Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Healthy grilling

Skewers

A bit of char from the grill makes for a delicious veggie skewer!

Summer is the time to enjoy leisurely meals outside, and BBQing is one of our favourite ways to justify stepping out of the hot kitchen. With a little creativity and planning, barbecue favourites can be just as healthy as meals made indoors!

Give these healthier options a try at your next barbecue:

Sausages: Instead of traditional beef or pork wieners that tend to be greasy and salty, try leaner chicken or turkey sausages.

Fresh meats: Avoid the extra salt, sugar, and preservatives in pre-marinated meats or store-bought barbecue sauce – make your own marinade in only a few minutes! Just mix together a liquid base or two (lemon juice, balsamic or apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce) with some fresh or dried spices (garlic, onion, basil, parsley, pepper) and a little oil. Remember that fattier cuts of meat like marbled steak and chicken thighs tend to grill better than very lean beef or chicken breast because they stay juicy when cooked over an open flame. Don’t worry, these meats can fit into a healthy meal, too – just remember to trim any excess fat.

Tin foil: This kitchen essential makes cooking vegetables on a barbecue a snap! Simply cut up whatever you like (potatoes, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and bell peppers all work really well) into bite-sized pieces. Get fancy with seasonings or just leave them plain and let the delicious flavours shine through. Make sure to seal the tin foil package with a folded seam and then place it on the grill with the seam side up (so the vegetables don’t fall out!).

Food on sticks: Vegetables also taste delicious with a bit of char from the grill. Get your kids involved in the food prep by asking them to assemble the skewers. Give the recipe below a whirl this weekend!

Marinated vegetable skewers

Ingredients

Skewers

  • 1 red & 1 green bell pepper, chopped into largish pieces
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1 cm thick rounds
  • 10 (or so) mushrooms, whole or halved depending on their size
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 1 red onion, chopped into largish pieces
  • 8-10 bamboo skewer sticks, pre-soaked in water

Marinade

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ – ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (dried basil works, too!)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

Instructions

  1. Soak the skewer sticks in water for at least 20 minutes – this helps to prevent the sticks from burning when placed on the barbecue.
  2. While the skewers are soaking, chop the vegetables – make sure that the pieces are large enough to be properly skewered so they don’t fall off.
  3. Mix up your marinade in a large bowl and place all of the chopped vegetables into the bowl. Let the vegetables marinate for at least half an hour (just enough time to heat the grill and have a cool drink on the patio!).
  4. Now comes the fun part: skewer a piece of each type of vegetable, alternating to make a nice pattern. Once the skewers are ready to go, you can cook them right away over low-medium flame on the barbecue or store them in the fridge for several hours until meal time.
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: Summer salads are for sharing

Three food dishes on a picnic table.

Whether it’s a potluck at a park or a backyard BBQ, food is a great way to connect with the people in our lives!

It’s that time of year again – the sun is shining, the kids are (almost) done school, and the desire to enjoy the outdoors is in full effect. Yes, summer is here! One of my favourite things about summer is the opportunity to gather with family and friends to enjoy the outdoors and share delicious food. It might be a backyard BBQ, a picnic at the lake, or a potluck celebration at the park. Food is such a great way to connect with the people in our lives. It provides us with the opportunity to get together and share not only our favourite dishes, but also our thoughts, ideas, culture and traditions. Plus, we often eat better when we eat with others.

Salads are often my go-to dish when I’m asked to bring something to share, and this coleslaw recipe provides a great twist on a summertime classic. It replaces the typical creamy dressing (not such a great idea to have out in the hot sun) with a sweet and tangy one, and includes some less traditional veggies like kale and green pepper. Not only is it delicious and nutritious, it also won’t heat up your kitchen, can be made ahead of time, keeps well, and makes enough to feed a hungry crowd. Try it out at your next summer BBQ!

Sweet & Tangy Big Batch Coleslaw

Adapted from “Mustard Spiked Make Ahead Coleslaw” from Sask Mustard.

Serves 10 or more.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups finely shredded cabbage (green, red, or both)
  • 4 cups finely shredded kale
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • ½ green bell pepper, minced
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt

Dressing

  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp yellow prepared mustard
  • 1 ½ tsp yellow mustard seed
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • ½ tsp dried dill
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
Coleslaw

This mustard-spiked coleslaw keeps well, feeds a crowd, and ditches the typical creamy dressing. Try it out!

Instructions

  1. Combine cabbage, kale, green onion, celery, carrot, green pepper, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir well. Let stand 2-3 hours.
  2. Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard, mustard seed, celery seed, and dill together in a saucepan. Bring to a full boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in oil and garlic into dressing mixture.
  4. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture. Refrigerate covered for at least 4 hours or overnight, mixing a couple of times.

Note: Will keep well in the fridge for at least a week.

