Healthy Living in the North

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Foodie Friday: More than Just a Pot of Soup

As kids, my sister and I spent many a summer day at my grandparents’ house in East Vancouver. We did all sorts of fun things – I remember lots of cards games with grandma, walks to the corner store and grocery shopping trips (turns out I’ve always loved grocery shopping), and helping out in my grandpa’s small but impressive backyard garden (he even had two rows of corn!). Sometimes my two cousins would also be there, which meant endless hours of make believe games, and our annual trip to the PNE for a day filled with rides (and a little cotton candy). But I think my best memories from those summer days came from time spent in the kitchen.

little girl sitting on grandpa's lap

Sitting on my Grandpa Bloudoff’s lap as a child.

My Grandma and Grandpa Bloudoff were of Doukhobor heritage, and this was reflected in many of the delicious foods they would make with us when we visited. We would set up assembly lines to stuff and pinch together homemade perogies, or help mix up the fruit filling for our favourite Russian fruit tarts. But one of my absolute favourite dishes was the borscht my grandparents made. As a kid, I can’t tell you why I loved it – it was just a vegetable soup. It was one of my favourite things to eat when I was at their house and I was so happy when we were sent home with jars of soup to eat later.

Fast forward to my early 20’s, when I decided I wanted to learn how to make this borscht. I had realized their borscht was different – it was tomato based, and didn’t include beets like many other borscht recipes I had seen. I needed to know their secrets! My grandpa didn’t have a recipe written down, so I convinced him we needed to spend an afternoon together where he cooked and I documented all of the ingredients and steps involved. Not only did I learn the recipe, but we also had the opportunity to reconnect as adults- all because of a pot of soup.

Both of my grandparents have since passed, and I’m so grateful to be able to look back on moments like these. Food really is that great connector of culture, relationships, and family. Now when I dig into a big bowl of my grandpa’s borscht, it not only fills my belly with hearty nourishment, but it fills me with family memories and makes me smile.

Grandpa’s Doukhobor Borscht (recipe from EvergreenEats.com)

bowl of borscht

One of my favourite dishes growing up was the borscht my grandparents made.

Makes 10 – 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup green peas (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • 796 mL (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
  • 6 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh dill
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • sour cream or heavy cream, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cover the potatoes with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook until just tender.
  2. Transfer the cooked potatoes to a large bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the cooking water in the pot. Mash the potatoes with 2 tbsp butter and 1/3 of the canned tomatoes.
  3. Turn the heat on the pot up to medium-high. Add the celery, carrots, peas, 1/2 the onions, 1/2 the cabbage, 1/2 the potato/tomato mixture, and 1/2 of the remaining tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt 2 tbsp of butter then add the remaining onions. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until translucent (do not brown them). Add the remaining potato/tomato mixture and remaining tomatoes. Cook another 5 min then add to the pot.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of butter in the skillet, and add the remaining cabbage. Cook until soft, but do not brown, approximately 10 min. Add to the pot.
  6. Add fresh dill to the soup, season with salt & pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream or drizzle of heavy cream if desired.

Notes: If you have other veggies hanging around your fridge or freezer, throw them in. Green beans, peppers, spinach…maybe even some beets!

 

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Foodie Friday: A quick and tasty fall meal (spinach & white bean soup)

Soup

A quick and healthy fall meal that makes for great lunch leftovers, too! Add spinach and white bean soup to your menu this week!

Looking for a quick and tasty meal to whip up this fall? This spinach and white bean soup is a personal favourite of mine simply because it is quick to prepare and makes for easy lunches throughout the week. Also, it’s delicious!

Kidney beans are a healthy and cost effective way to add extra protein into your diet. Just remember to rinse off canned beans under water first to remove the excess salt. Add in all the extra veggies and you are left with a fibre- and protein-packed meal that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.

This recipe calls for orzo, which is a small pasta similar in shape to rice. It can easily be substituted for any other small pasta (or quinoa) that you might have in your kitchen.

Spinach & white bean soup

Adapted from Damn Delicious

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach (or 1/2 cup frozen)
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can (15 oz) white kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots and cook until soft (approximately 5 minutes). Add in garlic and stir one minute longer.
  2. Add in chicken stock, tomatoes, and herbs (thyme, basil, and bay leaves). Bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in orzo. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender (approximately 10 minutes).
  4. Stir in kidney beans and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted. Remove bay leaves before serving and add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

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Foodie Friday: You, too, can enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals during the work week!

