Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Build your own quick and tasty wraps (and enjoy more time outdoors!)

The sun is shining, the temperatures are rising, and it finally feels like summer is just around the corner! The longer days mean that there is plenty of time to enjoy an outdoor adventure after work, or a BBQ with friends and family.

For me, a new puppy at home has made life that much more exciting (and busy)! Many of my evenings are spent romping in our backyard. In true puppy form, our little Arlo adores ripping up moss, jumping in our strawberry patch, and digging in the dirt. Our poor little strawberry plants!

Dog in strawberry patch with person watching while eating a wrap.

Arlo the puppy enjoys digging up strawberries while dietitian Emilia gets to enjoy her wrap.

I’ve also noticed that more time playing outside means less time spent in the kitchen. Luckily, I know that eating well does not need to be fancy or complicated. Takes wraps, for example! They are one of my favourite on-the-go meals and I’ve been enjoying them a lot lately. With so many combinations to choose from, this super quick and easy meal is sure to be a family favourite.

To get started, try building your own wrap by mixing and matching items from the following categories:

  • Wrap: tortilla, pita, or roti (a type of flatbread popular in India). Choose whole wheat wraps for added fibre and nutrition.
  • Protein: canned or cooked fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, pork, or beef (I like using leftover hamburger patties or roast chicken), shrimp, hummus, beans, or tofu.
  • Toppings: lettuce, spinach (I often buy the ready-to-eat bags), shredded carrots, avocado, sliced red peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, apple, or pineapple.
  • Cheese (optional): cheddar, mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese, or another favourite.
  • Condiments: mayo, mustard, pesto, salsa, hot sauce, etc.

Here are just a few of my favourite wrap/pita combos:

  • Jarred or smoked fish, lettuce, cucumber, and mayo
  • Hardboiled egg, chopped green onion, tomato, and mayo
  • Black beans or leftover ground meat, cheddar cheese, and red pepper with salsa and Greek yogurt
  • Chicken or turkey, sliced apples, cheese, spinach, and honey mustard
Wraps

Dilly salmon wraps are one of hundreds of wrap combinations that you can try! Just mix and match from Emilia’s list!

Dilly Salmon Wraps

Ingredients

Wraps

  • 1 cup salmon (jarred, canned, or leftover salmon fillet)
  • 4 large whole wheat tortilla wraps
  • Veggies of your choice (I used lettuce and red peppers)
  • Cheese of your choice (optional)

Dilly Sauce

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp dry or 1 tsp fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Mix the Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, and dill.
  2. Combine salmon with dilly sauce and mix well (you will probably have leftover sauce — it makes a great veggie dip, too!)
  3. Spoon salmon mixture onto each wrap and top with veggies and cheese of your choice.
  4. Fold in sides and roll tortilla up tightly.

You can serve this meal family-style: just prepare all the toppings and let kids (and adults) choose their own veggies and condiments. What fun!

More tasty and nutritious grab-and-go meal and snack ideas:

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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What can you do to support safe and inclusive school environments for children with food allergies?

The lunch bell rings and Johnny enthusiastically starts to eat his tuna salad sandwich, apple, cookie, and milk. As he is chatting with his friends, he suddenly starts to feel sick. His mouth feels itchy and his tummy starts to hurt. Johnny finds his teacher and tells her he is not feeling well. His teacher is aware that Johnny has a food allergy and recognizes the signs of a serious allergic reaction. She gives him life-saving medication and calls 9-1-1.

Students in classroom

Creating allergy-aware schools is everyone’s job! Students, parents, and schools all have a role to play!

May is Allergy Awareness Month: it’s a great time to talk about how we can create safe and inclusive environments for children with food allergies so they may safely eat, learn, and play.

In Canada, approximately 300,000 children have food allergies. The most common food allergens are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, seafood, wheat, and sulphites. Anaphylaxis is the most serious type of allergic reaction and can be deadly if untreated.

As a dietitian who has supported families with an allergic child, I understand that keeping your child safe at school can seem like a daunting task. I have also come to understand that prevention is not enough. While some schools will ask parents not to send foods with certain allergens like peanuts to classrooms, it is important that students and schools have the knowledge and skills to respond to allergic emergencies appropriately. Creating allergy-aware schools is everyone’s job!

What can schools do?

All school boards are required to develop an allergy-aware policy as well as an individual anaphylaxis emergency plan for each student with a serious allergy. In addition, schools can:

  • Work with parents to develop realistic prevention strategies. For example, some schools have “allergy-aware” eating areas while other schools have specific rules about allergens in the classroom.
  • Support ongoing training for all staff including teachers, bus drivers, and food service staff.
  • Consider non-food items for some class and school celebrations.
  • Take steps to ensure students with allergies are not bullied or left out.
  • Raise awareness about food allergies in the classroom, at school assemblies, or consider running a school-wide allergy awareness challenge.