Looking for some other summer salads? Try one of these:

Taste the Rainbow Potato Salad

Grilled Corn, Arugula, and Couscous Salad

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: 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: Grow your own

Rebecca's daughter waters the garden at their home.

Rebecca’s daughter waters the garden at their home.

As the days continue to get warmer and we spend more time outside, my thoughts always turn to gardening. I love watching the tiny seeds I plant turn into something green and then, with luck, something edible. After a crazy day of work, I find gardening to be a huge de-stresser – whether I’m pulling weeds or just sticking my fingers in the dirt, my stresses melt away. Gardening has some great health benefits and is a fun activity to do as a family as well. My daughter’s favorite activity is watering!

Gardening has the following great benefits:

  • The food is local and you know exactly how fresh it is.
  • It tastes great.
  • It can be cheaper.
  • It is a source of physical activity.
  • It teaches your children where food comes from.

Some vegetables that grow well in our climate without a greenhouse include: potatoes, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, carrots, peas, beans, beets, radishes, zucchini, cucumber, turnips, and parsnips.

If you have leftover zucchini, here are some ways to use it up:

BBQ:

Turn your BBQ on to medium heat. Take a small zucchini and cut it in half lengthwise. Brush olive oil on the zucchini and then sprinkle with herbs such as oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper, etc. Grill the zucchini for four minutes on each side or until a fork goes in easily.

Stir fry:

Because zucchini cooks quickly, it can be cut into small pieces or rounds and added to a stir fry.

Make relish:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • ½ tsp mustard seed
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 zucchini (~12 oz), finely diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan combine the oil, onion, mustard seed, turmeric, salt pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) over medium heat, stirring often until the onion softens (about 6 minutes).
  2. Stir in zucchini, red bell pepper, brown sugar, and vinegar and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in ½ cup of water and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until the zucchini is tender.
  5. Whisk cornstarch with 1tbsp of water and add to the mixture.
  6. Cook, stirring until the mixture thickens.
  7. Pour into an airtight container and let cool.
  8. Store in the fridge up to 2 weeks.

What are some of your favourite things to grow in your garden and how do you like to serve them?

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: Build a Better Summer Burger

Summer burgers and saladSummer is here—as is evident by the light beaming in my bedroom window at 5:30am, the amount of things blooming in my garden, and the increasing need to mow my lawn—and nothing says summer like a juicy burger on the BBQ! You might think burgers and dietitians don’t go well together, but you’d be wrong! Perhaps because of these incorrect beliefs: dietitians only eat healthy foods; foods can easily be defined as healthy or unhealthy; and burgers can’t be healthy. All false!

Dietitians think less in black and white and more in shades of gray when it comes to food and eating. Our careful consideration of food and nutrition science clearly shows that healthy eating is defined more by the pattern of how one eats over time, rather than food by food or meal by meal.  When we translate that knowledge into practical tips for you to use, a list of things to consider about food begins to form:

  • Burgers on the barbequeFood – is it real food, local, minimally processed?
  • Nutrition – does it provide a variety of key nutrients to support growth, development, and health?
  • Eating competence – are you able to get enough food that you enjoy?
  • Culture and traditions – are you able to get and enjoy foods that support continuation of your family and cultural traditions?

Dietitians work with people where they are at and support them to make small, sustainable changes in what and how they eat. That means we would never try and convince someone who loves a burger loaded with fried onions, bacon, cheese, and mayo-based sauce to make the switch to a veggie or salmon burger (although I do make a great veggie burger!). Instead, we might offer tweaks to your usual recipe to pump up the nutrition and flavour while reducing the salt and fat a little.

Below is a typical burger recipe with a few suggestions to do exactly that. You can pick and choose from the list, do them one-by-one or a few at a time. Let your taste buds guide you!

Usual Burger Ingredients

Possible Modifications

1 lb. hamburger meat
  • Use extra lean ground beef (local if you can get it) or moose
  • Mix ¾ lb. of extra lean ground beef with ¼ lb. of lean ground chicken or turkey or ¼ – ½ cup soy ground round or mashed black beans
  • Add 1/3 cup of grated carrot, zucchini, apple or pear or 1/3 cup of ground cherries to the meat mixture
¼ cup soft bread crumbs
  • Use whole wheat bread crumbs or oatmeal
  • Use leftover cooked quinoa or brown rice instead of bread crumbs
1 egg
  • Use 2 egg whites instead of a whole egg
¼ tsp. salt
  • Leave out of the recipe
1/8 tsp. pepper
  • Be creative and add other herbs and spices like cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic, etc.
4 hamburger buns
  • Use 100% whole wheat or whole grain buns
Toppings: ketchup, relish, mustard, mayo, bacon
  • Use a lower sodium ketchup, substitute with salsa or use a fruit chutney
  • