Croí’s Top Tips for Stress Management

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It is important to recognise that stress is part and parcel of our daily lives, especially with COVID-19, and while it cannot be avoided we can learn to deal with it. While the link between stress and cardiovascular disease is not well understood, we know that stress impacts on the blood clotting mechanism, it increases your blood pressure and when you are stressed you are more likely to lead an unhealthy lifestyle. For example as a coping mechanism people are more likely to increase their caffeine intake, smoke more cigarettes and drink more alcohol and be less active when they are stressed.

  • Be aware of what causes your stress. Being aware of this this gives you the opportunity to try to prevent stress or to manage the situation more effectively. You may not be able to avoid stress, but knowing what triggers you to become stressed can help you manage it differently.
  • Manage your time. Develop a system that works for you, not against you. Learn to prioritise, make lists and praise yourself for getting through the various tasks.
  • Try to create a good work-life balance. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and downtime.
  • Learn to accept what you cannot change. For example we cannot control other people behaviours or reactions.
  • Have a laugh every day. Rigid thinking and behaviour is a prime source of stress, whereas laughter can uncork the pressure and release built up tension. Laughing also helps us get a better perspective on the problem and tends to make us feel more lighthearted.
  • Keep a worry diary. Using a worry diary can help calm the mind by getting worries out of your head, allowing you to see them from a distance. Write out each worry, your feelings and fears, how likely it is to happen and your evidence for and against your worry coming true.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can help tackle stress and allow your body and mind to unwind, as well as releasing endorphins into the body (feel good hormones).
  • Try relaxation exercises and mindfulness. With regular practice, exercises such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation can help to reduce stress.
  • Eat and sleep well. Eating and sleeping well will help manage stress more effectively.
  • Build a range of supports. Building up a range of supports is important in managing stress. It can be beneficial to accept help from others, share your worries with someone you trust as the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

Finally, remember be patient with yourself, gaining control over stress can take time.

Turkey Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries

Recipe from Croí Lead Dietitian, Suzanne Seery

Eating out can be a social and fun experience with family or friends and is one of the things that many people are missing at this time. Our Dietitians have a series of heart healthy ‘fakeaway’ takeaway recipes that the whole family can get involved in preparing, with the added benefits of being low in saturated fats, full or fibre and a good source of lean protein. Enjoy!

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes


Turkey Burger with Sweet Potato Fries Recipe


Ingredients for turkey burgers:

  • 400g turkey mince
  • 1/2 red pepper finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1-2 cups frozen peas/petit pois
  • 1 cup brown bread breadcrumbs
  • 2–3 dessert spoons of olive oil
  • Chili powder & black pepper
  • 1 chili (optional)

Ingredients for Sweet Potato fries:

  • 2 large or 4 small sweet potatoes
  • Salt, black pepper and paprika to season
  • Olive oil
  • Low fat Crème Fraîche (optional for serving)

Side Salad:

  • 8 handfuls of spinach
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 pack of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced (red or white)
  • Dressing: 1 part olive oil to 2 parts lemon juice and pinch of cracked black pepper.
  • Drizzle dressing over salad and serve


Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Sweet Potato Fries:

  • Chop the sweet potatoes in half and slice length ways.
  • Place on an unlined baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper and paprika, tossing well so that all the wedges are coated with the oil and seasoning.
  • Cook in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are brown and crisp.

Turkey Burgers:

  • In a large bowl, combine the minced turkey, onion, red pepper, egg,  garlic, lemon zest, frozen peas, breadcrumbs and olive oil.
  • Mix really well – you may need to get your hands in! Once combined, make into four equal-sized patties.
  • Place the burgers on the lined baking tray and cook in the oven alongside the sweet potatoes for 20 to 30 minutes, until cooked through.
  • Serve the burgers with sweet potato fries and side salad and a dollop of low fat crème fraîche if you like.