What can parents and caregivers of children with allergies do?

  • Inform your school about your child’s allergy.
  • Provide your school with epinephrine auto-injectors, if needed.
  • Plan ahead for field trips and special events.
  • Teach your child how to protect themselves and reduce risk of exposure.
  • Read food labels carefully every time you shop and be aware of cross-contamination.
  • Guide your child as they learn to take on more responsibility for managing their allergy.

What can children with allergies do?

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after eating.
  • Do not share food, utensils, or containers.
  • Be careful with food prepared by others.
  • Carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times (by age 6 or 7 children are usually mature enough to do so).
  • Tell your friends about your allergies and what they should do in an allergic emergency.
  • Tell an adult as soon as you suspect an accidental exposure to an allergen.

Looking for more information about food allergies at school?

Here are a few of my top picks for resources and tools for parents, caregivers, or anyone working in and with schools:

Looking for personalized support? HealthLink BC’s Allergy Nutrition Service provides support to families who have concerns and question around food allergies. Just dial 8-1-1 and ask to speak with a registered dietitian.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Helping your child embrace the open cup

Caribou mascot in front of oral health poster

For a lifetime of healthy smiles, let your child drink from a lidless, regular cup.

Sippy cups are popular with parents and preschoolers alike. Many parents find comfort in knowing that there will be less mess with these spill-proof cups. They sure are handy for families on the go!

But did you know that drinking from an open cup, rather than a sippy cup, helps kids develop good tongue movements needed for speech? It may also encourage more communication and interaction, helping kids learn new sounds and words! There are also worries about dental health and nutrition if kids have regular access to sippy cups with drinks other than water. When kids carry around their sippy cups (as they often do) they tend to sip their drink over long periods of time, leading to cavities and ruined appetites.

So, how do families balance this information with the realities of everyday life? Adults play an important role in deciding what drinks to offer kids and the manner in which they are offered. Many parents find it helpful to try limiting the use of sippy cups for times when mess is an issue, like on your neighbour’s new white carpet! Or, try filling sippy cups with plain water rather than juice or milk to help prevent cavities. Whether it’s an open cup or a sippy cup, children do best with regular, sit-down meal and snacks and water in-between to satisfy thirst.

Here are some tips to help encourage the use of open cups:

  • Remove the valve on the sippy cup to help children learn to drink without sucking.
  • Use small cups that are easier for children to hold.
  • Bring home a new, special cup or let your child pick one out from the store.
  • Sit and eat with your child so they can see you drink from an open cup.
  • Avoid distractions such as toys, TV, or computers when eating or drinking to help your child focus on the task at hand.

With your example, and lots of chances to learn, children will master and enjoy drinking from an open cup in no time!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Foodie Friday: “As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

What an exciting month! Not only did we welcome spring, but dietitians across the north helped us celebrate Nutrition Month by sharing lots of great healthy eating tips and recipes. I have been inspired to eat more mindfully, pack a lunch to work, and even try a new Foodie Friday recipe from the blog!

In honour of the last day of Nutrition Month, I wanted to share one of my favourite dessert recipes.

I love homemade pie, but it can be a chore to make, even for the most experienced baker. The saying “as easy as pie” surely speaks to the experience of eating pie, not baking it! Enter fruit crisp. Fruit crisp has everything I want in a pie and more: warm, gooey fruit filling; a hint of cinnamon; and a crisp oat topping with the benefit of whole grains. It’s comfort food in every way.

Unlike pie, this fruit crisp recipe is quick and easy. It took me under ten minutes to make and most of the prep involved chopping fruit. Using pre-cut fruit or berries would speed it up even more! If you are a rookie baker like me, you will also be happy to know that this recipe is virtually fool-proof. This means you don’t need to worry about carefully measuring out ingredients, mixing (but not over-mixing), rolling (but not too much)! It’s one of those recipes that you can confidently just throw together.

So how does fruit crisp stack up nutritionally? Well, when you make your own desserts, you are more likely to use real foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Fruit, dairy, nuts, and whole grains can all be featured in a variety of different ways. Think homemade chocolate pudding with slices of banana, fruit muffins made with whole-wheat flour, and hearty oatmeal cookies with applesauce, dried fruit, and nuts. Plus, baking is fun and can be a great way to spend quality family time together! For more delicious and nutritious recipes, consider checking out the dessert section at Cookspiration.com.

