Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: A hiker’s power food

I admit it: I’m a little sad to see my snow sports and equipment go into an early retirement this year. However, there’s one activity in particular that I’m more than happy to get an early start on this year: hiking! Northern B.C. is known for its stunning wilderness and unparalleled hiking trails. As a Vancouver Island transplant, I have an immense appreciation for the outdoors but have yet to discover the vast network of outdoor trails that northern B.C. has to offer. If you see me daydreaming at work while gazing out of the window, you can bet that’s where my mind is wandering!

Cookies on a plate

Because of their energy boost, fibre content, delicious flavour, and packable qualities, the Power Cookie is a staple of Karli’s hiking meal plan!

One of the most important parts of hiking, as well as any outdoor activity that makes you break a sweat, is getting proper fuel and nutrition to stay energized. Depending on how long and how intense your hike is, you can burn a pretty significant amount of calories each day. On overnight hikes, it’s especially important to plan your meals to make sure you’ve brought enough food to eat while still considering how much weight you’re carrying. Check out Mountain Equipment Co-Op’ websites on backcountry meal planning and backcountry cooking for awesome tips and meal ideas.

One food has remained a staple in my hiking meal plans for as long as I can remember: the Power Cookie. I make a batch of these little energy balls for hiking for a few reasons:

  • Oats, whole wheat flour, and applesauce give your body the carbohydrates it needs to refuel energy stores and fibre to help digestion.
  • Dried fruit, dried coconut flakes, and orange zest give these cookies a sweet and tangy taste.
  • They’re easy to make and pack into the trails!

The Power Cookie

Yields about 20 two-inch cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 ½ cups large-flake oats
  • 1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup diced dried apricots
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, and eggs. Blend well. Stir in the applesauce.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this mixture to the applesauce and mix well. Stir in the almonds, oats, coconut, apricots and cranberries. Ensure the mixture is well-blended. Chill the mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Form the dough into 1″ x 2″ bars or balls and place on a large baking sheet. Press each one down with a fork to flatten slightly.
  5. Bake on the centre oven rack for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden brown. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.
Karli Nordman

About Karli Nordman

Karli is a Dietetic Intern completing her internship throughout Northern Health. She has had a growing interest in food and nutrition for as long as she can remember and is a big advocate for a food first approach to overall health and happiness. Her passions are evenly divided between her career path and being outdoors - which makes northern B.C. the perfect place to both learn and explore.

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Foodie Friday: Something fast and fishy!

Fish tacos on a plate outside

Want to spend more time outside this spring? Dietitian Lindsay’s fish tacos are easy to make so you’ll be able to enjoy them quickly (outside, if you’d like!).

Oh, spring! Our transition from winter to summer!

Do you find your tastes for foods changing at this time of year? Perhaps that hearty stew doesn’t seem so appealing anymore and now you’re craving more salads. As the days get longer, I’m finding myself wanting to spend less time inside. This creates bit of a dilemma – as much as I enjoy being outdoors, I also love ending my day with a delicious dinner, often shared with others, whether it’s my partner, friends, or family. Really, unless I have someone build me an outdoor kitchen (any takers!?), my only option to appease both of my desires is to spend as little time as possible creating some sort of delicious dish. Or pull out the barbecue and cook everything on there!

Everyone has different reasons for choosing the foods they eat: taste, health, convenience, access. What are your reasons? For me, meals have to be three things: delicious, healthy, and take as little time as possible to prepare. Of course, there will be those weekend dinners that I’ll spend a bit more time on but day to day, they need to be quick.

So, I bring to you: Pescado Blanco Fish Tacos out of the Whitewater Cooks With Friends cookbook! These little tacos are packed with complete protein, heart-healthy fats from fish and avocados, and fibrous red cabbage. They can also be made in about 30-45 minutes – or even less time if you have leftover fish from earlier in the week.

