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Rude Wonders

Ask Away: Independent health store advice on healthy snack foods

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Bernadette Cass, manager of The Fruit ‘N Nut Place in Portlaoise

Busy modern life has meant the loss of spare time for many people. So food is often chosen because it is as easy as possible to get ready. Ideally it should also be good for you, with as little interference as possible. Our mantra is Wholefoods... more nutrients – healthier and happier you!

Health stores are at the forefront of the natural and wholefoods movement and stock wide ranges of healthy nutritious snacks. And it’s not just about taste – these independent health emporiums are the best place for those who are avoiding certain food groups such as gluten or dairy or who wish to make organic choices and buy foods without preservatives.

Ideally you want to look for snacks which offer good quality protein, healthy fats and anti-oxidant power. These are generally found in wholegrains, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, fresh fruit and veg. Ask for advice and read labels to ensure foods do not contain artificial colourings, flavourings and sweeteners or high levels of salt and sugar.


For breakfast ideas chia seeds make a wonderful quick and easy breakfast. Just soak the seeds in water or your milk of choice, and add a pinch of vanilla powder for sweetness. Add blueberries, nuts and seeds and leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning just stir and enjoy.

If you would prefer a flake-type breakfast buckwheat, which is gluten-free, makes a great alternative in the summer instead of hot porridge. Simply soak overnight, rinse well the next morning and add some milk of choice – almond milk is my favourite – add in some fresh berries if you have them, some seeds, a sprinkling of cacao or whatever takes your fancy.

You could also make your own bircher muesli with oats, raisins, seeds of choice and soak in juice overnight.


Smoothies are great – quick and easy any time of the day. If you wanted to add some good quality plant-based protein, chocolate and vanilla flavoured would be one of our most popular. Add some fresh berries, or some nuts or nut butter for your healthy fats, or flaxseed if you wish and ice to make it nice and cold. Then blitz and out the door!

Dried foods

Satisfying lunches and dinners can be made using many different dried ingredients. Why not batch-cook dried beans, which is very economical, and freeze in usable portions, or buy them ready to use for your dish of choice. Kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, aduki beans, butter beans – all make wonderful additions to many different nourishing dishes such as casseroles, stews, curries and soups. Add some dried herbs to the mix when you can’t avail of fresh herbs, some lentils (a good source of iron and magnesium) and some fresh vegetables.


Quinoa salads for summer are speedy too. Quinoa cooks very quickly and is delicious hot or cold. It’s an excellent source of complete protein. Add a stock cube of choice when cooking (low-salt, yeast-free, gluten-free, vegetable) if you want additional flavour.

Couscous is another handy staple to have in the house – just add to the water and cover, add other flavours too like curry with some sundried tomatoes, peppers and onion and you have a really tasty lunch.

Eating on the go

Simple oatcakes and buckwheat crackers make great quick snacks topped with your own hummus – you can make in two minutes using chickpeas, olive oil, lemons, tahini, cumin and garlic.

Simple and easy to make little energy balls made with a nut butter, oats, seeds, raisins and a little syrup are also useful to snack on at any time of the day. Just roll them up and put them in an airtight container ready for the next trip.

Other snack ideas

Crisps – dried and baked vegetable crisps which are low in calories, free from sugar and salt and contribute to your five a day vegetable intake.

Coconut water – a refreshing drink proving popular with sports enthusiasts due to its high potassium and great hydration properties.

Nut butters – spread on oat cakes, wholegrain crackers or crispbreads.

Nuts, seeds and dried fruit – organic options free from preservatives are so quick and handy to eat.

Snack bars – go for those containing pure fruit, oats, nuts and seeds with natural sweeteners such as honey. Some contain super greens and live enzymes for added nutrients. Many are gluten- and dairy-free.

Who's who and what's what at The Fruit N Nut Place

The Fruit ‘N Nut Place has been operating for about 30 years in Lyster Square, in the centre of Portlaoise town, across from the local post office, the two main banks and local coffee shops, butchers and pharmacy. There is parking right outside the door. Manager Bernadette Cass who is also a qualified herbalist and iridologist took over two years ago. Staff are skincare expert Mary Jo Rafferty, Barry Still, a sports therapist, and Aine MacDonald who is training to be a nurse and works Saturdays. Previous owners Stasia and Dick Wellwood opened the shop over 30 years ago and Stasia is on hand when needed and at the end of the phone offering great support.

“The Fruit ‘N Nut Place is about three-quarters food plus supplements and skincare,” says Bernadette. “Lots of experienced cooks and bakers are looking for quality ingredients and condiments which may not be easy to find but can be located in store. Our chilled and frozen section is popular with a new addition being raw cow’s milk from Cloghjordan. We have fresh almond milk, coconut and soya yogurts, fermented foods and dairy-free cheeses. We also sell local honey. Our dried foods include a range range of pulses, nuts and seeds and pastas.

“We stock about seven brands of supplements and have a good range of each. Our beauty section includes haircare, skincare and make-up. We try to stock Irish brands where possible as well as the big names. Our aromatherapy oils are popular and we would sell quite a lot of base oils for people to make their own.

“Eco-cleaning is becoming more popular and we sell pouches and 5-litre containers.

“Many of our customers have been coming in for years and are of all ages. Women shop for their families first then the menopause and bone health. More men are coming in looking for help with joint pains and heart health. A younger generation are becoming interested in raw food and cooking unprocessed foods.”

Visit: The Fruit ‘N Nut Place, Lyster House, Portlaoise
Speak to: Herbalist and irridologist Berndatte Cass, Mary Jo Rafferty who is a real foodie and Barry Still who is trained in sports massage.

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