For this particular crisp, I used apples and frozen mixed berries, but pears, peaches, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, or any other type of berry would work well, too. It’s an easy way to use up fruit from the freezer in the winter and spring, or to showcase seasonal fruit in the summer and fall.

fruit crisp, bowl

This fruit crisp is quick and “as easy as pie” to make.

“As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

Adapted from Cookspiration.com

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 7 cups fruit (I used apples and frozen mixed berries)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup soft margarine or butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

  1. In a large bowl, combine fruit, sugar, flour, and cinnamon until coated.
  2. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add to fruit and toss to mix.
  3. For the topping, combine rolled oats, sugar, and cinnamon. With 2 knives, cut in margarine or butter until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Sprinkle oat mixture over fruit.
  5. Bake for 55 minutes until mixture is bubbly (or you can microwave at 100% power for 15 minutes)

Serve hot or cold. Leftovers make a quick and tasty snack the next day!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Foodie Friday: Ditch the diet, not the healthy eating

Roasted vegetables

We can all benefit from eating more vegetables! Try roasting some colourful root vegetables such as yams, carrots, beets, and turnips next time.

The start of a new year often brings resolutions to eat better and get active. With the latest diet trends and celebrity weight loss stories hitting the internet and newsstands, it’s easy to get swept up in the promise of a quick fix.

I read somewhere that by February, 90% of dieters have ditched their “healthy eating” regimes. If you have been on a diet, chances are you already know that it can be impossible to stick to. Dieting, with its strict food rules and “good” and “bad” foods lists, can lead to feelings of deprivation, anxiety, and guilt. Also, many of the things people do for the sake of weight loss are harmful to their physical and mental health.

But don’t despair!  In contrast, healthy eating should be flexible and make you feel good.  Research clearly shows that making small changes to your eating habits over time works best.  Here are few things to consider if you are looking to ditch the diet mentality and rekindle a healthy relationship with food.

  • Feed yourself faithfully. Eat regularly throughout the day, and pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues to guide how much you eat.
  • All foods fit. Healthy eating balances eating for health, taste, and pleasure. Plus, you may find you are more likely to eat fruits, veggies, and other nutritious foods because you enjoy them, not just because they are good for you.
  • Add on, don’t take away. Think about what foods you can add to make a balanced meal that includes at least 3 foods groups from Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Focus on healthy behaviours, not weight. Health is not measured by a number on a scale. What can you do to take care of yourself at the weight you are now? Read more about health at every size here.

One goal we can all benefit from is eating more vegetables! I like to add a mix of colourful root vegetables such as yams, carrots, beets, and turnips along with potatoes to the roasting pan for a nutrition boost. Crispy and caramelized on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, they are the perfect winter side dish or can be blended into a flavourful soup.

Roasted Root Veggies

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of root vegetables*, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Seasoning of your choice – I like to use oregano or thyme, black pepper, and a sprinkle of salt

* Good options include yams, carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga, or potatoes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place root vegetables in roasting pan and toss with vegetable oil and seasonings.
  3. Roast veggies for 45 min, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender.
Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Foodie Friday: Have you tried leeks?

Leeks on a cutting board

Have you tried leeks? They are a great addition to soups, casseroles, scrambled eggs, and more!

Two weeks ago, we marked the official arrival of fall! Yes, summer is over, but there is still a ton of delicious seasonal produce to be had. Some of my favourites are squash, pumpkins, carrots, apples, potatoes, and brussels sprouts.

One new food I’ve been experimenting with in my garden this year is the leek. Leeks grow really well in our rainy Terrace climate. Have you ever tried a leek? Leeks are the milder cousin of the onion and garlic and look like oversized green onions. They are found in most grocery stores but you can also grow them in your own backyard! The white and light green parts are typically what you use in recipes, but the dark green tops make a great stock.

Preparing & cleaning leeks

When I first got my leeks, I honestly had no idea how to prepare them! It turns out that leeks need to be cleaned properly, because dirt often gets trapped in between the layers. Here is a short and simple video on how to clean your leek. One trick is to rinse the leeks downward, which prevents dirt from washing back up into the leek.

Leeks are extremely nutritious, and, most importantly, they are super tasty!

Here are some ways to cook with leeks:

  • Include in your favourite stir-fry
  • Scrambled eggs with leeks
  • Add to any soup (leeks are a great addition!)
  • Add into mashed potatoes or potato salad
  • Add into casseroles or rice dishes
  • Stuff fish with leeks sautéed in butter or oil

Or, you can try this flavourful leek and potato soup to warm you up on those chilly fall days.