Kids Pizza Quesadillas

Recipe from Croí's Dietitian

Looking for are a healthy meal for all the family that’s ready in under 15 minutes? These fuss-free pizza quesadillas or “pizzadillas” are a fun way to get the kids involved hands-on in the kitchen. When children are included in preparing or choosing meals, they are more interested in eating what they’ve created. With just 3 basic ingredients, let them use their creative flare to customize their own with various toppings. Remember children need supervision at all times in the kitchen and an adult should take charge frying the quesadillas.

Dietitians tip: This is a wonderful way to encourage tasting new vegetables. The more colourful the better!

Serves: 2

Prep time: 15 mins

Approximate nutritional value (per pizzadilla, not including additional toppings): 330 kcalories, 41g carbohyrdrates, 12g protein, 13g fat.


Kids Pizza Quesadillas Recipe


  • 4 kids sized wholegrain wraps
  • ~ 4 tbsp. marinara or tomato-based pasta sauce
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese

Filling suggestions:

  • Leftover chicken + sweetcorn + chopped peppers
  • Sliced ham + cooked mushrooms
  • Red/yellow peppers + torn spinach
  • Switch to mozzarella cheese + baby tomatoes
  • Leftover cooked broccoli + chicken


  • Use the wholegrain wrap as your base.
  • Using the back of a spoon in a circular motion, spread 1-2 tbsp of the tomato-based sauce onto your wrap. You can use less sauce if you prefer but be careful not to add too much or it will spill out while cooking.
  • Sprinkle on half of the grated cheese.
  • Add the filling of your choice – get as creative as you like!
  • Place the second wrap on top and press gently to keep the pizzadilla together
  • Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a frying pan and fry the quesadilla for 2-3 minutes each side until it begins to turn golden brown.
  • Slice into pizza-like wedges and enjoy!

We would love to see your pizzadilla creations so send us a picture and we will share your designs! Why not use different veggies to making a face? Just make sure to take a picture before the top wrap goes on!!


Other Home Workouts!

Workout with our Croí Instructors

Vicky Harkin Yoga for Croí

#2 Chen Tai Chi Ireland Niall O Floinn Online Classes - Beginners Level 1 Revision Week 9-10

#4 Tai Chi Ireland /Brasil Niall O Floinn and Abel Cezar Bento - Beginners level 2 rev. week 9-10

#1 Chen Tai Chi Ireland Niall O Floinn Online Classes - Beginners Level Week 1-8

#3 Chen Tai Chi Ireland Niall O Floinn Online Classes - Beginners Level 2 week 1-8

Disclaimer for online videos: Performing these exercises is at your own risk. Croí cannot be held responsible or liable for any injury or harm incurred while exercising using the online resources provided on our website. Those unaccustomed to exercise or with special health considerations should consult their medical practitioner before performing any exercise.

Baked Hake with Mediterranean Vegetables


This is a wonderfully light yet satisfying, healthy fish dinner. It is so quick and simple to make and there are plenty of substitutions you could use depending on what you have to hand. Hake has a delicate taste that’s not overpowering so can be a great fish for all the family.

Dietitian’s tip: It’s always a good tip to roast more vegetables than needed and use them in other dishes throughout the week.

Serves: 2 people

Prep time: 25mins

Nutrition value per portion: 400 calories; 37g carbs; 28g protein; 13g fat; 7g fibre

Baked Hake with Mediterranean Vegetables Recipe


  • 2 x 125g fillets of hake (fresh or frozen)
  • 300g new baby potatoes
  • 1 medium or 2 small red onions
  • 1 large red/orange bell pepper
  • 1/3 of an aubergine
  • 1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
  • Plenty of chopped parsley (fresh or dried)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tsp of reduced fat spread
  • Black pepper


