Fit Food: A guide to fast-food the healthy way

Fit Food: A guide to fast-food the healthy way


Helen Vaughan



are, away, Eat, food, foods, healthy, how, Just, most, take, to, well, what

As many of us spend more time at work, yet strive to stay healthy and fit by squeezing training and activity into our time-poor worlds, we crave good, quick food on the go. As part of a new Outsider series on quality food, we take a look at this budding world of healthy and wholesome convenience food. The series is to celebrate the new JUST EAT Fit Food Award in the 2016 Outsider Awards

Would you like a protein ball with that?

I’ve just dashed in to grab a coffee in Borlottie café on Baggot Street post-run and on the way to an early morning meeting. I’m a fan of this place, which is really near where I work. You can pop in and be out in about two minutes with deliciously healthy food. Or order ahead through JUST EAT and have food delivered to your work place if you’re really having a crazy day.

In fact, the JUST EAT app is how I found Borlottie in the first place. I was using the 'healthy' options filter that lets you search through options including vegetarian, vegan, paleo, coeliac friendly and gluten and dairy-free, Thai, Japanese and Italian.
But back to Borlottie, Operations manager Simon Stokes tells me that since they first opened their doors in the IFSC back in 2012, the firm favourite with customers has been the hot box. So popular that in June 2015, they opened the second Berlottie outlet on Baggot St.
“Thirty-five per cent of our customers choose the hot box. The hot box is a combination of our own style of brown rice and a side of Asian coleslaw which you can add your choice of protein too, like herb and citrus marinated chicken or roast fillet of salmon. The rice is just delicious. It’s Cuban style and is slow cooked in a fragrant broth and finished with bacon, Borlottie beans and ground cumin. Or you can opt for the Mexican Quinoa Hot Box,” he says.

“We’re all about providing clean food which we make from fresh ingredients delivered every day. We start from scratch every day preparing the food. My background is in restaurants so we use suppliers that deal with good restaurants.”
Eyeing up the menu I notice that there’s a glossary at the bottom of the menu telling me which choices are low glycemic load (GL), low saturated fat (LF), vegetarian (V), wheat free (WF) etc. I’m tempted to have one of their breakfast egg pots – the one with poached eggs, caramelised onions, diced peppers and Borlottie mixed beans – but today, like so many of us, I’m in too much of a rush.
So I say yes please to the protein ball instead – which for the record looks delicious. In so many other cafés, all that would be on offer would be pastries and muffins and I’d probably buy one to keep me going whether I wanted it or not. You can’t have your stomach growling in a meeting now can you?! But today I won’t have to undo the good I’ve done.

Balls of goodness
The protein ball is yum. Made of almonds, coconut, dates, cocoa, whey and honey, it tastes a bit like a chocolatey macaroon. Simon tells me that I’m not the only one who has fallen for these balls of goodness. “They are flying out the door,” he says, “They’re are made here in Ireland by a company called Joanne’s Absolute Nutrition,” and they’ve just been shortlisted for a Blas na hÉireann food award.
Later I track down Joanne [Davey], the Dublin girl behind the brand. It turns out she developed the product because of her own need for a healthy, nutritious snack after working out at the gym (She was on a mission to get fit after having four babies very close together!).
“I was given meal plans by my trainer and told not to eat this or that, but when I finished working out, the café at the gym only sold things like muffins and Kinder Buenos,” says Joanne. “So I said to the owner of the gym, ‘This is terrible. You tell us not to eat them but then you sell them.’ He said, ‘There’s nothing good I can buy, but if you want to make anything and bring it down to me, do it.’”
So she did! The following week, she brought him some of the protein balls she had created with her mother in their own kitchen and within a month she was supplying four gyms in Dublin and Wicklow.

From there, the whole business just boomed. These days, you’ll find Joanne’s Absolute Nutrition products in many places, including 40 SuperValu supermarkets and lots of other stores, cafés and gyms across Leinster. Her delivery schedule lists Fresh supermarkets, Westwood gyms, Baristas café in Sandyford, the new Shoe Lane coffee shop in Tara St train station and both Borlotties (the other one is in the IFSC).

