Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Sports drinks: To drink or not to drink?

Pitcher of homemade sports drink.

Sports drinks are only recommended for very specific purposes. When you are being active this year, go with water! If your situation requires a sports drink, try making your own with Rebecca’s recipe!

As the days warm and the trees turn green, more and more of us are starting our summer activities. For some of us, that includes things like running, cycling, soccer, football, and other sports. I also see more people drinking sports drinks at this time of year. When should we drink these? When should we not?

The primary purpose of sports drinks is to replace water and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) that are lost when we exercise vigorously for a prolonged length of time. You don’t need a sports drink unless you are a heavy sweater or you are working out for a long time in the heat. Think marathon runner or construction worker on a hot roof all day!

So what should you drink after being active this spring or summer? Water is the best choice!

What’s wrong with sports drinks? They contain a lot of sugar and salt! Powerade® and Gatorade® contain approximately 14 tsp of sugar in their regular 946 ml containers and approximately 400 mg of salt. That’s a lot of extra calories and salt that you don’t need.

So what should we do when engaging in sports? First, drink water before you start! Afterwards, have a snack with some carbs and protein to refuel and repair your muscles. Try some chocolate milk, peanut butter and a banana, or some tuna and crackers.

If you’re going to use sports drinks for vigorous exercise or during periods when you are feeling unwell, try making your own sports drinks!

Nancy Clark’s Homemade Sports Drink

Recipe courtesy of Nancy Clark, RD

Yield: 1 quart (approximately 1 litre)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • ¼ cup orange juice (not concentrate) plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 ½ cups cold water

Instructions:

  1. In the bottom of a pitcher, dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water.
  2. Add the juice and the remaining water; chill.
Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Foodie Friday: Spice up your life with herbs!

Fresh mint leaves in tea.

Fresh herbs are easy, healthy, and versatile. Whether it’s fresh mint from the garden or chives from a windowsill pot, spice up your life with fresh herbs this year!

It’s spring time! The air is fresh, the sun is warm again and maybe you are actively thinking about what to plant in your garden or flower pots this year!

Have you ever tried to grow your own herbs?

A wide variety of fresh herbs can be found at any garden centre. Adding herbs to pots on your windowsill or making a big herb variety pot for your patio can be quite cheerful! Plus, this keeps them within reach to help add some flavour to your cooking in an easy way!

Fresh herbs are fragrant, add a different kind of flavour to your cooking than dried, and even have some antioxidants that help fight disease! Using more flavourful ingredients also decreases our tendency to use a lot of salt, which can help keep your blood pressure under control.

Here are 10 of the best herbs to grow fresh and how to use them! Get in the garden and have fun!

1. Basil is an easy to grow plant and can be grown in or out of doors.

  • How to use it: Goes well with Mediterranean foods like tomato sauce and pesto, meat or seafood. Add fresh basil at the end of cooking as the heat ruins most of the flavour.

2. Chives are grown easily and don’t need much light to flourish. They grow well in a container.

  • How to use it: Just snip some off when you need a gentle onion flavour without the bite. Add at the very end to maximize their color and flavour.

3. Cilantro should be planted in full sun and well-drained soil. It needs lots of soil depth due to its root so it will need a deep pot or to be planted in the ground.

  • How to use it: You either love it or hate it! Some people find it “soapy,” but regardless, it’s one of the world’s most popular spices! The bright refreshing flavor is common in Latin and Asian cooking. Cilantro is usually eaten raw, added after a dish has been cooked.

4. Dill grows best in deep, loose soil.

  • How to use it: This aromatic herb goes with salmon, borscht or other stews and a variety of vegetables (especially carrots and cucumbers).

5. Mint need to be watched as this easy-to-grow herb will quickly take over your flower bed if you let it! Plant mint in its own planter or raised box to keep it contained.

  • How to use it: In sweet desserts as well as savoury dishes from the Middle East and North Africa. Fresh mint is perfect for summer-fresh salads, to liven up a sauce, or to brew fragrant teas.

6. Oregano loves sunlight so make sure it gets lots for optimal flavour.

  • How to use it: This pungent herb is primarily found in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. Add it into soups or stews as well.

7. Parsley needs moist soil. Don’t let it dry out or it will wilt and won’t want to spring back.

  • How to use it: This versatile spice is great in pasta dishes, sprinkled on fish and chicken, or added to potatoes. It’s one of the most common and versatile herbs used in Western cooking. Flat-leaf or Italian parsley has the best texture and flavour for cooking.