Being both a mom and a dietitian, cooking nutritious meals for my family is definitely at the top of my priority list. But it’s not always easy. During the work week, I find it especially difficult to find enough time to prepare and cook healthy, well-balanced meals. Did I mention I live 30 minutes out of town and have to pick up a toddler on the way home? Or that by the time we get home, my son and I are usually starving, tired, and often hangry*? (*See definition below).

Slow cooker recipes are a fantastic, convenient way to bring nutritious homemade meals to your family dinner table.

I’m only a couple years into this whole working-mom-juggling business, but along the way, I have picked up some tricks that help my family put together yummy meals that include at least 3 out of 4 food groups most nights of the week.

Here are some tips I’d like to share:

  • Plan out your protein options for the week. I have found that taking stock of the proteins in my freezer/fridge and having a general idea of what I will make each night takes away a lot of stress. Proteins like beef, pork, moose, chicken, and turkey take 2-3 days to thaw in the fridge (depending on the cut) and require a bit of forward-thinking. Fish and seafood thaw much quicker, usually in a day or less. Eggs are always my go-to if I don’t have anything thawed and ready to go.
  • Prep vegetables on the weekend (or on your days off if you work weekends). Chop up a variety of your favorite vegetables, place in them in a container or bag, and store in the fridge. Now they’re ready to throw into your recipe or eat raw. Our favorite vegetables include bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and spinach (bought pre-washed, no prep required). I usually chop up onions, too, because I cook with them a lot.
  • Keep an assortment of frozen vegetables on hand. Especially in the winter, I make sure to have a variety of vegetables in the freezer. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones and can be steamed or microwaved in 5-10 minutes. Season with olive oil plus lemon pepper (or other herbs) and voila!
  • Invest in a slow cooker. If you haven’t yet discovered or purchased a slow cooker, I highly encourage you to consider it. I like to toss whatever it is I’m making into the slow cooker insert the night before, store it in the fridge overnight, then just plop it into the cooking vessel and turn it on before I leave for work. I also use it to cook just the protein portion of our meal, like a whole chicken and then add vegetables and a side dish separately. Or I use the protein for making soups and stews (see recipe below for one of my favorite slow cooker stews).
  • Plan for leftovers. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of leftovers. But I have to admit that having them at least one night out of the week makes good sense. I also like freezing individual portions of leftovers to pull out for last minute/emergency purposes.
  • Keep it simple. Life is hard enough – let’s keep cooking during the work week simple, colourful, and fun.

I personally feel that if we are eating homemade food most of (and not necessarily all of) the time, then we’re on the right track. Not only will your wallet thank you for cutting down on take out and eating out, but you’ll be setting a great example for your loved ones.

Have some tips to add to my list? Please share by commenting below!

Recipe: Slow Cooker Sausage, Bean and Pasta Stew

Adapted from the Food Network

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3-4 carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 oz dried white beans, such as cannellini, rinsed and picked over OR one 28-oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a piece of kitchen twine
  • 454 g (1 lb) of your favorite sausage (4-6 links)
  • One 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
  • One 4 oz chunk Parmesan rind (optional) plus grated Parmesan, for serving
  • 1/2 cup ditalini pasta (or other small pasta such as orzo)
  • 2-3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Spread the onions over the bottom of a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker and top with the carrots, garlic, white beans, thyme bundle, and sausage links. Mix the diced tomatoes with the broth and 3 cups water and pour over the sausages. Add the Parmesan rind if using.
  2. Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours. Uncover the slow cooker, remove and discard the thyme bundle and Parmesan rind and transfer the sausage links to a cutting board. Stir the pasta into the stew and continue to cook, covered, until the pasta is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat. Cut the sausages into bite-sized pieces and stir into the stew along with the spinach, parsley, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side for sprinkling on top and crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

Tamara’s notes: I do step #1 the night before by placing the ingredients in the insert portion of the slow cooker and keeping it in the fridge overnight. Before I leave for work in the morning, I put the insert into the cooking vessel and turn it on.

*Hangry is defined as “being irritable or angry as a result of hunger”. It’s a real thing.

