Healthy Living in the North

Pro tips from Northern Health dietitians

Did you know that today is Dietitians Day in Canada?

Now, I might be a little biased, but I think Registered Dietitians (RDs) are pretty awesome. We get to work in a job where we talk about something that everyone can identify with – food! We love to share our tips on healthy eating, as well as celebrate the social and cultural roles that food plays in all of our lives. We can help people manage chronic conditions and advocate for everyone to have access to nutritious and delicious foods. And you’ll find us working not only in health care, but in the community, with business, and in private practice, too!

Many of our Northern Health dietitians regularly share healthy eating tips and delicious recipes as part of the Foodie Friday feature on the blog. So it was easy to get my fellow RDs (and RDs-to-be) to share their “Dietitian Pro Tips” for Dietitians Day and Nutrition Month. Check them out below, and if you are hungry for more, make sure to check out the #DietitianProTip hashtag on Twitter!

Frittata

The versatile frittata hits a few of our dietitians’ pro tips: Cook extra supper for a quick lunch; eat breakfast every day; and use eggs for a quick protein when you’re short on time.

What’s your #DietitianProTip to stay on track?

  • Shelly (Haida Gwaii): Eat breakfast every day!
  • Karli (Dietetic Intern): Keep your fruit bowl stocked for quick out-the-door snacks!
  • Courtenay (Prince George): Cook extra for supper for a quick lunch the next day.
  • Erin (Prince George) offered two tips: (1) Menu plan on the weekend to avoid stressful workday evenings. (2) Keep trail mix at your desk to get over the mid-afternoon slump.
  • Tamara (Dietetic Intern) had three great tips: (1) Get your greens! Add spinach to your smoothies. (2) Eat two different coloured vegetables today! (3) Busy day? Choose fish or eggs for quick cooking protein options.
  • Elaine (Dawson Creek) also had two tips: (1) Skip sugary drinks! Choose water to quench your thirst. (2) Want a healthy heart? Eat more beans, lentils, and legumes.
  • Carly (Prince George): Turn off the technology & tune in to your meal! Listen to your fullness cues.
  • Lindsay (Prince George): Challenged by large portions? Try eating from small bowls, plates and cups.
  • Marianne (Prince George): Plan for success! Make a weekly meal plan and grocery shopping list.
  • Amy (Prince George): Save time in the morning! Pack your lunch the night before.

Celebrate Nutrition Month and Dietitians Day by sharing your favourite healthy eating tip in the comments!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall: Body image impacts mental health

This post was co-authored by Marianne Bloudoff (population health dietitian), Sandi DeWolf (Eating Disorders Clinic), and Marta Torok (Eating Disorders Clinic). It originally appeared in the spring issue of Healthier You magazine, which focused on the topic of women’s health.


Body image and disordered eating resources

February 1-7 is Eating Disorder Awareness Week in B.C. If you think that you or someone you love has an eating disorder, please contact the Northern Health Eating Disorders Clinic at 250-565-7479.

What is body image?

It is the way each of us perceives our physical appearance, and includes our thoughts and feelings about how we look. Our self-esteem, or sense of self-worth, is often closely linked with body image.

There are many things that can contribute to a negative body image. The mass media is one that many women can relate to. The media often presents women with an idealized image of female beauty that is impossible for the majority of women to attain. The images we often see are of thin, tall, photoshopped women, who represent only one body type that few real-life women possess.

Body image is also influenced by family relationships, cultural beliefs, sports involvement, peers and past traumas. Women with a negative body image are more likely to suffer from depression, social isolation and low self-esteem.

Negative body image is a risk factor in developing disordered eating patterns and eating disorders. Up to 65% of women report engaging in disordered eating patterns and 10% of women display symptoms that meet the criteria of an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia. The physiological and psychological effects of disordered eating can have significant impacts on a woman’s physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, day-to-day functioning, and quality of life. Eating disorders are complex conditions that most often require professional intervention.

