‘I’ve been doing dry January for decades and sometimes I run it into March’

My Daily Diet: Sean Rainbird, director of the National Gallery of Ireland

Peter Barrett of  Aviation Capital and Sean Rainbird of National Gallery of Ireland. Photograph: Shane O’Neill, SON Photographic National Gallery/SMBC Aviation Capital photos

Peter Barrett of Aviation Capital and Sean Rainbird of National Gallery of Ireland. Photograph: Shane O’Neill, SON Photographic National Gallery/SMBC Aviation Capital photos

 

6am I listen to the radio in bed, BBC4 first and RTÉ 1 later on. Twice a week I go to the gym for 45 minutes and have breakfast after. A pot of tea with milk, unsweetened muesli, fruit – usually apples and pears.

8.30am When I get to the office I make a pot of coffee or get some from the gallery cafe if I have an informal meeting there. I might have a snack – the gallery cafe does a very good scone. That’s my caffeine for the day and I switch to herbal tea later on.

1pm My schedule is pretty packed so most days it will be a working lunch, if I have lunch at all. If you are eating out a lot you have to be smart if you don’t want to put on weight. I’m in my fifties now and my metabolism has changed so I don’t need the same amount of food I did 15 years ago. I pick local restaurants like Etto on Merrion Row that serve small but tasty portions. I’ll have a fish option with green vegetables or salad.

I’ve been doing dry January for decades and sometimes I run it into March, even through to Easter some years. Despite all the corporate entertaining I don’t find it a problem. The terrain has really changed and although you may have an occasional glass of wine at lunch in Ireland, it’s rare in the UK and never in the States or Germany, where I worked before coming to Ireland.

I’ll be in bed by midnight, if I’m lucky. I’ve never needed much sleep

8pm The Gallery does a lot of events in the evening. One of the privileges of being the museum director is you can choose the menu so I will often go for meat dishes, which caterers can plan well for. If I’m not having a work supper midweek I’ll have salad, cheese and crackers. I’m not a snacker, although eating peanuts reminds me of growing up in Hong Kong.

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When I go back to London at the weekend I love to cook for my family. I love to do vegetarian curries and I cook a lot of fish, particularly chowders. There is a great fishmonger and amazing Arabic and Asian shops nearby where I pick up my ingredients. We love Middle Eastern food with grains like quinoa, bulgar, spelt and couscous.

Midnight I’ll be in bed by midnight, if I’m lucky. I’ve never needed much sleep. The only time my extended dry January feels strange is when I get back to London at the weekend and will be sitting in the bustling local pub with a mineral water. Then I really miss a pint of bitter.

Peter Barrett, CEO, SMBC Aviation Capital and Sean Rainbird, Director, National Gallery of Ireland. Photograph: Shane O’Neill, SON Photographic National Gallery/SMBC Aviation Capital photos
Peter Barrett, CEO, SMBC Aviation Capital and Sean Rainbird, Director, National Gallery of Ireland. Photograph: Shane O’Neill, SON Photographic National Gallery/SMBC Aviation Capital photos

The Verdict

(by Dr Conor Kerley, dietetics consultant, researcher and lecturer at UCD and Technological University Dublin).

Breakfast Training on an empty stomach is not always ideal but can fit into a lifestyle such as Sean’s. Muesli and fruit provide whole-grains and lots of vitamins. I would add in nuts and/or seeds to bump up the protein.

Lunch Veg or salad with fish is great but proceed with caution with regular fish and chips, which are high in calories, saturated fat and salt. The odd time is fine. Sean, smartly, has decreased his food intake as he is getting older and has cut down on alcohol – we all could learn from these moves.

Dinner Home cooking with fresh ingredients is fantastic. Fish will supply omega 3 and can be a healthier alternative than meat and vegetarian options with plant protein will be lower in saturated fats. There is nothing wrong with an evening salad but the crackers and cheese are high in saturated fat and salt.

Tips Sean could add nuts and seeds to his muesli and alternate hummus on crackers or rye bread instead of cheese.

My Daily Diet series
- Bryan Dobson
- Helen Steele
- Jonathan Forbes
- Mike Ross
Hanif Kureishi
Nuala McGovern

Ellen Cranitch
Ian Marber

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