Healthy Living in the North

Recipe for Your Best Beach Body

This summer, we want to know what wellness means to you! Share a  photo, story, drawing, or video explaining what wellness means to you for a chance to win a grand prize! To inspire you, we’ve featured regular wellness content on the Northern Health Matters blog all summer long!


What’s your favourite childhood memory of summer?

sandals on beach

Is it time you consider breaking free from unhealthy beliefs about your body?

There’s a good chance that a beach or lake is part of that memory: lazy days of swimming, building sandcastles, floating in a tube, or lounging with a good book. In childhood, beach time is typically filled with carefree adventure and happiness.

Fast forward to adulthood. Beach time is complicated. Many women, and ever increasing numbers of men, express dread and shame when faced with wearing a swimsuit in public, which may result in avoiding the beach, sometimes for years. What contributes to this?

Our culture, supported by unrealistic media images, has created an ideal of what bodies, especially “beach bodies,” should look like. Unfortunately, this ideal is not:

  • Realistic: It is common that media images are tweaked to make models (who don’t represent average men and women) look taller, slimmer, fitter, whiter … supposedly more “perfect.” Since these images aren’t real, how can real people ever achieve them?  Check out this presentation for more info.
  • Representative: Since 67% of women in North America wear a size 14 or larger, media images don’t represent the majority of women. Do you see yourself, your sister, your friend, your mother, your daughter when you view media images? Check out #everybodysready on Twitter for more representative images of beach bodies.
  • Healthy: It is commonly believed that thin = healthy, but this is often not true. Health is influenced by behaviours (like competent eating, moving regularly in ways that feel good, appreciating the body you have and what it’s capable of doing, and practicing body kindness) and can’t be assumed based on one’s size.
girl laying in sand on beach

The recipe for a beach body is simple: Have a body. Put on a swimsuit. Go to the beach.

This gap between the “ideal” and the real leads to bad feelings about our bodies. These feelings make us vulnerable to ads for products and programs that promise a quick fix, but ultimately fail and move us further away from health. This also creates a culture of judgement. It’s within this culture of judging one another’s bodies as “beach worthy” that our dread and shame develop.

For me, it was the summer between grades 6 and 7 that my feelings about my body changed. This was before we understood that it is very normal to gain weight before and during puberty. I was in the middle of these biological changes and was the tallest, most developed girl in my class. A well-meaning older cousin told me I was fat, and that I needed to be careful about what I ate. That was the beginning of my dieting career. I’m fortunate that my education and career path crossed the work of Ellyn Satter, Geneen Roth, Susan Kano, Frances Berg, Evelyn Tribole, Linda Bacon, and Lucy Aphramor. With their support, I have been able to incorporate the principles of eating competence and health at every size into my life. And this has allowed me to regain my positive relationship with food, eating, activity, and my body.

Is it time you consider breaking free from unhealthy beliefs about your body? After all, the recipe for a beach body is simple:

  • Have a body.
  • Put on a swimsuit.
  • Go to the beach.

Don’t wait to reach that unrealistic beach body; dive in and enjoy life now!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Foodie Friday: Refresh your winter eating with vegetables and fruit

Bag of frozen cherry tomatoes

Meeting the daily vegetable and fruit requirements of Canada’s Food Guide in northern B.C.’s long winters can be a challenge, but frozen, canned, and dried produce can help!

I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t know that eating vegetables and fruit is good for you. However, it may not seem possible to meet the daily vegetable and fruit requirements of Canada’s Food Guide during our cold northern winters when nothing grows and most produce is shipped from far away and is quite costly.

But don’t despair! Just remember that vegetables and fruit come in many forms, including frozen, dried and canned, and these, too, have benefits:

  • Convenience: Since the washing, peeling and chopping is already done, food and meal preparation time is shortened by using canned, dried or frozen produce.
  • Freshness: If you are lucky enough to grow your own food or support a local farmer, you can preserve food at the height of its freshness and quality. I’ve also been known to buy seasonal produce and preserve it. Last year, I transformed blueberries from the grocery store into a home canned blueberry sauce to use on my waffles instead of maple syrup.
  • Nutritious: Especially in the winter when growing and shipping conditions can increase the time it takes for fresh produce to reach you, preserved produce will have less nutrient loss.
Tomato plant

When you are picking your tomatoes this year (or buying seasonal produce), consider freezing a few batches for healthy options in the winter months!