If you think that you or someone you love has an eating disorder, please contact the Northern Health Eating Disorders Clinic at 250-565-7479.

Understanding and awareness is important so women can understand how their own body image affects their life and others around them. Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors, such as food restriction.

Research has shown that daughters are more likely to have ideas about weight and dieting if their mothers participate in “fat talk” (self-degrading statements about one’s body, food, or eating) or dieting. Children pay attention to what parents say and do, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Parents are role models to their children, and can help support their children to focus less on their external appearance and more on overall wellness and personal successes.

There are many things women can do to improve their body image, such as:

  • Appreciate everything your body can do, not what it can’t.
  • Remind yourself that true beauty is not defined by your physical appearance.
  • Choose to wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good.
  • View media messages with a critical eye.
  • Focus your time and energy on positive things instead of worrying about food, calories, or weight.

Resources:

Poster with the phrase: Your weight is not your worth.

The Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness Campaign (PEDAW) is a great resource if you or someone you love needs support. (Poster artwork by Gillian Berry / Courtesy of PEDAW)

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Healthy holiday eating

Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet.

Make your holiday meal even more nutritious this year! Include lots of colourful veggies like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and beets!

Christmas is an exciting time, often filled with celebrations, parties, family, and friends. It’s also a time to share traditions, which often involve food. Holiday meals offer the opportunity for family members and friends to prepare and share a special meal together, and to learn from each other in the process. Even young children can help by doing things like washing vegetables, making paper place mats, setting the table, pouring water, and helping to clean up.

Looking at most holiday movies or commercials these days, we are made to think of holiday meals as always being rich and heavy. Think again! They actually have great potential to be nutritious and delicious! A meal of ham or turkey, vegetables, buns or stuffing, and dessert has a good chance of having 3-4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, making it a balanced meal.

Here are a few suggestions to make your holiday meal even more nutritious:

  • Offer sweet potatoes instead of, or alongside, white potatoes.
  • Include other colourful veggies like carrots, Brussels sprouts, and beets.
  • Boost up the stuffing by using whole wheat bread and adding cranberries or chopped apple, walnuts, and finely chopped carrots and celery.
  • Consider a dessert that includes fruit or dairy, such as a fruit crumble or milk-based pudding.

Some people worry about how much they eat at these special meals. Remember, healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day – it’s about your overall approach to eating. Give yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy!

On the day of the holiday celebration, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack patterns that incorporate healthy choices so that you can listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Buffet-style meals can often leave you feeling overfull from wanting to try a little bit of everything. Instead, survey your options and choose those things you really want to try. You can always come back for more if you are still hungry.

Remember to take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly and enjoy the time with family and friends. The holidays are about the whole experience – building a snowman, admiring light displays with your family, playing a favourite board game – not just what’s on your plate!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Tried and true family recipes

Recipe card for salmon loaf

Marianne’s mom’s well-used recipe card is a copy of her own mother’s recipe. What tried and true recipes have your family passed down?

I am an avid cookbook collector. It all started when I was 12 and my parents gave me a cream cheese cookbook for Christmas and it just kept growing from there! My culinary library has expanded to include pretty much any cuisine, cooking technique, or food you can think of. And while I love to experiment with these recipes, I still have a special place in my heart for those tried and true family recipes handed down to me from my parents and grandparents.

I have many fond memories that involve food and family. Memories like spending afternoons stuffing and folding perogies with Grandma and Grandpa Bloudoff in their little East Vancouver kitchen, enjoying them for lunch along with my grandpa’s Doukhobor borscht, then taking home bags of those perogies and jars full of soup. Or all the canning and preserves that my mom, my uncle, and my grandpa would make – peaches, apricots, and cherries from the Okanagan, green beans grown in my uncle’s garden, and the best sweet pickle mix you have ever tasted. And I can’t forget all of the side dishes that make it into every family holiday meal!

I’m grateful for all of the recipes and cooking skills that were passed on to me. Sharing food traditions is a huge part of forming connections with family, friends, and culture. It’s also an important part of healthy eating and having a healthy relationship with food. It’s something that I draw from not only in my own personal life, but also as a dietitian.

