Kids need carbs!

To fuel an active healthy lifestyle, children and teenagers need
carbohydrates for energy and growth

As schools return after the Summer holidays and the weather is getting colder, it’s time to look again at what’s in their lunchboxes.

Despite the recent craze to cut carbs, the fact is, that not all foods containing carbohydrates are bad for kids, whether they’re complex (as in whole grains) or simple (such as those found in sliced bread). To fuel an active healthy lifestyle, children and teenagers need to eat carbohydrates for energy and for growth. Carbohydrates provide the body with a source of fuel and energy that is needed to carry out daily activities and exercise. Carbohydrates are vital to ensure the brain, heart, nervous, digestive and immune systems work correctly.

For children bringing lunches to school, a sandwich is a great way to provide a balanced mid-day meal, with carbohydrate from the bread and protein from meat or cheese as a filling, along with some veg (if you can get them to eat lettuce!), providing a tasty, nutritious and balanced meal. The recent IUNA report* stated that bread as a source of energy was found to be low in preschool diets at only 4-5% of a child’s diet. For children, a healthy balanced diet should include about 33% of food portions every day coming from carbohydrates, that’s one portion at every meal. The key is to make sure that most carbs come from good sources, such as bread, and that added sugar in their diet is limited.

According to the food pyramid (www.safefood.eu) children over the age of 5 years should eat 5-7 portions of carbohydrates daily. The body needs a constant supply of energy to function properly and a lack of carbohydrate in the diet can result in tiredness, fatigue, poor mental function and a lack of endurance or stamina. Bread is a convenient, healthy source of carbohydrate that is available freshly baked at a reasonable cost that your kids can eat every day. As well as bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes, fruit and vegetables are all excellent sources of carbohydrate.

The IUNA report also pointed out that white bread was the lowest contributor of total sugar in children’s diets at 1%, and white and wholemeal bread provided a contribution of just 1% of total fat intake. Oonagh said that “If like me you are keen to make sure your children are eating well, then balance is key and moderation in all things. Bread is low in sugar, low in fat and high in carbohydrate, making it a convenient, widely available, cost effective healthy option as part of a balanced diet when feeding your hungry children.”

*Report is the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) Report on the Pattern of White and Wholemeal Bread Consumption in Irish Adults and Pre-School Children, (September 2016))

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Top Tips for starting your own small food business

I’m currently working on the 2nd Edition of my book, Money for Jam – the essential guide to starting your own small food business. It was published in September 2013, and since then, legislation has changed in relation to food labelling, or Food Information for Consumers (FIC) as its known in the trade! So, I thought this might be a good time just to share my top tips for starting out, just to keep you happy until my new book is published that is!

The header image (taken by @annaclarequinn) features a few jam producers I’ve come across – Daisy’s Pantry from Co.Louth, a Blas na hEireann winner; BoPeep Jams from Drumshanbo. Co.Leitrim, relaunched recently and a favourite of many childhoods of the past; Bramble Lodge Foods fro Co.Sligo; Erin Grove from Fermanagh (I love love love this unusual flavour!!) and Murson Farm, also from Sligo.


(1) Do your research – check out the competition! Is anyone else doing what you’re thinking about doing? If so, are they doing it well? Can you do it better? Look at their packaging, prices, where they’re selling, portion size, labels, branding.

(2) Try to fill a gap – make something that isn’t already available locally. While it’s very easy to start baking at home, the market might be saturated with cupcakes in your area. Shop keepers are always looking for something different that will sell.

(3) Work out your costs – how much does it cost you in ingredients and time to make it (and don’t forget to pay yourself!). This will help you to work out how much you can charge for it:

A Cost to produce (raw materials & packaging)
B Cost of processing / baking / preparation
C Cost of transport
D Cost of selling (market fees, store charges)
E Staff costs – starting with your own required income!
F TOTAL
G Sales value
PROFIT (G-F)

(4) Ensure that your kitchen can handle your new food business – ask your local authority / Environmental Health Officer to call and take a look. Most home kitchens are fine for low risk foods like baked goods, bread, jams, vegetarian, but NOT ok for meat, fish, dairy, prepared salads, sandwiches. You might have to extend or move to a suitable premises.

(5) Get Advice – from mentors, advisors, networks, Local Enterprise Offices and others – ask everyone for help, there’s plenty of it out there so you don’t have to shoulder all the burden! Check out www.supportingsmes.ie for potential funding supports.

(6) Leave the Branding / logos until you have your recipes sorted out. People love this part, but sometimes jump ahead to it too soon! Branding is no quick job, it takes consideration. Check out this handy guide.