Pescado Blanco Fish Tacos

Serves 6

Ingredients

Orange Avocado Salsa

  • 3 oranges, peeled, diced, and drained
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 tbsp red onion, diced finely
  • 2 medium avocados, diced into ½ inch cubes
  • ¾ tsp salt

Tacos

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ lbs fish (halibut, red snapper, cod or salmon)
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 2 cups red cabbage, very thinly sliced

Optional: Chipotle Crema

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 tsp half and half cream
  • 1 tsp adobo sauce (the sauce from canned chipotle peppers)

Instructions

  1. If using chipotle crema, whisk together sour cream, half and half cream and adobo sauce until well blended. Refrigerate.
  2. Combine oranges, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, red onion, avocado and salt. Mix gently with a spoon in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  4. Wrap tortillas in tin foil and place in oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle fish pieces with cumin, paprika and onion powder.
  6. Heat oil in two sauté pans until almost smoking.
  7. Divide fish into two batches and sear in individual hot pans until just done, about 3-4 minutes.
  8. Lay two warm tortillas on each person’s plate.
  9. Spread thin layer of red cabbage on each tortilla, followed by seared fish, then a spoonful of orange avocado salsa. Finish with a dollop of chipotle crema (if using).
  10. Enjoy!
Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn't at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.

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Foodie Friday: Pulses, lycopene, and the black bean salsa that ties them all together!

Salsa ingredients on a cutting board

With fibre from black beans and lycopene from tomatoes, this black bean salsa is easy to make and packs a nutritional punch!

Have you ever tried black bean salsa? Don’t be scared away! It’s just like normal salsa, but it has black beans in it! It’s a deliciously sneaky way to add more fibre, protein and pulses to your diet!

You may have read a lot from my fellow dietitians about pulses during Foodie Fridays this year. Why’s that? Because the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses! The goal is to increase awareness of the nutritional benefits and how pulses are an important part of a sustainable food system. Learn more from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

What is a “pulse” anyway? Are they good for you?

Pulses are a family of plants including:

  • Dried peas (think split pea soup)
  • Dry beans (think pork and beans – like the ones you take camping)
  • Lentils (small disc shapes you might see in soups or stews)
  • Chickpeas (think hummus)

Things you may know:

  • Pulses are high in fibre! This helps with regularity, keeping you feeling full longer. Many Canadians are not getting the recommended amounts of fibre in each day. The recommended daily intake of fibre is 38 g/day of total fibre for men and 25 g/day of total fibre for women.
  • Pulses are a good source of protein! This makes them a great plant-based alternative to meat or animal products.

Things you may not know:

  • Pulses have a low glycemic index, meaning that they are digested and absorbed slowly in the body and help to keep blood sugar levels more stable.
  • Pulses can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the body because they contain soluble fibre.
  • Pulses use half the non-renewable energy inputs of other crops and have a low carbon footprint! Pulse Canada has more information about pulses and sustainability.

Information above based off of Pulse Canada.

Tomatoes and lycopene

Let’s also talk tomatoes. Garden tomatoes in season taste fantastic (like they should taste), but store-bought ones out of season often taste and look bland. The key to any recipe is fresh ingredients! In the winter and spring, I prefer to use canned tomato products because they are harvested and preserved at the peak of ripeness. Also, did you know that the heating process involved in canning tomatoes increases the amount of lycopene in tomatoes by about 7 times?

Lycopene is an antioxidant that is strongly linked to preventing cancer! Lycopene is particularly well known for the protective effects it has against prostate cancer. Tomatoes are by far the winner when it comes to lycopene content of food so consider canned tomato products a nutritious option.

Information above based off of the Canadian Nutrient Files.

Bowl of salsa

Black bean salsa is a great way to sneak some pulses into your menu!

Black Bean Salsa

Recipe sourced from: Dietitians of Canada Cookbook, Simply Great Food, by Patricia Chuey, Eileen Campbell and Mary Sue Waisman.

Makes enough to feed a crowd.

Salsa recipe ideas:

  • Serve this salsa with lettuce and veggies, avocado, chopped cooked chicken, and corn for a simple Mexican salad.
  • Top your favourite burrito or taco filling with this salsa for a high fibre punch.
  • Add salsa to scrambled or poached eggs and serve on toast for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Spoon salsa over white fish or chicken before baking in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups tomatoes, diced (if in season) or 750 mL can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, finely minced
  • 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, minced (optional)
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro (optional if you aren’t a cilantro fan)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Juice of 2 limes

Instructions

  1. Chop tomatoes, if using, or empty canned tomatoes into a large bowl. You can drain the extra juice if you like your salsa more chunky than wet.
  2. Mince onion, jalapeno and cilantro and add to the tomatoes.
  3. Rinse black beans and add to the salsa.
  4. Add olive oil, salt and freshly squeezed lime juice. Stir well to combine.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Enjoy!
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: Quinoa, have you tried it?

Quinoa and peas

Quinoa is easy, versatile, and packs a nutritional punch! Don’t be intimidated by this relatively new ingredient!