One of my favourite family recipes comes from my mom’s mom – salmon loaf. When my mom was a kid, they would make salmon loaf from salmon that my grandpa had caught and canned himself. I now make it with canned salmon from the store because I am no fisherwoman. It makes a great, easy weeknight meal paired with some steamed rice and your favourite vegetables. Try it out instead of meatloaf one night – it might just become a new family tradition for you, too.

Salmon loaf on a plate

Try Marianne’s family’s tried and true salmon loaf recipe with some rice and veggies for an easy and delicious weeknight meal!

Salmon Loaf

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (213 g) salmon (sockeye, pink, or other)
  • 6 – 7 soda crackers, crumbled
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix all ingredients, except eggs.
  3. Beat eggs until fluffy, then fold into mixture.
  4. Spread mixture into small loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and crispy on top.

Tip: Canned sockeye salmon is great in this recipe, but can be expensive. Choose canned pink salmon for a more budget-friendly – but equally delicious – version.

Tip: Add fresh or dried herbs like dill, parsley, or basil, or some chopped green onion to change up the flavour.

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Make school lunches nutritious, delicious, and fun!

Mother and daughter making scrambled eggs.

Make school lunches a family affair! Even young kids can take on tasks like washing fruit, filling water bottles, and packing lunch bags!

Summer is coming to an end, which means it’s back-to-school time for families across northern B.C. Getting back into school routines often means busy schedules! Fuelling those busy days can be challenging, but there are some easy things you can do to make back-to-school lunches nutritious, delicious, and fun this year.

Follow these five simple steps for stress-free mornings and happy tummies throughout the day.

  1. Be prepared. The Boy Scouts knew what they were talking about! Taking some time during your evenings or weekends to get prepared makes busy weekday mornings a breeze. Plan meals, chop vegetables, bake muffins, or batch-cook something tasty (like soup or chili) to eat throughout the week. Check out Holly’s post for some great lunch prep ideas!
  2. Get the tools. Make sure you have a variety of reusable containers, including cutlery and drink containers, so that no matter what you pack for lunch, you’ll have something to put it in. An insulated lunch bag and a food Thermos are both great investments, too.
  3. Make it a family affair. Get the kids involved in prep! Even young kids can wash fruit, fill water bottles, and pack their lunch bags. And make sure to involve your kids in planning their lunch, like asking whether they want carrot sticks or celery. Offering them a choice means they are more likely to eat those healthy foods. There’s lots of inspiration for preparing food as a family on the Northern Health Matters blog, like Emilia’s tips for age-appropriate ways to include kids in cooking.
  4. Seek out healthy helpers. Save time with some pre-prepared nutritious items like washed and bagged salad greens, baby carrots, unsweetened applesauce cups, individual cheese portions, and yogurt cups.
  5. Think beyond the sandwich bread. While sandwiches are definitely a lunchtime favourite for many, it can be fun to switch it up. Instead of bread, try wraps or pita pockets. Or skip the sandwich and try a pasta salad, soup, crackers and cheese, or even last night’s leftovers.

Looking for a little lunch inspiration? Try this easy pasta salad recipe! You can get the kids involved, prep it the night before, and break out of the sandwich rut. Sounds like a win for healthy school lunches!

Chicken Pasta Salad

Adapted from cookspiration.com

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups cooked whole wheat pasta (such as rotini, penne, or macaroni)
  • 1 ½ cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup of your favourite salad dressing (such as Italian, caesar, or balsamic)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, chicken, carrot, cucumber.
  2. Drizzle with salad dressing and mix to combine.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for up to two days.

To switch things up, try replacing the chicken with shrimp, ham, chickpeas, or tofu. Try out different vegetables, too, like broccoli, peppers, peas, or corn.

For more inspiration, check out our Foodie Friday posts!


A version of this article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Enjoy B.C.’s bounty this summer

Grilled corn and tomatoes on a table.

