Monthly Archives: October 2012

“What’s Ireland Eating?” – All your queries answered #whatsirelandeating

I have been swamped by the response to What’s Ireland Eating. My inbox runneth over and my Twitter account has almost frozen with the volume of queries. So if you’ll excuse me not responding to everybody individually I thought the following points are worth blogging by way of reply.

Sugar is not evil.

I saw this point come up quite a lot on twitter, and sugar is a fashionable dietary bogeyman now. A lot of people have been persuaded by the arguments of Robin Lustig that “sugar is toxic”. Rubbish. Were it not for sugar humankind would not exist.

But if you don’t burn off what you consume the fructose (50% of ordinary sugar) gets laid down in the body as visceral fat. Visceral fat does not (so far as researchers know) cause cancer but it will speed up the growth of existing cancers. It’s not just a beer belly, it is almost an organ in itself and the body’s immune system treats it as an inflammation diverting its energies from fighting other infections.

Sugar in sufficient quantities also increases your bad cholesterol levels, your muscle fat and your liver fat. This is not a reason to swear off sugar, no more than you should remove any other major food group from your diet. Just watch your intake and try and burn off what you consume. Which leads me to  ….

Why didn’t you say that we need to excercise more?

The programme was called “What’s Ireland Eating?”. It was not called “What’s Ireland not doing enough of?” Several contributors to the programme pointed out how need to better balance our personal “Energy In : Energy Out” equation.

I’m not qualified to offer dietary advice but as a general rule if you want to lose weight – Eat less and excercise more – is a good place to start.

That said this is probably a fertile area for future programmes as a shocking number of people (can’t remember the statistic and I’m not going to make it up) recently said that they wanted to lose weight but were not prepared to consider exercising more as a means to achieve that. Wow!

Beware Snake Oil Salesmen

There were a lot of people on twitter attaching their brand or diet to the hashtag on twitter last night. I’m not going to get in to a bun fight with any of them. Instead let me borrow a bit of wisdom from one of my college mate Dara O’Briain’s stand up routines. He correctly reminds us that the term Nutrionist is meaningless. Dietician is the protected term. “Nutrionists are to Dieticians as Toothyologists are to Dentists”

Every single human being’s metabolism and related medical conditions are different. Following the advice of some of these quacks can be very dangerous.

Breast is best

We need to put our hand up to a small slip up here. From the conversation with Roslyn Tarrant some people have inferred that we were in some way dismissing breast milk as the best option for infants because we didn’t mention it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I pointed at a bottle of formula and called it what it was – formula. It was sitting on the table in front of us to indicate the amount that a 6 month old should be getting. We were not prescribing formula over breast milk. The point that Roslyn was trying to make was that parents who are feeding fizzy drinks and fruit juice to 6 months old shouldn’t be. My apologies that I didn’t specify “breast milk, formula milk and cool boiled water” – but my eye was really on communicating what shouldn’t be fed. Remember Roslyns survey found two thirds of six to ten month olds had been given sugary drinks!

A lot of La Leche league supporters and breast feeding advocates were disappointed that we did not make the point that breast feeding has a role in combatting childhood obesity. Roslyn’s own work has established this. But I have to say again the programme was called “What’s Ireland Eating?”, not “What Should Ireland Be Eating?”. We had 52 minutes to make what basically amounted to 6 points. We simply couldn’t include every point that every viewer wants to hear made. Advocates of fat free, carb free, dairy free,  sugar free and scratch cooking diets have expressed similar disappointment. Sorry, but you just can’t make all of the people happy all of the time.

“I’m not fat”

We broadcasters are fond of sweeping  statements. And a lot of people reacted to the statement “Ireland is an obese and overweight country” as if I had stepped out of the telly and into their living rooms to accuse them individually of being fat.

And if there isn’t an extra ounce of fat anywhere on your carcass you have my heartfelt congratulations. But when the majority of adult males are overweight or obese, when the majority of expectant mothers are overweight or obese, etc etc clearly the statement “Ireland is an obese and overweight country” is as correct as “Ireland is a country with Irish people living in it”.

