Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Can’t beat beets!

Marianne's vibrant pink dilly beet hummus

A delicious snack at home or a great contribution to appie night!

It’s amazing how our tastes evolve throughout our lives. Foods that we once swore would never cross our lips suddenly become our favourites. Sometimes it just takes an “aha moment.” That’s what happened to me when I was eight years old and “starving” on a train-ride from Edmonton to Vancouver: the first thing served from the dining car was salad and I realized it actually tasted okay.  Other times we just gradually find ourselves enjoying different flavours and textures without even realizing it. Even as adults we can still learn to love new foods.

Such was my experience with a farmers’ market staple – the beet. Honestly, I can’t even remember tasting one as a kid (which seems impossible for someone with Russian grandparents). If you’d asked me back then if I liked them, I would have scrunched my face up and said, “no way!” I remember being in Australia, living with a family there, and they served beetroot with everything. I thought they were crazy. Yet somewhere along the way, my curiosity got the best of me. I gave them a go, and now I can honestly say I love them.

Freshly picked beats.

Beets: underrated and versatile.

Beets are a pretty awesome food. They are an excellent source of folate, and a good source of potassium and fibre. They grow locally and are hearty enough to store throughout the winter. Plus, beets give us that much needed pop of colour when most of our veggie options are rather drab (potatoes, turnips, and cabbage, I’m looking at you). Beets have a ton of culinary uses: you can roast them, boil them, pickle them, or eat them raw. You can use them to make soups, top a salad, or as a garnish on your favourite sandwich. They even have a natural sweetness that works in desserts. In fact, red velvet cake was originally coloured with beets!

One of my favourite ways to introduce people to beets is a Dilly Beet Hummus. It’s a great way to pair something familiar with something new. Plus it is the most amazing shade of magenta – it will liven up any party!

Dilly beet humus on a cracker

Time for a taste!

Dilly Beet Hummus
Makes approx. 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (19 oz or 540 mL) chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2/3 cup cooked beets (cook your own, or use canned)
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh dill
  • sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup water

Instructions:

1. Combine all ingredients, except water, in a food processor and blend until combined. Add water until desired consistency is reached. Allow to sit for several hours before serving to let flavours meld.

Recipe from: French Fries to Flax Seeds (my food blog!)

So tell me – do you love beets? What are some of your favourite ways to prepare them?

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is the Registered Dietitian with the Shapedown BC program at UHNBC. 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 creating new recipes and writing about them on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Lentil Soup

food; healthy eating; nutrition

Batch soups make delicious meals – and can cost only pennies a serving!

As a single mom, I understand the value of a dollar and how expensive food has become. However, I don’t let this stand in the way of preparing and serving healthy food. With a little effort, I manage to stay on budget while not sacrificing nutrition and flavor. Here are a few tips I find helpful:

  • Read the flyers to find out what’s on sale. Make sure you know if it really is a good deal or just regular price.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time, so you only buy what you need.
  • Try a vegetarian meal, like the recipe below, once a week as meat is often one of the most expensive grocery items.
  • Buy foods that are in season; they are usually cheaper and tastier!
  • Make a grocery list and bring it to the store with you, to prevent impulse buying.
  • Buy only what you need. If you are a small family, the huge bag of potatoes really isn’t a deal if you throw out half.

Try this family favourite: my 4-year-old daughter loves this thick smooth soup with crackers or a biscuit. This soup is budget friendly with a per pot cost of about $2.24 or per serving cost of $0.22.

Food Fact: Lentils come in red, green and brown; they are easy to use as they don’t require pre-soaking. Lentils are an excellent source of fibre and a good source of protein, magnesium, potassium and folate.

Lentil Soup
(Makes 10 1-cup servings)

  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 10 cups of water
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • ¾ cup celery
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup butter or non-hydrogenated margarine

In a large pot combine lentils, water, salt, pepper, bay leaf, cloves and cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Cut up carrot, onion and celery into small pieces. Combine the vegetables, with the garlic and butter/margarine in a small pan and cook for 10 minutes; add to lentils. Simmer everything for 2 hours. Discard the bay leaf and cloves. Put soup through a blender or use a hand blender to puree. Enjoy!

For more ideas, the Dietitians of Canada has some great budget-friendly cooking tips.

What are some of your great and affordable meal ideas?

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A recipe for family meals

healthy eating; food

All hands on deck makes family meals easier and fun!

If you are like most busy families today, the thought of family meals might send you screaming to the hills, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Family meals don’t have to be perfect.  Start with what your family already eats and just have everybody eat it together. Once family meals become routine, use Canada’s Food Guide to help add variety.