How are you enjoying B.C.’s bounty this long weekend? Grill some local corn, pull some tomatoes from the vine, and give Marianne’s salad a try!

Summertime in B.C. is awesome! We can get outside and enjoy our favourite activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming throughout our amazing province. It’s also a great time to up our healthy eating game as our gardens, farmers markets, and grocery stores are filled with fresh B.C. produce! I know I can hardly wait for those summer months when I can finally sink my teeth into B.C.-grown nectarines, raspberries, corn on the cob, and more.

There are many benefits to enjoying B.C.-grown fruits and vegetables

  • Local produce is the freshest produce you can buy – it’s picked ripe and ready to eat and delivered to you quickly, especially if it’s coming from your own backyard! This means it tastes better, looks better, and retains more nutrients.
  • Local produce is better for the environment – fruit and vegetables grown in other countries have to travel long distances and require more packaging to make it to your plate.
  • Choosing B.C. produce supports our local economies – when you choose B.C. produce at the grocery store or shop at your local farmers market you are supporting those producers in your community.

Whether you grow your own, visit your local farmers market, or shop at the grocery store, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the bounty of B.C. And what better time to do so than this B.C. Day long weekend! If you are hosting a BBQ, having a lakeside picnic, or going to a potluck, try out this crowd-pleasing salad. It’s packed full of flavour and uses a variety of produce you can find growing in our awesome province.

Happy B.C. Day everyone!

Salad and dressing

This grilled corn, arugula, and couscous salad is a celebration of B.C. produce. Enjoy it at your next BBQ, lakeside picnic, or family gathering!

Grilled corn, arugula, and couscous salad

Adapted from The Wellness Kitchen Cookbook, by Paulette Lambert, RD

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 cup water
  • ⅔ cup whole wheat couscous
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 3 ears of corn, grilled and kernels cut from cob
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • ⅓ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing

  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in couscous, remove from heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
  2. In a large salad bowl, toss couscous, arugula, tomatoes, corn, avocado, pumpkin seeds, cranberries. Set aside.
  3. For the dressing, in a blender or food processor, add basil, buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  4. To serve, toss the salad with the dressing, then sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.

Tips

  • Keep the dressing and salad separate until you are ready to serve to avoid soggy arugula.
  • You can also replace the couscous with quinoa or millet to make it gluten-free.
Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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5 tips for fuelling your active lifestyle

Fitness equipment and a plate of balanced food.

Fuel your active lifestyle with water and food from all four food groups!

From walking in the park to bicycling, or from backyard gardening to organized sports, physical activity is great for the mind, body, and soul. Keeping active also means keeping your body energized, strong and healthy. Try these five easy tips to fuel your active lifestyle.

1. Eat regular meals and snacks

Eating regularly gives our bodies a constant source of energy, so we’re ready for everything the day has in store.

2. Enjoy a variety of foods from all of the food groups

Each of the food groups from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide provide different nutrients to keep your body fueled, healthy and happy.

  • Vegetables and Fruits – provide vitamins and minerals to keep your body running smoothly and recover from injuries and illness. Choose fruits and vegetables from all colours of the rainbow to get the most benefits.
  • Grain Products – provide carbohydrates which our bodies use for energy. Choose whole grains more often to have consistent energy throughout the day.
  • Milk and Alternatives – provide vitamins and minerals important for healthy bones. Strong bones allow us to stay active and help prevent falls and injuries.
  • Meat and Alternatives – provide protein for building muscles, and iron to deliver oxygen to our cells.
Mug of soup.

Staying active this summer? Eat a variety of real foods to keep your energy levels where they need to be!

3. Eat real food

No need for protein powders, energy bars, or other sports supplements. Eating a variety of real foods from all of the food groups will provide your body with everything it needs to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, and it’s less expensive, too.

4. Stay hydrated with water

Sip on water throughout the day and during activities to keep your body well hydrated. Sports drinks aren’t necessary for most people, and cost more. Try flavouring your water with lemon or lime wedges to mix it up.

