Healthy Living in the North

One dietitian, one month, and 28 recipes: lessons learned

When I look at a recipe that calls for a long list of ingredients, specialized kitchen equipment, and various intricate steps, I understand how Harry Potter might feel in his potions class: any misstep could spell disaster!

Fortunately, that was not (totally) my experience with my Nutrition Month recipe challenge. In March, I set out to try a month’s worth of Foodie Friday recipes from the Northern Health Matters blog. In total, I tried 28 new recipes, and am I so proud to share that there were only a few disasters!

What did I learn?

  • I am actually quite terrible at following recipes (no, really) – but that can be okay if you have a higher risk tolerance! I’m sure that in home economics class we were taught to read through the whole recipe first, get all the ingredients together, and then get started. Apparently I approach cooking with a little more abandon. This sometimes resulted in …er… surprises.
  • I am very good at recipe modifications – this is a skill that can really come in handy! Got a 25 lb bag of dried kidney beans lurking in a closet? Great – sub them into every recipe that calls for beans! Forgot to buy the wheat germ? Just skip it! No grapes at the store for the broccoli salad? Just use baby tomatoes!
  • Combine my recklessness with recipe prep and my penchant for recipe substitutions, and small disasters do happen. Consider, for example, the “oatmeal bites” incident of March 30th. I liked the Power Cookies that I made to share on Dietitian’s Day, so I decided to whip up another batch for my book club meeting. I got to the step about the applesauce. No applesauce. No problem – I have canned plum puree! Then the recipe called for orange juice and rind. No oranges – but I have lemon! Look at me go! In my self-congratulatory state, I completed the rest of the required steps, popped everything in the oven, and promptly realized I had forgotten the sugar. After trying to sweeten the cookies with little chocolate sprinkles that didn’t stick and looked mildly suspicious, and knowing I couldn’t show up empty handed, I finally desperately rebranded these cookies as “oatmeal bites.” Groan, I know. However, we did discover that my oatmeal bites were lovely topped with the chocolate covered banana slices someone else brought to the meeting. Saved!
  • Some recipe modifications don’t work. For example, one should not consider the Grilled Caesar Salad recipe if one does not, in fact, have a grill. I should know. Baked lettuce is just sad. However, the dressing is lovely!

    salmon loaves

    The salmon loaves were made mini by cooking them in a muffin tin.

What recipes would I make again?

Despite a few small but edible disasters, the recipe challenge was a fun experience and my family and I were really pleased with the majority of the recipes we tried. Realistically though, 28 recipes is simply too much to incorporate into the regular repertoire, so below I have listed a few that I am most likely to make again. No surprise, the simpler recipes are the favourites! And true to form, I modified many of these recipes, and have indicated that below as well. Enjoy!

Great simple recipes calling for less than 10 ingredients:

  • Potato Leek Soup – I liked this so much I made it twice! (I skipped the milk.)
  • Hugwiljum (Salmon Soup) – Throw 6 ingredients into one pot, boil and simmer! Yes! (I used canned salmon.)
  • Salmon Loaf – Simply yummy. (I cut down the cooking time by using a muffin tray instead of a loaf tin.)
  • Roasted Root Veggies – This recipe is already so easy and versatile.

    baked oatmeal, berries

    Baked oatmeal made for a nutritious (and picturesque!) breakfast.

Delicious baked goods that feature foods from 3 or 4 food groups:

Other items that I will use to (hopefully) impress dinner guests

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

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Foodie Friday: Dinner from Down Under

I love creating the many family recipes I grew up with on a regular basis, but I also love experiencing the tried and true recipes from other people’s families. It’s fun to learn about the flavour combinations and food traditions they enjoy, and then find ways to incorporate them into my own cooking repertoire. Bonus points when they are simple to make and use common ingredients!

Way back when I finished university, I picked up and moved to Australia for 6 months, where I lived with a local family. Eating in Australia wasn’t too much of a culture shock, but I did have to learn some of the lingo. While I was there, I learned what a sausage sizzle was, the proper way to eat Vegemite, how to perfectly cube a mango, and that “tasty cheese” is in fact just a medium cheddar cheese. I made sure to share some culinary tidbits with them as well – like the fact that peanut butter is delicious with jam (turns out many Australians don’t eat peanut butter with sweet things).madarin, chicken

As a temporary member of my host family, I enjoyed family dinners with them. One of my favourites that they made often was a simple chicken stir-fry with carrots and celery topped with almonds and mandarin oranges. I don’t know that it was particularly Australian, but that doesn’t matter. I loved the bright, fresh flavours, and it was a real crowd pleaser. I watched my “Aussie mum” make it so many times that I took the reins making it for the family on a few occasions. While I’ve done a little adapting from the original recipe, it is something I still continue to make and enjoy to this day!

