Fit foodie - Derval O'Rourke: Healthy eating doesn't have to be bland

This week’s recipes are as delicious as they are nutritious and further demonstrate my belief that eating healthy doesn’t mean giving up the things we love; it just means being a little bit more creative and making small swaps where you can.
Fit foodie - Derval O'Rourke: Healthy eating doesn't have to be bland

Here, I’ve swapped beef mince for the leaner yet utterly satisfying turkey mince and the butternut squash mash is a great alternative to regular potatoes and counts as one of your five-a-day veggies.

One of the things I love about the work I do is that I get to interact with lots of individuals who are experts in their field. It’s great to be able to tie in with these experts and to get their point of view and opinions on different subjects.

This week’s fitness chat comes from Dr. Siobhan Lucey – a Pediatric Dental Specialist – about tooth friendly snacks for kids. As a mother I fret all the time about my daughter being fit and healthy. Her teeth are a really important part of her overall health.

It was great to connect with Siobhan and get advice on how best to approach food when it comes to the dental health of children.

Now, I just need to try to figure out how to get my toddler Dafne to try some of these delicious snacks without throwing them to our dog Berlino!

Here are Siobhan’s top tips

1. When it comes to getting your children to try new tooth-friendly snacks, getting them involved in the selection and preparation of food can make things a little easier.

2. Be prepared. Have nourishing, healthy snacks to hand, to ensure your little darlings are well fed and happy, whilst also minimising the risk of damaging their teeth.

Here are Siobhan’s favorites:

These have been tried and tested on her own kids and are mostly prepared in a few minutes.

  • Oatcakes with cheese and cold meat
  • Whole meal wraps containing meat/cheese/roast vegetables/hummus
  • Plain rice cakes or corn cakes topped with mashed avocado or some chopped cherry tomatoes and feta cheese
  • Chopped raw vegetables, eg, carrots, courgettes, peppers with hummus (making faces with the various vegetables is a big hit in our house)
  • Wholemeal toasted pitta cut into strips with hummus
  • Carrot sticks with a little peanut butter on the side
  • Whole meal toast soldiers with butter/nut butter
  • Toasted seeds, eg, sunflower, pumpkin
  • Savoury wholemeal scones (these ones do need to be prepared in advance but they freeze really well)
  • Cold pesto pasta with pine nuts (or any leftover pasta dish)
  • Popcorn

It’s also good to bear in mind that while fruit is a good snack, it does contain acid and natural sugars which when consumed in excess can cause damage to teeth. When choosing yoghurts, aim for natural or Greek yoghurt with no added sugars

The only safe drinks for children’s teeth are plain water and plain milk.


It’s always good to have the details of a dentist in your contact book. Why not check out Siobhan’s clinic on facebook: citygate specialist dental clinic. Or alternatively you could pop in to the clinic at City Gate, Mahon, Cork

Cajun Turkey meatballs in a Simple Tomato Sauce

Looking for a healthy, tasty dinner that doesn’t break the bank? My turkey meatballs recipe, served with brown pasta and a delicious tomato based sauce is just the ticket.

Turkey is lean and affordable. It’s high in protein and is a good source of B vitamins, selenium, zinc and phosphorous, turkey shouldn’t be just for Christmas! Its rich in Tryptophan which can be converted into serotonin by the body. Which keeps us nice and happy!

This quick, tasty meal hits the spot after a long day. The addition of parmesan cheese just before serving adds extra points on the taste scale.

Prep time 10 mins

Cook time 25 mins

Serves 4-6


2 tins chopped tomatoes

6 cloves garlic, minced

½ a medium onion, diced

500g turkey mince

2 tbsp Cajun spice

1tbsp dried tarragon

80g grated parmesan

3tsp dried oregano

Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

Put tomatoes, garlic and onion in a pot and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes, this is your sauce. Mix the turkey mince with the cajun spice and tarragon and roll into small bite size meatballs.

Blend the sauce with a hand blender and pour over the meatballs.

Place in and ovenproof dish, top with Parmesan & oregano and bake for 15 mins

While the meatballs are in the oven cook the brown pasta as per the instructions on the bag.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and scoop them onto warmed plates with a side of brown pasta.

Butternut Mash & Poached Eggs

I love eggs. They are my ultimate healthy fast-food option as they are so versatile and tasty. Always buy the best eggs you can afford, I aim for free range and organic. Farmers markets are a great place to try for local eggs.

I’m very fortunate to have chickens living right behind my house and that’s where I get all my eggs.

Butternut squash is amazingly good for you too. It is a great source of Vitamin A, with a ½ cup serving containing over 200% of your recommended intake. Vitamin A is needed to keep your eyes healthy and maintain a strong immune system. It’s full of fiber too which means it’s fantastic for keeping your digestive system working efficiently while also keeping you full for longer.

This is the perfect weekend brunch recipe and the yoghurt dressing is a real winner.

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 25 mins

Serves: 4


1 butternut squash, peeled and diced

4 cloves of garlic, peeled

1tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 tsp dried chili flakes

200 mills natural yoghurt

1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1 lime, juiced

1 tbsp. honey

2tsp white wine vinegar

8 eggs


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

Place the butternut chunks on a roasting tray with the garlic cloves and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 20 mins or until the squash is soft enough to mash with a fork!

Place the chili, roast garlic, coriander and yoghurt into a food processor and blend for less than a minute.

Mash the butternut with the lime juice and honey and cover with foil

To poach the eggs:

In a large sauce pan bring approx. 1 litre water to the boil

Add vinegar and turn down to a simmer

Crack in your eggs and poach for 3-5 mins depending on how soft/hard you like them

Serve your squash in warmed bowls topped with poached eggs and the yoghurt dressing.

This is a beautiful brunch option served with a cup of good quality coffee.

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