Welcome to our Farming Resilience Page
An Introduction to Farming Resilience
– Finola Colgan, Development Officer Mental Health Ireland
We are pleased to welcome you to our update of the Farming Resilience page which we launched in partnership with Teagasc and the Irish Farming Association for the month of April. To-date we have received and are grateful for many positive feedback comments on the availability of such a facility. Our page has a focus on four key themes which include:
1. Mental Health Stress Management and Mindfulness
2. The Five Ways to Wellbeing
3. Supporting Ourselves, Supporting Others
4. Mental Health and Physical Health
To mark World Mental Health Day, 10th October 2020, Mental Health Ireland launched a new campaign #reflectandgrow.
The aim of the campaign though planting wildflower seeds is to encourage people to reflect on their hope for the future. Seed growth is about adapting.
This theme reflects the story of the fox pictured here. She was given to a family member to look after as she has been orphaned and found in a field by a caring farmer who fed her initially on cat food.
She was subsequently named Rua and handled and treated as much as possible as one would do with a stray pup. However, the nature of the fox is to roam free. This status was granted to Rua after a number of months of nourishment and petting. Rua is a now a regular visitor to the farm and loves some attention.
Rua, has learned to adapt and grow into her new environments, her natural terrain, and the farmyard she has become accustomed to.
So too the farming community has to adapt as we head into the Autumn and Winter seasons with a degree of uncertainty. It is important that we fortify ourselves, become resilient to cope with the unpredictability and turbulence due to the impact of Covid -19.
We hope you will find the content of this page beneficial and useful as we live through the forthcoming seasons. If you have any ideas or suggestions to develop this page, please feel welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are honoured to have Mairead McGuinness MEP, First Vice-President of the European Parliament join us in launching the Farming Resilience Partnership.
Mairead McGuinness MEP, First Vice-President of the European Parliament
I love this time of year, especially on the farm with new lambs and new life, trees budding and birds singing. I’m seeing more of the farm because of the Covid-19 restrictions and I am grateful for the little things which remind us that life goes on from season to season.
Farming at this time of year can take a physical toll, especially during the busy calving and lambing season, and the harvesting season yet to come. Covid or no Covid farm life must go on. Things don’t always go well – animals get sick and die. Physical exhaustion can lead to mental exhaustion, which can lead to difficulties in sleeping. We are not machines. We’re human beings. We need to mind ourselves, body and soul. So take time to eat well and rest well and when you’re tired, don’t push yourself too hard.
The uncertainties being brought to the fore because of Covid-19, coupled with the uncertainty of what’s happening in the marketplace is adding to the day-to-day challenges of farming. Farmers can feel isolated and fearful, and working on your own can heighten those fears where there is no one to share them with. Right now, we are being called on to dig deeper to our inner reserves of resilience and patience.
I was delighted to launch Coping with the Pressures of Farming co-produced by Barry Caslin of Teagasc and Finola Colgan of Mental Health Ireland at the National Ploughing Championships in September 2017, a publication that has been reproduced by Rural Support Link in Northern Ireland. I am delighted that Mental Health Ireland and Teagasc have come together once again to develop ‘Farming Resilience’ being hosted on Mental Health Ireland’s website. I would like to commend both organisations for their commitment to supporting our farming community with many excellent resources, guidance and tips on mental health and wellbeing. I invite you to explore and share the invaluable information collated in these pages.
Farms revolve around family, spanning all ages, and many young family members are now around all of the time, so I would urge you all to take care, to ensure everyone stays safe on the farm and if they are helping out that it’s done with an extra layer of safety in mind.
This current crisis which is affecting everyone has demonstrated that our health is our wealth. Look after yourself, mind your health and don’t forget that mental health is just as important as physical health. You can’t have one, without the other!
Stay well, stay safe.
Mairead McGuinness MEP
First Vice-President of the European Parliament
We hope you will find this page of benefit to you and your family.
Resilience and Farming
Resilience & Farming
Adversity is a part and parcel of life and being resilient is very important to surviving serious setbacks in life and business.
