FAQ – Food

Posted: 18 January 2019

How does the plan work, and how many snacks can I have?

Everyday you should eat 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 main meal and 2 snacks. For main meals we have a different meal for every day of the plan. For breakfast you can choose any of the 8 breakfast options, for lunch you can choose any of the 14 lunch options and same goes for the 8 snack options - so there's plenty of variety there for everyone!

I don't eat fish/certain foods, can I still follow the plan?

With regard to the meal plans, don't worry, everyone has food which they can't eat (or don't want to eat.) Our suggestion would be to repeat one of the other recipes on the plan which you enjoyed. Each meal is nutritionally balanced, so it won't affect your progress. There is a huge selection of meals to suit all tastes, so there will be plenty of meals which you will want to try again!

Can I swap any fish in the dishes on the plan?

It’s fine to swap white fish for salmon, the calories may be slighter higher but won't put things off track too much.  Salmon may not always work as well with all white fish recipes.

I am a vegetarian, can I still follow the plan?

There are many different vegetarian meals over the course of the food plan. With regard to substitutions for meat in other recipes, you will notice at the bottom on each recipe that there are recommended substitutions listed. These are vegetarian substitutes so they may not all be suitable for people following a vegan diet. You can decide which of these you like, or work well with the meal. Alternatively, you can just repeat one of the other vegetarian meals on the plan that you enjoyed. All meals are nutritionally balanced, so this won't be a problem for your progress on the plan.

I am a vegan, can I still follow the plan?

We don't have vegan specific meals at the moment, but it is something we are considering for the future.  Since dairy provides such important benefits especially when it comes to bone health it isn't something that we actively encourage.  We do have some easy swaps to convert meals to become suitable for people following a vegetarian diet (on the bottom of each recipe), however they may not all be suitable for people following a vegan diet. Cows milk / cheese / yogurt ingredients can be substitutes for vegan options that are calcium fortified. It is always recommended that people who start to follow a vegan diet seek nutrition advice from a registered dietitian to ensure they avoid any vitamin / mineral deficiencies.

Can I use dairy free alternatives if I’m following the plan?

You can use dairy free alternatives such as soy milk, rice milk, oat milk etc in place of cow’s milk. 

I am a coeliac/have a wheat intolerance, can I substitute the bread and pasta on the plan for gluten free versions?

Meals are not gluten free - but gluten free pastas and breads can easily be substituted into recipes where necessary. The main thing is to try eat nutritionally balanced meals, have regular meals and stay within the calories by portion controlling and making the best food choices available to you.

I have to cook for four people, can I just double the recipe ingredients?

Yes, you can!

I work as a shift worker, how do I follow the plan?

From an eating point of view, the goal is three meals and two snacks in a 24 hour period with the aim to eat every 3 - 4 hours when awake / working. The plan includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks which can be consumed over the 24 hour period.

I spend a lot of time in my car. Would you have any suggestions for how to follow the meal plan?

Sometimes it works well to swap breakfast and snacks first thing in morning.  So pick any of the snack options that are quick for first thing and then have breakfast during first break at work, for instance. Make the meal plan work for you!

Can I eat extra fruit on the plan?

Ideally stick to the plan as listed. If you are extremely hungry and have eaten all meals / snacks as recommended, an extra piece of fruit in the first week or two may help you get over the hump but ideally stick to two pieces of fruit /day in your two snacks

I'm trying to stick to the plan but am struggling with the quantity of food, I still feel hungry - what should I do?

Please be aware that you are able to have 2 snacks per day on the Operation Transformation food plan. We recommend not diverging from the outlined food plan. However, if you are really hungry, something like fruit is the best option. We would also suggest drinking more water, as often when you think your body is hungry, it is in fact just thirsty. Obviously this is not always the case, but it is definitely worth trying.

Is sparkling water ok to drink or does it have to be still water only? How much tea/coffee can I drink on a daily basis?

Sparkling water is fine but aim to have still water as the majority of what you drink. For tea and coffee, three to five cups/day max is recommended.

What kind of butter is used in the recipes?

It’s real butter!

Is it ok to freeze the meals on the plan?

Yes, it’s fine to freeze most of the meals but some freeze better than others. Also, try to cook a double batch so that have extra portions for freezer.

Can I switch the carbohydrates in the meals?

It may not always suit the recipe.  The general rule of thumb is 250g potatoes for recipe for 2, quinoa can be same portion as rice / pasta.

I am pregnant, can I still follow the plan?

It's always best to consult with your GP before taking on any diet regime, whether for weight loss or for medical reasons. The plan is not for pregnant women as calories will not be high enough. The plan is for weight loss and you should not be trying to lose weight while pregnant.

Can I follow the plan if I’ve recently had a baby?

We would recommend signing this off with your doctor before starting either the food or the fitness plan.

I am breast feeding, can I still follow the plan?

It's always best to consult with your GP before taking on any diet regime, whether for weight loss or for medical reasons. For breastfeeding women, it is likely the calories are too low. This can affect milk supply so would be a good idea to add more carbohydrate to the meals / snacks. Aoife would recommend adding 50% carbohydrates to the meal like potatoes, rice and pasta.

I have a medical condition which limits intake of certain foods, can I just use straight swaps for dairy free/gluten free substitutes? 

It is important to get an official diagnosis by a medical doctor rather than just avoiding these things.  Generally, a straight swap will work, but it may vary depending on recipe. Processed gluten free products tend to be far higher in fat and lower in fibre.

Are the menus suitable for people with diabetes? 

Yes but if you are injecting with insulin you will need to discuss with your diabetes nurse.  Make sure to keep a close monitor of your blood sugars as you make changes and if you notice your blood sugar dropping too low discuss with your GP about changing amount of medication. 

I have high cholesterol, will these meals help?

Yes, the plan is generally low in saturated fat and high in fibre. Also, weight loss has a big impact on cholesterol levels.  Adding a plant sterol drink such as danancol or benecol or flora proactive daily can also help in addition to porridge daily

I suffer with low iron, what can I do?

You should choose food that are high in iron more often - red meat, salmon and eggs. Maybe aim for red meat 3 / week with salmon at least once /week and eggs daily.

I am quite fit and don’t wish to lose weight. Can I still follow the food plan?

If you are not trying to lose weight, this plan isn’t for you. However, you could add 50% more carb to meals eg potatoes /rice/pasta to make the balance right. As with any change to your diet, if you feel excessively weak or low in energy due to changes it would be good to discuss with a registered dietitian.

I have tried diets and exercises over the years and I have lost weight each time however my problem is keeping it off - what should I do?

Try to keep up with the plan once the show is finished. The recipes and exercise plans are available on the website all year round, so it is possible to continue on the plan once the programme has concluded. Getting involved with some local Operation Transformation groups in your area might also be helpful with motivation. Having a community to support you is always valuable.

Have another question about the food plan or healthy eating in general? Safefood, who promote safe and healthy eating on the island of Ireland, have a team of dieticians ready to answer your question about healthy eating for weight loss and the Operation Transformation meal plans. Go to the Safefood facebook page and message them with your question!