Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Lentils

Lentil health and nutrition infographic

Lentils, health, and nutrition

As the cold weather moves in, it’s so satisfying to warm up with a bowl of something hot. Chilies, soups, and stews are a staple for many families and can be a great source of nutrition if done right. By pairing the veggies of your choice with a source of protein and fibre, you can have a complete meal ready and on the table in no time at all!

In a past blog post, I spoke about my love for the Oh She Glows food blog. I recently made their Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup and was not disappointed!

This soup is a great example of a hearty, delicious, complete meal that contains no meat; in fact, it contains no animal products at all! Going “meatless” for one or two meals a week is a great way to challenge yourself and your family to explore new flavours and try new recipes. Reducing consumption of meat, red meat in particular, may also lower your risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers.

Lentils are one of my favourite meatless sources of protein. One serving (100g) of lentils contains the same amount of protein as one serving of steak (26g), but with only 1.5g of fat (the steak has 18g), 18g of fibre, and half of your daily recommendation of folate and iron! If you’re hooked on lentils after trying this Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup, head on over to lentils.ca for more recipes and lentil-related nutrition tips.

Red lentils

Lentils are a great meatless source of protein!

Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup

From: Oh She Glows

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (280 g) diced onion (1 medium/large)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 (15 oz/398 ml) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 (15 oz/398 ml) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup (140 g) uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 1/2 cups (875 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste (for a kick of heat!)
  • 1 (5 oz/140 g) package baby spinach
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and sauté over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the onion softens.
  2. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom until combined. Continue cooking for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), entire can of coconut milk, red lentils, broth, salt, and plenty of pepper. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne, if desired, to taste. Stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil.
  4. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer, uncovered, for about 18 to 22 minutes, until the lentils are fluffy and tender.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until wilted. Add the lime juice to taste. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted bread and lime wedges.
Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Beat the heat with homemade fruit pops!

Families in a park.

Looking to stay cool during your next summer picnic, event, or festival? Try making your own popsicles!

Much of northern B.C. has been enjoying some beautiful weather these past few weeks. I have been loving relaxing in the sun, reading a book or listening to music.

I recently attended the Edge of the World Music Festival on Haida Gwaii. It was a beautiful hot and sunny day with not a cloud in sight; a perfect day to lay out a blanket and chill out while listening to some great music.

I was overjoyed by the nice weather, but I quickly realized I would not be able to enjoy the music without something to keep me cool. Ice pops to the rescue!

When I was a kid, I remember my mom making homemade ice pops in plastic molds. At the festival, I was delighted to find someone selling homemade ice pops like the ones my mom used to make. It was just what I needed.

Since then, I purchased my own ice pop moulds and have started experimenting with different flavours. One of my favourites so far is this recipe for watermelon mint popsicles. They taste delicious and fresh and are a smart alternative to many store-bought ice pops that are high in sugar. A quick scan online shows that many popular ice pop brands have two to four teaspoons of added sugar per serving!

Watermelon slice

Sarah is a fan of watermelon-mint popsicles. What combinations will you try?

Watermelon mint popsicles

Recipe adapted from Zoku.

Don’t have moulds? Ice cube trays and cut pieces of firm straws can do the trick!

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (about 3½ cups) seeded, cubed fresh watermelon
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • Sweetener of choice (optional – if your watermelon is sweet, you won’t need to add sweetener. If you want a sweeter base, simply add a little sweetener to taste.)

Instructions

  1. Make the watermelon base: In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth.
  2. Assemble popsicles: Insert sticks and pour the watermelon base until almost full. Let freeze completely, then remove the pops and enjoy.

If you enjoy these, start experimenting with different fruit combinations or try using various types of milk as the liquid base. One of my favourite flavour combinations is coconut milk and pineapple. Last year, Amy showed us her strawberry-coconut variety! What combinations will you try?

Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Seniors’ Week edition

Senior gardening with kids

Don’t miss out on essential nutrients as you age!

As we age, our appetites decrease and we often pay less attention to nutrition. Many seniors live alone and have difficulty finding motivation to cook proper meals and therefore may miss out on many essential nutrients. With Seniors’ Week in B.C. upon us, it’s a great time to look at one of these essential nutrients: calcium!

