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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Lifestyle
Michelle Fleming

RTE Operation Transformation dietitian swears by one healthy eating habit

She's TV’s newest star dietitian – and Operation Transformation’s Sophie Pratt’s advice for healthier eating is simple: “Get back to basics.”

As we kick off 2023, she recommends ditching the fads, diets and calorie-counting and eating a nutritious three meals a day.

Sophie, 28, from Wicklow said: “Go for a pattern of three regular main meals – not too large or too small – balanced meals with macro-ingredients – carbohydrates, protein and fats.

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“We need to make sure we are fuelling our bodies with healthy, nourishing food.

“Nutrient-dense foods are key and utilising all the macronutrients and the micronutrients [vitamins and minerals] so we’re not omitting one food group but incorporating them all.”

Sophie, who is also a fitness instructor, came to studying nutrition in UCD via a love of sport and later did a Masters in dietetics at University of Limerick, in between studying for a rake of exercise, health and fitness qualifications.

She advocates eliminating processed foods from our diets.

This year’s Operation Transformation leaders will get the benefit of her expertise, as she’s joined the show, replacing Aoife Hearne.

She has a tricky job with some criticism around the weight-loss element directed at OT. But with her focus on fresh food instead of calorie counting, Sophie has it nailed.

She explained that when food is processed, fat, sugar, oils and salt are added along with additives, colours and preservatives to make it look fresher and keep longer.

All the while, the good stuff like fibre is stripped out.

But heavily-processed foods cause major health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The 2023 leaders for the newest season of Operation Transformation joined host Ryan Tubridy to share the stories of why they applied for the programme (RTE)

Sophie said: “My own personal belief is we need to focus on the nutrient density of our food much more – there’s so much processed foods out there these days – we haven’t a clue what is in them.

“It’s about trying to prevent health conditions down the line. We have to focus on prevention. We are seeing hospitals being overrun with people going in with conditions related to nutrition and if we had education when we were little we’d know a lot more and would be in a better place. These are avoidable.”

Sophie doesn’t believe in restricting food, but instead said we should consciously add food groups into our daily menus.

She added: “Eat whole foods as much as possible. Check the label for the ingredients list and the less on the label, the better.

“Look for whole foods, foods that aren’t processed – fruit and vegetables but also tinned foods can be fine.

“Whole foods are widely available, are inexpensive and you don’t need to go to specific shops to get them.

“If we try to base all our meals around incorporating a little of each of the macro nutrients, we’re laughing.

“This structured three-meal approach maintains our blood sugars steadily, which gives us the steady release of energy through the day without the slumps or headaches in the afternoon.

“We also feel fuller for longer and have more energy. Our main macro nutrients each has a very important function.”

Carbohydrates give us energy to let us go about daily activity and prevent slumps during in the day, so your bread, cereals and rice.

She added: “People can shy away from healthy fats but they are insulators and essential for brain and heart health, we need them.

“They come from avocados, oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish are phenomenal and rich in Omega 3 and finally protein gives us the benefit of growth and repairing our muscles, from our meat, eggs and fish.

“Then think about your healthy fats, antioxidants – these outweigh bad particles and they come from berries, dark green vegetables, nuts – these make sure the body is in optimal condition inside and out.”

We should also eat for our mental health as well as our physical health.

Sophie explained: “Food is fuel, in terms of our mood and mental health.

“If we’re not fuelling our bodies optimally, the likelihood is we won’t feel optimal and that affects our thoughts and outlook.

“A balanced approach must be included and that improves our mental health, absolutely.”

But portion size can be an issue for many of us – how much is too much?

Sophie said: “If you look at an average-size serving plate and for carbohydrate, aim for a quarter of the plate, the same for our protein.

“No foods should be omitted and there’s nothing we can eat as much as we like of – it’s about balance and moderation.” On a typical day at Sophie’s Carlow clinic, she guides clients on everything from fertility health to mental health, sporting performance to eating disorders and health issues like IBS.

Sophie shares some tips on how readers can stick with her three-meal healthy eating plan.

She said: “Whole foods are also food we can cook in batches and we can buy in bulk so financially, it’s great - another massive bonus.

“The Operation Transformation plan is brilliant for that – the lists are all there on the website.

“When you go into a shop without a list, there’s all sorts going into the trolley so we need to plan what we’re going to have for Monday to Friday and maybe another shop for the weekend. A plan and a list will help eliminate the goodies and treats.

“Otherwise we’re tired so we turn to having something quick and convenient and often it’s the unhealthy choice so bring the shopping list, plan your meal and try do a bit of batch cooking to have to hand when you’re in a rush.

“Pop meals in Tupperware in the freezer and it can last up to a couple of months so it’s there for when you come home from work.

“Numerous studies have been done on healthy eating and it’s all about keeping it healthy and balanced and I firmly believe in that.

“It’s bringing in exercise, sleep, mental health – it encompasses everything and improving health and wellbeing in yourself through small,smart changes. Keep it simple.”

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