Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Healthy holiday food for your summer staycation


FOR many of us, this year’s summer holiday is going to be a little different to our usual fortnight in the sun. Whether you are packing a tent and camping in Donegal, or hoping for some summer sun in Portrush, food is always part of the fun of going away.

There is no reason why this year should be any different. OK, so we might be replacing our shorts and T-shirt for wellies and raincoats, but there is still plenty to enjoy on our doorstep.

Eat like the locals

One of the great things about going on holiday is experiencing different flavours and foods. A staycation is the perfect opportunity to experience some of the very best of what these shores have to offer. Over recent years there has been an explosion in artisan producers right across this island. From bread makers to cheesemongers, butter makers to micro breweries, use your holiday pocket money to support these small, local producers and help keep them in business through this tricky time.

Enjoy the best of the season

Summertime in Ireland is a time to feast on local, seasonal produce. Here’s a snapshot of what’s in season here in July:

– Peas and beans: broad peas, garden peas, sugar snaps, French beans, runner beans

– Berries: strawberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries

– Beetroot and carrots

– New potatoes

– Courgette and summer squash

– Salad leaves

– Fennel

– Radishes

– Tomatoes

– Scallions

These foods are at their best right now.

Pack a picnic

Packing a picnic with tasty and nourishing food for your day trip doesn’t have to mean soggy sandwiches and limp lettuce.

– Pack a picnic salad jar: If you want an alternative to sandwiches, then pack a Kilner jar. Put the dressing at the bottom of the jar to stop your salad going soggy on your travels. Then pack with layers of salad, add a protein of your choice (halloumi, leftover chicken, hard-boiled egg, houmous, bean salad…) and just shake to serve. Don’t forget to pack a spork!

– Wholemeal pitta pockets can be packed to the brim with your choice of fillings – great with leftovers from last night’s barbecue.

– ‘Smiles’ of watermelon, fruit salad or fruit skewers make for a healthy picnic dessert.

– Crack out the barbacue: Dust off the barbecue and get grilling. If you are fed up with burgers and hot dogs and want something a little healthier, then I have some ideas for you:

:: Vegetable skewers – marinade a selection of vegetables in a little olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and herbs and thread them onto kebab sticks. Peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, aubergine, courgette all work well.

:: Catch of the day – grilled mackerel, prawns or other sustainable fish are quick and easy to cook and delicious on the barbecue. Serve with some salads and a healthy dip like my salsa verde (see below) for a nutritious and delicious barbecue.

:: Mediterranean salads with an Irish twist – broad bean, fresh-shelled peas with feta and mint and homemade slaws can bring the best of our local produce to your table.

Wherever you are heading for your summer holiday, don’t forget to pack a raincoat, take it easy and enjoy the break.


1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

Generous handful of parsley, basil and tarragon

2 tsp capers

1 tsp Dijon mustard

4 or 5 marinated anchovies

Juice of half a lemon

2-3 tblsp olive

Black pepper


Place all the ingredients for the salsa verde in a blender and blitz to make a smooth sauce. You can add a little extra oil and/or lemon juice if it gets a bit sticky in your blender. Season to taste. Serve with grilled meats, fish or halloumi.


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