Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Leftover pumpkin? Here’s a healthy go-to snack!

No-bake energy bites in a bowl.

The season of sweet treats is coming soon so it’s a great time to try a new healthy, go-to snack and use up some leftover pumpkin in the process!

As fall comes to a close and the winter season begins, your taste buds may also be shifting gears in preparation for all things Christmas. Sugar cookies, fudge, and candy canes are among the treats that many of us tend to expect during the holidays! These treats can be hard to avoid so, in preparation for this abundance of goodies, I’m carrying forward a favourite healthy fall recipe as a go-to healthy snack.

Use up those leftover cans of pumpkin puree or, better yet, put your pumpkins from Halloween to good use in this recipe that can be enjoyed any time of the year!

Full of healthy fats, fibre and protein, this quick grab-and-go snack is the perfect choice any time of the day. It’s guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth and nourish your body with good nutrition to get you through your busy day!

Pumpkin no-bake energy bites

Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Yield: About 25 one-inch balls

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (about 1 cup) chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds or flax seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (dry, not cooked)
  • 1 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  1. Combine the dates, honey, pumpkin puree, chia or flax seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and combined.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Once the mixture is cool (and easier to work with), use a spoon to shape it into your desired size of energy balls (the recipe should yield about 25 balls if you aim for one inch in diameter).
  4. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Tip: Instead of balls, you can also press the mixture into a parchment paper-lined pan, let it cool, and then cut into bars.

Tip: Try adding some chocolate chips to take the decadence factor up a notch!

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Foodie Friday: Easy mason jar parfait

Yogurt parfait in mason jar.

Mason jar breakfasts can pack a powerful punch and are super easy to grab-and-go! Try Rilla’s recipe or mix it up with your favourite fruits and nuts.

Mason jars are a great way to take your breakfast up a notch. Their fun presentation gives a sneak peek into a colourful, appealing meal before we actually dig in!

Mason jars can be used to store and transport your meal and can also be used for baking or shaking/mixing ingredients.

This cool idea makes portion control at breakfast easy, with the added bonus of a portable and environmentally friendly container! Make a mason jar your new favourite Tupperware or lunchbox.

Need an idea to fill your mason jar?

Mix up the goodness of quinoa with greek yogurt, fruit and nuts for a breakfast with some staying power. This meal combination has a healthy dose of good fats, protein and carbs to start your day off right!

This recipe is extremely versatile. Try using granola in place of quinoa, a variety of fruit in place of blueberries, or other nuts, dried fruit or nut butter in place of almonds! The options are endless, and ensure that you’ll never be bored with your breakfast meal again!

Easy Mason Jar Parfait

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup cooked and cooled quinoa
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ banana, sliced
  • 1 tbsp almonds
  • Pure maple syrup, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Prepare quinoa the night before as per package instructions. Cool overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Layer yogurt, quinoa, fruit and nuts and top with maple syrup to taste.

Try making these the night before or in batches for a quick grab-and-go breakfast in the morning!

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Foodie Friday: Workplace potlucks

Various dishes on a table.

How do you ensure that your potlucks are healthy potlucks?

Northern Health promotes teamwork and a sense of community in the workplace. In keeping with this vision, weeks can sometimes get busy with team meetings, events or gatherings. Often, these occur over the lunch hour – a time that tends to fit best into everyone’s busy schedules.

Because this means that we are often eating lunch with our coworkers, workplace potlucks are a popular choice for meetings and gatherings. These situations can, however, sometimes make healthy eating a challenge!

Here are some tips to ensure your next workplace potluck is a healthy workplace potluck!

  • Skip the sweets and desserts at events. Enjoy fresh fruit instead!
  • Follow the plate method and aim to fill half your plate with vegetables.
  • Have a sign-up sheet for potlucks with spots to fill under the four food groups. This makes sure there will always be balanced options!
  • Make sure to bring something healthy and tasty that you know you like – that way you can be sure of at least one healthy choice!

Try preparing some Mexican Quinoa Bites for a quick and easy potluck item!

Mexican Quinoa Bites

Recipe from The Lean Green Bean

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 cup black beans, cooked
  • ¼ cup avocado, smashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • ½ cup corn kernels, cooked
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ⅓ cup ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup low-fat Mexican shredded cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Rinse quinoa and cook according to package directions. Let cool slightly.
  3. Combine beans, avocado, peppers, corn and onion in a small bowl and mix well.
  4. Add spices and stir to combine.
  5. Add cooked quinoa, egg, ground pepitas, and cheese. Mix well.
  6. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray and spoon in quinoa mixture.
  7. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes.
  9. Gently remove from pan. Serve with salsa.
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Foodie Friday: Winter baking

Rural driveway lined with snow and frost

Warm baking tastes that much better on frosty winter days and cold nights! When you are baking, keep an eye out for sugar and fat content. Healthy baking options high in fibre and low in added sugar do exist! (Photo by Northern Health staff member Shellie O’Brien)

The winter weather has officially landed and with it, I find myself wanting to do more baking. On these cold wintery nights, there is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a warm baked good right out of the oven.

Unfortunately, many baked goods can be high in sugar and fat and low in fibre, which is why I make an effort to seek out healthier recipes for baked goods that are still as delicious as the originals!