Mandarin Orange & Almond Chicken Stir-fry

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (11 oz or 312 g) mandarin oranges packed in juice, drained and juice reserved
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 – 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, corn starch, bouillon, sugar, and sesame oil. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the oil to the pan, then add the onion and garlic. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken, and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add carrots and celery to the pan, and continue to stir fry for 2-5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are cooked but crisp. Add the almonds back to pan.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the sauce mixture, and cook until thickened.
  6. Serve over rice, quinoa, or noodles, topped with the mandarin orange slices and sesame seeds.

Note: Don’t add the mandarin oranges until serving, otherwise they will fall apart in the stir-fry!

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: discovering the rich history of Oolichan in the Northwest

Every spring, the oolichan (or Eulachon) return to the Nass and Skeena rivers in northern B.C. Oolichan are a small ocean fish that migrate long distances up rivers and streams to spawn annually. The oolichan return is a historically and culturally significant event. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples along the Pacific Coast have valued oolichan as a food source, for their high oil content, and as an important ceremonial and trade item. Oolichan trading routes, known colloquially as grease trails, connected coastal communities with interior communities.

birds in air, river, fishing

The air was full of birds during the oolichan return!

Last weekend, I drove from Terrace along the Skeena River towards Prince Rupert and took pictures. Seagulls, eagles, and sea mammals were converging to feast on the oolichan! It’s truly a mesmerizing sight.

Oolichan can be fried, smoked, dried, salted, frozen, canned, or reduced to grease. My favorite way to have oolichan is smoked. I was fortunate to have smoked oolichan at a recent cultural learning event held in Gitanmaax. Elders and traditional knowledge holders shared Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en culture and traditional wellness practices with Northern Health staff. This was an amazing event organized by members of the Northwest East Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) and had over 60 attendees. Traditional First Nations foods were available and many Northern Health staff had their first taste of oolichan.

Oolichan is an excellent source of protein which is important for building and repairing muscles, skin, and blood. It is also high in iron, which we need to carry oxygen in our blood to keep our bodies strong, energetic, and to help prevent illness. Oolichan grease is high in vitamin A, which helps us prevent infection and keeps our skin and eyes healthy. An added bonus in oolichan is the high omega-3 fatty acid content, which helps prevent stroke and diabetes! See the First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets for more information. Due to conservation concerns, oolichan cannot be harvested recreationally.

smoked fish

Oolichan is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Smoked Oolichan

Directions:

  1. Wash the oolichan well under running water.
  2. Place the fish in a barrel of fresh water to which has been added enough coarse salt to float a potato (about 2 cups (500 ml) coarse salt in 3 gallons (12 l).
  3. Soak for about ½ hour to 1 hour or until the oolichan eyes turn white.
  4. Hang the oolichan for smoking by threading on cedar sticks. Push the strip of red cedar in through the gills and out through the mouth.
  5. Hang the oolichan on heavy sticks from the rafters in the smokehouse, making sure the fish are not touching each other. There needs to be enough space between each rack and the fish so that the smoke is even.
  6. Start the fire after the oolichan finish dripping. Use alder wood for smoking.
  7. Smoke the oolichan for 2-6 days. Smoke longer for drier fish.

Learn more about oolichan:

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: garden planning starts in your kitchen!

Now that the sun is shining and the snow is almost gone here in Prince George, the weather leaves me dreaming about my future backyard garden.

My largest passion in life is connecting people with real food, and growing your own food is a great way to build this relationship. Growing your own food can be a therapeutic, humbling, and nourishing experience that is also, of course, chock-full of lessons to be learned throughout the season.

community garden, raised beds

Community gardens are a great way to venture into gardening. They can be a great source of pride and local vegetables!