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180* C.
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice the red onion into wedges and the pepper into chunks.
  3. Slice discs of the aubergine about 3 inches in thickness and score them with a crisscross design. Chop the clove of garlic and press the pieces into the crosses.
  4. Place all of the chopped vegetables onto a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and place in the pre-heated oven for 25 mins.
  5. Meanwhile place the baby potatoes into a saucepan, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 mins or until cooked through.
  6. Wrap each fish fillet in some tinfoil, with a drizzle of olive oil, some parsley, black pepper and lemon juice if you wish. You could also add some crushed garlic if you like.
  7. Place the fish parcels into the oven 5-10 mins after the vegetables. You will know the fish is fully cooked through when it is white through and flakes easily. It will take about 15 mins.
  8. Drain the potatoes and add the butter and parsley.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

A message from Neil Johnson, Croí Chief Executive

To all our Croí community,

I hope you and your family are keeping safe and well in these very challenging times, and that you are also managing to cope with all the distressing and frightening news and stories we seem to be bombarded with on a daily basis. Remember, by following the advice and guidance from reputable sources such as we will all come through this as a stronger and better community.

It has been over 3 weeks since we had to cease all our face-to-face programmes, classes and literally all our fundraising activities. The Croí Heart & Stroke Centre in Galway is now closed to visitors. Following the government directive, all the Croí Team are now working from home and on a daily basis are doing everything we can to support those who need us most at this time.

Our helpline (091-544310) is open Monday to Friday 09:00 -17:30 where you can call for advice or guidance from our health team and get to speak to a Nurse Specialist, Dietitian, Physiotherapist or Exercise Specialist. If you have a more general query or need general advice or assistance, any member of our team will gladly speak to you and if necessary collectively ‘Team Croí’ will do whatever we can to support or assist you. Even if it’s only for a chat because you or a loved one is feeling lonely or isolated, be sure to call us. Equally, you can email us anytime at

On a daily basis, our team is updating reliable COVID-19 information and advice on our website, and on our social media channels, @croiheartstroke. We are also generating very useful lifestyle resources and tips on such things as exercise, cooking, eating, stress management, etc.

With our changed way of working, the Croí building effectively became empty. As we are located so close to the hospital, we offered it to the HSE as a gesture of support in the fight against coronavirus. So from Monday, March 30th, the building is now being used as a regional contact tracing centre. Similarly, the Croí Apartments – our support accommodation centre which is normally made available to relatives of those in hospital receiving emergency cardiac or stroke care – can no longer be used for their purpose as visitors are no longer allowed in the hospital. Accordingly, we are making the apartments available to the ICU staff at Galway University Hospital who are on the frontline and who cannot stay at home with their families due to infection risks.

This national emergency is putting a strain on everyone and Croí is no different. COVID-19 is presenting serious challenges for us operationally and financially. Because we rely on our own revenue generating activity, all our income streams have effectively been decimated. To those who are still managing to make donations and pledges, we are hugely grateful. Our biggest challenge is trying to keep our team employed so that we can respond to the many needs of those we are here to support and also to be able to continue our work after the crisis . I must commend each and every one of the Croí Team who have risen to the challenge, instantly adapting to our changed environment and remaining 100% committed to our vision and purpose. I am proud to work with such a dedicated group of professionals.

They say that a crisis brings out the best in people and we are experiencing that right now. To our volunteers, donors, sponsors, partners and collaborators – each of you also facing your own challenges and uncertainties at this time – we offer our heartfelt thanks for your continued support and encouragement. We fully understand and appreciate that many of you are now unable to support us financially and this is likely to be so for a number of months to come. If, however, your circumstances allow and you are in a position to make a donation, please visit with the assurance that your contribution will immediately help those who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

With sincere and grateful thanks.

Stay safe and well,

Neil Johnson
Croí’s Chief Executive

Freezer Friendly Foods

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Making the most out of your freezer is a great way to keep a well-stocked kitchen while minimizing food waste. A well stocked freezer also serves to reduce the frequency of supermarket trips.

Traditionally frozen foods have been viewed as processed or seen as less healthy, however, these days there is so much choice when it comes to frozen healthy food as well as many fresh foods which freeze surprisingly well!