Soup in a bowl

A classic potato and leek soup is a great addition to your fall menu!

Classic Potato Leek Soup

Adapted from Dairy Goodness.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 3 large yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I only had regular, so I just skipped adding any extra salt)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. In a pot, melt butter or oil over medium heat.
  2. Add leeks, celery, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until leeks are tender.
  3. Add potatoes, broth, and 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, covered, for 15 min or until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in milk. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, just until steaming (do not let boil).
  5. Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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La Leche League of Canada: Raven Thunderstorm talks about breastfeeding supports

Breastfeeding baby. Photo by April Mazzelli.The first week of October is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada! It is a great time to reflect on breastfeeding as an investment in healthy babies, mothers and communities. You can read more about World Breastfeeding Week here (and don’t forget to share your story for a chance to win a great prize!).

Yes, breastfeeding is natural; however moms need time and support to learn how. We are very fortunate to have individuals across the North who are passionate about breastfeeding advocacy and support. Raven Thunderstorm, from Terrace BC, is one such individual who wears many hats in the breastfeeding community: La Leche League Leader, birth Doula, and Childbirth Educator with the Douglas College Prenatal Program in Terrace.

What is a La Leche League Leader you may ask? Raven explains that the La Leche League of Canada provides mother-to-mother breastfeeding support through phone calls, emails or in person. Raven describes it as a safe place where any woman can get practical information about breastfeeding in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.  They host monthly groups on a variety of topics including benefits of breastfeeding, challenges, nutrition, and weaning. They also discuss some common myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding. For example, a common worry for new mothers is low milk supply, or that they won’t be able to produce enough for their baby. However, most moms are able to produce more than enough milk for their babies, as long as baby is feeding often and transferring milk effectively. It may be helpful to know that babies have tiny tummies – they start off as the size of a cherry! Also, a baby who seems fussy at the breast may be experiencing a growth spurt, and frequent feedings is actually your baby’s way of telling your body to make more milk – how amazing is that!

Raven’s interest in becoming a La Leche League Leader originated from her own experiences with breastfeeding her daughter while living in Iskut. She remembers that there were very little supports available for mothers in rural areas at the time, and in many areas that is still the case. She was fortunate to connect with a La Leche League Leader from Vancouver, and received valuable support over the phone. For women who may be encountering challenges with breastfeeding and are having difficulties accessing supports in their communities, Raven suggests picking up the phone and calling any of the La Leche League central telephone lines.

For information, resources and support visit the online breastfeeding community at La Leche League Canada Website, or find a La Leche League group  in your area.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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What does breastfeeding mean to you?

lindsay470w

Public health nurse Lindsay with her two children.

Did you know October 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada?  This year’s theme is Breastfeeding: An Investment in Healthy Communities. It’s a great time to recognize and promote the far-reaching social, environmental, and health benefits of breastfeeding for babies, mothers, and resilient communities. I recently spoke to Lindsay Willoner, a public health nurse and mother of two, about her perspective of the joys of breastfeeding and what breastfeeding means to her and her children.

“As a working mother of two, very little has brought me more joy than being able to successfully breastfeed both my children to the age of 1 year old and beyond. Many times I felt undervalued, in all aspects of my life, as I know many mothers do, because both breastfeeding and being a mother have challenges that most mothers must endure. The sheer love and devotion between both mother and baby always amazes me. I find such comfort, warmth, and peace with still feeding my youngest who is now 17 months old. It is our time to sit, be still, slow down, and absorb the busy world around us. It is at these times that I find the most relaxation from a crazy, hectic life. Sometimes I think about how I will never get this time back with my growing baby, and to just be in love with every moment together is what’s most important to me.”

Thank you Lindsay for sharing your experiences with breastfeeding! Do you have a breastfeeding story or experience to share? Tell us what breastfeeding means to you, your family, and your community by entering Northern Health’s World Breastfeeding Week contest before October 7!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Foodie Friday: Ready, set, menu plan!

Grocery list

A little bit of meal planning – including making a grocery list – can go a long way to help support healthy eating habits and make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone.

It’s been a hectic day, and now you need to get dinner on the table. All too often, we are faced with the “What should we have for dinner tonight?” dilemma. This can make dinner time a very stressful and daunting experience, especially when you’re already tired and hungry! For me, I’ve learned firsthand that “hangry”, the term used for anger or irritability due to lack of food, is definitely a real thing!

In honour of Nutrition Month this March, my small nourishing change is to make a weekly meal plan. Why do a meal plan? Meals planned and prepared at home tend to be healthier than restaurant meals or eating on the go. Plus, a little bit of meal planning can go a long way to help support healthy eating habits and make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone. It’s a win-win!