5. Avoid energy drinks

While they might give you a burst of energy, it won’t last. And their high caffeine content can actually be dangerous for your heart.


A version of this article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Veg out for dinner tonight

Chickpea burger with toppings

Adding a vegetarian meal (or two!) to your weekly rotation can be as simple as swapping out a few ingredients of a weekly staple. For your next burger night, try a quick and delicious chickpea burger instead of a meat burger!

What’s for dinner tonight?

Ah yes, the age-old question. Perhaps you like to make a weekly meal plan. Or maybe you come home from work and let your mood dictate what will be on the table that night. Regardless of your dinner style, do you ever build your meal around some of the meat alternatives found in Canada’s Food Guide? Think beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, tofu – all of these are great vegetarian protein sources to incorporate into your diet. If these foods haven’t been on your dinner radar, they probably should be! Adding a vegetarian meal one night a week can be a great thing to do for you and your family!

So, what makes adding vegetarian meals to your weekly rotation so great?

  • Economical: Vegetarian meals are often more budget-friendly than meals based around meat or seafood. Beans, lentils, eggs, and tofu are all easier on the wallet than chicken, steak, or salmon.
  • Variety: Adding vegetarian meals to your weekly rotation can add great variety to your diet as you experiment with different recipes or revamp your favourite to make them veggie-friendly.
  • Healthy: Choosing vegetarian protein options like beans, lentils, nuts, and tofu can be great for your health. These foods are lower in saturated fat than meats and high in fibre, which can help keep your heart healthy and decrease your risk for other chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
  • Convenient: Cooking up a vegetarian meal is easy. Lentils and eggs can be cooked up in a flash, and canned beans are a great staple to have on hand.
  • Delicious: Yes, vegetarian meals are delicious! Think hearty bean chili, comforting lentil soup, fragrant tofu Thai curry, or a fancy spinach and mushroom quiche. Yum!

If you want to start incorporating more vegetarian meals into your rotation, I suggest starting with some of your favourite foods and seeing how you might turn those into a great vegetarian meal. Family favourites like pizza, shepherd’s pie, burritos, chili, and burgers can all easily be made vegetarian. In fact, my favourite weeknight vegetarian meal is a super simple veggie burger made using chickpeas. They are reminiscent of falafel and, best of all, they are quick and delicious. Give them a go!

Chickpea burger

Vegetarian meals are economical, healthy, delicious, convenient, and add variety to your diet!

Falafelly Good Chickpea Burgers

Recipe from French Fries to Flax Seeds.

Makes 4 burgers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (540 ml or 19 oz) no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup white or red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher until just a little lumpy – you want some texture.
  2. Add in garlic, parsley, onion, flour, olive oil, cumin, and cayenne. Mix until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Divide the mixture into 4 equal-sized balls and form into patties. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, adding a small amount of oil if the pan is not non-stick. Fry the patties until golden brown and cooked through – about 5 minutes on each side.
  5. Serve on whole wheat burger buns with your favourite burger toppings, or dress them up like you would a falafel.

Note: Feel free to switch out the fresh herbs for whatever you have on hand – dill and basil are both great choices!

For more delicious ways of incorporating beans and lentils into your meals, check out Pulse Canada.

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Workplace celebrations: More than just food

Tea, mugs, and teapot on a table.

Next time your coworker has a birthday or your team completes a major project, celebrate with a tea party instead of the typical treats! When it comes to workplace celebrations, get healthy by getting creative!

From holidays to birthdays, milestones, and achievements, there are plenty of reasons to get together with your coworkers for celebration. It’s great to take those moments to celebrate together. They often provide an opportunity to become a more closely knit team and forget about the stresses of everyday tasks. Often, workplace celebrations are centred on food: birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and other less nutritious treats. And while occasional treats are definitely a part of healthy eating, when they happen too frequently, they can impact our health and productivity in the workplace.