When I lived in Vancouver, I had an opportunity to join a community garden in my neighbourhood with a 4×11 ft raised bed. This was the biggest garden I had ever had, as I was used to balcony gardening- with a few vegetable fails. I stuffed my new garden plot with everything I could imagine and it was my pride and joy over the growing season. I learned consistency of watering (surprise!), weeding, and harvesting were all key in keeping a healthy, beautiful garden space.

Now that we have our own home, top priority this spring is to build garden boxes to continue on with my gardening aspirations. I plan to have 2 large raised beds – this time with some added fruit trees and bushes, and to cater to our northern climate when planting. For tips on growing a garden in our northern climate, check out this blog post!

Now, what to plant?

If you are a seasoned northern gardener, this may be a silly question, but being new to the north or being an entirely new gardener, this could be a daunting question!

Kale is a hardy, easy-to-grow, and nutritious addition to your garden.

Ask yourself: What do I like to eat? What would I like to try cooking with?

Vegetable gardening starts in the kitchen! Try planting things that you enjoy to eat and you may be more motivated to take care of your plants throughout the season and to enjoy the harvest. One of my favourite vegetables to plant is kale because it is easy to grow, holds up against harsh weather, and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Today’s recipe is made with Portuguese kale- it resembles collard greens with large, smooth, and oval leaves that have a perfect chewiness in this salad. For more ideas on what to do with the kale you may plant this year, check out this blog post!

Sesame Kale Salad

kale salad

Portuguese kale makes for the perfect chewiness.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale, sliced thinly
  • 1 red pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onion, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup cashews, roasted
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 T canola or olive oil
  • 1 T apple cider or rice wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tsp honey

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, add kale, red pepper, carrot, cilantro, and green onions.
  2. In a small jar, combine sesame oil, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and honey. Shake to combine.
  3. Toss salad with enough dressing to coat the vegetables lightly. You will have left over dressing that can be kept in the fridge to use.
  4. Top with crunchy cashews and serve!

I’m sure the years to come will be full of trial and error. I’d love to hear your northern garden success stories!

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian with Northern Health's clinical nutrition team at UHNBC. Erin has a passion for growing and cooking food as well as teaching patients, clients and families about incorporating a balanced, wholesome diet into a healthy lifestyle. In her spare time, you can find her cooking up a storm, writing about food and nutrition, and growing vegetables at her community garden. During her dietetics internship, Erin explored the north from Fort St. John to Haida Gwaii, learning about clinical and public health dietetics with many adventures along the way.

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Foodie Friday: “As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

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

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

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

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

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

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

fruit crisp, bowl

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

“As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

Adapted from Cookspiration.com

Ingredients:

For the filling:

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

For the topping:

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

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

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

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

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

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

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Foodie Friday: You, too, can enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals during the work week!

Being both a mom and a dietitian, cooking nutritious meals for my family is definitely at the top of my priority list. But it’s not always easy. During the work week, I find it especially difficult to find enough time to prepare and cook healthy, well-balanced meals. Did I mention I live 30 minutes out of town and have to pick up a toddler on the way home? Or that by the time we get home, my son and I are usually starving, tired, and often hangry*? (*See definition below).

Slow cooker recipes are a fantastic, convenient way to bring nutritious homemade meals to your family dinner table.

I’m only a couple years into this whole working-mom-juggling business, but along the way, I have picked up some tricks that help my family put together yummy meals that include at least 3 out of 4 food groups most nights of the week.

Here are some tips I’d like to share:

  • Plan out your protein options for the week. I have found that taking stock of the proteins in my freezer/fridge and having a general idea of what I will make each night takes away a lot of stress. Proteins like beef, pork, moose, chicken, and turkey take 2-3 days to thaw in the fridge (depending on the cut) and require a bit of forward-thinking. Fish and seafood thaw much quicker, usually in a day or less. Eggs are always my go-to if I don’t have anything thawed and ready to go.
  • Prep vegetables on the weekend (or on your days off if you work weekends). Chop up a variety of your favorite vegetables, place in them in a container or bag, and store in the fridge. Now they’re ready to throw into your recipe or eat raw. Our favorite vegetables include bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and spinach (bought pre-washed, no prep required). I usually chop up onions, too, because I cook with them a lot.
  • Keep an assortment of frozen vegetables on hand. Especially in the winter, I make sure to have a variety of vegetables in the freezer. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones and can be steamed or microwaved in 5-10 minutes. Season with olive oil plus lemon pepper (or other herbs) and voila!
  • Invest in a slow cooker. If you haven’t yet discovered or purchased a slow cooker, I highly encourage you to consider it. I like to toss whatever it is I’m making into the slow cooker insert the night before, store it in the fridge overnight, then just plop it into the cooking vessel and turn it on before I leave for work. I also use it to cook just the protein portion of our meal, like a whole chicken and then add vegetables and a side dish separately. Or I use the protein for making soups and stews (see recipe below for one of my favorite slow cooker stews).
  • Plan for leftovers. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of leftovers. But I have to admit that having them at least one night out of the week makes good sense. I also like freezing individual portions of leftovers to pull out for last minute/emergency purposes.
  • Keep it simple. Life is hard enough – let’s keep cooking during the work week simple, colourful, and fun.