In more recent years farmers and the farming industry have been seriously put the test by situations such as Storm Ophelia and the Summer of 2019. Now once again, along with the rest of the country, farmers are having to respond to these current tough times brought on by the impact of Covid 19.
Covid 19 is undoubtedly causing considerable stress. We will be addressing stress and anxiety at a later stage on this page. These changing circumstances requires developing resilience.
Being resilient is something we can all strive for, current times being no exception. It is a tool of wellbeing that can give a person the capacity to accept situations that maybe challenging and tough.
Developing and enhancing resilience skills strengthens a person’s ability to function and to adapt during a crisis. Consequently, by taking the necessary steps to look after your wellbeing will reduce the impact that stress has on your life.
Resilience is not just about an ability to bounce back, it is also about moving forward. We can all take steps to achieve it and thereby improve our quality of life, or physical and mental health. Many of these steps will be explored in this site during the month of April.
As the hashtag message says #weareallinthistogther. The current unprecedented situation has exposed us personally, family wise and community wise, not to mention our nation.
We hope that you will find our page ‘Farming Resilience’ of benefit to you, your family and friends. We look forward to your feedback and ideas as to how you would like to see this page being developed. Please feel welcome to email email@example.com
Services & Supports
At the outset we would like to remind you that if you or your family members have worrying concerns and you feel you would like to talk to someone the following are dedicated lines:
- Call: 076–106 4468
- The information helpline will be open from 9.30am to 12.30pm and from 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.
- Freephone 116 123 (any time, day or night) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Emotional support to anyone in distress or struggling to cope.
COVID -19 National Helpline:
- Call: 1850 24 1850
- The HSELive team are there to answer your questions from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am – 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.
- Provides telephone and text-based support counselling for people who are suicidal or engaging in self-harm.
- Freephone 1800 247 247 any time, day or night
- Text HELP to 51444– standard message rates apply
Aware Support Line:
- Information and support to anyone over 18 about issues relating to their own mood or the mood of a friend or family member, or who experiences depression or bipolar.
- Freephone 1800 80 48 48from 10am to 10pm every day
- Online support and through the helpline for LGBT+ people across Ireland
- Helpline 1890 929 539 every day
- email@example.com for support or information an instant messaging service is available 7 days a week
- Mon – Thur. 6:30pm to 10pm
- Friday 4pm to 10pm
- & Sun 4pm to 6pm
Given that presently it not possible to make face to face appointments there are a number of service providers that offer online and phone mental health supports and services. These include online counselling, phone and text services as well as online supports which can be found here or at www.yourmentalhealth.ie.
To keep in contact with Mental Health Ireland:
- Information line 01 284 1166 from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
- Visit www.mentalhealthireland.ie or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Five Ways to Wellbeing
The Five Ways to Wellbeing is an evidenced based strategy for wellbeing developed by the New Economics Foundation.
It is interesting to note that the NEF developed these Five Ways in response to the economic downturn. This was a time when individuals, families, business, communities suffered in those tough economic years.
The NEF identified five key actions around the themes of social relationships, physical activity, awareness, learning, and giving.
They highlighted that having strong social relationships, being physically active and being involved in learning are all important influencers of both well-being and ill-being.
By contrast, the processes of giving and becoming more aware have been shown to specifically influence wellbeing in a positive way. A combination of all these behaviours, according to the NEF, will help to enhance individual wellbeing and may have the potential to reduce the total number of people who develop mental health disorders in the longer term.
Once again, as we are all required to #stayathome, #besafe and adhere to social and physical distancing during an extended ‘lockdown’ until May 5th 2020, the Five Ways to Wellbeing are more relevant than ever.
The Five Ways to Wellbeing have been actively promoted by Mental Health Ireland for many years in different workplace and community settings. They are very practical and adaptable.
Finola Colgan, Development Officer, Mental Health Ireland. Twitter: @FinolaColgan
The Five Ways to Wellbeing
Connect with the people around you, family friends and neighbours and think of these as your cornerstones during this period of restricted movement. Maintaining and developing these connections will be supportive to you and your family.
Isolating means that we must only socialise face-to-face with those that we are living with. When we go about our farm business in the public setting it is important to adhere to #socialdistancing and #physicaldistancing. The guidance is clearly set out here.