The larger nutrition goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables – and using canned, dried and frozen versions makes that easier! Here are a few ways to include these products in your diet:

  • Make fruit salad or smoothies using frozen or canned fruit.
  • Top cereal with dried fruit like raisins, diced apricots or dates.
  • Mix dried fruit with cereal and/or nuts for an on-the-go snack.
  • Add canned or frozen fruit to plain yogurt to add sweetness and nutrition.
  • Top wholegrain pancakes or waffles with canned fruit like peach slices, frozen fruit or fruit sauce like applesauce or pear sauce.
  • Add frozen, canned or dried fruit or vegetables to wholegrain muffin and quick bread recipes — I like grating all that summer zucchini into 1 cup batches that I freeze and add to my muffins later in the year.
  • Add frozen vegetables to rice, soup or pasta sauce.
  • Mix chopped frozen spinach or kale into yogurt-based dips.
  • Add canned or frozen applesauce or pear sauce or frozen ground cherries into your meatball or meatloaf recipe to add sweetness and fibre and lower the fat slightly.
  • Make homemade milk-based soups using frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes or asparagus.
Tomato soup on a stove

Healthy soups are a breeze with frozen vegetables! Flo’s simple winter soup involves roasting some tomatoes, blending them up, adding a couple extras based on your preference, and then enjoying!

When selecting canned, dried or frozen produce, choose fruit processed in water or juice rather than syrup and choose vegetables processed with little or no salt.

One of my favourite winter meals is tomato-based soups. I grow and pick tomatoes in the summer and store them in the freezer. In the winter, I pull these tomatoes out and roast them in the oven with a little bit of vegetable oil and seasoning. Once cooked, I blend them until they’re smooth and either mix with milk to make a “creamy” tomato soup or add to a pot of chick peas and other vegetables to make a vegetarian soup. After a day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, a bowl of hot soup hits the spot!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Cooking with kids

Grilled cheese sandwich with vegetables and nuts as toppings.

Cooking with kids is a great way to spend time together and teach them invaluable skills! Kids as young as two years old can help wash vegetables and choose ingredients like the toppings for their own grilled cheese sandwich!

While it may seem more like work than fun, cooking with kids at any age is a great way to spend quality family time together while teaching important life skills.

Cooking with kids can be a gift that keeps on giving, now and in the future. When kids cook at home they are:

  • Exposed to healthy foods, which may positively shape their lifelong food preferences.
  • Given opportunities to build reading, math, chemistry and problem solving skills.
  • Provided opportunities to develop self-confidence and creativity.

Here are a few things to remember:

Provide age-appropriate opportunities to grow cooking skills.

  • Kids as young as two years of age can help in the kitchen with simple tasks like washing fruits and vegetables and adding ingredients to a bowl. By age 12, kids can have the skills to do independent meal planning and preparation. Check out the Nutrition Tools for Schools guide for more information on age-appropriate food skills
  • Supervise kitchen time and demonstrate safe food handling practices, including hand washing and keeping cooked and raw foods separate, as well as safe practices like working with knives and what to do in the case of a fire.
Ingredients for a grilled cheese sandwich

When cooking with kids, be sure to provide age-appropriate tasks, supervise for safety, keep it simple, and make it interactive. The skills kids learn will last a lifetime!

Keep it simple.

  • Choose recipes that have fewer steps and ingredients and/or take a portion of a recipe and let your child help. For example, your child may be able to whisk and scramble the eggs while you complete the other pieces to make breakfast burritos. Check your local library or online for cookbooks with simple recipes.

Make it interactive.