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas and makes a great snack or dessert option. It can also be part of a quick breakfast when paired with something like fruit and yogurt to create a balanced meal! These bars are high in fibre and low in added sugar, but what’s even better is that they come together in less than 30 minutes including prep and cook time!

Chocolate PB Chip Oat Bars (from the Real Life RD)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar (original recipe calls for coconut palm sugar)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup milk (original recipe calls for almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips or peanut butter chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line an 8” x 8” baking pan with greased parchment paper.
  3. Process your oats into a flour using a blender or food processor.
  4. Add your oat flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl. Add the mashed banana, milk, and vanilla and gently stir until almost completely mixed. Fold in your chocolate chips. Spread onto baking pan.
  5. Bake the bars for 18-20 minutes or until the center is set and cooked through.
  6. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the parchment paper. Let the bars cool completely before slicing into squares.
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Foodie Friday: Easy fish on the campfire

A campfire on a beach can be the perfect place to make a quick, delicious summer meal.

A campfire is a great way to make a quick, delicious summer meal.

During the summer, meal prep time is often lost to outdoor activities and enjoying the sunshine. I like to call this season a time for “casual dining.” I aim for simple meals with minimal prep/cook time so I can get out of the kitchen and make good use of the warm weather. It’s even better when I can incorporate the meal making into my summer activities!

As many people do, I enjoy spending time at the lake on the weekends. Preparing supper without having to leave the beach is ideal for me. This recipe is quick, easy and delicious- and can be cooked right at the campfire, maximizing your fun in the sun!

Foil Packet Fish and Veggies

Ingredients:

  • 4 white fish filets
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1-2 tsp seasoning (I use Mrs. Dash; however, any blend will work – get creative!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Note: Remember you’ll also need aluminum foil!

Directions:

  1. Slice vegetables thinly.
  2. Thaw and rinse fish filets.
  3. Tear off two pieces of aluminum foil twice as long as the filets and lay on top of each other.
  4. Grease the inside of the aluminum foil with butter where the fish will be placed.
  5. Place one fish filet in the middle of your aluminum foil and sprinkle with seasoning.
  6. Pile ¼ of the vegetables of top of the fish.
  7. Bring the ends of the foil together and seal shut.
  8. Do this for the rest of the fish filets.
  9. Cook on hot coals for 12 minutes each side.
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Foodie Friday: Tropical overnight oats

Ingredients for the overnight oats recipe and a bowl of it with the ingredients combined.

Get the day started on the right foot with this easy and tasty breakfast!

As we transition into the warmer summer months, I notice that my food choices change with the rising temperature and that I begin craving my typical summer breakfast choices. Gone are the mornings where all I want is a steaming bowl of oatmeal.

With the change in seasons, many of us see a change in our eating habits. Summer is BBQ season and a time for cool, refreshing dishes that get us away from the stove and into the sunshine. If you aren’t careful, summer can bring with it less balanced meals. Here’s a recipe to get your day started off right, with a refreshing and balanced breakfast!

I also serve this dish warm in winter months. In the warm version,  I cook the first four ingredients on the stove top and use everything else as garnish. The cool, summer version below comes together in minutes, making for a quick grab and go breakfast in the morning! Whichever version you prefer, this a great breakfast choice that packs the fibre and protein to get you through till lunch!

Tropical overnight oats:
Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup instant oats or Muesli
  • ½ diced banana
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk or Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp pineapple tidbits or diced pineapple
  • 1 tbsp shredded coconut
  • Garnish to your liking (brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, nuts, chia seeds, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a Mason jar or Tupperware container the night before. It will be ready to eat by morning!
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Making it easy: the rule of “fave five”

healthy eating; food; recipe

Simple ingredients for simple (and fast) suppers!

Planning to eat healthy is always a good goal, but many of us don’t have the time or desire to be spending hours in the kitchen every day preparing a healthy meal from scratch. Recipes can call for a long list of ingredients, many of which we may not have on hand in the pantry or fridge, and require time for preparation, such as washing, chopping, grating, soaking, mincing, etc. Without planning in advance, these meals can be challenging to pull off. Having a few go-to recipes that can be made in a hurry is an easy solution for when you’re in a pinch!

When we think quick and easy food, we typically think of convenience or fast foods. Convenience meals and fast food are typically prepackaged, processed and often high in sodium, fat and calories. Making meals at home lets you control what ingredients you use, make healthy substitutions, and be flexible with the recipe depending on what is available. This can mean a delicious and nutritious meal that you can feel good about!

Making a meal with five ingredients or less cuts down on time spent on planning, purchasing and food preparation. Using simple ingredients that are often in our kitchen, meal making can be quick, easy and healthy!

To get you started, I’m sharing with you a personal favourite of mine: Spinach and Feta Frittata (adapted from a recipe from the Dietitians of Canada).

Makes 10 servings

  • 1 package (10 oz/300 g) fresh or frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1½ cups cubed peeled potatoes
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup feta cheese

-Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

-Spread in potatoes and spinach in 13- by 9-inch (33 by 23 cm) glass baking dish, lightly greased.

-In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Pour over vegetables and stir gently to distribute. Sprinkle evenly with feta.

-Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until eggs are set.

Food fact: Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate and calcium! Find new ways to include this nutritional powerhouse in your diet regularly. Add it to soups, casseroles, pasta sauces, smoothies and salads.

Do you have any “fave five” recipes?

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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