Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Enjoy B.C.’s bounty this summer

Grilled corn and tomatoes on a table.

How are you enjoying B.C.’s bounty this long weekend? Grill some local corn, pull some tomatoes from the vine, and give Marianne’s salad a try!

Summertime in B.C. is awesome! We can get outside and enjoy our favourite activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming throughout our amazing province. It’s also a great time to up our healthy eating game as our gardens, farmers markets, and grocery stores are filled with fresh B.C. produce! I know I can hardly wait for those summer months when I can finally sink my teeth into B.C.-grown nectarines, raspberries, corn on the cob, and more.

There are many benefits to enjoying B.C.-grown fruits and vegetables

  • Local produce is the freshest produce you can buy – it’s picked ripe and ready to eat and delivered to you quickly, especially if it’s coming from your own backyard! This means it tastes better, looks better, and retains more nutrients.
  • Local produce is better for the environment – fruit and vegetables grown in other countries have to travel long distances and require more packaging to make it to your plate.
  • Choosing B.C. produce supports our local economies – when you choose B.C. produce at the grocery store or shop at your local farmers market you are supporting those producers in your community.

Whether you grow your own, visit your local farmers market, or shop at the grocery store, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the bounty of B.C. And what better time to do so than this B.C. Day long weekend! If you are hosting a BBQ, having a lakeside picnic, or going to a potluck, try out this crowd-pleasing salad. It’s packed full of flavour and uses a variety of produce you can find growing in our awesome province.

Happy B.C. Day everyone!

Salad and dressing

This grilled corn, arugula, and couscous salad is a celebration of B.C. produce. Enjoy it at your next BBQ, lakeside picnic, or family gathering!

Grilled corn, arugula, and couscous salad

Adapted from The Wellness Kitchen Cookbook, by Paulette Lambert, RD

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 cup water
  • ⅔ cup whole wheat couscous
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 3 ears of corn, grilled and kernels cut from cob
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • ⅓ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing

  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in couscous, remove from heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
  2. In a large salad bowl, toss couscous, arugula, tomatoes, corn, avocado, pumpkin seeds, cranberries. Set aside.
  3. For the dressing, in a blender or food processor, add basil, buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  4. To serve, toss the salad with the dressing, then sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.

Tips

  • Keep the dressing and salad separate until you are ready to serve to avoid soggy arugula.
  • You can also replace the couscous with quinoa or millet to make it gluten-free.
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: Easy mason jar parfait

Yogurt parfait in mason jar.

Mason jar breakfasts can pack a powerful punch and are super easy to grab-and-go! Try Rilla’s recipe or mix it up with your favourite fruits and nuts.

Mason jars are a great way to take your breakfast up a notch. Their fun presentation gives a sneak peek into a colourful, appealing meal before we actually dig in!

Mason jars can be used to store and transport your meal and can also be used for baking or shaking/mixing ingredients.

This cool idea makes portion control at breakfast easy, with the added bonus of a portable and environmentally friendly container! Make a mason jar your new favourite Tupperware or lunchbox.

Need an idea to fill your mason jar?

Mix up the goodness of quinoa with greek yogurt, fruit and nuts for a breakfast with some staying power. This meal combination has a healthy dose of good fats, protein and carbs to start your day off right!

This recipe is extremely versatile. Try using granola in place of quinoa, a variety of fruit in place of blueberries, or other nuts, dried fruit or nut butter in place of almonds! The options are endless, and ensure that you’ll never be bored with your breakfast meal again!

Easy Mason Jar Parfait

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup cooked and cooled quinoa
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ banana, sliced
  • 1 tbsp almonds
  • Pure maple syrup, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Prepare quinoa the night before as per package instructions. Cool overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Layer yogurt, quinoa, fruit and nuts and top with maple syrup to taste.

Try making these the night before or in batches for a quick grab-and-go breakfast in the morning!

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: Turn up the heat! Cooking healthy meals on the BBQ

BBQ chicken, mango salsa, asparagus, and carrots on a plate.

Think outside the steak for the grill this summer! Erin’s jerk chicken recipe is a great option for a healthy and quick BBQ dinner!

Summer is here!

Hot weather invites you to enjoy the outdoors, and cooking is no exception. Unless you enjoy cooking in a hot kitchen while gazing out at the beautiful sunshine, it’s time to pull out the barbecue and get creative!

While I was in Vancouver, I ran a community kitchen as part of a local organization that empowered families to grow their own food and cook delicious and healthy meals from their bounty. We cooked everything on a barbecue, from cedar-planked salmon to homemade wild blueberry perogies, to show that anything is possible with a little creativity and improvisation.

When you think about barbecuing, are you envisioning a juicy steak with grilled potatoes and corn on the cob?

While that is definitely an option, I like to try new things on the barbecue and also look outside of the typical steak and potato meal for cancer prevention.

Eating a diet high in red meat has been shown to increase cancer risk and grilled or barbecued meat may further increase your risk of developing cancer. According to the Dietitians of Canada, when meat is cooked at a high temperature, like on the grill, fat can drip onto hot flames. This can cause flare-ups and cancer-causing compounds may be formed. To help keep healthy while enjoying your favourite foods on the barbecue, here are a few tips.

Tips for a healthy BBQ season

  • Choose kabobs or thin cuts of meat to minimize time on the grill.
  • Trim off visible fat to help reduce flare-ups.
  • Marinate your meats to reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds by 80-90%!
  • Barbecue at a lower temperature.
  • Trim off any burnt or charred pieces.
  • Opt for vegetarian items! Grilling vegetables doesn’t increase your cancer risk.

Last night, I enjoyed this spicy jerk chicken with mango salsa, using butterflied and marinated chicken for a quick and healthy summer dinner.

Chicken, vegetables, and rice on a plate.

Butterflied chicken (or small cuts of meat on a kabob) is one way to minimize time on the grill and make your BBQ healthier this summer. What are your BBQ favourites?

Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded 1 inch thick
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes
  • ½ tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced

Mango Salsa

  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Combine spices and lime juice together to create a paste. Rub over chicken and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Turn the barbecue on to medium heat.
  3. Make the mango salsa by combining mango, red onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice and salt together in medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  4. Place chicken on the barbecue and cook for approximately 5 minutes, until golden brown. Flip chicken and cook on the other side until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.
  5. Serve chicken with mango salsa and your favourite sides.

Food safety is still important on the grill. For tips to keep barbecuing safe, check out tips from Health Canada.

Don’t feel like cooking? Check out Carly’s “full-meal-deal salad” for a quick summertime dinner.

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

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

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Foodie Friday: 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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