Identify an online platform that will enable you to stay in contact with family and friend near and far away. However, check that it is secure and cannot be hacked.
The farming community has not been impacted by the 2km restriction because of farm location and plenty of scope to move around. Nonetheless it is important to incorporate some personal exercise into your daily routine. Go for a walk or run or a jog separate from walking the fields! Exercising helps you feel good. However, it is taking up a new physical activity ensure that it suits your level of mobility and fitness. If necessary, check in with your family doctor.
In addition to outdoor exercise there are a number of free online exercise session available through You Tube. Hot on the search engine!
This refers to being mindful and aware of your natural surroundings and finding time to take a minute or two out of your busy farm schedule to schedule some down time, take a breather.
When you are beginning to feel tired or exhausted during demanding hours of farmyard work. Stop! Take a minute. Free your thoughts. Let go of things you have to do right now or later on today. Just let your thoughts rise and fall in sync and be at one with your own natural breathing. Feel the moment. Open your eyes and feel refreshed!
In current circumstances and the uncertainty being experienced by the farming community it is difficult not to have moments of worry and sleepless nights along with the stress of lambing, calving or foaling. However, by taking occasional moments and time out as suggested in the can be helpful. It is always important to talk and seek help from any of the agencies set out in Week One of this site.
At this time of year famers do not have much spare time for learning. However, keeping our brains stimulated is important for a healthy mind. When you have time on your hands check out free on-line newspaper articles. For example;
There are also a number of podcasts sites focusing on farming:
Anne Frank has said “No one has ever become poor by giving” which is ironic given that Anne Frank spent 761 days in isolation in the Secret Annex before being found by the Nazi Army in 1944.
There are ways that you can help others while still following the guidelines, this can include providing virtual support by buying online from local shops, sending text messages, sending positive messages , making a phone call to a older neighbour and checking in that all is good with them.
As NEF has stated “seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you”
The Five Ways to Wellbeing Individual Worksheet
Download our Five Ways to Wellbeing Self Appraisal Worksheet. Rate yourself against each of the Five Ways. Use the worksheet to identify your strengths and and areas of opportunities. It is not about getting a perfect score. Use the worksheet as a tool to help you achieve and maintain balance in all these areas to support your wellbeing.
Mental Health, Stress Management & Mindfulness
Below we will focus on Mental Health and how it can be impacted by Stress and Anxiety. Our key message is to suggest ways to manage stress and anxiety. One very important way is setting aside some moments to relax and meditate. We are delighted to have John Gerard Murphy Lecarrow, Farm Wellness Centre, Mayo to guide us through this process.
The World Health Organisation states
“Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Both change throughout our lives. From time to time our mind, like our body, can become unwell. Poor mental health can impact on different aspects of our lives and can include how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about others, and how we are able to meet the demands of life.
There is a perception that farmers, who are traditionally used to working things out for themselves and being self-reliant, can be reluctant to sharing their problems and concerns. However, there is also a sense that this trend is changing. Although asking for help may appear to go “against the grain”, there is also a realisation that “a problem shared is a problem halved”.
Our mental health, like the weather, can go through varying spells from being sunny to overcast to sunny again to being downright dark and gloomy. However, remember that clouds come and go, some are small, some large, some black and some pure white. There is an Arabian saying, “The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the garden”.
Stress and Farming
The demands and pace of farm life in recent years has significantly changed due to the ongoing changes and trends in farming locally, nationally, and internationally. This has placed increased demands on both the physical and mental health of farmers and their families. Financial worries, unpredictable weather, livestock disease and losses, working in isolation and the necessity for compliance with many government policies and procedures can all add to the challenges faced by farmers daily. All of this is a reality without referencing the impact of Covid-19, the long-term consequences which none of us can truly determine, irrespective of where or who we are in life.