I personally feel that if we are eating homemade food most of (and not necessarily all of) the time, then we’re on the right track. Not only will your wallet thank you for cutting down on take out and eating out, but you’ll be setting a great example for your loved ones.

Have some tips to add to my list? Please share by commenting below!

Recipe: Slow Cooker Sausage, Bean and Pasta Stew

Adapted from the Food Network

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3-4 carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 oz dried white beans, such as cannellini, rinsed and picked over OR one 28-oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a piece of kitchen twine
  • 454 g (1 lb) of your favorite sausage (4-6 links)
  • One 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
  • One 4 oz chunk Parmesan rind (optional) plus grated Parmesan, for serving
  • 1/2 cup ditalini pasta (or other small pasta such as orzo)
  • 2-3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Spread the onions over the bottom of a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker and top with the carrots, garlic, white beans, thyme bundle, and sausage links. Mix the diced tomatoes with the broth and 3 cups water and pour over the sausages. Add the Parmesan rind if using.
  2. Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours. Uncover the slow cooker, remove and discard the thyme bundle and Parmesan rind and transfer the sausage links to a cutting board. Stir the pasta into the stew and continue to cook, covered, until the pasta is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat. Cut the sausages into bite-sized pieces and stir into the stew along with the spinach, parsley, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side for sprinkling on top and crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

Tamara’s notes: I do step #1 the night before by placing the ingredients in the insert portion of the slow cooker and keeping it in the fridge overnight. Before I leave for work in the morning, I put the insert into the cooking vessel and turn it on.

*Hangry is defined as “being irritable or angry as a result of hunger”. It’s a real thing.

Tamara Grafton

About Tamara Grafton

Tamara is a registered dietitian currently working with the clinical nutrition team at UHNBC and in long term care facilities in Prince George. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she now lives the rural life on a ranch with her husband and young son. She has a passion for nutrition education, healthy eating and cooking. In her downtime, she enjoys reading food blogs, keeping active, and trying out new recipes on her family and friends

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Love your lentils!

Between the busyness of internship and a limited student budget, I’m always on the hunt for simple and affordable recipes. I often find that I turn to lentils since they can be used in so many recipes – both in addition to meat or as a meat substitute.

Why lentils?

Lentils come in a wide variety of colours including green, red, orange, yellow, brown, and black. They are mild in flavour, ranging from sweet to earthy. This variety allows them to be used in many dishes. Dry lentils store well in a cupboard or pantry, so you can buy them in bulk.

Lentils are great because they are a hearty and cheap source of protein, fibre, folate, and iron.

Speaking of iron, it is important to have good sources of iron in our diets every day. In our bodies, iron carries oxygen through the blood. Not getting enough can leave you feeling tired and cranky.

How your body uses iron

  • Iron from meat, fish, and poultry is easily absorbed.
  • Iron from other sources (eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and tofu) is not as easily absorbed, but pairing these foods with foods rich in vitamin C helps the body absorb more of the iron.
  • If you don’t eat much (or any) meat, it is important to regularly eat a variety of plant-based sources of iron, such as lentils.

Basic lentil cooking

I find it helps to have a simple recipe for cooking lentils. That way, I can cook a big batch and add them to different meals. Cooked lentils can be refrigerated for 3-5 days. They also freeze well.