(7) Labelling is really important – there are very particular legal requirements for labels which you must follow including Allergen declaration, weight, nutrition information, ingredients and so on. make sure you do this properly before you print labels or order packaging. Mistakes can be costly!

(8) Packaging will help protect your food as well as simply presenting it for sale. packaging might also determine the target market – no matter how good the food is, if the packaging is cheap and shoddy looking, it won’t sell to high end consumers.

(10) JUST DO IT – Once you make your first sale – you’re in business!

The photos below feature some producers from Mayo & Roscommon who took part in the Bord Bia / SuperValu Food Academy programme in 2016/17, one day this could be you!

Bread is good for you – it’s official!

I’m very happy to report good news for lovers of white bread like me! A report carried out by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA), commissioned by the Irish Bread Bakers Association (IBBA) has today announced the findings relating to the consumption of white and wholemeal bread in Ireland.

white-sliced-pan

Happy days – break out the toaster! Personally, I feel totally vindicated now. I’ve always said there’s nothing at all wrong with a slice of white bread. If you stuff a sandwich with lots of fillings, that’s where any fat in the sandwich can come from, but you’re not getting much fat at all, if any, from the bread itself. Wraps, by the way, have more calories that sliced bread, just saying!

The report states that bread contributes 20% to our fibre intake, 9% to our protein intake, while white bread only contributes 1% to our daily fat and sugar intake. Interestingly the study found a direct correlation between those preschool children that ate bread and increased growth and development within that preschool group.

The report, which was a follow on report to one published in 2008, says that 57% of the population eat white bread and 72% eat wholemeal bread. The report also shows that a higher percentage of males (61%) compared to females (52%) consumed bread and males over 65 consumed the highest mean daily intake of bread compared to all other groups (1.3 slices).

Speaking at the launch of the report today, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Dr. Mary McCreery said: “It’s quite fitting ahead of the annual National Bread Week , that we’re seeing the negative comments about bread made by so called “experts”, being challenged by scientific evidence that proves the contrary. Put simply – it’s OK to eat white bread – in fact white bread can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. It’s an affordable, nutritious food, that has been consumed for thousands of years. It is low in fat, low in sugar and is a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins, calcium, iron, protein, fibre, and folic acid. There are so many untruths about bread in Ireland that are totally unfounded.”

So enjoy your sliced pan – batch is my favourite, toasted under the grill on one side like my Granny used to do. Delicious!

Sligo Food Trail goodies!

The Sligo Food Trail was officially launched on April 6th. I was delighted to work with Amanda McCloat, Head of Home Economic at St. Angela’s College in Sligo, and the Food Trail members in putting together the fantastic Goodie Bags that were distributed to key people on the launch night.

The producers and businesses showed typical generosity when it came to donations. The bags were packed full of delicious treats (both food & drink!), vouchers, books and, of course, copies of the Food Trail brochure:

The White Hag Brewing Company Ltd.
Café Fleur
Sweet Beat Cafè
WB’s Coffee House and Deli Bar
Shells Café and Little Shop
Beltra Country Market – Marguerite Quinlan
Fabio’s Homemade Italian Ice Cream
Prannie Rhatigan’s Irish Seaweed Kitchen
Clo’s Chocolate
Murson Farm
Seashore Veg
The Organic Centre
Aisling’s Home Cooked Food also to be found at the Grass Roof Café!
Bramble Lodge Foods
Eala Bhán / Trá Bán
Lyons Cafè
Pudding Row
Harrisons Gastro Bar & Restaurant
Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa

Some of these I’ve reviewed previously here on oonagheats.com or on the oonagheats.com Facebook fan page (Eala Bhan, Sweet Beat, Shells, Lyons Cafe, Radisson Blu, Aisling’s Home Cooked Food at the Grass Roof Café) but over the coming months, I plan to check them all out, painstakingly, one by one (poor me, LOL !) and give you the low down – watch this space!

Best Children’s Menu in Ireland – Spring Review

In February, I set out to assess Children’s menus, for variety, healthiness, availability and appeal. I’ve checked out quite a few at this stage, some directly (with the Children in tow) and some indirectly, just from a look at the menus.

We were invited by Anthony Gray, President of the RAI and owner of Eala Bhán and Trá Bán restaurants in Sligo to dine en famille at Eala Bhán and try out his newly launched “Healthy Kid’s Menu”. With thanks to Anthony for his generous hospitality, this is an honest appraisal. Anthony told us that the menu was devised by himself and his team and with input from Olivia Collins of Food PR.

