Healthy Living in the North

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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Foodie Friday: Families cooking together (featuring Lila’s Apricot Almond Granola Bars!)

Two young girls putting vegetables into a soup pot

Children and youth who spend time in the kitchen with their families develop important cooking skills! How do you involve your kids in the kitchen?

I was recently involved with teaching some after-school cooking classes with youth in Gitsegukla, a Gitxsan First Nation community approximately 40 km southwest of Hazelton. While I was initially a bit nervous about teaching a classroom full of rambunctious sixth graders, it ended up being one of my most rewarding experiences working as a dietitian! As the kids arrived to the first class, I could tell there were a few skeptics in the group— they thought it would be “too healthy.” Luckily, curiosity and hungry tummies were on my side! After a lesson on food safety and knife skills, the room was buzzing with excitement as the kids chopped, grated, and prepped the food. The cooking classes were a hit!

As a dietitian, I am always encouraging families to make meals together. Why? Well, kids who spend time in the kitchen with their families develop cooking skills that support them in becoming independent, healthy eaters. Cooking is also a great way to expose kids to a variety of different foods and it helps them learn where food comes from. Making a meal to enjoy with others also provides a sense of accomplishment, pride, and builds self-esteem. And those are just some of the many reasons I encourage cooking together!

So the next time you find yourself preparing a meal or snack, why not involve the whole family? To get started, assign each family member with task that suits their abilities.

Apricot almond bars on a plate.

These apricot almond bars are a great way for families to spend time together in the kitchen! Younger kids can measure and scoop, more experienced kids can chop, parents can supervise, and everyone can learn and enjoy!

Things younger kids can do:

  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Peeling with a vegetable peeler
  • Measuring and pouring cold liquids
  • Kneading, punching, rolling, or cutting out dough
  • Stirring, tossing, or whisking
  • Sprinkling, spreading, and greasing

Things older kids can do:

  • Threading on wooden skewers
  • Cutting soft fruits and vegetables
  • Grating
  • Cracking eggs

Things more experienced kids can do:

  • Roasting or sautéing vegetables
  • Baking, broiling, or boiling meats and alternatives

For more tips from an online community dedicated to helping families cook and eat together, visit the Better Together BC website. Be sure to check out the recipe demonstration videos posted by families across B.C.! Here is one of my favourites: Lila’s Apricot Almond Bars.

Is there a recipe that your family enjoys making together? Please share in the comments below!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

As a Community Dietitian based in Terrace, Emilia supports 15 different aboriginal communities in the Nass Valley, Kitimaat Village and the Hazeltons. Emilia recently completed her dietetics internship with Northern Health as part of her dietetics training from the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about finding unique, client-centered approaches to supporting families in their current feeding efforts. In her free time, Emilia enjoys cooking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.

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Foodie Friday: Cooking for one

Omelette with toppings on a plate.

Cooking for one can be easy, healthy, and fun! Registered dietitian Rebecca suggests batch cooking, using convenience foods (like frozen veggies), sharing a potluck, and expanding your horizons!

I see quite a few people in my office who, for various reasons, live alone. Many say that they either don’t have enough time to cook or that it’s not worth it to cook for one person. I always tell my clients that they are worth it!

As the number of single-person households increases, this becomes an even more important issue. Here are a few tips to make it easier when cooking for one:

  • Batch cook. Many foods can be cooked in big batches and then frozen for those days when you are rushed for time or don’t feel like cooking. Foods that freeze well include lasagna, chili, soup, and stews.
  • Use convenience foods to make simple meals. For example, frozen vegetables can be used to make a stir fry and fresh, pre-cut vegetables can be used to make a soup.
  • Find companions. Bulk cook or share a potluck dinner with friends. We tend to eat better when eating with family or friends.
  • Expand your horizons. Think outside of the box for supper. Sandwiches, beans with toast and fruit, or an omelette can be a healthy, quick meal.

Are you cooking for one? Try the easy omelette recipe below, which has lots of room to customize and add food groups!

Cutting board with onions, cheese, and tomatoes.

Who says omelettes are just a breakfast food? With limitless topping options, omelettes can be part of an easy, balanced, and nutritious dinner!