  • Especially in the beginning, cooking may mean letting kids choose from a variety of prepared ingredients to make their own version of the meal. In my home, “build your own meal” recipes have always been winners with all ages – our favourite being build your own pizza where everyone chooses from bowls of diced veggies, fruit and meat, grated cheeses and sauces like pizza sauce, pesto and hummus to top whole grain pita, tortilla or pizza dough.
Grilled cheese sandwich with lots of toppings.

Building your own grilled cheese sandwich is a great way to involve kids in cooking and along with a salad or soup, makes a delicious and balanced meal!

To get you started, try this recipe for “build your own grilled cheese sandwich”:

  • Bread (any kind you like)
  • Cheese (try mozzarella, cheddar, brie, gouda, or another favourite)
  • Toppings (sliced pears, apples, avocado or tomatoes; caramelized onions, cooked sliced potatoes, grilled vegetables like peppers or zucchini, spinach leaves, sliced meats, etc.)
  • Condiments (pesto, honey, mustard, jalapeno jelly, jam, etc.)

Lay the ingredients out and let your family pile all their favourite cheeses and toppings on the bread. Brush each side of the bread with a little vegetable oil and then bake, broil or grill until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. To make a balanced meal, serve with a green salad or a bowl of tomato soup!

For more healthy eating ideas and recipes like this, visit the recipes section on the Northern Health Matters blog!


 

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Foodie Friday: Back to basics – scratch cooking

A whisk in a pot with chocolate pudding

Scratch cooking can be simple, quick, low cost, healthy, and tasty!

Many Novembers, I have stood in biting cold or sloppy wet snow to watch the local Remembrance Day parade process to the Terrace Cenotaph. I’m always moved to tears by our veterans, who serve as very visual reminders of the contributions made to keep Canada safe and free.

November 11th always adds perspective to my life and helps me reflect on what is important. It calls to mind the efforts of those at home during early war efforts, when food was scarce and the emphasis was on local production, preparation, and preservation. I think about how reliant we’ve become on convenience foods, supposedly for the sake of ease and saving time. However, I only have to pull out the old cookbook handed down to me by my mother to access simple and low cost recipes that are tasty and healthy. Homemade pudding is one example.

Store-bought puddings are often heavily packaged, list sugar as the ingredient present in the largest amount, include fillers and preservatives, and are made with milk that, unlike regular fluid milk, typically isn’t fortified with vitamin D.

Making your own pudding is quick. In fact, you can assemble the dry ingredients in the following recipe to make your own pudding mix to use later or, because it’s so quick, you can make it on-demand when the need for a tasty and healthy snack or dessert occurs. If you do make the mix, store it in a cool and dry place until you are ready to add the wet ingredients, as per the recipe.

Chocolate pudding topped with bananas

Adding fresh fruit makes this a balanced snack that includes two food groups from Canada’s Food Guide.

Chocolate Pudding

Makes four ½ cup servings

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

1. Add sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and flour to a pot. Whisk in 1 cup of milk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk in the rest of the milk. Continue to stir over medium heat until thickened.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.

2. Cool in the refrigerator or enjoy while still warm.  To make a balanced snack that includes two food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, top the pudding with some sliced bananas, pears, or strawberries!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Helping or Harming:  Reflections from 20 years of being a Dietitian

A crowd of people attends a farmers' market

“Healthy” comes in all shapes and sizes.

Oh, the conviction of youth!  Long gone are the unshakable beliefs from my dietetic internship about how to define “healthy” and the importance of weight in preventing disease. Twenty years have passed and, in that time, I’ve worked in five different provinces with a variety of patients and partner organizations. For instance, young families; schools; clients living with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and disordered eating; and seniors in care homes, all of whom came from very diverse backgrounds.  In nearly every case, health was defined, in part, by weight. Today, I question that belief. Why? Because I’ve seen so many instances where a subtle emphasis on weight has contributed to some harm.

I’ve learned that while weight is often one of the first lines of treatment when someone is diagnosed with a chronic disease, research tells us that less than one percent of people successfully keep weight off after four years, and usually regain the lost weight plus some. In the end, after treatment, people are at a higher weight and often feel bad about themselves. This can’t be good for health.  Does it make sense to promote a treatment that is doomed to fail?