Kids — Eala Bhán menu

It was very nicely presented, with the usual colouring in / activities on the reverse, though my pair are a bit old for the colouring in at this stage. Everyone got a soup amuse bouche, which is always a great addition!
Amuse Bouche

A review of the Starter options showed that the healthy option for starters was Soup. The fish cake, though listed as “Super Healthy” was deep fried (at least I assume it was or it would have said “baked”) in breadcrumbs. The third choice was sweet potato chips (deep fried again). For Starters, he close the Fish Cake and she went for the soup (vegetable).

The fish cake looked lovely, however, for a child, the presentation and garnish was a bit too fancy to be honest. Many children are not keen on salad or dressing or anything touching the food that they don’t want to eat! I tasted it though, and it was really good. In fact, I ate nearly all of it!!

The soup was excellent – a generous portion, with well balanced seasoning and very nicely presented, with brown bread on the side.

Choices of mains included fish & chips (deep fried), beef burger (chargrilled), deep fried chicken goujons, or vegetable lasagna (sic). For mains, he chose the Chicken Goujons & Chips and she went for the Beef Burger. The verdict on the Chicken and Chips was that the chips were really good – chunky, fresh and crispy, but the chicken was just “ok”. Deep fried so not very healthy. The burger was really super. Lovely soft bap, fab beef from Sherlock’s Butchers, perfect portion size, generous but not too much, overall a winner.

Desserts were chocolate, chocolate or chocolate! There was nothing else. He is quite the connoisseur of the chocolate brownie and said that while this was indeed very good, it was slightly overbaked and so a bit too much like chocolate cake, i.e., not squidgey enough! That said, he ate every pick! She went for fancy, and she is inclined to do, and the Chocolate Fondue was indeed very impressive!

A healthy menu should offer a fruit plate, or fruit skewers or even yogurt. If the menu is supposed to he healthy, then there should be some healthy options for all courses.

Overall, is great to see a restaurant make an effort at a healthy menu, and despite being well presented and tasty, simply calling something “healthy” and listing local suppliers doesn’t make it healthy I’m afraid. Perhaps input from a Nutritionist would help. At the very bottom of the menu in small print, it told us that Child Size portions of all adult meals are available. Fantastic! But this should be front & centre! At the very least, it should really have been pointed out to us by the server. This is where a restaurant can score points and set itself above the others when it comes to beating the competitors in the healthy kids meal stakes. It’s an opportunity that should be capitalised on.

Other quick picks from my travels (and please excuse some very poor photography on my part):

Tyrellspass Castle Restaurant, Co.Westmeath – soup and choices of turkey, beef or ham with veg first followed by the usual deep-fried chicken,sausages etc…
Tyrellspass Castle

Rua, Castlebar – excellent menu, and not a deep-fried goujon or chip in sight, hooray! Will definitely go back here with the kids in tow.
Rua Kids Menu

Shells Cafe, Strandhill – nice little kids menu, great to see that its basically smaller portions of the main menu dishes, with a twist!
Shells Kids Menu

Donaghy’s Pub, Sligo – very very limited kids portions on the menu, just 2 dishes that we could see – chicken nuggets and chips, and Healthy Fish Gougons (sic) for Kids – we weren’t offered a kids menu, if there was one (we didn’t ask either mind you);

Sweet Beat Cafe, Sligo – no children’s portions on the menu so we usually end up splitting dishes between us;

McDonagh’s, Galway – recently visited, but no kids portions offered that we could see (no complaints from the kids though!).

Sheridan’s of Milltown, Co.Galway – a good range of healthier foods for kids here. Spaghetti, mash, chicken curry and rice…and the usual sausages / goujons & chips. Better than some though.
Kids Menu Sheridans Milltown310316

Restaurants would do well to appreciate that, during the day and early evening, parents can be enticed to dine more often with children, if the children were better catered for. Who decided that all kids want to eat is processed meat & chips? Sure, they’ll happily eat it, but its not healthy, as most people know by now. Oh, and P.S., run a spell check on your menus people! There is no excuse for bad grammar, stray apostrophes and spelling errors.

Tune in again at the end of the Summer for the next instalment!

The Search for the Best Children’s Menu in Ireland is on!!

If, like me, you travel frequently with children, whether for day trips or weekends or longer, you will know that the quality and variety of food on menus for children ranges from the very ordinary to the somewhat less ordinary, with only a few exceptionally good ones bucking the trend. So I’m putting out a call to cafes and restaurants – how can you make your menus appealing to children, and by extension to the bill payer?!