Here are our top tips to healthy, freezer friendly foods and two useful kitchen skills explained.


Here is how to blanch vegetables before freezing. Blanching is a process in which you boil or steam vegetables briefly until they are partially cooked. It is an essential step before freezing many vegetables like starchy vegetables (such as potato, sweet potato, carrots and parsnips).

  1. Place the chopped vegetables in a saucepan of cold water.
  2. Put in on the stove over a high heat until boiling.
  3. Once boiling, remove from the heat and run under cold water to cool.
  4. Place the blanched vegetables into freezer bags or containers and place in the freezer.

Tray freeze:
Use this method for freezing your own fruit and non-starchy vegetables without them clumping together.

  1. Chop your veg and lay flat in one layer on a baking tray.
  2. Place in the freezer.
  3. Once frozen you can transfer to Tupperware boxes and pop back into the freezer.

Frozen vegetables are equally as nutritious as fresh vegetables. Where they can differ is in texture with some being more suitable for freezing than others. Generally speaking vegetables with a higher water content don’t freeze as well and certain vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus can become stringy in texture. Aside from the usual: frozen peas, sweet corn and mixed veg, there are so many other vegetables that can be frozen to help make life that bit easier! Starchy vegetables (such as potato, sweet potato, carrots and parsnips) freeze best when blanched before freezing.

Diced onion:
A great idea for those who want to avoid the tears and save themselves from all that chopping! You can buy bags of frozen chopped onion and add to dishes as needed where they will quickly defrost while cooking.

Sliced peppers freeze very well and can then be thrown into a wok or saucepan as needed where they will defrost while cooking.

Stir-fry mix:
Whether shop bought or freeze at home, thinly sliced peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, sweet corn and beansprouts all work well.

While frozen spinach won’t make for a great salad, it works well in cooked dishes such as pasta, casseroles or soups.

Tomato-based sauces:
With or without vegetables, these freeze really well. Simply defrost and serve with chicken or fish for a heart healthy meal with minimal effort.

Berries freeze especially well as do grapes. Frozen berries can then be added into warm porridge, grapes can be eaten frozen and bananas added to smoothies.

While you can freeze avocados, it does change the texture of them. They are best used from frozen for sauces or smoothies rather than on toast, for example.

Frozen fish is convenient, less expensive and just as tasty as fresh fish.  Salmon, cod, hake, plaice and prawns are just some of the options available to us. Try to avoid breaded or battered fish and instead opt for plain or lightly seasoned. You can bake it in the oven straight from frozen with lemon and herbs and serve with vegetables and potatoes for a delicious, heart healthy meal.

Pre-cut slices of lemons or limes can be frozen and then used to add to dishes such as baked chicken or fish. Lemon juice can be frozen in an ice-cube tray and the cubes added to dishes or to a refreshing glass of water.

Fresh herbs like parsley, coriander and mint can be easily frozen and cut as needed. Alternatively you can freeze them with a little water in an ice-cube tray. Fresh ginger can be frozen and easily grated into dishes as needed. Chopped garlic can also be frozen which is a great time-saver. Equally you can buy herbs and spices frozen, however it is generally more cost effective to do so yourself.

Yes, potatoes can be frozen! It’s best to chop to your desired size and avoid using very large potatoes. Blanch them first then place them in the freezer. You can then microwave, fry, bake or boil them from frozen with reduced cooking time. A great idea to pre-prepare homemade wedges.

It’s best to slightly under-cook rice that you intend to freeze as otherwise it can crumble. Use the tray freeze method to freeze in one layer in zip-lock bags which will then defrost in very little time and can easily be added to dishes as needed.

While some of us freeze bread regularly, most of us defrost it by the loaf which then has to be used in a couple of days. To reduce waste why not store your bread in the freezer and defrost slices as you need them?