And Joanne's products have some high-profile fans too. Not many people can say this, but she counts Conor McGregor among her devotees. First his gyms tookher protein and energy balls and then he started eating them. He even took aselection box of them to the US in August for his big fight. “He [Conor McGregor] loves the chocolate protein balls, but he took a mixture of everything we make with him to Vegas.”
The company now employs six people and the product list has expanded to include Chia Superfood Energy Bombs, Paleo Coconut Bites and Rawlos (which are like guilt-free rolos).
“Me and my Mam work in the kitchen full-time. I aimed to create something that I wanted to eat myself. That someone had spent time making. They’re not outsourced, all of our balls are made here in Dublin and we’re creating local jobs,” she says.

Joanne’s Absolute Nutrition and Borlottie café are just two examples of the foot soldiers in this growing army of healthy food companies. And that healthy trend is no longer a completely niche market. Cafés, food shops, delis, takeaways and restaurants offering the choice of healthy, wholesome and convenient food seem to be popping up all over the place.

Amanda Roche-Kelly, the Country Manager with JUST EAT, the world’s leading online takeaway service operating in 13 different countries, including Ireland, has certainly noticed the trend. The company offers more than 30 cuisine types through the more than 1,800 restaurants signed up, including the aforementioned Borlottie.
Amanda says that so many things are changing about the way we live, and that includes eating. “The bottom line is that now most people are very, very busy and a lot of just don’t have time to shop and cook healthily every day.”
That has led to a huge spike in demand for healthy food offerings. “We are very aware that consumer demand is shifting. There is much more demand than before at lunchtime so we’ve signed up a lot more lunchtime partners. And there has been a big shift toward a more healthy takeaway lifestyle. In fact, consumer orders for the healthy cuisine options have increased by 107% since this time last year. And we have seen a huge growth in the number of specifically healthy restaurants on our books as more people want more nutritious take away and convenience food. 
She adds, “And it’s not just the food companies that label themselves officially as healthy that are part of this trend. The menus of other more traditional restaurants are also changing to offer more healthy low-calorie options to meet the growing demand.”

Some of the healthy food companies that work with JUST EAT include The Punnet Food Emporium, Musashi,123 Taken Asian Healthy Food, Póg,, Staple Foods Café, Chopped salads, Cornucopia, Low Cal Meals Delivered, Paleo Meal Deliveries, Okayu, and Bakehouse.

You can search specifically for healthy fast food outlets on the JUST EAT website for whatever area you're in to see what's  on offer. You can also download the JUST EAT app for Android and iOS and choose from more than 1800 restaurants and 30 cuisines.

Amanda adds, “Wherever you are you can use our ‘healthy options’ filter on our site to find the food you are looking for. And we’re always looking to add more healthy options so get in touch if you want to work with us and get your food to our hundreds of thousands of JUST EAT customers, get in touch. We'd love o hear from you.”

If you're a healthy food provider, or you want to shout from the rooftops about one that you know and love - don't forget to vote in our new JUST EAT Fit Food Award. This year the Outsider Awards 2016 will feature a JUST EAT Fit Food Award for the first time, which will recognise food providers that create great tasting, healthy food. If you know anyone that fits the bill, please nominate them by emailing with Outsider Awards 2016 in the subject line. The name & contact details for you and your nominee would be really handy too. And yes, you can even nominate yourself!

Have a read about our appeal for shout outs for the Outsider awards here

blog comments powered by Disqus

Most Read

Fit Food: A guide to fast-food the healthy way

As many of us spend more time at work, yet strive to stay healthy and fit by squeezing training and activity into our time-poor worlds, we crave good, quick food on the go. As part of a new Outsider series on quality food, we take a look at this budding world of healthy and wholesome convenience food. The series is to celebrate the new JUST EAT Fit Food Award in the 2016 Outsider Awards