Cooking time for lentils ranges from 20-45 minutes, depending on the type. Check the lentil package for specific instructions, but the general process is:

  • Add lentils and water (use a 2:1 ratio; so for 1 cup of lentils, add 2 cups of water). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until soft.
  • Remove from heat and strain

How to use lentils

Lentil soup in a bowl

Lentils are great because they are versatile, hearty, and a cheap source of protein, fibre, folate, and iron! Try them in Laurel’s simple lentil soup!

Laurel’s simple lentil soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into small strips
  • ¾ cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • Dash of chili flakes
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, and thyme. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Add salt, pepper, soy sauce, and chili flakes to taste.
  3. Spoon into bowls. If desired, top with the Parmesan cheese.

(Northern Health Dietitians love lentil soup. For more recipes, see here and here and here)

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel is a dietetic intern with Northern Health. She wanted her internship to be a rich learning experience, but also an adventure, so she decided to move to beautiful northern B.C. to learn and explore. Laurel is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. When she’s not working, you can find her cooking, swimming, hiking, or camping.

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Foodie Friday: Celebrating Pack Your Lunch Day!

Did you pack your lunch today? You are in good company – today, March 10th, is National Pack Your Lunch Day! We all look forward to our lunch break – a time to rest and get refreshed for the rest of the day ahead of us. But how often do you spend most of your break time starving, waiting in line to purchase food because you didn’t have time to pack a lunch?

Find more delicious and nutritious recipes like this on Cookspiration.com!

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of packing a healthy lunch (for work or for travel!):

Pros:

  • Healthier: more likely to meet nutrient needs with less fat, sugar, and sodium
  • Less costly and less time spent waiting for food
  • Able to sit and enjoy your meal for 20 minutes and can still have 10 minutes to go on a refreshing walk before it’s time to go back to work

Cons: 

  • Takes planning and time to prep your lunch
  • May not have the right containers or enough variety of food at home
  • Bored of packing the same lunch all the time

Packing a lunch does not have to be a daunting task, but it does take planning! If I can get a head start on packing lunches the day before, then the morning, and day, runs much smoother.

I usually pack 2-3 snacks such as yogurt, homemade muffin, and a fruit. I’ll also pack a healthy balanced meal that includes at least 3 food groups. The easiest choice for me is to pack leftovers from dinner the night before or I may grab something like:

  • A homemade soup (like something I might have frozen a couple months ago) with 3-4 rye crisp breads and 2 tbsp natural peanut butter or sliced cheese
  • Mixed green salad with leftover salmon fillet or a small can of salmon/tuna with chopped peppers, cucumbers and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and whole grain toast and peanut butter.

In celebration of Nutrition Month, I have decided to share one the featured recipes on CookspirationSpiced Yogurt Chicken Tikka. Making this for dinner means I can enjoy leftovers for lunch.

This recipe provides four food groups in one meal. The recipe is also:

  • High in protein
  • High in vegetables including nutritious red peppers, tomatoes, and green vegetables
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the spices

Adding one can of chick peas will help increase the high soluble fibre content in addition to the brown rice! With recipes like this, every day can easily be National Pack Your Lunch Day!

Editor’s note: Cookspiration was created by the Dietitians of Canada to inspire everyone to cook any time, day or night! Recipe ideas are served up to suit your mood and what you’re doing based on the time and day. Check out the website or the app!

Melanie Chapple

About Melanie Chapple

Melanie works as a clinical dietitian in Primary health care in Fort St. John. After completing her dietetic internship in Vancouver, she fulfilled her desire to move up north in 2006 because of the rich opportunity to gain experience working in all practice settings as a full-time dietitian. Melanie has a passion for food and nutrition, specifically baking, eating healthy snacks and sharing recipes with her clients and coworkers. In her spare time, you may see Melanie cycling through the Peace region, walking, or pulling her kids on a sled during the six months of snow.

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Foodie Friday: break the cycle with mindful eating

So we’ve turned the corner into another Nutrition Month, an exciting time for all of us dietitians to amp up the spotlight on healthy eating.

This year’s theme is “Taking the Fight out of Food.” In my professional life, I meet a lot of people who are in the grips of a long-term feud with food! They feel as though they’ve “tried every diet under the sun” but can’t seem to get their eating under control. In my experience, this kind of thinking about health and especially body weight make people an easy mark for fad diets, which unfortunately don’t work! There is an ever-growing body of evidence demonstrating that people rarely maintain the weight lost on these diets and quite frequently regain more than they lost in the first place. So how can you put this food fight to bed?