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is one of those foods that many of us had never heard of just a few years ago but now, we see it everywhere! In talking to people, I find there are many who aren’t sure what to do with quinoa or how to cook it.

Quinoa is very versatile, easy to prepare, and delicious; it can be eaten either hot or cold. You can use quinoa to make a hot cereal dish in the morning, use it as a side dish, use it in soups or salads, or make it the base of stews or chili. One of the big benefits of quinoa is that it cooks a lot quicker than other whole grains like brown rice, so it can be a great choice for those time-crunched days.

So, what is quinoa and what are its benefits?

Quinoa is native to South America and is a seed, although we generally use it like a grain in cooking. Quinoa is a good source of fibre, folate, protein, phosphorus, copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Quinoa comes in white, red, and black varieties and the cooking time varies slightly between the varieties. It has a slightly nutty taste but is overall mild. I love quinoa for its ease of cooking and use it regularly!

Try this quinoa recipe to make a tasty side dish. Leftovers can easily be stored in the fridge for a couple days. They also freeze well for use later.

Quinoa with Peas

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter/margarine
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¾ cup frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp parsley

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the quinoa and cook 2 minutes until toasted.
  2. Pour in the chicken broth and add the onion, garlic, thyme and pepper. Cover and let come to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, add in the frozen peas. Re-cover; reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Continue simmering until the quinoa is tender and has absorbed the chicken stock, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  5. Stir in the parsley and 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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Foodie Friday: Make your own take-out!

Pizza

Pizza can be a well-balanced meal – include whole grain dough, lots of veggies, your favourite protein, and skim-milk mozzarella and you’ll have all 4 food groups!

It’s Nutrition Month and this year, we’re Taking a 100 Meal Journey. It’s all about making small changes and sticking with them one meal at a time.

Maybe you’ve decided to eat more vegetables, make a weekly meal plan, or cook from scratch more often. Well, I’ve got a great way to help you stay on track for all 3 of those healthy eating goals! When I plan dinners for the week, I like to designate one night as “Make Your Own Take-Out” night.

We all have our own favourite take-out options – it could be burgers, tacos, pizza, or fish n’ chips. But, let’s face it, these aren’t always the most nutritious choices we can make. Take-out foods are often higher in salt and fat, are made with refined grain products, and tend to be sparse on the vegetables. Sure, they are convenient, especially on busy weeknights. And as a once-in-a-while treat, they aren’t so bad. But when take-out dinners become a regular habit, they can impact not only our health, but also take a toll on our wallets.

Baked pizza

Bake your pizza on a baking sheet or, for a crispy pizza crust, invest in a pizza stone!

Instead of swearing off your favourite take-out foods, why not try making some of them at home? That way, you can control the ingredients and portion sizes, and save a little money while you’re at it. Pizza is one of my favourite “Make Your Own Take-Out” meals to make. Give it a try! It’s a great way to increase your whole grain and vegetable intake. You can keep it traditional or get creative with your vegetable toppings – use up whatever you have on hand. We’ve discovered that corn, cabbage, and even sweet potato make tasty toppings! Bonus: it’s also a fun meal to make with the family! Try making mini pizzas and letting everyone choose their own toppings.

Below is my go-to pizza dough recipe. It’s super easy to make, incorporates whole grain flour, and you can make it ahead of time. Keep a batch in the freezer and you’ll have dough ready for a quick weeknight meal.

Big-Batch Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Recipe adapted from Dietitians of Canada

Makes enough for two 12-15 inch (30-38 cm) pizza crusts

Ingredients

  • 2 packages (7 g each) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups lukewarm water
  • ½ tsp olive oil
Pizza slice

Once you’ve topped your pizza, bake in the oven at 400 C for 15 minutes for the perfect at home pizza.

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and sugar. Attach dough hook and mixer bowl to mixer. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add water; knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (You can also knead the dough by hand, or even use a food processor)
  2. Turn off mixer, and pour oil down side of bowl. Set to low speed for 15 seconds to coat inside of bowl and cover dough lightly with oil. Remove mixer bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  3. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  4. Punch down dough and cut in half to make two balls. Place each ball in an airtight freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months, or roll out for immediate usage.
  5. To roll out, place dough ball on a floured work surface and form into a circle. Roll out until dough reaches 12 to 15 inches (30 to 38 cm) diameter.