Omelette

Ingredients:

  •  2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt & pepper
  • Toppings (e.g., vegetables, meat, cheese, etc.), cut into small pieces
  • Oil

Instructions:

  1. Crack two eggs into a small bowl and add a sprinkle of pepper and salt to taste. Beat eggs until well mixed.
  2. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat until warm. If frying pan is not non-stick, add a small amount of oil to pan. When warm, add eggs to pan. When eggs have begun to solidify around the edges, flip over and remove from heat.
  3. If using cheese, cover entire surface of omelette with cheese. Place the rest of your toppings on half of the omelette and then fold the other side over the toppings and remove from pan.
  4. Serve with salsa and toast, if desired. Enjoy.
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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Cooking with kids

Grilled cheese sandwich with vegetables and nuts as toppings.

Cooking with kids is a great way to spend time together and teach them invaluable skills! Kids as young as two years old can help wash vegetables and choose ingredients like the toppings for their own grilled cheese sandwich!

While it may seem more like work than fun, cooking with kids at any age is a great way to spend quality family time together while teaching important life skills.

Cooking with kids can be a gift that keeps on giving, now and in the future. When kids cook at home they are:

  • Exposed to healthy foods, which may positively shape their lifelong food preferences.
  • Given opportunities to build reading, math, chemistry and problem solving skills.
  • Provided opportunities to develop self-confidence and creativity.

Here are a few things to remember:

Provide age-appropriate opportunities to grow cooking skills.

  • Kids as young as two years of age can help in the kitchen with simple tasks like washing fruits and vegetables and adding ingredients to a bowl. By age 12, kids can have the skills to do independent meal planning and preparation. Check out the Nutrition Tools for Schools guide for more information on age-appropriate food skills
  • Supervise kitchen time and demonstrate safe food handling practices, including hand washing and keeping cooked and raw foods separate, as well as safe practices like working with knives and what to do in the case of a fire.
Ingredients for a grilled cheese sandwich

When cooking with kids, be sure to provide age-appropriate tasks, supervise for safety, keep it simple, and make it interactive. The skills kids learn will last a lifetime!

Keep it simple.

  • Choose recipes that have fewer steps and ingredients and/or take a portion of a recipe and let your child help. For example, your child may be able to whisk and scramble the eggs while you complete the other pieces to make breakfast burritos. Check your local library or online for cookbooks with simple recipes.

Make it interactive.

  • Especially in the beginning, cooking may mean letting kids choose from a variety of prepared ingredients to make their own version of the meal. In my home, “build your own meal” recipes have always been winners with all ages – our favourite being build your own pizza where everyone chooses from bowls of diced veggies, fruit and meat, grated cheeses and sauces like pizza sauce, pesto and hummus to top whole grain pita, tortilla or pizza dough.
Grilled cheese sandwich with lots of toppings.

Building your own grilled cheese sandwich is a great way to involve kids in cooking and along with a salad or soup, makes a delicious and balanced meal!

To get you started, try this recipe for “build your own grilled cheese sandwich”:

  • Bread (any kind you like)
  • Cheese (try mozzarella, cheddar, brie, gouda, or another favourite)
  • Toppings (sliced pears, apples, avocado or tomatoes; caramelized onions, cooked sliced potatoes, grilled vegetables like peppers or zucchini, spinach leaves, sliced meats, etc.)
  • Condiments (pesto, honey, mustard, jalapeno jelly, jam, etc.)

Lay the ingredients out and let your family pile all their favourite cheeses and toppings on the bread. Brush each side of the bread with a little vegetable oil and then bake, broil or grill until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. To make a balanced meal, serve with a green salad or a bowl of tomato soup!

For more healthy eating ideas and recipes like this, visit the recipes section on the Northern Health Matters blog!


 

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

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: What’s your New Year’s resolution?

Carrot cake baked oatmeal in a casserole dish.

Try some healthy changes this year: Eat breakfast everyday, drink water, cook healthy meals, and add fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks. Drink a glass of water along with Amy’s carrot cake oatmeal recipe and you’ve hit all four objectives at once!

Have you made a New Year’s resolution this year? Above all the typical ones like saving money, spending more time with your family, and quitting smoking, the resolution that consistently tops the list seems to be losing weight.