Start by accepting your body how it is. Right now. Easier said than done, but it is really hard to do something good for your body (like eat well or exercise) when you’re constantly hating it.

Next, get the facts about how to stop the never-ending cycle of eat-repent-repeat! “Intuitive” or “mindful” eating can help you break this cycle and teach you how to tune into your own body’s cues of what and how much to eat. When you label foods as “good” or “bad”, as most fad diets often do, you may subconsciously start wanting the “no” foods more and the “yes” foods less. If you can successfully put all foods on an even playing field, you can start enjoying all foods without guilt and end that perpetual food fight!

I’ve been known to seek out a little something sweet after a meal and one of my go-to indulgences is homemade ice cream. It’s really quick to make with the right tool (and is sure to impress your guests!). The flavour combinations are endless and you can always find one to match your mood or meal theme. One of my favourites is coconut lime.  Give it a try, and make sure to sit down and enjoy it mindfully!

ice cream, coconut

Treat yourself by trying out (and mindfully eating!) this delicious homemade ice cream recipe.

Coconut Lime Ice Cream (in automatic ice cream maker. Don’t have one? See note below.)

Ingredients

Recipe adapted from  All Recipes

  • 1 can (14oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup half and half cream
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 mango, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • ¼ cup toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Directions

  1. Whisk coconut milk, sugar, half-and-half, lime juice, lime zest and salt together in a large bowl until sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer mixture into an automatic ice maker, and freeze according to manufactures directions.
  2. If you would like hard ice cream consistency, you will need to transfer ice cream into an air tight container and freeze for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Scoop ice cream into bowls and garnish with mango and toasted coconut, if desired.

Editor’s note: Carmen’s recipe looked delicious to me but I don’t have an ice cream maker. I did some searching and found this option for folks without ice cream makers. I’m excited to try this process!

Carmen Maddigan

About Carmen Maddigan

Born and raised in Fort St John, Carmen returned home in 2007, after completing her internship in Prince George. She has since, filled a variety of different roles as a dietitian for Northern Health and currently works at Fort St John Hospital providing outpatient nutrition counselling. In her spare time, Carmen can be found testing out a variety of healthy and tasty meal ideas. She also enjoys running, camping, and playing outside in the sun or snow with her family.

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Foodie Friday: Cozy up to your freezer

I love to watch cooking shows on TV. It’s a source of entertainment and culinary inspiration for me. But there is one thing that irks me every time I hear it on those shows – when a chef speaks negatively about cooking with frozen food.

I agree that fresh foods are awesome to cook with. But the reality is most of us don’t have access to all the fresh foods we want all the time. When it comes to healthy eating, frozen is not a 4 letter word (literally and figuratively)!

I think my freezer is actually one of my most used kitchen appliances, following closely behind my fridge and stove. It definitely helps me get healthy and delicious meals on the table in my house at least a few times a week!

cherry smoothie in glass

A combination of BC cherries and chocolate is sure to please your taste buds!

There are 3 ways I like to put my freezer to use:

  1. Vegetables and fruits: I always have a selection of frozen vegetables and fruits in my freezer, so that even if I don’t get to the grocery store, I can make sure to get some produce into my meals. Frozen veggies and fruits are just as nutritious as fresh, are available year round, and have already been washes/chopped/peeled making them super convenient!
  2. Preserving the harvest: Maybe you have a backyard garden, bulk buy at the farmer’s market, go berry picking every summer, or hunt your own game. If you want to enjoy those foods throughout the year you’ll need a way of storing them. Freezing them is a great way to go!
  3. Batch cooking: From soups to casseroles, pizza dough to muffins, I always have some extra ready-to-eat snacks and meals in my freezer. Batch cooking doesn’t take much more effort than cooking a meal for my family of 2, so it’s a no-brainer! These are lifesavers on busy days where I get home late from work and the last thing I want to do is cook.

Because I always have frozen fruits waiting for me in the freezer, I know I can always make a quick breakfast smoothie on my way out the door. Here’s one of my favourites, featuring BC cherries and a hint of chocolate.

Cherry Bomb Smoothie

Serves 1 as a meal or 2 as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen, pitted cherries
  • 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy beverage)
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Splash of vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to your blender. Whiz away until it’s completely blended and smooth. Enjoy!
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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