8. Rosemary likes full sunlight, well-drained soil, and frequent watering.

  • How to use it: Its woodsy flavour works well with a variety of roasted or barbecued meats (like chicken, pork and salmon) or mixed into sauces for a more subtle taste. It also blends with tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Because the flavour is strong, it’s best to add rosemary sparingly at first and more if needed.

9. Sage likes plenty of sunlight, good soil, and watering every other day.

  • How to use it: With a slightly peppery flavour, sage is great with sweet fruits and veggies like apples and squash, but it also adds a punch to poultry dishes, potatoes or cheese. Don’t worry about overcooking as this powerful spice’s flavour holds up well when cooked for long periods of time.

10. Thyme likes lots of sunlight.

  • How to use it: One of the most popular herbs in American and European cooking, thyme can be paired with nearly any kind of meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs or vegetable. To use fresh thyme, peel off as many of the leaves as you can from the woody stem by running your fingers along the stem.

Fresh brewed mint tea

Ingredients:

  • Fresh mint

Instructions:

  1. Snip off a few leaves of mint from your plant. Alternatively, you can dry your mint leaves in the fall and use them the same way.
  2. Pour boiling water over leaves and allow flavour to infuse for about 3-5 minutes or until desired strength has been reached.

Enjoy!

References:

Food Network Guide to Fresh Herbs

Amy Horrock

About Amy Horrock

Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Amy Horrock is a registered dietitian and member of the Regional Dysphagia Management Team. She loves cooking, blogging, and spreading the joy of healthy eating to others! Outside of the kitchen, this prairie girl can be found crocheting, reading, or exploring the natural splendor and soaring heights of British Columbia with her husband!

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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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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: 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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Simple and tasty lunches for your workday

A balanced lunch of a salad, a small container of nuts, and two oranges.

Look outside of plastic wrap and disposable sandwich bags! Keep a variety of glass or plastic containers on-hand to fit larger meals like salads, sandwiches and entrees as well as medium-sized items like fruit and cut-up vegetables and smaller items like nuts, dips, and salad dressings. Mason jars and recycled jam or pickle jars are also perfect for storing salads or beverages.

Do you find packing a lunch challenging? Time-consuming? Turns out you aren’t alone!

According to a recent Ipsos-Reid survey conducted for Dietitians of Canada, 45% of Canadians feel that eating healthy meals and snacks at work is challenging. The Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research found that only 37% of Canadians say they prepare lunch at home and over one third (36%) of Canadians skip lunch altogether.

Lunch is an important meal in your workday that shouldn’t be missed! As part of a balanced diet, a healthy lunch helps give your body and mind important nutrition to keep you awake and productive for the rest of your day.

What to put in your lunch bag: simple strategies

Keep variety in mind when you are planning your lunch. Choose foods low in salt, sugar and fat from 3 out of 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide: meat and alternatives, milk and alternatives, grain products, and vegetables or fruit (being sure to strive for at least 1-2 servings of vegetables or fruit). Here are a few ideas to help you build your lunch:

Meat and alternatives: Choose 1 option

  • 2-3 oz lean meat like chicken breast, turkey, pork or extra lean ground beef, fish like tuna, salmon, or tilapia, or seafood.
  • Meat alternatives like 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons nut butter, ¼ cup nuts or seeds, or ¾ cup beans, lentils or tofu.

Milk and alternatives: Choose 1 option

  • Dairy products like 1 cup milk, ¾ cup yogurt, or 1.5 oz hard cheese.
  • Milk alternatives like 1 cup fortified soy milk or non-dairy yogurt or cheese.

Grain products: Choose 2 whole grain options

  • 1 slice whole grain bread, 1 small bun, ½ tortilla, naan or pita, ½ bagel, 1 small homemade muffin, 4-6 crackers, or ½ cup pasta, rice, quinoa, barley, farro, or spelt.

Vegetables and fruit: Choose 1-2 colourful vegetables and fruit, aiming to eat a rainbow!

  • 1 cup raw leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale or bok choy, ½ cup raw or cooked vegetables like cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, squash, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes or yams on their own or in soups, stews, or stir-fry.
  • ½ cup fresh, frozen, or unsweetened canned fruits like grapes, melon, oranges, apples, bananas, kiwi, or berries, or ¼ cup dried fruit like apricots, raisins, or apples.
  • ½ cup 100% fruit juice, but choosing the whole fruit and vegetable options above more often.

