Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Planting seeds for healthy eating

Tomatoes, corn, eggs, chives, and potatoes

How do you involve kids in cooking? Even young kids can wash veggies or use a butter knife to cut up hard-boiled eggs. Hands-on food experiences help build kids’ knowledge, skills, and confidence with food.

Are you interested in helping kids become good eaters? Young children can’t do much with nutrition information, but they do benefit from:

Now that summer has arrived, there are many opportunities for hands-on food experiences for children. Build curiosity and excitement by involving kids in growing and gathering food. Even one potato plant or tomato plant in a large pot, or a small pot of chives or parsley, can provide great learning experiences for kids.

Imagine:

  • their excitement as they see the plant starting to grow
  • their sense of pride when they water the plant
  • their anticipation when they harvest the food from the plant
  • their curiosity as this food becomes part of a meal or snack

These practical learning experiences build their knowledge, skills and confidence with food.

Here is a recipe for a potato salad that can be made with local or store-bought ingredients this summer. It’s a flexible recipe – if you don’t have one of the vegetables, no troubles (well, except the potatoes – it just wouldn’t be potato salad without the potatoes, right?). Involve your kids! Even young kids can wash vegetables, use a butter knife to cut up the boiled eggs, or mix together the dressing.

Interested in more ways to plant seeds for healthy eating? Check out the resources for parents, teachers, and childcare programs after the recipe.

Potato salad

Not your same ol’ tater salad! Lise shares a perfect summer recipe with lots of modification options for your family to explore!

Not your same ol’ tater salad

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • Pepper, to taste

Salad

  • 7 medium potatoes, diced, boiled and drained (try keeping the skin on)
  • 2-3 ears of corn, boiled, niblets cut from the cob (or 1-2 cups canned or frozen corn)
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 cups green beans, steamed and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • Small bunch of chives, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Boil potatoes, drain and put in a large bowl.
  2. Mix together dressing and toss in with potatoes (the dressing absorbs well when the potatoes are still warm).
  3. Prepare all other ingredients and mix together with potatoes.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Modifications:

Add or substitute kale, parsley, basil, baby tomatoes, thinly sliced onions, radishes, or something else! What would you or your kids tweak in this recipe?

More resources

For schools

  • Start small with a program like the BC Agriculture in the Classroom “Spuds in Tubs” program.

For childcare

  • Food Flair is a resource for early learning practitioners with many food activities for young children. See the “Fun and Learning About Healthy Eating,” “Bundles of Fun,” and “Let’s Make” sections.

At home

  • In addition to hands-on activities in the garden or in the kitchen, check out your local library’s collection of kids’ books about growing, harvesting, cooking and eating food.
  • Check out Better Together BC and the videos from winners of the Hands-On Cook-Off contest.
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: The full-meal-deal salad

Salad in a bowl.

Four steps and twenty minutes is all it took for Carly to create a filling and nutritious salad. It’s a great choice for a summer meal!

When it’s hot outside, I rarely feel like cooking a meal in my cramped and stifling kitchen. I want the job of feeding myself taken care of so I can get outside in the sun! This is when I employ the “full-meal-deal salad” – it’s quick, there’s little to no cooking involved and it’s nutritious so it keeps you fuelled for your summertime activities!

It’s as simple as four steps:

Step 1: Start with a base like torn-up lettuce or, for the ultimate of ease, use bagged or boxed mixed salad greens.

Step 2: Next, add the veggies – some good ideas are red/yellow/orange/green bell peppers, tomato, carrot, mushrooms, celery, alfalfa sprouts, green onions/chives, avocado, cucumber, radishes, and snap/snow peas. Even some fruits work well on savoury salads. Try thinly sliced strawberries or apple or simply toss on some blueberries, blackberries or dried cranberries.

Step 3: Time for the protein! There are so many excellent options to add protein to salad. Definitely don’t leave this step out because the protein is what’s going to make sure your salad keeps you feeling full. Some ideas include:

  • Leftover meat from last night’s supper: Try slicing up chicken breast into thin strips or use a scoop of ground beef or moose.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: You can boil up several and store them in the fridge to save time.
  • Nuts: Many varieties of nuts can be bought pre-chopped from the bulk section. Try almonds, walnuts, pecans or cashews. Look for the unsalted variety.
  • Cheese: Chop up your own block of cheddar or simply buy pre-shredded cheese mixes. Cheeses that crumble like feta are delicious and easy, too!
  • Canned flaked salmon or tuna: Simply drain and pile on top.
  • Lentils and beans: You can buy pre-cooked and seasoned beans and lentils in cans at the grocery store or you can cook them at home and season with your own flavours.

Step 4: Salad dressing adds the final boost of flavour and can add some healthy fats to your salad. The healthiest dressings are usually made at home, but you can certainly find some healthy options in grocery stores, too. Look for dressings made with healthy oils like canola and olive that feature herbs and spices as the main flavouring. Compare nutrition labels for sodium (salt) content and choose to buy dressings that have less sodium.

Here’s the salad that I just made for dinner tonight. It took me 20 minutes to put together and I made a second salad to bring to work for lunch tomorrow. Simple as that. Now I’m off to play in the evening sun!

Chopped vegetables on a cutting board

Carly shows off some fine knife skills as she preps her full-meal-deal salad! Combine these ingredients with a protein source and a dressing and you’ll be back out in the summer sun in no time!

Carly’s full-meal-deal salad

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 2 cups green lettuce leaves, hand-torn (I had these pre-torn and in my fridge)
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula (store-bought box)
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Protein

  • 1 cup French lentils (green canned lentils work well, too – just make sure to give them a wash)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf

Lemon-Dijon dressing

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

If you are using canned, cooked lentils, you can skip step 1 but remember to wash the lentils!

  1. In a medium pot, add lentils, bay leaf, garlic powder and water. Bring to a boil. Once the lentils have boiled, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. When they are cooked, the lentils will have absorbed most, if not all, of the cooking water and they will be tender but still holding their shape.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, make your dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and lemon juice.
  3. Prepare your salad greens and veggies. Use whatever types of veggies you have on hand and add as little or as much of them as you like!
  4. When everything is ready, add it to a bowl – you don’t need to put the ingredients in the bowl in any particular order! In my salads, I always put down the leafy greens first then I cover those with my veggies, followed by a mound of lentils. I then sprinkle the top with the green onions and feta cheese. Lastly, I drizzle the salad dressing over the whole thing.
  5. Enjoy!
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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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 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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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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