Some Common Warning Signs of Stress
- Feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the future
- Finding it hard to get up in the morning
- Experiencing difficulties in sleeping (Check out: https://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/sleep-during-tough-times/)
- Finding it hard to do work that needs doing
- Avoiding necessary paperwork to do with farming enterprise
- Feeling irritable, restless, worried, or angry
If not correctly managed, stress can affect your mental health and wellbeing. Stress is not an illness. However, if it is not addressed it can lead to poor mental health which can then lead to illness. This can increase the risk for accidental injuries, poor decision-making, and a poorer quality of life in general. Accepting that stress is a part of life is helpful, indeed it can also be a motivating factor to getting things done. However it is important to be aware of the negative impact it can have if not effectively managed.
We hope that you find the below content addressing Stress, Anxiety and Mindfulness helpful and relevant in understanding how stress can impact on daily living.
Remember, you are not alone!
We are delighted to welcome guest contributor John Gerard Murphy.
John Gerard will introduce you to Mindfulness for Resilience. A huge thanks to John Gerard for his brilliant content and support of Farming Resilience.
Over to you John Gerard!
Mindfulness for Resilience
Overview of the Week
- Introduction to the Series: Who I am and what will be on offer
- Meditation 1: Simple guided breathing meditation
- Meditation 2: Letting the frustration go
- Meditation 3: Body scan
- Meditation 4: Nature based meditation
Introduction to the Series
John Gerard Murphy has been practicing and training in various meditation techniques since 2011 and hosts meditation classes, retreats, and workshops around the country for all age groups. He has written articles for a number of journals and publications. After spending some years travelling and working in the fields of Business and Media, he is now living and running the family farm in Lecarrow. He works with individuals, groups and organisations bringing meditation and wellbeing programmes to meet their needs. He has a degree in Economics and Finance and is currently doing a Postgraduate in Workplace Wellness at Trinity College Dublin. Welcome!
Despite what’s going on in the movements of the world, for farmers, little has changed in the practical sense. We still have to look after our land, it’s lambing and calving season, we still have the weather to contend with, and that’s not even considering how the market might be once the season has finished. It goes without saying our brains are hardwired to be on constant alert.
We know about stress. We know about worries. We know they affect our health and our productivity. With so much going on, one thing we don’t usually get enough of is peace of mind. Simply put, we get carried away with our thoughts, usually with the potential problems we are facing. We need to retrain the brain to create a space between the thoughts. These meditations will help with that.
The idea of this series is to provide some simple tools that can be applied at various intervals throughout the day. Many of the exercises can be done alone, with family or with whoever would like to join in.
As farmers, many of us find ourselves alone with the farm a lot, so use these techniques as soon as the moment allows. It could be sitting in the tractor, just before mending the fencing, at the end or beginning of the day, the moments will present themselves just so long as we are looking for them.
One thing I would like to highlight is that though meditation has long been proven to help reduce anxiety, stress and improve health, it takes a little bit of discipline on our part by participating frequently. A good diet doesn’t work if you eat well once a month – it takes a bit of effort to ensure we’re eating well as regularly as possible.
As the saying goes,
‘People can tell you what a tomato tastes like and you can read as much as you like about it – but the only way to truly know is to try it for yourself’.
A little pre-meditation relaxation:
Before we do any meditation, it’s always a good idea to make sure we are as relaxed as possible. Relaxation doesn’t mean that our anxiety or stress has to magically disappear, but that our bodies are as relaxed themselves as possible.
Sitting or standing, close your eyes, breathe in through the nose and exhale deeply through the mouth. Start by taking a little notice of your body – scan your body from toe to head, and if you notice some tension, loosen it by shaking the area a little bit and exhaling as you do so. A lot of tension can be held in our faces and shoulders so shrug your shoulders to your ears and let them drop. Do this again. Now scrunch your face, your eyes and forehead and let it go. Once you feel a little lighter in yourself, then begin the meditations.
Positive Thoughts During the Day
Finola Colgan, Development Officer, Mental Health Ireland @FinolaColgan
Making efforts, let alone trying to stay positive can appear almost impossible in our current circumstances, much of which can leave us feeling down.
However, we can turn our minds to moments of positive thinking which can be beneficial. We hope you will enjoy reflecting on this selection of quotes by well known people from all walks of life.
