20 Questions on Health & Fitness: Paula McIntyre
Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week, local award-winning chef, cookery book author and radio host, Paula McIntyre
1) Up and at it – what is your morning routine?
I don’t have a normal morning routine. I’m not religious, but I say a prayer every morning to be thankful for all I’ve been blessed with. I get up according to my first appointment, so that could be as early as 5am to catch a flight or later, around eight o'clock.
I do check my social media and emails first thing. My focus is normally to get ready and out as quickly as possible, but the mornings I’m working from home are relaxed with coffee and breakfast TV.
2) What might you eat in a typical working day for:
Breakfast consists of two double espressos.
It depends on where I am, but lunch could be anything from a quick sandwich to soup or salad.
I go meat-free two days each week and I have fish on another two days, if I can source it fresh. My evening meal is heavy on the vegetables, especially leafy greens, and potatoes, wholegrain rice or quinoa for starch.
Most weeks, I’m testing recipes so they’ll be a part of the week’s food. At the weekend I’ll eat out or entertain at home – lots of platters of food and a sinful cheeseboard with freshly baked bread.
3) Is nutrition important to you?
Yes, nutrition is important to me. I try to eat healthily, but I have to eat out with my job and the food can be rich, with wines to match. When I’m cooking at home, I try to focus on less meat, more vegetables, nuts, wholegrains and limited dairy produce.
4) Are you a calorie counter?
5) Best meal ever?
I can’t pin-point a particular meal, but there’s a restaurant in Italy called Osteria del Tempo Perso, run by two brothers and their mum. The food, wine, ambience, company and service there is always magical.
It doesn’t have Michelin stars or awards or anything, but wins every time because of the lovingly prepared local ingredients.
6) Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Cheese is definitely my downfall. I’m not that into desserts or very sweet stuff. And chips, eaten from a paper bag, with plenty of salt and vinegar, do it for me – especially if eaten beside the sea, preferably at Ballycastle.
7) Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?
I’m just experimenting with the 5-2, but too early to say.
8) Do you take health supplements?
No, I think it’s important to get your vitamins directly from good food and not out of a pill box.
9) Teetotal or tipple?
Tipple – I love good wine, rum and gin.
10) Fruit or fry–up?
I love fresh fruit, but a well prepared Ulster Fry is hard to beat – in moderation.
11) Stairs or lift?
Depends on how long I’ve been on my feet.
12) Do you have a daily exercise regime?
I bought a Fitbit recently and it has made me think about walking. I live in Portstewart, so there’s no excuse, but I’m away a lot and it’s not always easy to fit into my schedule.
13) On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are; how fit would you like to be?
I'm about a '3'. Although, on the rare occasions that I work in restaurants, I can keep up with the younger chefs who are half my age, which always makes me feel good.
14) Best tip for everyday fitness?
Eat well, drink plenty of water and move as much as you can.
15) Do you have a memory from school sport / PE days you would rather forget?
The whole competitive sport thing left me cold. I avoided PE as much as I could and, when I did have to do it, I didn’t take it seriously at all.
I met my PE teacher from school recently and she reminded me of this.
16) Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?
When I was at the Slow Food Terra Madre festival two years ago in Turin I was exposed to some wonderful food from around the globe that made me want to always find the best varieties when I got home – I try to buy meat, fish and vegetables as close to source when I can.
17) Best health advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?
I don’t even think about narcotics. Drugs are a big problem in the hospitality industry and I’ve seen the damage drugs have done to young people’s lives. Not enough is being done to highlight the impact they have on your mental health.
18) Who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness/attitude to life?
I have a friend who’s vegan and who doesn’t make a fuss about it or have an issue with it and lives a really healthy life but is still fantastic craic. I’ve met some very focused, pretty nasty, health 'gurus' that would make you reach for the lard.
19) What time do you get to bed normally and do you think you get enough sleep?
I head to bed around 12, fall into a deep sleep and, unless I’m completely knackered, wake up around 2.30 and stay awake for at least two hours.
For 90 per cent of the time, the alarm is a shock.
20) Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?
I’m going to be 50 next year, which is mind-boggling, to be honest, as I still have the mentality of a 25-year-old.
I’ve had a great life, full of love, excitement and career fulfilment. If I died tomorrow I wouldn’t have any regrets.