Beans and lentils:
You can make a whole bag of dried beans or lentils at once, let them cool and then divide into zip-lock bags and store them in the freezer. When you’re ready to use them, smack the bag on the counter a few times to loosen and add directly to whatever you’re making. For best results, under cook them slightly initially and they’ll cook a little more in whatever dish you add them to.

Home baking:
With more time at home, you may be finding yourself with more homemade treats like cakes, biscuits or buns. A great way to ensure you enjoy the treats in moderation without overindulging is to freeze some to have for later. This was you won’t feel tempted to finish them off while they are still fresh!

Many soups, stews, casseroles, chilies, curries, burgers and meatballs (raw or cooked) and pancakes (defrost in the toaster) are all popular, freezer friendly meals. Milk, raw egg (not in its shell), butter, cheese and nuts can all be frozen as well.


Foods to avoid freezing:

  • Cream-based soups
  • Fried foods
  • Vegetables with a high water content such as cucumber and cabbage
  • Fully cooked rice or pasta
  • Hard boiled eggs.

For advice on food safety while freezing please visit Safe Food.

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Aerobic Chair Workout At Home

Croí chair-based aerobic workout

Aerobic exercise, as described in our Aerobic Workout at Home page, is any exercise that uses your arms and legs for a continuous period of time such as walking, cycling and swimming. Aerobic exercise can also be performed from a chair. You can achieve the same heart rate rising mechanisms in this manner but for those who have functional limitations and/or chronic conditions such as HF or COPD it may be a better starting point for your exercise programme.

Diet and Immune System

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Can diet help ‘boost’ our immune system to fight COVID-19?

While it is true that poor nutrition can hamper your ability to fight off illness and infection, it is misleading to think that a special food, nutrient or supplement can “boost” your immune system. There are many products being heavily promoted as “immune boosters”, however immunology is complex and there are no supplements or natural health products approved to treat or protect against the COVID-19 virus.

Alongside a healthy sleep pattern, regular physical activity and stress management strategies, now more than ever is a good time to develop a healthy eating routine.

A Balanced Diet

Following the key points below for a healthy balanced and varied diet with adequate energy and protein intake is important to best support your immune system and overall heart health.

  • Aim for 5 – 7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (aim to include at every meal)
  • Choose brown and wholegrain versions of carbohydrates
  • Include 2 servings of lean protein per day e.g. fish, lean red meat and poultry, peas, beans, lentils and eggs)
  • Stay hydrated with water as your main fluid source
  • Limit high sugar/fat/salt foods to a few times per week

Below, we will take you through some of the key nutrients found in a balanced diet one and highlight the role they pay in supporting your immune system to work properly.

Click the image to download the Healthy Ireland Food Pyramid.
Click the image to download the Healthy Ireland Food Pyramid.

7 key nutrients for a healthy immune system

Protein is important for many bodily functions such as healing and repair and maintaining healthy muscle mass. It also has a role in the formation of antibodies that fight infection and disease.  Protein foods can be animal based such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy or plant based such as peas, beans, lentils, tofu and nuts. Vary your protein sources, choose lean meats and poultry and limit processed red meats to keep your diet low in saturated fat. Include fish twice a week one of which is oily such as salmon, mackerel, trout or sardines (tinned or fresh).


This vitamin is ace at supporting your immune system! It helps maintain the structure of the cells in the skin, respiratory tract and gut. It acts as an anti-oxidant which is kind of like anti-rust protection for our bodies cells, keeping them strong and ready to fight infection. Beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body is found in leafy greens, yellow and orange vegetables like pumpkin and carrots.


Vitamin E is also a powerful anti-oxidant and is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. It is also found in avocados and vegetable oils such as sunflower and rapeseed oil and nuts and seeds including: almonds, hazelnuts and pumpkin. Why not try adding a handful of nuts or seeds to your cereal or using rapeseed oil in cooking and salad dressings.