In terms of setting a goal, dietitians encourage people to focus on healthy behaviours instead of just on weight loss, ensuring that a person is as healthy as possible at any size. Consider the big difference between these two plans:

  • A supplement-based or one-food diet program (e.g., Slim Fast, Herbal Magic, or the cabbage soup diet) that may provide short term weight loss results but will end with weight gain once you stop the program. This kind of weight cycling has negative outcomes for your physical or mental health.
  • A lifestyle behaviour based approach which encourages healthy habits that improve many aspects of your life aside from the shape of your body. Starting a special program isn’t necessary but focusing on long-term changes to your habits is. By eating a variety of nutritious foods, drinking water, exercising, and adopting other healthy behaviours your body may respond with a huge number of benefits including increased energy, improved mood, lower blood cholesterol levels, and improved sleep!

Consider some of these tips for healthy changes in 2015:

  1. Eat breakfast everyday! Did you know that sumo wrestlers consciously skip breakfast in order to gain weight? Eating in the morning jumpstarts your metabolism, puts gas in your tank to fuel your day, and keeps you from being ravenous at the end of the day.
  2. Drink 2-3 litres of water per day! Water flushes your body of toxins, keeps your brain functioning well, hydrates and revitalizes your skin, and keeps your gut working optimally. Your urine should look pale yellow.
  3. Add more vegetables and fruit to meals and snacks! Add fruit to your oatmeal, sneak veggies into your sandwiches, soups, stews, and casseroles, keep frozen berries and bananas on hand for easy smoothies, and stock your freezer with frozen vegetables for a quick dinner solution.
  4. Cook healthy meals for your family! Anything you make in your kitchen will be more nutritious than the store-bought version! Make cooking a priority for your family.

Looking for a family-friendly recipe that gets everyone running to the breakfast table and sneaks some vegetables into an unlikely place? Look no further!

Carrot cake oatmeal can be made for a nice brunch or weekend breakfast, heated up for a quick breakfast during the week, packed along as snack, or even eaten as a dessert!

This recipe includes an ingredient from every food group: whole grain oats, carrots and raisins, milk or a milk substitute, and seeds and nuts!

Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal

This recipe is based off of a recipe from the website Oh She Glows.

Feeds six hungry people

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups quick cooking rolled oats (use gluten-free if necessary)
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed or chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups lightly packed shredded carrots
  • 2 ½ cups unsweetened milk (or milk alternative of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup, melted honey, or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly grated ginger (or ½ tsp ground ginger)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds or walnuts

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a 10-cup casserole dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, flaxseed or chia seeds, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the carrots, milk, sweetener, vanilla, and ginger.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until combined. If you are using regular rolled oats instead of the quick cooking variety, I would recommend that you let it soak for 30-60 minutes or overnight. That way it will be nice and soft!
  5. Pour mixture into prepared dish and smooth out with a spoon. Press down on the oatmeal with a spoon (or your hands) so the oats sink into the milk. Sprinkle on the raisins and sunflower seeds or walnuts and press down lightly again.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 32-37 minutes or until lightly golden along edge. The oatmeal will still look a bit soft or wet in some spots when it comes out of the oven, but it will firm up as it cools.
  7. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with a drizzle of maple syrup or some dairy or non-dairy yogurt. When the baked oatmeal is fully cool, it will firm up enough to be sliced into squares.

Enjoy it warm, at room temperature, or chilled straight from the fridge!

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: This holiday season, give brussels sprouts a chance

Roasted brussels sprouts on a baking sheet

Lots of people try to avoid brussels sprouts but they are missing out! These vegetables are available fresh at this time of year and pack a nutritional punch! Marianne suggests some different preparations that will definitely change your mind on brussels sprouts!

‘Tis that time of year again, when friends and families gather together to celebrate the holiday season. While we all have our own holiday traditions and ways of celebrating the season, for many these include a holiday feast. My family always has a very traditional turkey dinner complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots, salads, and, of course, brussels sprouts. Ah yes, brussels sprouts, the “ugly duckling” of the holiday feast. I know more than a few people who have no love for the sprouts, saying they are mushy or smell a little funny. But it doesn’t have to be this way – brussels sprouts can be nutritious and delicious!

Why eat brussels sprouts?

They are a member of the Brassica family, which includes other vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. These vegetables have been shown to help in the prevention of various cancers and are also great sources of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. In particular, brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, and a good source of folate and vitamin B6. Their peak season is fall through to spring, which makes them a great fresh vegetable choice during our northern winters. You can also buy them frozen to enjoy all year round.

How do you make brussels sprouts taste delicious?

