Derval O'Rourke's fit foodie: Walnut and sundried tomato pesto & Green olive tapenade

This week I’m chatting about eating out and giving you tips to make the tastiest and healthiest choices when you are out. My recipes are simple dips that are perfect for healthy snacking, writes Derval O'Rourke.

 Eating out has always been a big part of my life and it still is. As a professional athlete, I spent lots of time travelling and ended up eating out in restaurants all over the world at track meets.

During that time I learned how to eat out, mind my health and still have a great time. Now, when ordering out, I try keep in mind what a balanced plate of food looks like. I keep it simple and aim for a source of protein, healthy fats and whole grains plus lots of veggies.

I try to choose somewhere where the food is made fresh daily.

If eating out is a big part of your weekly routine it’s really important that you are mindful about it. Maybe you eat out as part of your job or you eat lots of your food in the work canteen. Personally I like to eat out once a week as a way to wind down.

Here are my top eating out tips:

Before you order:

  • Don’t arrive starving for a lunch or dinner, it’s important to snack in between meals.
  • Drink plenty water all day and order a jug of water rather than a fizzy drink.
  • If drinking alcohol be mindful to drink water too.
  • Try not to fill up on the bread basket — it’s tempting I know!

Lunch tips:

  • When ordering a sandwich choose wholemeal bread or a good quality sourdough over a processed sliced pan, aim for lots of protein and salad and go easy on heavier fillings like coleslaw.
  • Choose a salad as your side and ask for the dressing to be served separately.

Dinner tips:

  • Choose steamed or grilled dishes over fried or sautéed dishes where you can and opt for boiled rice over fried.
  • If you don’t cook fish a lot at home, take the opportunity to eat some delicious fish in a restaurant. Eating out can be a great chance to try something new.
  • Note how big portions are and if they are way bigger than you would normally eat maybe consider having two starters.
  • Choose leaner meats like chicken or turkey and order main dishes that contain vegetables – stir fries are great for this.
  • Consider quality of ingredients, I always choose restaurants that I feel source good quality ingredients. I believe it’s worth the extra few euro they may charge.
  • Try tomato based sauces instead of creamy ones; they tend to be a little healthier and still taste delicious.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the food is prepared or where they source their food, a great restaurant will be excited to tell you about this.


I can honestly say I rarely have a takaway but if I do I make these swaps.

Indian: Swap creamy kormas or masalas for tomato based tikka, tandoori or madras served with plain rice and chapatti.

Thai: Swap Thai curries, high in saturated fat for steamed rice, vegetable or fish dishes.

Chinese: Swap starters like spring rolls and prawn crackers for clear soups or broths. For mains, steamed, roast or stir-fried dishes are best and when it comes to sauces choose black bean, oyster, ginger, hoi sin or plum.

Italian: Swap your garlic bread for bruschetta and your thick crust three cheese pizzas for a thin crust version with extra vegetable toppings.


I’m in the middle of filming Ireland’s Fittest Family. Each location is catered for all our meals as it’s a 12-hour filming day. We filmed in Port of Cork last week and local company Body Fuelz catered. They did a great job so well worth checking out: @bodyfuelz

Walnut and sundried tomato pesto

Derval O'Rourke's fit foodie: Walnut and sundried tomato pesto & Green olive tapenade

Everyone needs a simple pesto recipe in their repertoire and this one is my go-to. I make a big batch on the weekend and use it to add flavour and colour to many of my midweek meals. It’s great stirred through pasta, spread onto sandwiches, dolloped on salads or simply spread onto crackers for a quick snack. It really is a sauce that can multi task! Plus the walnuts are packed with zinc, vitamin E, selenium and the omega 3 fatty acids too.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4-6

150g walnuts, toasted

400g semi sundried tomatoes in olive oil (these can be bought in a supermarket)

1/2 an onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

75g parmesan, grated

1 tsp tomato puree

3 tbsp extra olive oil, plus extra if required

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the walnuts to the hot, dry pan and toast for about 5 minutes or until they start to brown. Be sure to watch the pan and stir frequently to ensure they do not burn.

Transfer the walnuts to a plate to cool so that they get nice and crunchy.

Once cooled, place the walnuts together with all the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding more olive oil if consistency is too thick.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This can be enjoyed straight away or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for later.

Green olive tapenade

Derval O'Rourke's fit foodie: Walnut and sundried tomato pesto & Green olive tapenade

Tapenade is a rich olive spread popular in the Mediterranean.

It’s simple to make, big on flavour and requires just 10 minutes from start to finish. In my world, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Flat breads are great for dunking in it and it’s lovely with some vegetable crudités like carrot, cucumber and celery too.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4-6

400g good quality pitted green olives

75g capers

1 lime, juiced

250 ml olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

75g parmesan, grated

2 tbsp honey

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Place the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding more olive oil if the consistency is too thick.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for later.


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