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Foodie Friday: Celebrating Pack Your Lunch Day!

Did you pack your lunch today? You are in good company – today, March 10th, is National Pack Your Lunch Day! We all look forward to our lunch break – a time to rest and get refreshed for the rest of the day ahead of us. But how often do you spend most of your break time starving, waiting in line to purchase food because you didn’t have time to pack a lunch?

Find more delicious and nutritious recipes like this on Cookspiration.com!

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of packing a healthy lunch (for work or for travel!):

Pros:

  • Healthier: more likely to meet nutrient needs with less fat, sugar, and sodium
  • Less costly and less time spent waiting for food
  • Able to sit and enjoy your meal for 20 minutes and can still have 10 minutes to go on a refreshing walk before it’s time to go back to work

Cons: 

  • Takes planning and time to prep your lunch
  • May not have the right containers or enough variety of food at home
  • Bored of packing the same lunch all the time

Packing a lunch does not have to be a daunting task, but it does take planning! If I can get a head start on packing lunches the day before, then the morning, and day, runs much smoother.

I usually pack 2-3 snacks such as yogurt, homemade muffin, and a fruit. I’ll also pack a healthy balanced meal that includes at least 3 food groups. The easiest choice for me is to pack leftovers from dinner the night before or I may grab something like:

  • A homemade soup (like something I might have frozen a couple months ago) with 3-4 rye crisp breads and 2 tbsp natural peanut butter or sliced cheese
  • Mixed green salad with leftover salmon fillet or a small can of salmon/tuna with chopped peppers, cucumbers and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and whole grain toast and peanut butter.

In celebration of Nutrition Month, I have decided to share one the featured recipes on CookspirationSpiced Yogurt Chicken Tikka. Making this for dinner means I can enjoy leftovers for lunch.

This recipe provides four food groups in one meal. The recipe is also:

  • High in protein
  • High in vegetables including nutritious red peppers, tomatoes, and green vegetables
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the spices

Adding one can of chick peas will help increase the high soluble fibre content in addition to the brown rice! With recipes like this, every day can easily be National Pack Your Lunch Day!

Editor’s note: Cookspiration was created by the Dietitians of Canada to inspire everyone to cook any time, day or night! Recipe ideas are served up to suit your mood and what you’re doing based on the time and day. Check out the website or the app!

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Foodie Friday: Cozy up to your freezer

I love to watch cooking shows on TV. It’s a source of entertainment and culinary inspiration for me. But there is one thing that irks me every time I hear it on those shows – when a chef speaks negatively about cooking with frozen food.

I agree that fresh foods are awesome to cook with. But the reality is most of us don’t have access to all the fresh foods we want all the time. When it comes to healthy eating, frozen is not a 4 letter word (literally and figuratively)!

I think my freezer is actually one of my most used kitchen appliances, following closely behind my fridge and stove. It definitely helps me get healthy and delicious meals on the table in my house at least a few times a week!

cherry smoothie in glass

A combination of BC cherries and chocolate is sure to please your taste buds!

There are 3 ways I like to put my freezer to use:

  1. Vegetables and fruits: I always have a selection of frozen vegetables and fruits in my freezer, so that even if I don’t get to the grocery store, I can make sure to get some produce into my meals. Frozen veggies and fruits are just as nutritious as fresh, are available year round, and have already been washes/chopped/peeled making them super convenient!
  2. Preserving the harvest: Maybe you have a backyard garden, bulk buy at the farmer’s market, go berry picking every summer, or hunt your own game. If you want to enjoy those foods throughout the year you’ll need a way of storing them. Freezing them is a great way to go!
  3. Batch cooking: From soups to casseroles, pizza dough to muffins, I always have some extra ready-to-eat snacks and meals in my freezer. Batch cooking doesn’t take much more effort than cooking a meal for my family of 2, so it’s a no-brainer! These are lifesavers on busy days where I get home late from work and the last thing I want to do is cook.

Because I always have frozen fruits waiting for me in the freezer, I know I can always make a quick breakfast smoothie on my way out the door. Here’s one of my favourites, featuring BC cherries and a hint of chocolate.

Cherry Bomb Smoothie

Serves 1 as a meal or 2 as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen, pitted cherries
  • 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy beverage)
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Splash of vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to your blender. Whiz away until it’s completely blended and smooth. Enjoy!
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Foodie Friday: Give your comfort food a boost!