If you think that the obesity epidemic is something that doesn’t touch you, think again. I have talked to senior officials in the Department of Health who are very worried about the projections for obesity related illness and the ability of an already groaning system to cope with them. So well done on being a skinny-minny but don’t think this has nothing to do with you.

“I know all of this already”

Well done you. Look back over the #whatsirelandeating timeline on Twitter though and you’ll see the huge numbers who don’t. That is who we make these programmes for.

“How did you get the cameraman in the fridge?”

Pushed really hard.



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Top #whatsirelandeating tweets

Thank you all for running with the idea of a national food diary on Twitter. It worked a treat. These are some of the standout tweets. If you  missed the programme it’s up on the RTÉ Player for the next month.

Sympathy to …

@theolynn – less than I want and more than my wife would like

An awful lot of them in this vein …

@psychusup – Tae and paracetamol

Don’t know what this is, but I want some now ….

@sadlier86 – What else of a Sunday night


Good point, unhealthy food is proven to be cheaper….

@CarolGertrude – Koka noodles because there is a FECKIN RECESSION

This is suffering for your Fast Food ….

@EamonnKeating –  frozen oven chips straight from the bag, cut out the middle man

Neil hit on what many of the tweets had in common …

@neilhypolite1 going through tweets sound like a celebrity chef on a cooking shows menu

The always classy Annie West tore herself away from KitKats for a moment

@anniewestdotcom – How about two packets of Haribo and a slab of Dutch Gold

Food cooked on TV stays on TV …..

@TheJenniferKelly – taytos, jellies, red lemonade. Watching Masterchef Australia

Fair play to you Chloe, girl …

@brophychloe – Hang samitches with Football Special

Euurggh …

@Chloe_Music – chocolate, pink bon bons and club orange 🙂

There’s some old Trot trying to get in on the act …

@JohnMoynes – Ireland is the old sow that eats her own farrow

Aaawww …

@medwardsmurphy – The poor sick boy can only make an effort at choc chip icecream. #chickenpox


But did we?
@martynrosney – Humble pie #weallpartied
Again … Euuurgh …
@Chazza_Styles – Deli Rolls and Wagon Wheels! 😛
Pay attention, here’s the scientitionific dietionistic type …
@rachelrmk – jam & cream sponge cake. All major food groups. Protein (cream) fibre (FRUIT jam) fat (the rest) Nom
Pity the parent who let this happen …
@JeremyTaxman – An entire tin of chocolate biscuits. They stole them while unsupervised this morning and now they’re wired.
Not all food problems are diet related …
@babaduck71 – nothing yet because this fluffy beast won’t budge… Will go out for lunch instead
And the winner
@The_GreenBean – a stick of butter dipped in chocolate ..

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Think you know what’s in your food?

I thought I had a pretty good idea of roughly how much fat, sugar and salt was in my daily diet. Oh what a fool!

This is a scene we have had to cut from Sunday night’s programme because we were running over time. It’s interesting though because it makes the point that even when you think you know how much of each are in what you eat every day …. you haven’t got a clue. Or I didn’t at any rate.

Teagasc and the wonderful Karen Hussey very kindly pulverized and analysed everything I ate over the course of 24 hours (and no I’m not proud but I was being honest). The results were startling to say the least.

The rest of the documentary can be seen on RTE1 at 9.30 on Sunday 7th October. #whatsirelandeating over on twitter


October 5, 2012 · 2:10 pm

What’s Ireland Eating

What’s Ireland Eating – Sneak Preview

What’s Ireland Eating (and why can’t we just stop eating it) is on at 9.30pm on Sunday 7th October on RTÉ 1. This is the briefest of hints of what to expect. I’ll post an entire scene tomorrow that hasn’t made it to the final cut because of time considerations.

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October 3, 2012 · 9:07 pm