It’s all about the way you cook them and what you pair them with. When you boil brussels sprouts, they can overcook easily and you are left with a mushy grey-green vegetable that doesn’t look very appealing. They also develop a much stronger flavour when cooked this way. Instead, try steaming, sautéing, or roasting your sprouts – or shred them into a salad to eat them raw. Steaming will keep that vibrant green colour, while sautéing and roasting can really bring out nutty or caramelized flavours. To kick it up a notch, add some nuts, Parmesan cheese, bacon, or balsamic vinegar. Yum!

To get you started, I’m sharing my go-to brussels sprouts recipe – Canadian Living’s Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts. It’s sweet and savoury, easy to make, and a true crowd pleaser. Try replacing the maple syrup with birch syrup to add some northern B.C. flair!

This holiday season, give sprouts a chance!

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: Winter baking

Rural driveway lined with snow and frost

Warm baking tastes that much better on frosty winter days and cold nights! When you are baking, keep an eye out for sugar and fat content. Healthy baking options high in fibre and low in added sugar do exist! (Photo by Northern Health staff member Shellie O’Brien)

The winter weather has officially landed and with it, I find myself wanting to do more baking. On these cold wintery nights, there is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a warm baked good right out of the oven.

Unfortunately, many baked goods can be high in sugar and fat and low in fibre, which is why I make an effort to seek out healthier recipes for baked goods that are still as delicious as the originals!

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas and makes a great snack or dessert option. It can also be part of a quick breakfast when paired with something like fruit and yogurt to create a balanced meal! These bars are high in fibre and low in added sugar, but what’s even better is that they come together in less than 30 minutes including prep and cook time!

Chocolate PB Chip Oat Bars (from the Real Life RD)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar (original recipe calls for coconut palm sugar)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup milk (original recipe calls for almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips or peanut butter chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line an 8” x 8” baking pan with greased parchment paper.
  3. Process your oats into a flour using a blender or food processor.
  4. Add your oat flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl. Add the mashed banana, milk, and vanilla and gently stir until almost completely mixed. Fold in your chocolate chips. Spread onto baking pan.
  5. Bake the bars for 18-20 minutes or until the center is set and cooked through.
  6. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the parchment paper. Let the bars cool completely before slicing into squares.
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: Go-to blogs for quick and healthy recipes

Granola bars that have been baked in a muffin tin

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

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

The Lean Green Bean

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

Chocolate Covered Katie

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

Oh She Glows

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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

Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

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

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Foodie Friday: Back to basics – scratch cooking

A whisk in a pot with chocolate pudding

Scratch cooking can be simple, quick, low cost, healthy, and tasty!

Many Novembers, I have stood in biting cold or sloppy wet snow to watch the local Remembrance Day parade process to the Terrace Cenotaph. I’m always moved to tears by our veterans, who serve as very visual reminders of the contributions made to keep Canada safe and free.

November 11th always adds perspective to my life and helps me reflect on what is important. It calls to mind the efforts of those at home during early war efforts, when food was scarce and the emphasis was on local production, preparation, and preservation. I think about how reliant we’ve become on convenience foods, supposedly for the sake of ease and saving time. However, I only have to pull out the old cookbook handed down to me by my mother to access simple and low cost recipes that are tasty and healthy. Homemade pudding is one example.

Store-bought puddings are often heavily packaged, list sugar as the ingredient present in the largest amount, include fillers and preservatives, and are made with milk that, unlike regular fluid milk, typically isn’t fortified with vitamin D.

Making your own pudding is quick. In fact, you can assemble the dry ingredients in the following recipe to make your own pudding mix to use later or, because it’s so quick, you can make it on-demand when the need for a tasty and healthy snack or dessert occurs. If you do make the mix, store it in a cool and dry place until you are ready to add the wet ingredients, as per the recipe.

Chocolate pudding topped with bananas

Adding fresh fruit makes this a balanced snack that includes two food groups from Canada’s Food Guide.

Chocolate Pudding

Makes four ½ cup servings

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

1. Add sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and flour to a pot. Whisk in 1 cup of milk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk in the rest of the milk. Continue to stir over medium heat until thickened.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.

2. Cool in the refrigerator or enjoy while still warm.  To make a balanced snack that includes two food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, top the pudding with some sliced bananas, pears, or strawberries!

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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