The recommendation to lose weight perpetuates something called the “thin ideal” (believing that a slim body is the standard for beauty and health), which is based on an assumption that people defined as “overweight” (as per the problematic standard of BMI or body mass index) eat poorly, too often, and do not move enough. My twenty years of experience tell me that this is not the case. Rather, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes and are supported by healthy and intuitive eating, active living, and positive self-esteem. Thus, a better plan is to focus on supporting everyone, no matter their size, to live well.

The “thin ideal” has normalized weight bias and stigma, where we live, work, play, and are cared for. What is weight bias and weight stigma?

  • Weight bias is a negative judgement of someone because of their weight, shape and/or size.
  • Weight stigma is what a person experiences when weight bias happens to them.

Weight bias and stigma can seem harmless and might even be done in the spirit of helpfulness, but it still hurts. Examples of weight stigma include:

  • Refusing to offer dessert to someone and/or questioning whether someone “needs” that serving of dessert because of their size.
  • Using headless images of “overweight” people or images of “overweight” people being sedentary in handouts and presentations.
  • Using the word “fat” as an insult instead of what it is, which is a physical description of body composition.
  • Assuming someone is unhealthy if “overweight” or healthy if “underweight” or “normal weight.”
  • Failing to offer healthy food at school because “we don’t have fat kids at our school” (yes, one school actually gave this as a reason why they didn’t need to follow the Guidelines for the Sale of Food and Beverages in BC Schools!).

Weight bias needs to stop.  It starts with us thinking about what our own biases and assumptions about weight might be (take the Weight Implicit Attitudes Test) and developing respect and empathy for people who are impacted by weight bias. Last week was Weight Stigma Awareness Week, but it’s an issue that we need to be aware of all year round. Learn more here.

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Foodie Friday: Build a Better Summer Burger

Summer burgers and saladSummer is here—as is evident by the light beaming in my bedroom window at 5:30am, the amount of things blooming in my garden, and the increasing need to mow my lawn—and nothing says summer like a juicy burger on the BBQ! You might think burgers and dietitians don’t go well together, but you’d be wrong! Perhaps because of these incorrect beliefs: dietitians only eat healthy foods; foods can easily be defined as healthy or unhealthy; and burgers can’t be healthy. All false!

Dietitians think less in black and white and more in shades of gray when it comes to food and eating. Our careful consideration of food and nutrition science clearly shows that healthy eating is defined more by the pattern of how one eats over time, rather than food by food or meal by meal.  When we translate that knowledge into practical tips for you to use, a list of things to consider about food begins to form:

  • Burgers on the barbequeFood – is it real food, local, minimally processed?
  • Nutrition – does it provide a variety of key nutrients to support growth, development, and health?
  • Eating competence – are you able to get enough food that you enjoy?
  • Culture and traditions – are you able to get and enjoy foods that support continuation of your family and cultural traditions?

Dietitians work with people where they are at and support them to make small, sustainable changes in what and how they eat. That means we would never try and convince someone who loves a burger loaded with fried onions, bacon, cheese, and mayo-based sauce to make the switch to a veggie or salmon burger (although I do make a great veggie burger!). Instead, we might offer tweaks to your usual recipe to pump up the nutrition and flavour while reducing the salt and fat a little.

Below is a typical burger recipe with a few suggestions to do exactly that. You can pick and choose from the list, do them one-by-one or a few at a time. Let your taste buds guide you!

