Jane McClenaghan: Top sportswomen and mental health charity add up to a week of wellness

Look at what’s on your plate, not just before or after a sporting activity but throughout the week

BETWEEN celebrating International Day of the Girl with a bunch of wonder women to taking part in the Inspire charity’s wellbeing sessions for World Mental Health Day, the spotlight has definitely been on health and wellbeing this week.

Girl Power

International Day of the Girl started in 2012 to highlight issues affecting adolescent girls and young women all over the world. Founded by United Nations and Unicef to celebrate young women and raise awareness of issues affecting them, from gender equality to medical and healthcare issues.

From my perspective as a nutritionist, the more we can do to empower our young women and educate them to take responsibility for their health and connect with the power that food, nutrition, sport and exercise have on physical, mental and emotional health, the better.

So being given the opportunity to take part in the Game Changers event on Friday was a chance to share ideas and hopefully inspire some of our girls to make positive, healthy changes to the food they eat.

Presented by Electric Ireland, the sponsor for women’s and girls’ football at every level across Northern Ireland, the Game Changers NI event looked in depth into how nutrition, psychology and changing attitudes towards women’s sport are driving females to get involved.

Sitting alongside some of the leading Northern Ireland female sports stars – including international hockey player Katie Mullan, Northern Ireland and Everton soccer player Simone Magill, international rugby player Claire McLaughlin, former Tyrone ladies football Captain and WGPA’s Gemma Begley and the first northern woman to scale Everest Hannah Shields – I was in the hot seat to talk about nutrition for young women in sport.

My five tips for good nutrition for young women in sport are:

1 To be 'match fit' it is important to look at what’s on your plate – and not just before or after a sporting activity but right throughout the week.

2 Learn to cook. If you know how to cook a handful of healthy meals you have the power on your plate to get the very best out of your sport – and life. Start with something simple like scrambled eggs on toast, and then get more adventurous. Think about what you love to eat and check out some healthy recipes for your favourites – curry, chilli or spaghetti Bolognese can all be given a healthy twist.

3 Slow-release carbs such as porridge, wholemeal toast and brown rice are ideal for fuelling sustained energy. Slowly replacing white and refined foods and high sugar foods for these lower-glycemic-index foods will provide your body with a more constant supply of fuel rather than a fast crash-and-burn type of energy.

4 Pack in some healthy fats from nuts, seeds and oily fish, and good protein sources, at each meal to help with recovery after training.

5 Eggs, lean meat, fish, chicken, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, dairy products are all good protein sources that will help refuel muscles and energy after training and matches.

Here’s the link for all you need:

nspire Wellbeing Sessions

The second exciting event of the week is happening today. Inspire is one of Northern Ireland’s leading mental health charities and today it is celebrating World Mental Health Day with a special event on Facebook Live.

From morning yoga to live discussions around the theme of ‘Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing’, the day is jam packed with great events to champion positive mental health and wellbeing.

I was given the theme of ‘Give’ to consider, so I’ll be live in the kitchen with Moira Doherty of Engaged Communities Group and Conor Deighan of TAMHI, to cook Saturday brunch and discover how food has helped bring people together during lockdown and beyond.

Just follow Inspire on facebook and join me in the kitchen at 12pm – I’ll cook you breakfast if you do!

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