side note any weight-loss achieved is likely due to cutting out processed foods and eating more healthily — nothing to do with acid or alkali nonsense.

Fitness trackers

“Do I need a fitness tracker to become fitter?” Personally, I really like the idea of fitness trackers and if used correctly they can enhance your fitness.

Studies have linked them to increased physical activity and long-term weight maintenance. I wear mine most days and tend to focus on my heart rate, steps walked and sleep patterns.

I recently gave my Dad a fitness tracker and whilst we use it for very different purposes, he still finds it beneficial for his own health monitoring.

Food trackers/h1>

“Should I be monitoring my food intake with a tracker on my phone?” I rarely do this but I have a good knowledge of the foods I consume.

If you are a little lost about where you are going wrong with your food intake consider using a tracker like my fitness plan for 3-5 days. For me I prefer to write a food diary every few months for 3-5 days and this helps me stay on track.

Fitspiration @askaishling

Aishling O’Hea is a nutritional scientist from UCC.

She qualified with a 1:1 degree and has spent the past year and a half working on various projects with me.

Her knowledge and practical approach is accessible for everyone. She is well worth a follow on her instagram account.

For those of you that follow my instagram you will regularly see her popping up.

Butternut squash and ginger soup

This soup is packed with immune-boosting ingredients to keep winter coughs and colds at bay. It’s perfect for cooking in big batches, that can be frozen and is delicious served with my brown bread.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6-8

Nutritional information:

Protein – 5.2g

Fat – 8.5g

Carbohydrates – 5.3g

Calories – 152

1 medium onion, peeled and

roughly chopped

750g butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stick celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. ground ginger

700 ml chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Place the onion, butternut squash, carrot, celery and garlic in a large oven proof dish .

Drizzle over 1 tbsp. of the olive oil, mix well and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a saucepan together with the remaining olive oil and the ginger. Fry for 1-2 minutes, then pour over the stock.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend with a hand blender until you reached your desired consistency.

Ladle into warm bowls and serve with some buttered brown bread on the side.

Brown bread and topping ideas

My brown bread is simple to make and tastes delicious.

The toppings transform it and is guaranteed to keep you feeling satisfied and energized for your busy life.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 1 loaf

Nutritional information (per loaf):

Protein – 94g

Fat – 43g

Carbohydrates – 379g

Calories – 1,807

240g wholemeal flour

120g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

350 ml buttermilk

1 egg

50 g mixed seeds

1 tbsp. honey

20g porridge oats

Preheat the oven to 180 and lightly oil a bread tin. Mix the flour, baking powder, mixed seeds and salt in a bowl.

Add the buttermilk, egg and honey and stir through until well combined. Pour the dough into the bread tin and top with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of oats.

Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. Tip the bread onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

Cut into slices and serve with one of the topping suggestions below.

Topping ideas:

■ Beetroot hummus + seeds

■ Avocado + poached eggs

■ Peanut butter + banana

■ Pesto + pine nuts

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