Usual Burger Ingredients

Possible Modifications

1 lb. hamburger meat
  • Use extra lean ground beef (local if you can get it) or moose
  • Mix ¾ lb. of extra lean ground beef with ¼ lb. of lean ground chicken or turkey or ¼ – ½ cup soy ground round or mashed black beans
  • Add 1/3 cup of grated carrot, zucchini, apple or pear or 1/3 cup of ground cherries to the meat mixture
¼ cup soft bread crumbs
  • Use whole wheat bread crumbs or oatmeal
  • Use leftover cooked quinoa or brown rice instead of bread crumbs
1 egg
  • Use 2 egg whites instead of a whole egg
¼ tsp. salt
  • Leave out of the recipe
1/8 tsp. pepper
  • Be creative and add other herbs and spices like cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic, etc.
4 hamburger buns
  • Use 100% whole wheat or whole grain buns
Toppings: ketchup, relish, mustard, mayo, bacon
  • Use a lower sodium ketchup, substitute with salsa or use a fruit chutney
  • Load on the veggies whether grilled veggies like mushrooms, onions, zucchini, peppers or fresh ones like sliced tomatoes, leafy garden greens, onions, grated cabbage, avocado or hot or sweet peppers
  • Add a lower fat cheese (<20 MF), preferably a sharply flavoured one for added zing!
  • Use less traditional condiments like hummus or tzatziki
  • Use lower sodium bacon or turkey bacon or leave out the bacon sometimes

 

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Diverse bodies are healthy bodies

healthy bodies, diverse bodies, move for life

Accept your body at its current size and shape and then enjoy your body by moving and eating in ways that support your health.

Growing up in outport Newfoundland, everyone was the same: the same skin colour, spoke the same way, attended the same church, and all without cable TV or the Internet. Needless to say, this did not provide an opportunity to know diversity. When I moved to Toronto in the early 1990s, I remember standing on the corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets and being overwhelmed by the diversity of people all around me. Overall, Canada ranks high for accepting diversity, especially to culture, language, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Where we, and the rest of North America, fail is with accepting size diversity.

Society, fueled by the media, tells us that bodies (male and female) should look a certain way – a way that very few people can achieve.  However, that doesn’t stop people from trying and the costs are great:

  • In a study of 5,000 teens, more than half of girls and a third of boys engage in unhealthy weight control behaviours.
  • Teen girls who diet are at 324% greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet.
  • 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
  • 98% of females are unhappy with their bodies.
  • Canadians spend more than $7 billion per year on diet programs, diet books and diet pills.
  • However, evidence tells us that 98% of people who lose weight will regain the weight and more.

Despite what TV makeover shows might suggest, the human body is not easily transformed.

Body shapes and sizes are the result of many factors beyond what one eats and how much one moves. For example, genetics, life stage, environment, cultural norms and socioeconomic status all influence body shape and size. In my 20 years as a registered dietitian, I have worked with many people who eat well and are fit and healthy but do not match society’s “ideal” body.

Body size and shape is not the determining measure of one’s health. To support health, wellness and positive body image, try these approaches:

  • Respect and care for your body. Accept your body at its current size, shape and capabilities.
  • Eat for well-being not weight loss. Listen to your body and eat according to hunger, fullness and satiety cues, nutritional needs, and cultural and family traditions.
  • Be active in your own way to support energy, strength and stress management.

For more information about challenges that youth are faced with when it comes to healthy eating, go to keltymentalhealth.ca.

How do you measure your health? When do you feel most healthy?

 

Data sources:

Neumark-Sztainer, Story, Hannan, Perry & Irving, 2002. Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics, 112(4), 900-906;  findings from Project EAT (population-based study of approximately 5000 teens).

http://keltymentalhealth.ca/sites/default/files/Youth%20Disordered%20Eating%20Fact%20sheet.pdf

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Diet+industry+expands+right+along+with+North+America+waistlines/8268951/story.html

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Get social and eat healthy

fresh food, pizza, whole wheat crust

Pizza is a fun way to gather with friends in the kitchen and make healthy foods together.

Juggling full-time paid work with a busy home life can test my ability to prepare, share and eat tasty, nutritious foods with family and friends. I’ve found it helps to have a few things in place to make it more likely that a fairly balanced family meal is made and served in my kitchen most nights—although frozen pizza sometimes makes an appearance, too!

