Derval O’Rourke: My go-to steak recipe is perfect for a Valentine’s Day meal for two

Derval O’Rourke: My go-to steak recipe is perfect for a Valentine’s Day meal for two

I can still remember keeping a detailed food diary for a few days at different points during my career as a sprint hurdler. It was a tool that was introduced to me by a dietitian with the aim of helping me to understand how to fuel my training for heavy training periods. This week, I’ll chat about food diaries and for the recipe, I’ll share my go-to steak recipe.

Food diaries have been used as a health tool long before digital tracking with apps such as Myfitnesspal existed. My introduction to keeping a food diary was when I was in my early 20s, and I was struggling to eat the amount I needed to train at a high level and recover. I found it helpful, but I know for some people it was a tool that was detrimental to their relationship with food.

If you are thinking about using a food diary, it would be helpful to discuss this with a dietitian to get guidance on how it can best work for you and your health goals. I recently filled in a food diary as part of a work project, and I found it beneficial.

Derval O’Rourke: Keeping a food diary can be an effective tool to help change behaviour

What is a food diary and why would you use one?

A food diary can be as simple as a notebook, or it could be a structured worksheet. The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute has a sample on its website that might be a helpful resource. The diary can be completed over a few days. It can help you to understand your eating habits and patterns and also the foods you eat on a regular basis. Research shows that for those interested in losing weight, keeping a food diary can be an effective tool to help change behaviour.

For me personally, it helps me become aware of the days when I’m too busy. I can spend far too little time stopping to eat and drink which results in me feeling mentally and physically drained.

What is helpful to jot down in a food diary?

  • Time of meal or snack.
  • Hunger levels before and after.
  • What food was eaten (I tend not to be too specific on portions, I just want to know when I am eating and what I’m eating.)
  • Emotions before or after eating.
  • Additional information that might be interesting is who you are eating with and what you are doing while you are eating.

After you’ve completed a food diary, what next?

After completing a few days’ worth of a food diary, step back and look at what you’ve recorded. Are there any trends, patterns or habits that you can identify? For example, after recently completing a food diary I noticed that on busier days I can leave long gaps between eating times resulting in eating way more in the evenings. I also noted that I drink more coffee than I realised, particularly if I’ve a busy day of meetings and this has a negative impact on my sleep.

Another area that a food diary can be helpful with is your choice of foods and how nutritious your choices are. I often find it hard to eat enough protein and writing a food diary helped me to see the gaps where I can start adding protein in.

Tips to get started with a food diary

Keep track as you go and if you find that hard, take quick pictures on your phone of your food and at the end of the day go back over the pictures to fill out the diary.

The bottom line is: Food diaries can be a really useful tool for helping you, but this might not work for you and can be triggering. Everyone is different and getting guidance from an expert is always a good idea.

Wellness Tip: 

There is no right or wrong way to keep a food diary, experiment with what works for you and what information is helpful for you to make improvements.

Exercise Tip: 

Standing Push Ups — Stand near a bed or table and place your hands on your bed or table – Push up for a repetition of 10. Count to ten and repeat. You can do this until you feel the burn in your arms.

Steak for two

recipe by:Derval O’Rourke

This is my go-to steak recipe.


  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks

  • 2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil

  • s

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