Habitual vitamin C supplementation may help with the common cold by reducing severity and duration (>200mg/day) however we don’t know if this transfers to viruses. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for most adults is 80mg which is easily achieved through a balanced diet. Foods rich in vitamin C include bell peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and berries. Fresh and frozen are equally as nutritious. While vitamin C supplementation up to 1000mg/day won’t do you any harm, excess consumption can result in stomach pain and diarrhoea.


Vitamin D works with calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones, muscles and teeth. Vitamin D also helps to regulate our immune responses and a recent review of the research found that vitamin D supplements can help protect against acute respiratory infections, particularly among people who are deficient.

This is one vitamin where supplementation is recommended, although we can make vitamin D in the skin through direct sunlight, in Ireland the sunlight isn’t strong enough between March and October. We can get some vitamin D from diet as it is found in foods such as eggs, salmon and fortified milk but typically we don’t consume enough of these foods to meet our needs. Taking a 10 micrograms per day supplement is recommended for adults and children over the age of one year. With the social isolation precautions our time outdoors may be restricted a bit more and so supplementation is more important than ever.


Zinc helps the immune system to work properly and plays a role in wound healing. The immune system works well when we consume the recommended daily allowance of zinc which is 10mg / day. It is rare to be deficient in zinc as it is present in a wide range of foods including; lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, fortified breakfast cereals, beans, seeds and nuts.


Selenium is involved in the normal function of the immune system. Good sources include Brazil nuts (5-6 Brazil nuts provide an adults daily needs) fish and seafood, brown rice, baked beans, sunflower seeds and oats are also good sources.


Most importantly, please remember that correct and frequent hand washing is your first line of defense and to continue to physically distance yourself as much as possible to break the chain of transmission. For more information check out the HSE website.

Aerobic Workout at Home

Aerobic Exercise

Exercises to get your heart rate rising!

Here is a video of a sample aerobic exercise session that includes a warm up, main phase and cool down.

Aerobic exercise describes any exercise that uses your arms and legs for a continuous period of time such as walking, cycling, swimming or a cardio exercise class. Aerobic exercise strengthens our heart and lungs. This type of exercise has consistently been shown to positively affect our cardiovascular health; improving blood pressure, blood sugar control, cholesterol levels and body weight. It is also associated with a whole host of other health benefits including a significant reduction in the risk of bowel and breast cancer.

In order to avail of these health outcomes it is important that you adhere to what we refer to in exercise as the FITT guidelines:

Frequency (How many days per week do I need to engage in this type of exercise)

      • 5-7 days/week

Intensity (How hard do I need to be working when I’m exercising)

      • Moderate

Time (How long should I exercise for)

      • 30-60 minutes per session. This is a target. If you are currently inactive, begin with 10 minutes and build up.

Type (Examples of aerobic exercise)

      • Regular, purposeful exercise that involves major muscle groups and is continuous and rhythmic in nature (i.e. walking, cycling).

These guidelines tell you how many days a week you should be doing aerobic exercise and also how long each aerobic session should last. Most importantly the guidelines state that your aerobic exercise should be of a moderate intensity. A rule of thumb is that you can say a sentence but perhaps not engage in a full conversation when you are completing your aerobic exercise.

The 30-60 minutes duration of an aerobic session does not include a warm up and cool down. These are important components of your aerobic exercise session. You should start slow and gradually build up the intensity of the warm up phase to ensure your heart and muscles are fully prepared for the main conditioning phase (moderate intensity). Similarly, it is very important to cool down after the conditioning phase. This involves gradually reducing the intensity of your efforts until your breathing and heart rate are almost at a pre-exercise level. See the above diagram for guidance on timings and intensities for a full aerobic exercise session.

Disclaimer for online videos: Performing these exercises is at your own risk. Croí cannot be held responsible or liable for any injury or harm incurred while exercising using the online resources provided on our website. Those unaccustomed to exercise or with special health considerations should consult their medical practitioner before performing any exercise.

Need some help or have a question?

The Croí Health Team is here as always if you need support. Contact us by email at or call 091-544310.

See more home workout videos below!