Plate of macaroni and cheese

Mac & cheese is easy to make from scratch and, with a few tweaks, you can amp up the nutrition and taste!

The snow has been falling and the days are getting shorter. Yes, winter has arrived in northern B.C.! These chilly evenings have me turning to soups, stews, and hearty comfort foods.

Comfort foods often get a bad rap when it comes to nutrition. We often think of comfort foods as being heavy, rich, and lacking in the vegetable department. But there isn’t any good reason they have to be this way. Most classic comfort foods can be easily modified to boost their nutrition and still be warm and satisfying enough for even the coldest winter night.

Mac & cheese is probably one of my favourite comfort food meals to make at home. Not only is it an easy dish to make from scratch, but with only a few little tweaks, you can amp up the nutrition and taste:

  • It’s easy enough to switch out regular macaroni for whole grain pasta to add some extra fibre to your meal.
  • Using an old or aged cheddar allows you to use less cheese while keeping that cheesy flavour.
  • And I always add some vegetables to my mac & cheese to make it a complete meal.

Some great vegetable choices include:

  • steamed cauliflower or broccoli
  • frozen peas or corn
  • sautéed mushrooms
  • puréed butternut squash
  • dark leafy greens, like spinach or kale

Here, I’ve used baby kale in my favourite mac & cheese recipe because it has a more mild flavour than regular kale and it requires less prep. If baby kale isn’t available, you can easily substitute chopped fresh, frozen, or canned kale instead.

Casserole dish with mac & cheese

Marianne’s recipe calls for kale, but cauliflower, broccoli, peas, corn, mushrooms, or squash are all great mac & cheese additions!

Oh Kale Yeah! Mac & Cheese

Recipe from Evergreen Eats

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole grain pasta (such as macaroni, rotini, or penne)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded old cheddar (the older the better!)
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of baby kale, packed
  • 1/2 cup herb and garlic croutons, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cook pasta per package directions, until al dente.
  3. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stir and cook for 1 minute, without browning.
  4. Lower the heat, and gradually whisk in milk. Stir until bubbles form around the edges, and sauce thickens. Do not boil.
  5. Stir in cheddar cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat until pasta is cooked.
  6. Drain pasta, and add it to the cheese sauce, along with the baby kale. Stir until combined and kale has wilted slightly. Transfer to baking dish, and top with crushed croutons.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until top is crispy and golden brown.

Notes:

  • No croutons? No problem! You can use breadcrumbs, panko, or even crushed crackers or a few potato chips.
  • As the cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce are all salty, taste your sauce before adding any extra salt – you might find you don’t need it!
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Foodie Friday: Eating foods you love!

Caesar salad in a bowl.

For registered dietitian Beth, the “good vs. bad” food debate is getting old! “A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you.” Love kale? Try it as part of your next Caesar salad.

As a registered dietitian, I talk about food a lot, whether it’s with my clients, friends, family, or even on occasion with random strangers. Time after time, the “good food vs. bad food” theme (“healthy vs. unhealthy”) arises. Usually people start the conversation with statements like this:

  • “I only eat gluten-free bread, that’s healthy right?” (Gee, I missed the memo on that one)
  • “I eat a banana with my yogurt at breakfast – that’s bad, right, because bananas have a lot of sugar?” (They do?)
  • “Sometimes we eat chips but I know that’s bad.” (Not if you enjoyed them!)
  • “I force myself to eat kale because I heard that it’s healthy, but I don’t like the taste of it.” (That does not sound like fun.)
  • “I don’t eat anything white.” (Oh, so no cauliflower or halibut for you?)

People, people! A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you!

Yes, kale is a healthy food, but what’s so special about it? Nothing, really. It’s just like any of the other leafy greens and, when eaten regularly and with a variety of other foods, it will give you some vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that your body needs to keep well. And if you like the taste of kale and love eating it, all the better! I happen to enjoy eating kale, but if I didn’t, I can tell you how unhappy I would be if I had to eat it only because it’s “good for me.”