Here is what works for me:

  • Make a plan for the week’s suppers and post it on the fridge door.
  • Use the plan when grocery shopping so I have what I need.
  • Cooking once and eating twice. I never make just one pan of lasagna, pot of soup or batch of spaghetti sauce. I make two: one to eat and one goes in the freezer for another meal.
  • Making cooking go further. I make a big batch of oven roasted veggies that might get served with a piece of BBQ chicken and quinoa, but the leftovers get added to a pasta sauce, top a pizza, or get pureed with milk to make a soup.

Where I fall down is being social around food. The extra shopping, cooking and cleaning needed to host friends for dinner can put me off—and I know my friends feel the same way. To get around it, we’ve hosted “cook together” nights: we agree on a theme and then each family brings whole ingredients to one house to prepare, cook and eat together.

My favourite so far was the pizza party I hosted. I made whole grain pizza dough and salad dressing and others brought a topping for the pizza and a salad item. The result? Pizza with a pesto-infused sauce, topped with cooked red potatoes, chopped mushrooms, peppers, onions and tomatoes, and Parmesan and Havarti cheeses. Paired with a salad of leafy greens, grated beets, berries and toasted nuts served with my favourite blueberry salad dressing. Yum! Beyond the great food, the laughs and shared experience of hanging out and rolling pizza dough, slicing veggies and grating cheese was so much fun … and we all carried the leftovers home!

How about planning a cooking night with your friends? Here’s my pizza dough recipe to get you started:

Homemade Pizza Dough

1 cup                                      whole wheat flour
1 cup                                      enriched white flour
1 (28 gram) envelope         quick rise instant yeast
1 tsp.                                      salt
1 tsp.                                      sugar
¾ cup                                    hot water (heat for a minute in the microwave until 125 – 130°F)
1 tsp.                                      oil

  1. In a food processor, mix the flours, yeast, salt and sugar.
  2. While running the food processor, add the water and oil and blend until a ball is formed. Continue running for one minute to knead the dough.
  3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, cover and let rest 10 minutes. Roll out to form one large (12”) pizza crust. Add your favourite sauce and toppings and bake at 450°F for 10 – 12 minutes. This dough recipe can be frozen.

(Source: The Family Table by Marie Breton and Isabelle Emond, 2007.)

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Health at Any Size

self-image, weight bias, weight stigma, health at any size

A big part of being healthy is feeling good about yourself. How is that impacted by others?

Living in a small town where you are known by your work role (I’m a registered dietitian) can sometimes be a challenge. Awhile back, a stranger approached me in the grocery store, peered into my basket and said, “Just making sure you’re following your own advice,” and walked away. I can brush this incident off knowing that what was in my basket was in line with what I believe and say about healthy eating. This position includes a variety of foods – the foods highlighted in Canada’s Food Guide, but also chocolate and the occasional summer hot dog roast. But, this got me thinking about how we are judged by the foods we eat and this can impact what we eat, how we view ourselves, and – ultimately – our health.

“Fat” is not a four-lettered work. It is a descriptive word like short, tall or blond. Being fat is no more negative or positive than being thin. Healthy bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes; sometimes these bodies are fat and sometimes they are thin.

Unfortunately, weight bias (negative assumptions, beliefs and judgments based on body weight) and weight stigma (being devalued based on your body weight) are more common than we’d like to admit.

No matter our size or weight, we all have the right to health. When I hear people talk about “getting healthy,” their first step is most often to try to lose weight. This comes from three very common myths:

  1. Weight loss will improve health – Strategies to lose weight are not always healthful. Attempts at weight loss are associated with increased rates of disordered eating and overall long-term weight gain. Studies have shown that weight “yo-yo”ing is more harmful to health than being at a stable, higher weight.
  2.  Fatness causes disease and early death – Studies show that people in the “overweight” body mass index (BMI) category live longer than those in the “normal weight” category and that poor health is more likely at the extremes (very “underweight” and very “obese”).
  3.  Weight management is about energy balance – Eating less and moving more is thought to be the magic bullet to lose weight, but this doesn’t consider things like family history, personal dieting history, socioeconomic status, the environment and the many other factors that impact one’s weight.