Mental Health & Physical Health
Our message below is about highlighting the importance of keeping yourself in good shape physically and mentally to run your farm enterprise. Farming is a very physically demanding job. The long working hours that can accumulate to in excess of a sixty- five-hour week, working in isolation, poor diet, difficulties with sleeping, lack of exercise can collectively contribute to poor health if not manged correctly.
There are many definitions of health, mental health and wellbeing, one of the ones I like is, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (World Health Organisation 1947). Although it is around for quite some time, and forms part of the WHO Constitution, it is still truly relevant and uncomplicated. It creates the image of health being like a triangle, and when one side is impacted by a life event, such as death, illness or indeed presently as with the impact Covid -19 all sides of the health triangle are impacted.
In many ways this triangle of health it is like the fire triangle. It is important to have all sides functioning to achieve a flame. How challenging is it to light a fire with no matches!
It is important to keep a balance of all aspects of our health working in unison. It was recently noted by Caroline Farrell, Chair IFA Farm Family & Social Affairs Committee stated that “A farmers’ health is the most important asset to their farm business Farming is hard work and farmers work long hours, particularly at this time of year. This can take its toll on physical and mental health. Farmers need to prioritise their own health and take time to recharge their batteries.” https://www.agriland.ie/farming-news/your-health-is-the-most-important-asset-to-your-farm/
Remember you are not alone! We are #InThisTogether.
This campaign signposts to useful advice that can help people of every age group to cope with the ongoing restrictions, whether they are looking after children, dealing with self-isolation, preparing for the Leaving Cert, or coping with cabin fever.
Further information on looking after our mental health and wellbeing is available at the following links.
- Farming specific supports in Ireland here
- Or read Staying Fit for Farming – A Health Booklet for Farmers
Promoting Farmer Mental Health – a Farm Advisory Perspective
Dr John McNamara, Health and Safety Specialist Advisor
Teagasc – Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Ireland, John.email@example.com
As Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist Advisor my role is to promote this discipline among the farming community. Specifically my role is to develop and lead our Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) programme, to be a knowledge focal point. In this regard, I conduct research with colleagues on farm health and safety and scan the scientific literature for useful information to inform Teagasc knowledge transfer (KT) programmes in OHS. My role includes providing and arranging staff in service training in health and safety.
Teagasc collaborates strongly with both state and farming organisations regarding its programme. In my role, I collaborate strongly with the Irish Health and Safety Authority responsible of overseeing occupational safety and health (OHS) legislation. I am also a member of the national ENGAGE Men’s Health Promotion training network.
I became particularly interested in promoting farmer health following a lecture by a public health physician in the early 1990’s which indicated that Irish farmers had higher premature mortality for a range of non-communicable disease s such as CVD and Cancers than other occupational groups. There is a mis perception that farmers are healthy ‘per se’ because they are ‘out in the fresh air and get plenty of exercise. More recently in 2012, Dr Breda Smyth MD published research which indicates that Irish farmers have 5 times higher CVD and 3 times more Cancers than blue collar workers.
Maintaining health requires a range of actions so Teagasc partners with Health Promotion professional to devise and deliver key messages specifically tailored to the farming community. Specifically, a number of health promoting booklets have been produced and circulated nationally to farmers: ‘Coping with the Pressures of Farming; ‘A Health Booklet for Irish Farmers – Staying Fit for Farming; Positive Mental Health in Farming. St Patrick’s Mental Health Services have produced a wallet sized leaflet- Minding your mental health in farming life.
Visit Your GP – A crucial message is to have a health Check undertaken regularly. If a person does not have the habit of visiting a doctor regularly, they are unlikely to visit when under stress.
Major farm stressors include: farm finance issues; dealing with paperwork, poor farm safety conditions, excessive workload and poor health, and now COVID-19. One particular sign of stress includes a disturbed sleep pattern. Read more on getting a good night’s sleep here.
Stress is managed by recognising the signs and taking action to remove the sources. For example, stress can be cut by modifying farm work to cut work time. Having positive working and personal relationships is helpful to prevent stress. Consult your G.P regarding stress issues where necessary.
Positive Strategies to Maintain Mental Health
- Talk to trusted family members, neighbour and friends.