Eating is a lot easier than that! I choose when, what, and how much I eat based on what my body is telling me that I need for that particular time. I choose foods based on flavour, a variety of textures and tastes, and how hungry I feel. This means I include a wide range of foods that will meet my nutrition needs and satisfy my cravings. I do not choose what to eat based on the latest health trends or food fads and I certainly do not buy in to the good versus bad debate.

Speaking of kale, are any of you wondering what to do with all that kale you are getting out of your garden right now? Or, if you do not have a garden, then the kale your neighbours keep giving you?

Here is a list of ideas:

  • Steam it and serve it with a little olive oil and lemon juice sprinkled on top.
  • Substitute it in your favorite quiche or frittata recipe.
  • Make the all famous kale chips (a hit at my house).
  • Chop it up and add to your favourite summer pasta recipe.
  • Cook it up and freeze it for later to throw in a smoothie with frozen berries for a cool summer treat.
  • Mix it up with beans, some cooked quinoa, and roasted vegetables.
  • Add it to soups and stews.

Here’s a recipe that I adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon that adds an interesting twist to Caesar salad. It’s also a great way to use up some of that kale this time of year!

Caesar Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Salad

  • One large bunch of kale, torn in to bite-sized pieces
  • One head of romaine, torn in to bite-sized pieces
  • Croutons (optional)

Instructions

  1. Soak the almonds in water for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
  2. Cut off the top of the garlic head to expose the raw cloves. Cover in foil and bake in the oven at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and golden. Let cool.
  3. Squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins and into a food processor.
  4. Add the soaked almonds, oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and ¼ cup of water. Process until smooth.
  5. Place lettuce and kale in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. If you like a bit of a crunch, add some croutons.
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Foodie Friday: Quinoa, have you tried it?

Quinoa and peas

Quinoa is easy, versatile, and packs a nutritional punch! Don’t be intimidated by this relatively new ingredient!

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is one of those foods that many of us had never heard of just a few years ago but now, we see it everywhere! In talking to people, I find there are many who aren’t sure what to do with quinoa or how to cook it.

Quinoa is very versatile, easy to prepare, and delicious; it can be eaten either hot or cold. You can use quinoa to make a hot cereal dish in the morning, use it as a side dish, use it in soups or salads, or make it the base of stews or chili. One of the big benefits of quinoa is that it cooks a lot quicker than other whole grains like brown rice, so it can be a great choice for those time-crunched days.

So, what is quinoa and what are its benefits?

Quinoa is native to South America and is a seed, although we generally use it like a grain in cooking. Quinoa is a good source of fibre, folate, protein, phosphorus, copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Quinoa comes in white, red, and black varieties and the cooking time varies slightly between the varieties. It has a slightly nutty taste but is overall mild. I love quinoa for its ease of cooking and use it regularly!

Try this quinoa recipe to make a tasty side dish. Leftovers can easily be stored in the fridge for a couple days. They also freeze well for use later.

Quinoa with Peas

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter/margarine
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¾ cup frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp parsley

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the quinoa and cook 2 minutes until toasted.
  2. Pour in the chicken broth and add the onion, garlic, thyme and pepper. Cover and let come to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, add in the frozen peas. Re-cover; reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Continue simmering until the quinoa is tender and has absorbed the chicken stock, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  5. Stir in the parsley and enjoy.
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Quality counts! 3 tips for Nutrition Month

Last week, dietitians Marianne & Rebecca provided some tips to get you ready for a 100 meal journey.

Did you have the chance to think about what your small, nourishing changes could be?

If you’re still looking for positive, easy changes to make to your eating habits, for Week 2 of Nutrition Month, we suggest looking at quality! Get clever with your cooking, swap in nutrient-rich choices to stay energized, and more!

Here are Rebecca & Marianne’s favourite tips for this week.

Berry smoothie

What small steps can you take to bump up the quality of your meals and snacks? How about a super smoothie for breakfast?

Tip #1: Jump-start your day! Power through your morning by eating a good breakfast.

A nourishing breakfast gives you a fuel boost plus protein and fibre to help you stay alert and avoid mid-morning munchies.

In a hurry?

  • Blend frozen berries, yogurt and milk for a super smoothie. Make it even better with baby spinach and ground flax.
  • Wrap peanut butter, a banana and trail mix in a whole-grain tortilla for a portable, crunchy breakfast.

Have time?