Ingredients

  • One or more family members – remember, you are a family even if you are just one!
  • Food
  • A place to eat

Preparation

  1. Turn off all electronic devices. Remove toys, homework, books and other distractions.
  2. Sit down together and let everyone pick and choose from what you’ve provided in amounts that they like.
  3. Take time to enjoy the food and your time together.

Tips

Why not make cooking family meals a family affair? Have the kids help out in the kitchen. It may take more time in the beginning, but will save time in the long run as their skills develop and they take on more responsibilities. For example, kids can help plan the meals. Allowing kids to include the foods they like will make it more exciting for them to help out and more likely that they will eat the meal.

Also, you can assign tasks to each family member depending on when they get home and their abilities:

  • Younger kids set the table.
  • Older kids peel and slice the vegetables.
  • Experienced kids bake, broil or sauté the fish, chicken or meat or meat alternative.
  • Everybody helps with the clean up so that you can all get to your extra-curricular activities on time.

Family meals set the example for healthy eating. They help kids and adults become competent eaters who learn to like a variety of foods and are able to guide their food choices and intake based on their feelings of hunger and fullness.

As a bonus, I wanted to share with you a quick and tasty dish that my family likes to make on a busy week night: Quick Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey*
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots and celery
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen vegetables, thawed

*Substitute the turkey with beans, lentils or chick peas for an added source of soluble fibre.

Preparation

  1. Cook then mash the potatoes with a little milk and margarine.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey, onion, carrots; cook, stirring, until the turkey is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour and oregano over the mix and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and frozen vegetables; bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.
  3. Ladle the stew into 4 bowls and top with the potatoes.

(This recipe was adapted from Eating Well Magazine Online: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/quick_shepherds_pie.html)

Having kids help out in the kitchen saves time, family meals set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Can you think any other benefits?

Beth Moore

About Beth Moore

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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Making it easy: the rule of “fave five”

healthy eating; food; recipe

Simple ingredients for simple (and fast) suppers!

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

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

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

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

Makes 10 servings

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

-Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

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

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

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

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

Do you have any “fave five” recipes?

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Foodie Friday: Spicy bean wraps

A well-stocked pantry can help with last minute, healthy meals.

A well-stocked pantry can help with last minute, healthy meals.

It’s 5 o’clock… do you know what you’re having for dinner? If you’re anything like me, you have no idea!  You may think, “I might as well go out to eat or get some take-out on the way home,” a decision that takes a toll on the pocket book and may not agree with your health either.  But what if you could look into your cupboards and create simple, satisfying, and healthy meals in a hurry?

Here are a few convenient items I keep stocked in my pantry, fridge, and freezer for quick meals:

  • Canned beans and lentils (chickpeas, black beans, pinto) – I just drain, rinse, and add them to a salad, soup, or wraps. There are more recipes at Pulse Canada.
  • Cheese – simple to shred and always a great addition to a pasta dish or a wrap.
  • Eggs – so quick and versatile to make omelettes, frittatas or an egg salad sandwich. Eggs.ca has many more recipes.
  • Frozen vegetables – some of my favourites include colourful vegetables that inspire the appetite, like red peppers, baby carrots and Brussels sprouts. I microwave them and sometimes add a bit of chili flakes, honey and lemon juice for a zesty flavour. In my opinion, this is the ultimate veggie recipe site!
  • Frozen whole wheat tortilla wraps – always an easy meal – stuffed with your favourite ingredients, which for me includes bananas and peanut butter!

Try this chili-flavoured bean wrap and see how quickly you can get dinner on the table tonight!

Spicy bean wraps
Makes 3 servings

Ingredients:

1 tbsp canola oil

½ small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced or ½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 – 14 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

Dash of salt and pepper

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Shredded cheese, if desired

Instructions:

  1. HEAT canola oil in large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
  2. STIR in garlic and chili powder and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in beans and chicken broth and cook until beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  3. MASH beans with a potato masher or the back of the wooden spoon, adding more broth if needed.
  4. SEASON mixture with salt and pepper and stir in cilantro.
  5. Top with shredded cheese if desired and serve with corn or flour tortillas.

Variations on the recipe:

  1. Dairy free: use Daiya non-dairy cheese as a topper
  2. Want more meat? Replace half the mashed beans with cooked ground chicken or beef.
  3. Other beans? Black beans or Romano beans would work well in this recipe.

Source:  Pulse Canada

Judy April

About Judy April

Judy works in Dawson Creek at the Dawson Creek and District Hospital as a dietitian. A true northerner, she grew up just 75 km away in Fort St. John. Judy loves gardening herbs because of the great aroma they bring to her home and the meals cooked there. She even brings the herbs indoors to flourish on her windowsills in the winter.

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Get social and eat healthy

fresh food, pizza, whole wheat crust

Pizza is a fun way to gather with friends in the kitchen and make healthy foods together.