Research tells us that people who are the victims of weight bias and stigma are at risk for poor body image, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, anxiety and suicide and are more likely to avoid medical care, experience stress-induced illness, avoid physical activity and engage in unhealthy eating behaviours. That doesn’t sound like health to me. We would all benefit from this prescription for life:

  • Eat well
  • Move daily
  • Hydrate often
  • Sleep lots
  • Love your body
  • Repeat for life
  • Let your weight settle where it is meant to be

 Weight bias and stigma must stop. Have you noticed weight bias in your day to day life?

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Old wedding custom translates to healthy eating advice

Variety at lunch

Variety at lunch (whole grain crackers, cheddar and havarti cheese, leafy salad with yogurt-based basil dip, sliced kiwi, toasted walnuts and trail mix, dried cherries and other dried fruit).

Recently, my oldest niece walked down the aisle to begin what I hope is a happy life filled with fun, friendship and health. As we made sure she had good luck by having something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, I remember thinking that these four ‘somethings’ work for healthy eating too! In particular, to me, these stand for the value of variety in healthy eating.

Variety, defined as eating many different types of foods from each of the four groups of Canada’s Food Guide, adds interest to our diet (= less boring!), helps kids and adults like a larger range of food and adds a wide range of nutrients for good health. Food companies lead us to believe we are eating variety but simply having multiple flavours isn’t the same thing – plain versus ketchup, salt and vinegar or all dressed potato chips isn’t true variety—where is real food? What practical advice can we take from this old wedding custom?

Something Old: Try old favourites in new ways or pull out some of granny’s recipes and give them a healthy makeover. Try oatmeal topped with a spoonful of peanut butter and sliced bananas, spaghetti sauce made with ground turkey and/or cooked lentils, sandwiches using hummus instead of mayo, pizza made with a base of sliced zucchini or perogies filled with berries and topped with yogurt.

Something New: Try a new food from each of the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide:

  • Vegetables & fruit – chop some eggplant and add to a mixture of potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and a little oil and roast in the oven until tender or use spaghetti squash as a base for spaghetti sauce—I know I am still working on Swiss chard!
  • Grain products – cook some quinoa with your steel cut oats or use it in place of rice as a side dish or in rice pudding.
  • Milk & alternatives – add kefir (a fermented milk drink found in the dairy section of the grocery store) to your smoothie or use lower fat buttermilk (which makes baked goods fluffier)in baking.
  • Meat & alternatives – nut butters like cashew butter, almond butter or pea butter, or edamame (fresh soy beans found in the freezer section of the grocery store).

Something Borrowed: Try a food, dish or custom from another culture to experience the world while staying at home. For example, add some peeled slices of jicama from Mexico to your veggie plate, enjoy a bowl of dal from India or yam and peanut soup from Africa or try eating with chopsticks or your hands!

Something Blue: Eat colourfully—whether it’s blueberries, kale, purple cabbage, kiwi or tomatoes, the richer and varied the natural colour, the more nutrition you’re putting into your body! I remember once being at a dinner party where each family was given a particular colour to match to their food offering. Dinner that night was colourful and healthy—on the menu was big green salad filled with red beets, tomatoes, peppers and tomatoes and topped with a homemade strawberry dressing, roasted purple potato wedges, large pasta shells filled with orange squash, tofu and feta cheese, and a brown dessert—chocolate covered strawberries. Yum!

While this might seem like a lot of work on top of the challenges and responsibilities of daily life, remember that small steps over time make a big difference. Variety doesn’t mean you need to eat eight different vegetables and fruit each day—variety allows you to take advantage of the changing seasons—you eat more leafy greens as salads in the spring/summer, more root vegetables as soups and stews in the fall/winter; variety isn’t about one meal or one day, it’s your pattern of eating over time. So, take that first step to variety that works for you! My niece’s first step down the aisle led to a day filled with many happy memories, the purchase of a home and much luck thus far! Think about what you will gain from eating a variety of real food from Canada’s Food Guide. What will your first step be?

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “Eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groupsmeans to Flo. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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