  • Make a burrito with scrambled egg, lentils or soft tofu, sautéed red pepper, avocado and salsa wrapped in a warm tortilla.
  • Top French toast with yogurt, sunflower seeds and warm sautéed apple slices.

For more breakfast inspiration, visit Cookspiration.

Plate of roasted sweet potatoes

Don’t think of them as leftovers – think of them as “planned extras”! Are you roasting sweet potatoes for dinner? Add a few more and layer them on whole-grain bread for a delicious and nutritious lunch!

Tip #2: Forget the food court! Pack good food fast with “planned extra” leftovers for lunch.

Packing lunch is a healthy, budget-friendly habit. Keep it simple: reinvent “planned extra” leftovers for a lunch that’s way better than the food court. Try these tasty ideas:

  • Cook extra chicken for dinner. For lunch, wrap chicken in soft tacos, with crunchy cabbage and shredded carrots, a sprinkle of feta and big squeeze of juicy lime.
  • Roast extra root veggies. Layer them on crusty whole grain bread with hummus and baby spinach for a scrumptious sandwich.
  • Toss extra cooked whole wheat pasta, couscous or barley with pesto, cherry tomatoes, lentils and small cheese chunks for a protein-packed salad.

The Dietitians of Canada have lots of creative ways to cook with leftovers.

Tip #3: Clever cooking! Flavour food with tangy citrus, fresh herbs and fragrant spices.

There are lots of simple ways to cook healthy without sacrificing taste. Try these tips to add flavour to meals:

  • Add pizzazz to plain grains and pulses by cooking barley, brown rice or lentils in low-sodium broth.
  • Stir ½ to 1 cup of canned pumpkin or mashed sweet potato into muffin batter for a veggie boost.
  • Make a luscious mashed potato with roasted garlic, a little olive oil and warm milk.
  • Purée vegetable soups, such as potato, sweet potato or broccoli, with low-sodium broth for deliciously creamy texture and taste.

For delicious recipes with a healthy twist, visit Healthy Families BC.

What small steps can you take to bump up the quality of your meals and snacks?


These tips are adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month and join other Canadians on a 100 Meal Journey at nutritionmonth2016.ca.

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Localize your lunch

Frozen berries, preserved produce, deer chops, and squash on a counter.

Adding local food like deer chops, squash, berries, or beets depends on where you live and a few other factors but there are some preservation tips and seasonal produce that can keep you lunching local all year round!

There’s something neat about eating local food. Somehow food that you have grown, fished, hunted, gathered, or gotten from someone you know is just … better.

But why does it seem better? Pop quiz!

  1. Do you feel a sense of pride and self-reliance in growing, getting or “putting up” your own food?
  2. Do you feel local food is somehow more real, more nourishing, and more satisfying?
  3. Do you value food travelling fewer “food miles”?
  4. Are you pumped about supporting your local producers and community members?
  5. Do you appreciate knowing where your food comes from?
  6. Do you enjoy the social aspects of local food and the learning that is shared?
  7. All of the above.

For me, it’s “all of the above,” but if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, that sounds like a good enough reason to include some local yumminess in your lunches!

How can we pack local foods into our lunch bags? What we have available to us depends on many variables: where we live, our personal connections, our food storage equipment, and our skills and knowledge.

Here are a few ideas from my own kitchen in Terrace:

  • My favourite lunch is simply leftovers from dinner (I mean, if I’m going to cook a great meal, I better get a couple meals out of it, right?). At this time of year, we are working through the last of our local food supplies so dinner, and therefore lunch, might include Haida Gwaii deer, Remo Harvest potatoes (maybe garlic mashed potatoes?), and home canned beets (topped with no-so-local feta cheese and olive oil).
  • There are still a couple of squashes on my counter, and while their fate is not yet sealed, I suspect they will make an appearance in a future lunch in the form of a creamy squash soup or spiced squash muffins.
  • The cherries and berries in my freezer might be reincarnated into a fruit crisp that would make a nice mid-morning snack at work.
  • There’s still a wee bit of jarred salmon that might be nice to have on crackers – an easy snack or lunch to pack when I’m hastily scrambling to work.

Oh, dear! All this writing about food is making me hungry! Better go take a peek at what I’ve got in my lunch today! I hope there’s something local in there!

For more ideas and inspiration, consider checking out the following resources:


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

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