Putting it together: Mix & match for simple and tasty lunch ideas

  1. Dinner leftovers are a quick go-to that don’t require extra prep.
  2. Pack hard-boiled eggs, cheese, fresh vegetables, a few olives and whole grain crackers for a snack-like lunch.
  3. Layer black bean dip, sliced chicken, avocado and arugula on a whole grain baguette for a simple sandwich with big flavour.
  4. Toss light tuna, snow peas and grape tomatoes with leftover whole grain pasta, basil pesto and a pinch of chili flakes – this dish is great cold or heated.
  5. Mix lentils, roasted red peppers, sweet potato, quinoa and a drizzle of lemony dressing for a delicious salad bowl.

Looking for more tasty lunch ideas? Check out this Foodie Friday post about freezer-friendly meals for food preparation tips that fit with your busy schedule!


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!

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a future dietitian and is currently completing her 10 month UBC Dietetics internship with Northern Health. 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 internship, she has 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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Grab-and-go breakfasts make mornings a breeze

Bircher museli in a jar

Have an apple on-hand and mix together some muesli ingredients for a great grab & go breakfast! Waiting until the last minute to get out of bed doesn’t have to mean skipping out on healthy fuel for your body!

For some people, mornings are their favourite time of day. They love to wake up early – maybe to leisurely enjoy their breakfast, coffee, and morning paper or perhaps to kick off their day with an energy-boosting workout. Fitting in a delicious and nutritious breakfast when you’re a morning person doesn’t seem too daunting. So what about the rest of us? If you are anything like me, you’ll time your alarm to the last possible minute you can get out of bed, make yourself presentable, and be out the door on the way to work. This doesn’t mean that I skip out on fuelling myself with something healthy, though – no one wants to meet that hangry, sleepy monster! In fact, I would consider myself a master of the grab & go breakfast!

Putting together nutritious and delicious grab & go breakfasts is easy! It just requires a little bit of planning so that you can hit that snooze button one extra time in the morning! Keep your kitchen stocked with easy-to-grab fruits like apples, oranges, or bananas. Hard boil some eggs on the weekend and they will keep in the fridge for a week. Bake some whole grain muffins and freeze them individually so they are ready to go. You can even chop up veggies for a quick breakfast wrap or pita the night before.

Raspberries, a travel mug, and a muffin on a cutting board.

A whole grain muffin (bake a batch once, freeze, and enjoy for weeks!), some fresh fruit, and a latte is a delicious grab & go breakfast option. What are your grab & go breakfast tricks?

Try some of these great grab & go breakfast ideas to get you out the door and on your way in a snap!

  • Grab a whole grain muffin, an apple or orange, and a latte in your favourite travel mug.
  • Try a classic peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread.
  • Layer Greek yogurt, fresh or frozen berries, and some homemade granola in a reusable container. Don’t forget to grab a spoon!
  • Slice a hardboiled egg, tomato, and lettuce (or any other favourite veggies) in a whole wheat pita.
  • Blend up frozen fruit, yogurt, and milk to make a smoothie. My favourite combination is frozen cherries, vanilla yogurt, milk, and cocoa powder. Yum!
  • Make a wrap with hummus, avocado, and cucumber in a whole wheat tortilla.
  • Get in your morning oats by prepping some overnight oatmeal or muesli the night before.
  • Not into “breakfast foods”? Then grab those dinner leftovers and head on out the door!

Do you have a favourite grab & go breakfast? Share it in the comments below!


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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Don’t be a sumo wrestler – eat breakfast!

French toast with maple syrup

Your body needs fuel to run properly! A balanced breakfast is key to having a productive day!

This blog post is one in a series of posts giving you the tools you need to complete the month-long Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page for your chance to win great weekly prizes and the grand prize of a Vitamix blender! 


Have you ever wondered how sumo wrestlers gain all that weight? They do something that isn’t common in that culture: they skip breakfast!

Yes, that’s right. Sumo wrestlers get up at 5:00 a.m. and train all morning without eating. This purposely keeps their metabolism running slowly. By the afternoon, they are ravenously hungry and then spend the remainder of the day eating and napping.

Sound familiar?

Some people think that skipping breakfast can help them eat fewer calories and lose weight but the opposite is usually true! People who skip breakfast often find their appetite returns with a vengeance later in the day and they overeat as a result. Eating breakfast is one of the best habits for a healthy lifestyle!

Did you know that almost 40% of Canadians skip breakfast?

That’s a lot of people missing out on some important benefits! Eating breakfast is linked to better intake of calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fibre! This is because foods typically eaten in the morning are usually high in these important nutrients.

How do you feel when you skip your morning meal?