Juggling full-time paid work with a busy home life can test my ability to prepare, share and eat tasty, nutritious foods with family and friends. I’ve found it helps to have a few things in place to make it more likely that a fairly balanced family meal is made and served in my kitchen most nights—although frozen pizza sometimes makes an appearance, too!

Here is what works for me:

  • Make a plan for the week’s suppers and post it on the fridge door.
  • Use the plan when grocery shopping so I have what I need.
  • Cooking once and eating twice. I never make just one pan of lasagna, pot of soup or batch of spaghetti sauce. I make two: one to eat and one goes in the freezer for another meal.
  • Making cooking go further. I make a big batch of oven roasted veggies that might get served with a piece of BBQ chicken and quinoa, but the leftovers get added to a pasta sauce, top a pizza, or get pureed with milk to make a soup.

Where I fall down is being social around food. The extra shopping, cooking and cleaning needed to host friends for dinner can put me off—and I know my friends feel the same way. To get around it, we’ve hosted “cook together” nights: we agree on a theme and then each family brings whole ingredients to one house to prepare, cook and eat together.

My favourite so far was the pizza party I hosted. I made whole grain pizza dough and salad dressing and others brought a topping for the pizza and a salad item. The result? Pizza with a pesto-infused sauce, topped with cooked red potatoes, chopped mushrooms, peppers, onions and tomatoes, and Parmesan and Havarti cheeses. Paired with a salad of leafy greens, grated beets, berries and toasted nuts served with my favourite blueberry salad dressing. Yum! Beyond the great food, the laughs and shared experience of hanging out and rolling pizza dough, slicing veggies and grating cheese was so much fun … and we all carried the leftovers home!

How about planning a cooking night with your friends? Here’s my pizza dough recipe to get you started:

Homemade Pizza Dough

1 cup                                      whole wheat flour
1 cup                                      enriched white flour
1 (28 gram) envelope         quick rise instant yeast
1 tsp.                                      salt
1 tsp.                                      sugar
¾ cup                                    hot water (heat for a minute in the microwave until 125 – 130°F)
1 tsp.                                      oil

  1. In a food processor, mix the flours, yeast, salt and sugar.
  2. While running the food processor, add the water and oil and blend until a ball is formed. Continue running for one minute to knead the dough.
  3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, cover and let rest 10 minutes. Roll out to form one large (12”) pizza crust. Add your favourite sauce and toppings and bake at 450°F for 10 – 12 minutes. This dough recipe can be frozen.

(Source: The Family Table by Marie Breton and Isabelle Emond, 2007.)

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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Let’s get cooking: Man Cave Chowder and challenge #1

All of us involved in the September Healthy Living Challenge are very excited to share a cooking demonstration with you! Loraina Stephen, population health dietitian, and Fraser Bell, vice president of planning and quality, cook up a healthy batch of Man Cave Chowder in the video below. Cooking food with lots of healthy ingredients, including a wide variety of colourful vegetables and local fish, is not only delicious, but a great way to encourage good health at all stages of life.

Our challenge to you for the first week of the September Healthy Living Challenge is for YOU to try out your cooking skills by making a Man Cave Chowder! Take a photo of you making the chowder or of the final product (or both!) and visit our contest page for details on how to enter. We might post your picture on the blog and you’ll have a chance to win a great prize.

Watch the video below as Loraina and Fraser demonstrate how to cook this recipe and see the bottom of this post for the full Man Cave Chowder recipe.

As always, we encourage everyone to go to visit NH’s position statement site for guidelines for healthy living.

Good luck and have fun cooking!

Man Cave Chowder (serves 6)
(Adapted from Cook Great Food by Dietitians of Canada (Fish and Vegetable Chowder pg. 104))

What you need:

Man Cave Chowder

Man Cave Chowder

  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped potato (medium)
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 2½ tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (398 ml) 2% evaporated milk
  • 3 cups (500 g) fish, cut into chunks (Pollock, Sole, Trout, Ling Cod, Salmon, Cod, Shrimp etc.)
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

What you do:

  • Wash, peel and chop the onion, celery, red bell pepper, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, potatoes and garlic.
  • Spread vegetables (except broccoli) onto 13×9 roasting pan or shallow baking dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp canola oil and toss to mix. Roast in preheated oven at 350°F (160°C) for 30-40 minutes, or until fork-tender, stirring occasionally.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, heat ½ tbsp canola oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add brown rice and sauté for about five minutes or until lightly toasted. Add chicken broth and let soup simmer on low for about 40 minutes.
  • When the roasted vegetables are soft, add them to the simmering rice and broth. When the rice is soft, add the fish, chopped tomato, seasoning, broccoli and evaporated milk; cover and cook for 6-8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Enjoy!
Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling.

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