Many of us spend at least ⅓ of our day at work so having a work environment where making the healthy choice the easy choice is important. Since celebrations are social events and great opportunities for team building, it can be hard to decline when offered a cookie or other treat. Some people may feel pressure to take the item in order not to offend anyone or to fit in with the group. Having alternate ways of celebrating and including everyone takes the stress out of the situation for many.

Next time you and your workmates are planning a celebration, why not consider mixing it up with some fun non-food activities or trying some strategies to encourage healthy food celebrations? Here are 10 creative ideas to get you started:

  1. Keep cake a treat. Instead of celebrating with a cake for everyone’s birthday, why not have monthly or seasonal birthday celebrations?
  2. Consider alternative birthday celebrations. Give cards signed by coworkers or have a fun birthday object that the birthday staff member keeps for the day. It could be a pin, sash, hat, or other unique object!
  3. Have a pumpkin carving contest for Halloween.
  4. Hold a decorating contest. Decorate office doors or windows individually or in teams.
  5. Choose to sponsor a local charity.
  6. Plan a group activity. Rent the ice rink, have a bowling tournament, or try rock climbing.
  7. Choose restaurants that offer healthier menu choices. Check out Informed Dining for locations that provide nutritional information.
  8. Ask your caterer to make 80% of the choices healthier options, with 20% being treat food.
  9. Try a healthy theme for office potlucks. Choose a theme that encourages vegetable, fruit, and whole grain options, such as red and green vegetables for Christmas, or a soup and salad bar. Remember to create a sign-up list to ensure variety. List categories of foods and don’t forget extras like cutlery, napkins, or beverages.
  10. Instead of a meal, host an afternoon tea party. Coworkers can bring in their favourite teas to share. Don’t forget to bring your favourite mug, too!

For more information on creating healthy eating environments in the workplace, check out the Eat Smart Meet Smart guide and the Healthier Choices in Vending Machines policy page.


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!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Defend against vending machine temptation

Vending machine

This vending machine is double trouble with salty and sugary treats as well as sugar-filled beverages. Do you have a machine like this in your workplace? Use the Healthier Choices in Vending Machines in BC Public Buildings guide to become a vending machine crusader!

Vending machines – they can be pretty tempting things. With their bright colours, blinking lights, and palatable treats, they can be hard to resist even if you aren’t feeling hunger pangs. Just think of the small child at the local hockey arena, begging their mom or dad for a chocolate bar or bag of chips after skating lessons. Clearly, just the sight of salty and sweet treats can be enough to make us want to part with whatever change is in our pockets! And they show up in the most random places! I was at my vet’s office just the other day and they had a vending machine in the corner! No wonder it can be hard to make healthy choices when vending machine temptation is so often staring you in the face.

In a perfect world, we would always have a healthy snack stashed away in our desk or bag to tide us over until our next meal so we wouldn’t have to turn to the vending machine. But our lives aren’t perfect and sometimes we find ourselves without any other options but what is available to purchase. In those situations, how can we navigate the world of vending machines to make healthier choices?

It can be hard to know exactly what you are getting when you put those coins into a vending machine. Unlike at the store, you can’t pick up the package and read the nutrition label. You can only compare products based on the front of the package and what you might already know about that snack or beverage. If you’re lucky, you might have access to machines that stock fresh options like fruit, vegetables, yogurt, or tuna and cracker snack packs. But if you’re faced with a more traditional machine, look for the least processed items like packages of peanuts, trail mix, dried fruit, or granola bars made with these ingredients.

And did you know that B.C. has established guidelines for healthier choices in vending machines that are in buildings owned, leased, or occupied by provincial public bodies? This means that in these places you will find items lower in sugar, salt, and fat, and higher in essential nutrients. Take a peek through the glass at the offerings in your workplace’s vending machines and see if they meet the guidelines. If not, why not see if you can get them implemented? You could become the office vending machine crusader!

For more tips on defending against vending machine temptation, check out this short video from Dietitians of Canada – and remember to keep checking back on the Northern Health Matters blog for more great posts to help you make healthy choices all Nutrition Month long!


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!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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