Your body needs gas to run properly! By skipping breakfast, your body and brain will be running off of fumes. What does this look like at work? A foggy brain in your morning meeting, being irritable with your co-workers because you are “hangry”, making mistakes due to poor concentration, or even trying to stimulate your brain with multiple cups of coffee when it’s actually craving nourishment!

Stayed tuned to the Northern Health Matters blog for more great breakfast tips all week!

In the meantime, check out this two ingredient recipe for french toast!

Quick and easy french toast

Serves one

Did you know that traditionally, french toast is made with day old, slightly stale bread? The eggs and heat help fluff it back up and make it palatable again. This method also lends itself well to gluten-free bread which tends to taste stale or dry when it is not toasted or warmed.

Serve your french toast with some fresh, frozen or canned fruit and a glass of milk for a balanced and brain-boosting breakfast!

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of whole grain bread (gluten-free or regular)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Dash of vanilla (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Beat egg in a wide dish like a casserole dish or a pasta bowl. Add a dash of vanilla.
  2. Place slices of bread in the egg. Turn to coat until all the egg is absorbed.
  3. Heat a little oil or margarine in a pan over medium heat. Add bread and cook on each side until browned.

Serve with two teaspoons of maple syrup!


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!

Amy Horrock

About Amy Horrock

Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Amy Horrock is a registered dietitian and member of the Regional Dysphagia Management Team. She loves cooking, blogging, and spreading the joy of healthy eating to others! Outside of the kitchen, this prairie girl can be found crocheting, reading, or exploring the natural splendor and soaring heights of British Columbia with her husband!

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Foodie Friday: Refresh your winter eating with vegetables and fruit

Bag of frozen cherry tomatoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

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

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Foodie Friday: Healthy snacks for work

Two jars filled with granola.

With a bit of planning and Carly’s tips, your late morning and mid-afternoon snacking trips to the convenience store or cafeteria can be replaced by healthy, energy-boosting snacks that make you feel full!

It’s Monday morning, 10 minutes before you need to leave your house to get to work. You’re frantically searching your cupboards for a snack that will stave off the inevitable mid-morning or late afternoon hunger pang. Instead of saying to heck with it and walking out of your door snackless, only to buy something sugary/fatty/salty from the workplace café later on in the day, I’ve got some ideas for healthy, portable snacks!

Listen to your body – when you feel your stomach grumbling, your brain becoming foggy, or a slight headache coming on, these may all be signs that you need to eat! A healthy snack can boost your energy levels during the busy workday, allowing you to maintain productivity and master the desire (or need) to drink another cup of coffee or raid the office candy stash. A well-balanced snack usually contains at least two of the four food groups and has some protein or healthy fats which help you to feel full.

Here are some ideas for energy-boosting snacks:

  • An apple cut into wedges with several slices of cheddar cheese
  • Peanut butter spread onto a slice of toasted whole grain bread
  • An individual portion cup of yogurt with a handful of granola
  • Carrot and celery sticks with herb and garlic cream cheese
  • A homemade banana chocolate chip muffin
  • Cucumber slices with tzatziki
  • A handful of unsalted mixed nuts

Keep in mind that store-bought snacks like granola bars may be convenient, but they are often loaded with added sugar, fat, and salt, so be sure to read the label to avoid these additives.

The key to healthy and portable snacks may be a little preparation done on a Sunday as well as keeping plenty of packing supplies on hand like reusable containers, plastic food wrap, and re-sealable baggies.

This recipe is a delicious and protein packed granola that I love to add to plain or lightly sweetened yogurt or even to simply eat on its own! I’ve adapted the recipe from Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

Bowl of yogurt topped with granola.

Try to aim for at least two of the four food groups along with some protein and healthy fats for a snack that gives you energy and fills you up! Yogurt and granola are a great option – and making your own granola is easy!

Granola

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole or slivered raw almonds, divided
  • ½ cup raw walnut pieces
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup dried fruit (such as cranberries, apricots, cherries)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil (or other light-flavoured vegetable oil)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 F (140 C). Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Put ½ cup of the almonds into a food processor and process for about 10 seconds to create a ground meal (similar in texture to sand). Transfer the ground almond meal to a large bowl.
  3. Put the rest of the almonds and the walnuts into the food processor, process until finely chopped. Transfer to the large bowl.
  4. Add the oats, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt to the nut mixture in the large bowl. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until all the dry ingredients are wet.
  6. Spread the granola onto the large baking pan in a 1 cm layer and gently press down on the top to compact the granola slightly. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the granola is lightly browned.
  7. Cool the granola completely and then break into clusters.
  8. Store the granola in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks in the fridge or 4-5 weeks in the freezer.

What’s your favourite workplace snack?

Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

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