Tip: Try adding dried or fresh herbs to the pizza dough to give it even more pizazz! Basil, parsley, oregano, and rosemary are all great options!

Once you’ve topped your pizza, bake in the oven at 400 C for 15 minutes for the perfect at-home pizza.

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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Nutrition Month Week 4: Try something new!

Pink beet hummus

Healthy eating can be creative and delicious! For Nutrition Month, try something new, like dilly beet hummus!

So far this Nutrition Month, dietitians Marianne and Rebecca have shared some great tips on:

They also collected a great list of pro tips from 10 of their colleagues.

Now, for week 4 of Nutrition Month, it’s all about trying something new! If you think healthy eating is bland, think again! Nutrition Month is a great time to get creative, try new flavours and foods, and refresh your recipes.

Here are some more tips that Marianne & Rebecca shared with me:

Perk up your menu with tantalizing recipes.

Sometimes your menu just needs a little inspiration. With recipes this good, you’ll want to get cooking right now!

Instead of take out tonight, make your own quick and tasty meals.

Relying on take out? Does your mealtime routine need reviving? Skip take out and bring back kitchen fun by switching up how you cook and serve supper.

  • Cook create-it-yourself meals with your kids. Try a family taco, fajita, salad bar. With everyone helping, meal prep is easy.
  • Make your own pizzas in minutes. Top whole grain flat breads with tomato sauce, flavourful cheese and leftover roasted veggies. Yum!
  • Sandwiches for supper? Sure! Use whole grain buns, hummus or leftover roasted chicken or beef and a slice of cheese and then pile on the veggies.

For more healthy cooking ideas, visit the Dietitians of Canada.


These tips are adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month and join other Canadians on a 100 Meal Journey at nutritionmonth2016.ca.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Foodie Friday: Make small changes to your portion sizes

It’s Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Take a 100 Meal Journey: Make Small Changes, One Meal at a Time”. It’s a great chance to reflect on what small, healthy changes we can all make in our food choices and habits, including portion sizes.

Consider the following:

How many times do we overeat when we are presented with a large, delicious-looking plate of food? Do we know when to stop eating because we are full and not because we’ve eaten every last bite? Just think about how easy it is to sit down with a bag of chips or popcorn and eat more than our share’s worth.

I know I’m guilty of these things at times.

Over the past few decades, larger portions have become normal. The size of dinner plates has increased, packaged goods come in larger quantities, and restaurants serve meals so large that they skew our perceptions of what a “normal” portion size actually looks like. Undoubtedly, larger portions play a role in how much we eat and can contribute to excess weight gain. When larger portions, especially larger portions of less nutritious foods, become part of our daily norm, they can impact our health and well-being in the long run.

If portion sizes are an area you struggle with, now is a great time to start making small changes! Consider the following tips to help you begin:

  • Become familiar with the recommendations for total daily servings for your age and gender and what a serving size looks like, according to Canada’s Food Guide. Take a look at this handout on estimating portion sizes using your hands.
  • Fill half your plate with vegetables at mealtimes. Increasing the amount of vegetables you put on your plate will help moderate the portions of other foods.
  • When eating out, ask for a to-go container with your meal and place some of your meal in it before taking your first bite. Or split the meal with a friend.
  • Instead of taking the whole bag, place a couple handfuls of chips or popcorn into a small bowl to prevent mindless munching.
  • Check out your plate size. Consider choosing a smaller plate to help avoid dishing up too much food.

It’s also important to remember to enjoy the food we eat; paying attention to when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Small, conscious changes to what we eat and how much we eat can lead to long-term benefits.

Bowl of curry over rice

Tamara’s small, nourishing change for Nutrition Month is to switch out some of her portions of meat and poultry for protein alternatives like beans, lentils and chickpeas. Her favourite sweet potato chickpea curry recipe is a great way to get started!

What changes will you make for Nutrition Month?

I’m pledging to switch out some of my portions of meat and poultry for protein alternatives like beans, lentils and chickpeas. I already started by digging out one of my favourite vegetarian recipes, which I’m sharing with you below. I hope you enjoy!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry

From Chef Michael Smith

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • Splash of vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Small knob of frozen ginger (*see tip below)
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) Thai curry paste
  • 2 sweet potatoes (or yams), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 19 oz (540 ml) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz (398 ml) can of coconut milk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) orange juice
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) frozen green peas
  • Several handfuls baby spinach
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) chopped cilantro (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add a splash or two of vegetable oil to a stockpot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion and garlic and sauté them until they’re lightly browned, about 5 minutes or so.
  2. Grate the frozen ginger into the pan and add the Thai curry paste. Continue cooking until the spices are heated through and fragrant, another few minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, orange juice, peanut butter, and salt. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and continue simmering until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the peas, spinach and cilantro.
  4. Serve over rice.