- Discuss farming problems with your Agricultural Advisor
- Farm Discussion groups have a social dimension as well as a practical farm one which is positive to solving problems and managing stress
- Farming and sporting organisations perform valuable social networks in rural Ireland
Health Related Goals
- Have a regular health check-up with a G.P. Forming this habit is crucial in the long- term.
- Exercise regularly; being physically active is a key approach to stress management. Farm work activity, however, may lead to ‘strength’ but not to ‘aerobic fitness’ which is required for cardiovascular health.
- Eat a balanced diet, including fruit and vegetables. Some food and drinks in excess such as alcohol, chocolate, coffee and soft drinks cause increased tension.
- Examine your farm for hazards and remove them
- Work organisation is crucial to avoid rushing and injury
- Examine the profitability of your farm-complete a profit monitor
- Check the length of your working day – excessively long working days can lead to isolation
- Take time out every day for relaxation and take some time out for some meditation. Have a look at farmer John Gerard Murphy’s Meditation in Nature video here.
- Take regular breaks and a holiday from farming. These allow your mind to refresh itself.
The Mind Our Farm Families is a dedicated suicide and self-harm phone line (1890 130 022). This is a partnership between IFA and Pieta House. The phone line for IFA members will put farmers and their families in direct contact with a Pieta House trained therapist. The high rate of suicide, particularly among men in rural areas, is the driving force behind IFA’s involvement in setting up this dedicated service.
Physical Health for Farmers
We are delighted to have guest contributors Dr. Diane Cooper, John Bolton and Ruth Kavanagh (BSc Human Nutrition) from True Fitness contribute to the page. They have put together some resources on looking after our physical health.
Dr. Diane Cooper
I am a clinical exercise physiologist with a degree in Sports Science and Health and a PhD in Exercise Physiology and Metabolism. I coordinated and lectured on the BSc Sports Science with Exercise Physiology in Athlone Institute of Technology from 20 I I to 2018. I have been a partner in True Fitness since 2008 where I predominantly design and deliver our True Transformation healthy living programmes, our suite of Train the Trainer’ courses, a range of health, fitness and sporting performance workshops, conduct human health research studies, and oversee our sports science clinic.
I have over twenty five years experience in the fitness industry. I qualified as a fitness instructor in 1991 (NCEF) completing my NCEF Level 2 Advanced Resistance Training in 1993. I also completed a three year Diploma in Leisure Management in 1996 and in 2006 I qualified as an NCEFTutor. I hold S.M.B.LA, (British Cycling Registered) Level 3 Kayak Instructor (Irish Canoe Union Registered), Mountain Leader (Mountaineering Ireland Registered), Remote Emergency Care Level 3, Occupational First Aid, I.A. W.LA, and am the only qualified MasterTRXTrainer in Ireland.
Home Based Strength Circuit
The video starts with some mobility work followed by a warm up. It is essential to complete the warm up prior to doing the strength exercises that follow. The exercises are suitable for all levels of fitness. However if you have any concerns please seek professional advice before trying these exercises.
True Fitness regularly post home based workouts to their social media channels. Pop on over and have a browse to find ones that suit you.
Walking is one of the easiest ways to get active. It is a great form of exercise as it can be tailored to most fitness levels and health needs – and it’s absolutely FREE! All you need is comfortable footwear, appropriate clothing for the weather and you are good to go! Aim to walk at a moderate intensity, this means that you should be able to feel your heart rate increase but you should not feel breathless, you should be able to talk i.e. ‘the talk test’.
Healthy Eating for Farmers
Ruth Kavanagh (BSc Human Nutrition), True Fitness offers advice on maintaining a healthy and balance diet.
Note: This advice is based on public health recommendations and is not designed to replace individual advice from a healthcare professional.
Consuming a varied healthy balanced diet has many benefits for our physical and mental health. The Irish food pyramid is a summary of evidence-based healthy eating recommendations for the general adult population aged over 5 years. It classifies foods into six different groups and provides guidelines on the number of servings to be eaten from each group every day. It encourages us to:
Eat 5-7 servings of fruit, vegetables and salad
These foods provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Consuming 5-10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day is associated with a reduced risk of developing many diseases such as heart diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Did you know that frozen and canned varieties are just as nutritious as fresh varieties? Aim to eat a wide variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables throughout the day as they all provide different benefits to the body. Fruits and raw vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, cucumber and cherry tomatoes are delicious healthy snacks. More information on serving sizes related to the Irish food pyramid can be found here.