For example, recently we stayed in Hotel Westport (again!). They when a great kids club for U12s, the Panda Club. Children eat at 5.15pm. This time though, since one of ours is now 13, the deal was that one night our pair (13 year old fussy boy & 11 year old foodie girl) could eat in the dining-room with us, which was really nice actually.

She loved the Amuse Bouche (fancy!).

Hotel Westport Amuse Bouche

They could choose from the Children’s Menu or the main menu (for an additional charge). The 13 year old did object to the games on the reverse, now that he’s so mature…! I thought that was a good idea though.The selection was pretty good and the quality in Hotel Westport is always up to scratch. The deep-fried goujons were a lot better than the chicken nuggets you see in so many places.

The following evening we went back to The Pantry & Corckscrew – creatures of habit are we! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is one of my favourite places in Ireland. The menu is original, fresh and interesting and the food lives up to expectations.

Children have a really interesting choice here – none of the usual fare and not a nugget in sight! Miss Foodie had an excellent homemade beefburger with lovely bun and chunky chips. The very fussy (discerning?!) 13 year old young man had tempura hake, also with chunky chips (though they could have had mash if they wished). Both super and all eaten very happily with even happier parents looking on.

Tonight we’re heading to our local Dromahair eatery, The Riverbank Restaurant. Its a firm favourite in this house and traditional choice for a Birthday Dinner (it’s mine today, just saying’, ahem!). They have published their Children’s Menu on line – clever people – which is great for anyone thinking of going, wondering about what the children could eat. Check out oonagheats.com on Facebook later tonight for photos!

So, I’m putting out the call – where is really good for children’s meals? I’m looking for recommendations from parents and restauranteurs far and wide. I’ll come and try and spread the word if it passes muster – my two assessors will have final say – after all, they will eat the food, while I’m your target market, i.e., the bill-payer! Once a good list has been established – I’ll publish it widely.

Restaurants should send me their menus and parents / others their recommendations to oonagh@alphaomega.ie

Bring it on!

High Protein yogurt? Why bother? Wyldsson snacks on the other hand…!

If you want to make a Nutrition claim for you food, then you need to be sure that it meets the standards that the legislation says it must. For example, something that’s Low Fat must have less than 3% fat, that’s 3g/100g. To be a Source of fibre, the food must contain at least 3g of fibre per 100g or at least 1.5g of fibre per 100kcal, and a High fibre Product must contain at least 6g of fibre per 100g or at least 3g of fibre per 100kcal – start looking more closely at your Nutrition labels and see if they meet the criteria!

For a High Protein claim, at least 20% of the energy value of the food should be provided by protein. This one is more difficult for the consumer to check, as you have to do a bit of calculation, and even then its not clear.

Glenisk Authentic Strained Greek Style yogurt says "High Protein" on the label. The Nutrition panel indicates only 8.3g of protein though / 100g, thats only 8.3%, not 20%. Oops!! or is it? The label says that the Energy value is 66kcal/100g, so 20% of this is 13.2kcal. As a consumer you can't know if this 13.2 came from the 8.3g of protein thats in there. We just have to believe them! I'm assuming that then yogurt has been fortified with protein powder, since the product is made from skim milk which contains only about 3.6g protein/100ml milk, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I’ve fired off an email to the FSAI and will let you know what they say -keep an eye on oonagheats.com on Facebook for updates!

UPDATE! Glenisk very kindly confirmed since this post was originally posted that (1) NO protein powder is used and (2) the energy provided by protein in these yogurts is actually at 50% ! Pretty good!!

Glenisk strained protein rhubarb

Anyway regardless of all that, how did it taste? Not bad, although the texture was a little odd I thought. Its semi-set, somewhere between a set yogurt and a mousse, but nice all the same. Good rhubarb flavour. I got some vouchers for a free sample of this yogurt, but would I buy it again? No, I don’t think so. Will stick to Glenisk low fat range – I absolutely LOVE them, especially the vanilla.

I was also sent some samples of Wyldsson products, which I admit I’d never heard of before. Now these I really liked! They might be aimed at elite sports people, or so the testimonials indicate (i.e., not me!), I’d definitely buy these. Loved the packaging – handy, refillable tubes for eating on the go, or foil punches (here’s a photo from their website). Really good balance of nuts, dried fruit and even a little chocolate – excellent all round. This is a young Irish company, based in Dublin headed up by Dave McGeady – go Dave! You can buy Wyldsson from the website or Facebook page.

Glenisk & Wyldsson