*Tip: I like to store whole, unpeeled ginger in the freezer and grate it as needed. If sealed in a bag or container, it’ll keep for many months so I always have some on hand.

Tamara Grafton

About Tamara Grafton

Tamara is a UBC dietetic intern with Northern Health. Originally from the prairies, Tamara completed a BSc in Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. She moved to Prince George in 2009 and worked in the agriculture industry before applying to the dietetics program. She has a strong passion for agriculture, food and nutrition. In her downtime, she enjoys spending time with her husband and young son, keeping active, cooking new foods and daydreaming about travelling when school is over.

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Foodie Friday: Ready, set, menu plan!

Grocery list

A little bit of meal planning – including making a grocery list – can go a long way to help support healthy eating habits and make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone.

It’s been a hectic day, and now you need to get dinner on the table. All too often, we are faced with the “What should we have for dinner tonight?” dilemma. This can make dinner time a very stressful and daunting experience, especially when you’re already tired and hungry! For me, I’ve learned firsthand that “hangry”, the term used for anger or irritability due to lack of food, is definitely a real thing!

In honour of Nutrition Month this March, my small nourishing change is to make a weekly meal plan. Why do a meal plan? Meals planned and prepared at home tend to be healthier than restaurant meals or eating on the go. Plus, a little bit of meal planning can go a long way to help support healthy eating habits and make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone. It’s a win-win!

Meal planning can be a fairly simple task, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Try these simple meal planning steps:

  1. Make a menu plan. Write down your meal ideas for the week using a piece of paper, calendar or this handy menu planner from BetterTogetherBC. Post it on the fridge and get the whole family involved.
  2. Make a grocery list. Check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what food items you need.
  3. Go grocery shopping. Buy the foods on your grocery list.
  4. Get stocked. Keep ingredients for healthy meals and snacks on hand such as frozen or canned vegetables and fruit, plain yogurt, canned fish, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, canned beans and whole grains such oats and brown rice.

Looking for a quick, easy, and delicious dinner meal idea? This Mexican Chicken Casserole recipe is definitely one of my go-tos for those hectic weekday nights and is also great for “planned extra” leftovers.

Chicken and rice on a plate with carrots and salad.

Emilia’s Mexican Chicken Casserole is a great option for a hectic weekday night and makes great “planned extras” for lunch tomorrow!

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice or rice of choice
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 x 15 oz can black beans or beans of choice
  • 1 x 15 oz can of finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup low- sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2-3 large chicken breast or 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add the dry rice, drained and rinsed black beans, corn, tomatoes, chili powder, oregano and chicken broth or water to a 8″ x 8″ casserole pan.
  2. If using chicken breast, cut into 3 pieces. Push the chicken into the liquid.
  3. Cover the casserole dish tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake uncovered for a few minutes, until cheese has melted.

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

Enjoy served with a side salad and a glass of milk or a dollop of plain yogurt. Possible recipe modifications include substituting the chicken with heart-healthy fish or doubling the portion of beans for a fibre-packed vegetarian alternative.

Do you have a favorite go-to dinner meal? 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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Quality counts! 3 tips for Nutrition Month

Last week, dietitians Marianne & Rebecca provided some tips to get you ready for a 100 meal journey.

Did you have the chance to think about what your small, nourishing changes could be?

If you’re still looking for positive, easy changes to make to your eating habits, for Week 2 of Nutrition Month, we suggest looking at quality! Get clever with your cooking, swap in nutrient-rich choices to stay energized, and more!

Here are Rebecca & Marianne’s favourite tips for this week.

Berry smoothie

What small steps can you take to bump up the quality of your meals and snacks? How about a super smoothie for breakfast?

Tip #1: Jump-start your day! Power through your morning by eating a good breakfast.

A nourishing breakfast gives you a fuel boost plus protein and fibre to help you stay alert and avoid mid-morning munchies.

In a hurry?

  • Blend frozen berries, yogurt and milk for a super smoothie. Make it even better with baby spinach and ground flax.
  • Wrap peanut butter, a banana and trail mix in a whole-grain tortilla for a portable, crunchy breakfast.