Are you getting enough calcium?

Health Canada recommends women over the age of 51 and men over the age of 70 get 1200 mg of calcium each day. Men under 70 require only 1000 mg. It’s recommended that we reach this goal through a combination of nutrient-rich foods, using supplements only when necessary. Always talk to your doctor or registered dietitian before taking a calcium supplement.

So what does 1200 mg look like? A good rule of thumb is that a serving of dairy contains approximately 300 mg of calcium. One serving might look like a 50 g serving of cheese (the size of your thumb), 1 cup of milk, or ¾ cup yogurt. If you typically drink a milk alternative such as rice or almond milk, check the label to make sure it’s fortified with calcium. One cup should provide you with about 30% of your daily value.

Although dairy products are the most popular calcium source, many non-dairy foods are great sources of calcium as well. My current favourite is chia seeds. Due to their increase in popularity, they are now easy to find in most stores and are versatile when it comes to how you can use them. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain about half the calcium of a cup of milk! Want to add some calcium to your diet? Try this chia seed jam as an alternative to the store-bought varieties! Have an older friend, family member, or neighbour? Why not make them a jar or two and stop by for a visit!

Magical Blueberry Vanilla Chia Seed Jam

From Oh She Glows (one of my go-to blogs!)

Yields about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries
  • 3-4 tbsp pure maple syrup, to taste (or other liquid sweetener)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In a non-stick pot, bring blueberries and maple syrup to a low boil. Stir frequently and reduce heat to simmer for about 5 minutes. Lightly mash with a potato masher or fork, leaving some blueberries for texture.
  2. Stir in the chia seeds until thoroughly combined and cook the mixture down until it thickens to your desired consistency (about 15 minutes). Stir frequently so it doesn’t stick to the pot.
  3. Once the jam is thick, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Add more maple syrup to taste if desired. Share a jar with an older neighbour or friend or enjoy on toast, baked goods, and more. The jam should keep for at least a week in an air-tight container in the fridge.
Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Avoiding lunch hour diet derailment

Sweet potato with tuna salad and greek yogurt.

Looking for a healthy lunch idea for the workplace? Bake a sweet potato and top with tuna salad for a delicious dinner and lunch the next day! Cook once and enjoy twice!

It’s been two and a half months since you promised yourself a healthier 2015, but have you managed to stick to your goals? One of the most common points of diet derailment (and remember that Northern Health defines “diet” as your eating habits and not as a weight loss regimen, which is a different usage of the term!) is lunch hour at the office. Potlucks, cafeteria offerings, and nearby fast-food temptations are luring you far away from your sandwich and even further away from your goal of having a healthy workweek. Here are some tips to help keep you on track:

  1. Plan ahead: Making a weekly grocery list is key to staying on track with healthy eating! Whether you’ve planned out specific lunches or not, make sure you pick up some lunch-friendly foods so when you’re in a crunch the night before work, you have some ingredients on hand. For example, if you like sandwiches, make sure you’re stocked up on whole grain bread and your favourite fillings for the week. Another tip, never leave making your lunch to the morning.
  2. Make it convenient: Batch cooking on the weekend is probably one of the most convenient ways to make sure you have healthy lunches for the week. It’s also a great way to try out a new recipe. Prepare a recipe that serves 4-6 people and portion it into Tupperware containers. If you’re like me and don’t mind eating leftovers, you’ll have lunch for the week. If you like a bit more variety, save a couple portions for the week and put the rest in the freezer. Another convenient strategy is to always make an extra portion of supper for lunch the next day. Just make sure you plan ahead and work these extra portions into your grocery list!
  3. Choose a lunch you like: Sounds obvious, right? Don’t get stuck in the PB&J grind! If you make yourself a boring lunch, of course you’ll be tempted by less healthy options. Make yourself a lunch you’ll look forward to. One of my favourite lunches is Sweet Potato with Tuna Salad (recipe below). I usually make it the night before and eat one portion for supper and pack the other portion for the next day. Hope you enjoy!