Enjoy starchy carbohydrates at each meal
Carbohydrates are the main providers of heat and energy in the body. Examples of starchy carbohydrates include potatoes, rice, pasta, bread and cereals. It is recommended to consume wholegrain varieties where possible as these are higher in fibre than white varieties, for example choose brown bread instead of white bread. High fibre foods are more filling and slowly release energy into the bloodstream which is important for keeping your blood sugar and energy levels stable throughout the day. The number of servings you need from this shelf depends on your age, gender, size and activity level. More information on serving sizes related to the Irish food pyramid can be found here.
Consume 3 servings of dairy products
It is recommended for those aged 9-18 years to enjoy 5 servings per day – dairy (milk, yoghurt and cheese) or dairy alternatives (such as fortified soya milk or yoghurts) are good sources of protein, calcium and some B vitamins which are important for the growth and repair of body cells, to promote healthy bones and teeth, to reduce feelings of tiredness and fatigue and for the normal functioning of the immune system. Children and teenagers are at a critical period of growth and development and therefore require more servings from this shelf. It is recommended that we choose low-fat varieties of dairy products. A practical way to ensure that you consume enough servings of dairy products throughout the day is to enjoy a serving at breakfast (e.g. porridge made with milk or overnight oats), lunch/dinner (e.g. add cheese to sandwiches, meals) and as a snack (e.g. 125g pot of yoghurt). More information on serving sizes related to the Irish food pyramid can be found here.
Consume 2 servings from the meat, poultry, fish, eggs beans and nuts shelf
These foods are good sources of protein and iron which is important for growth and repair of body cells and to transport oxygen around the body via red blood cells. This includes both animal and plant-based sources. Pulses are cheaper than meat and fish, but they are just as nutritious and add good texture and flavours to meals for example in soups and stews. Pulses are a great source of soluble fibre which is important for digestive health and can help to reduce cholesterol levels. Pulses can be found tinned (which can be used straight away) and dried (which need to be soaked and cooked before eating). Choose lean cuts of meat and limit processed meats such as sausages, bacon and ham. It is recommended to consume two portions of oily fish per week (e.g. salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines and herring). Oily fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which has many heart and brain health benefits. More information on serving sizes related to the Irish food pyramid can be found here.
Use small amounts of fats, spreads and oils
The main function of this shelf is to provide essential fats but they are only needed in small amounts. Choose healthy unsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed, vegetable and sunflower oil. Cooking methods such as grilling, steaming, baking and boiling are recommended as they use less oil than frying. More information on serving sizes related to the Irish food pyramid can be found here.
Limit intakes of food and drinks high in saturated fat, sugar and salt
This includes crisps, cakes, chocolate, sweets, ice-cream, sugar-sweetened drinks etc. Avoid adding sugar to teas/coffees. Use herbs, spices, lemon or lime juice to flavour meals instead of salt to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. There are no recommended serving sizes for this top shelf of the pyramid as these foods are not needed for good health. However, treats can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet rather than having an ‘all or nothing’ approach.
John O’Connell, through his writing and personal life experiences, has opened up a fruitful and engaging conversation around mental health, not just in a rural setting but also town life. John is the author of many publications and an award winning investigative journalist. He grew up in Ballinale, Co. Longford, He is a two-time Walkley award winner, playwright and producer.
The Ghost Estate is his first novel. His book The Cow Book has been a number one best seller. This book that has been enjoyed and loved by people from all walks of life because of John’s insightful look at life, the highs to the lows, and how finding resilience is a good support in getting through life. The Cow Book gives readers an insight into the life of a farmer, from the early mornings to the late nights looking after cows and sheep as they give birth, doing the runs around the fields to feed the animals and everything else that comes with the lifestyle. He also shares with readers the people that have shaped his life over the years.
BBC 4 On Your Farm: Bard of the Beef