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Celebrity Health - Finn Ní Fhaoláin

Surf’s up!

Finn Ní Fhaoláin is an avid surfer in Bundoran, Co Donegal who discovered she was a coeliac while a student. Since then she has overhauled her diet and created an impressive range of gluten-free recipes which appear on her blog on and in her new book Finn’s World (Gill)

What sort of exercise do you do to keep in shape?

I live in Bundoran, Co Donegal and love to surf as often as there are waves. This morning there weren’t any waves so I swam lengths in a seawater pool near where I live. I also like running and used to do more powerlifting before I moved to the west coast.

How did getting diagnosed a coeliac change your life?

My grandad found out he was a coeliac about five years before me and his food used to come on prescription from the pharmacy. Things had changed a bit by the time I was diagnosed, but it was difficult at first. I bought all gluten-free foods, but it was expensive and I was a student so I ended up getting a second part-time job to pay for it all. I also experienced a bit of social awkwardness around not being able to order food from a menu when I went out with friends. It is better now – there are more cookbooks and I have developed my own recipes. Restaurants are better too – I have found that most Indian, Japanese and Mexican food is gluten-free.

What sort of foods do you eat to stay healthy?

Everything has to be gluten-free. For breakfast I either go for porridge made with coconut milk, fruit and toasted seeds or I have Danish Brod which I make in batches and slice and freeze (the recipe is in my book). With this I might have eggs and spinach cooked in my Foreman grill. I tend to do batch cooking once or twice a week so that I have gluten-free bread and other foods ready for when I am starving after exercise. For me, lunch and dinner are interchangeable depending on when I went surfing. So I might have something light like soup and Spanish omelette tortilla if I am going surfing later, or if I have exercised I might have something bigger like a tortilla wrap with chicken, mozarella and chimichuri – a home-made salsa with lime, coriander, cumin and garlic. Other meals might be a sweet potato coconut curry with turmeric rice which is great for big gangs of people and is gluten-free, vegan and nut-free. I cook for a living and do private catering for events, for surf and yoga weekends and a healthy barbecue every Saturday for TurfnSurf surf school, hostel and bus tour company.

Do you shop in health stores?

I live in the middle of Donegal, so I would go to both Simple Simon in Donegal town and Tír na nÓg in Sligo town. I buy all my eco cleaning products in health stores, nutritional yeast to put on popcorn (it makes a cheesy topping), rosewater for my skin, coconut oil for cooking and herbal teas. Also quinoa flakes for porridge and adding to home-made protein bars and some protein powders too for when I am surfing a lot in the summer. I freeze hemp juice in ice cube trays, and add it to protein shakes – I’ve noticed an improvement in my skin.

Do you take any natural supplements?

Living in Ireland I think it’s really important to take vitamin D because we just don’t get enough of the right kind of sun. I take two tablets in the morning with eggs. I have a good diet so I don’t really need to take anything else.

Do you ever worry about your health?

I worry a bit about cross-contamination. Being a coeliac, eating in restaurants can sometimes be a risk and I could end up feeling ill. My system is really clean after eight years since my diagnossis, so I tend to get a pretty fast reaction and know what has caused it. If I get unwell I go on a course of strong probiotics. Being a coeliac can affect where you go on holiday and for years I avoided Italy, for example, but when I went there I found it great as every restaurant has gluten-free options.

Do you have any health tips for Rude Health readers?

• Don’t be an all or nothing person and try to cut out a load of things at the same time. Make small changes first and build it up.

• Radical changes to your diet may lead you to becoming overwhelmed, so break it down into manageable stages.

• I have an 80-20 philisophy and aim for balance. I eat really clean at home but if I go out I might have chips or a cake – gluten-free of course!


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