Sweet Potato with Tuna Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato (enough for two servings)
  • 1 can of skipjack tuna in water
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 heaping tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 lime wedges
  • Handful fresh cilantro or parsley

Instructions:

  1. Pierce skin of sweet potato all over. Bake sweet potato at 350 F for 45 minutes or until soft in the middle when pierced with a fork. Baking time will depend on the size of the potato. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, drain tuna and mix with mayonnaise and curry powder in a small bowl.
  3. Cut cooked sweet potato in half lengthwise. Mash the flesh with a fork to form a little dip in which to sit the tuna.
  4. Divide the tuna between the two sweet potato halves.
  5. Place a dollop of Greek yogurt on top of each half. Season with cracked pepper and a squeeze of lime. Sprinkle cilantro or parsley on top.
  6. Enjoy!
Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Go-to blogs for quick and healthy recipes

Granola bars that have been baked in a muffin tin

Food blogs can be a great source of delicious and healthy recipes. What are your favourite food blogs?

It seems that in recent years, cookbooks have become a thing of the past. I hate to admit that, sadly, some of my favourite cookbooks have become coffee table decorations or bookshelf treasures rather than go-to sources for mealtime. With food blogging becoming ever-so-popular, it has become a habit of mine to flip open my laptop when I’m craving creativity in the kitchen or needing a quick and healthy supper. There are thousands of food blogs out there, but to get you started I’ve listed three of my favourites here.

The Lean Green Bean

I first started visiting this blog when I was a part of the “Foodie Penpals” program, but I quickly learned The Lean Green Bean had more to offer. The author, a registered dietitian herself, creates recipes that are meant to be quick, easy, and healthy and that use ingredients that you most likely already have in your cupboards or freezer. Many recipes include frozen vegetables or canned or dried beans – ingredients that are both accessible and affordable. As a dietitian, these two qualities are very important to me. Maybe I’m a sucker for snacks, but I also especially like this blog for the creative breakfast bars. See these Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Bars for a make-ahead breakfast idea.

Chocolate Covered Katie

I find myself visiting this blog frequently. Not only because the main focus is on treats with a healthy twist, but because the author, like me, has chocolate on the brain at all times. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to explore the entire recipe collection, but I have a good reason: I visit this blog specifically for the single-serve desserts. Single ladies, you know what I’m talking about! Next time you have a sweet tooth, try one of these Single Lady Cookies. Chocolate craving? No problem! Check out this One Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug or this Single Serving Mocha Chocolate Cake.

Oh She Glows

While I am not a vegetarian, a food culture of vegetarianism is on the rise and after three close friends became vegetarians (one vegan) I arrived at the Oh She Glows blog with a mission to find tasty vegan recipes made with familiar ingredients. The recipes you will find here are elegant vegetarian versions of classic dishes that are sure to please meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. I especially like this blog for the snack recipes. The author has dozens of recipes for muffins, granola bars, and healthy cookies that I have personally made staples to my day. For example, these Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars. Try mixing and matching the nuts and seeds to find your perfect fit – just keep the ratios consistent! Also, I use muffin tins when I make granola bars so I can skip the messy step of cutting when they come out of the oven.

Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars (from: Oh She Glows)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium/large bananas)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts – pecans and hazelnuts work, too!), chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish (approx. 8.5″ x 12.5″) and line with a piece of parchment paper so the bars are easier to lift out. I use muffin tins so that I don’t need to cut the bars later!
  2. In a large bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Place the rolled oats into a food processor (or blender on the lowest speed) and pulse until the oats are coarsely chopped (but still with lots of texture). Stir oats into the banana mixture.
  4. Chop the walnuts and cherries and stir these and the rest of the ingredients into the banana-oat mixture until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Press down until compacted and smooth out with hands until even.
  6. Bake for 23-27 minutes until firm and lightly golden along the edge. If you used a muffin tin like me, place dish on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, carefully loosen and remove granola bars, and cool. If you are using a baking sheet, remove granola slab and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then into the freezer for another 10 minutes. Slice into bars once they are cool.

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do and take some time to discover your own favourites. Feel free to share your favourites in the comment section below!

Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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