Meal planning can be a fairly simple task, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Try these simple meal planning steps:

  1. Make a menu plan. Write down your meal ideas for the week using a piece of paper, calendar or this handy menu planner from BetterTogetherBC. Post it on the fridge and get the whole family involved.
  2. Make a grocery list. Check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what food items you need.
  3. Go grocery shopping. Buy the foods on your grocery list.
  4. Get stocked. Keep ingredients for healthy meals and snacks on hand such as frozen or canned vegetables and fruit, plain yogurt, canned fish, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, canned beans and whole grains such oats and brown rice.

Looking for a quick, easy, and delicious dinner meal idea? This Mexican Chicken Casserole recipe is definitely one of my go-tos for those hectic weekday nights and is also great for “planned extra” leftovers.

Chicken and rice on a plate with carrots and salad.

Emilia’s Mexican Chicken Casserole is a great option for a hectic weekday night and makes great “planned extras” for lunch tomorrow!

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice or rice of choice
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 x 15 oz can black beans or beans of choice
  • 1 x 15 oz can of finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup low- sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2-3 large chicken breast or 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add the dry rice, drained and rinsed black beans, corn, tomatoes, chili powder, oregano and chicken broth or water to a 8″ x 8″ casserole pan.
  2. If using chicken breast, cut into 3 pieces. Push the chicken into the liquid.
  3. Cover the casserole dish tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake uncovered for a few minutes, until cheese has melted.

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

Enjoy served with a side salad and a glass of milk or a dollop of plain yogurt. Possible recipe modifications include substituting the chicken with heart-healthy fish or doubling the portion of beans for a fibre-packed vegetarian alternative.

Do you have a favorite go-to dinner meal? Please share in the comments below.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Foodie Friday: Eating well for healthy aging

As a dietitian, many Elders have talked to me about food’s role in honouring our bodies and connecting us to others and to our traditions. Considering these aspects of eating can make a big difference to the health and well-being of seniors!

Wondering what you can do to eat better as you age? Or maybe you’re looking to support healthy eating for older adults in your family and community? Here are a few suggestions:

Get back to the Canada’s Food Guide basics

Look to Canada’s Food Guide when making food choices. Include a variety of foods from the four food groups: fruit and vegetables, grains, milk & alternatives, and meat & alternatives. As you age, your body needs more of certain nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Foods that are good sources of calcium are milk (canned, powdered or fresh), fortified soy beverage, yogurt, cheese, seaweed and fish with bones. If you are over the age of 50, take a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU.

Consider joining a local food program

Programs that may be available in your community include:

  • Elders or seniors luncheons to share a healthy meal with others
  • Cooking groups to develop food skills like Food Skills for Families
  • Meals on Wheels for hot lunch deliveries
  • Good Food Box for a monthly offering of fresh, local produce

Eat together

Eating together is fun and enjoyable! Also, did you know that people who eat together, eat better? How does sharing dinner with a friend, joining an Elders luncheon group or teaching your grandkids a traditional family recipe sound?

Cook for yourself – you are worth the effort

Healthy meals are important for families of all sizes. A simple meal can be a healthy meal – aim to include at least three out of the four food groups. For example, yogurt with granola and berries or toast topped with baked beans and a glass of milk. Freeze leftovers for a quick meal later or reinvent them into a completely new meal.

Frittata

One of Emilia’s tips for healthy eating as you age – cook for yourself because you are worth the effort! Together with some toast and a glass of milk, this “leftover” frittata is an easy and delicious way to enjoy a balanced meal.

Need some quick and easy inspiration? Here’s a tasty recipe I call “Leftover” Frittata. You can use any vegetables, meat, or fish that you want!

“Leftover” Frittata

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup vegetables of your choice, diced
  • ½ cup cooked meat or fish of your choice, diced
  • 1 tsp dried herbs of your choice
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup cheese, shredded (optional)
  • ⅓ cup milk

Instructions

  1. In an ovenproof skillet, cook vegetables with oil over medium heat until soft. Any vegetables like onion, broccoli, potato, spinach, carrot or red pepper work well. Add herbs and chopped meat or fish.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and cheese. Pour into skillet and stir to combine with veggies and meat. Let cook until edge is starting to set.
  3. Place skillet under broiler for about 3 minutes or until top is set and light golden.

To make a balanced meal, enjoy with toast, potatoes or rice and a glass of milk!

For personalized nutrition counselling, ask to be referred to a registered dietitian in your community or call HealthLink 8-1-1 to speak to a registered dietitian over the phone.


This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Healthier You magazine.

 

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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