Have time?

  • Make a burrito with scrambled egg, lentils or soft tofu, sautéed red pepper, avocado and salsa wrapped in a warm tortilla.
  • Top French toast with yogurt, sunflower seeds and warm sautéed apple slices.

For more breakfast inspiration, visit Cookspiration.

Plate of roasted sweet potatoes

Don’t think of them as leftovers – think of them as “planned extras”! Are you roasting sweet potatoes for dinner? Add a few more and layer them on whole-grain bread for a delicious and nutritious lunch!

Tip #2: Forget the food court! Pack good food fast with “planned extra” leftovers for lunch.

Packing lunch is a healthy, budget-friendly habit. Keep it simple: reinvent “planned extra” leftovers for a lunch that’s way better than the food court. Try these tasty ideas:

  • Cook extra chicken for dinner. For lunch, wrap chicken in soft tacos, with crunchy cabbage and shredded carrots, a sprinkle of feta and big squeeze of juicy lime.
  • Roast extra root veggies. Layer them on crusty whole grain bread with hummus and baby spinach for a scrumptious sandwich.
  • Toss extra cooked whole wheat pasta, couscous or barley with pesto, cherry tomatoes, lentils and small cheese chunks for a protein-packed salad.

The Dietitians of Canada have lots of creative ways to cook with leftovers.

Tip #3: Clever cooking! Flavour food with tangy citrus, fresh herbs and fragrant spices.

There are lots of simple ways to cook healthy without sacrificing taste. Try these tips to add flavour to meals:

  • Add pizzazz to plain grains and pulses by cooking barley, brown rice or lentils in low-sodium broth.
  • Stir ½ to 1 cup of canned pumpkin or mashed sweet potato into muffin batter for a veggie boost.
  • Make a luscious mashed potato with roasted garlic, a little olive oil and warm milk.
  • Purée vegetable soups, such as potato, sweet potato or broccoli, with low-sodium broth for deliciously creamy texture and taste.

For delicious recipes with a healthy twist, visit Healthy Families BC.

What small steps can you take to bump up the quality of your meals and snacks?


These tips are adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month and join other Canadians on a 100 Meal Journey at nutritionmonth2016.ca.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Foodie Friday: Make small changes each meal to nourish your body and mind

Bowl of soup with bread and salad.

Erin’s small, nourishing change for this meal was to include beans in her soup. What changes will you make on your 100 meal journey this month?

As the season changes, are you looking to eat better? When the snow starts melting and the sun starts shining, I get inspired to make fresh and nourishing meals to recharge my body and brain.

Getting excited about eating well is what this year’s Nutrition Month is all about. This year’s theme – take a 100 meal journey – is focused on making small and lasting changes that will stick. There are about 100 meals in a month, and you can make small, nourishing changes in each meal to help you eat and feel better all year long.

Sometimes, I get too excited and want to take on the world! But too many changes at once can be overwhelming and hard to keep up. Choosing one change at a time and sticking with it will lead to lifelong positive changes.

One change that I made for a recent meal was to include more beans on my plate (or, rather, in my bowl!). Beans are packed full of plant-based protein and fibre, which are both great for keeping my heart healthy and nourishing my active body. 2016 is the International Year of Pulses, so the recipe I’m sharing this week features hearty Great Northern beans, but any other bean would work just as well.

Green Great Northern Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Great Northern Beans, dried (4 cups low sodium canned beans would work too)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 L chicken stock, low sodium
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (1 tsp dried thyme would work, too)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Note: If using canned beans, skip to #3.

  1. In a large bowl, cover the beans with 2 inches of cold water. Soak at room temperature overnight.
  2. Rinse the beans and place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and cook for 45 minutes or until the beans are soft inside, but not falling apart.
  3. In a separate pot, on medium heat, sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken stock, the whole chorizo sausage, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer, covered, for as long as the beans take to cook to develop a rich flavour.
  5. Once the beans are cooked, take out the chorizo, sprigs of thyme and bay leaf. Slice the chorizo. Add the beans to the soup pot along with sliced chorizo, Parmesan cheese, and kale.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve this soup with fresh crusty bread and your favourite salad to round out your meal.

My small change this meal was to include protein and nutrient-rich beans in my soup to feed my body and mind. What will your next small, nourishing change be?

To make your pledge to a take a 100 meal journey, visit the Dietitians of Canada website to receive tips and strategies to stay on track.

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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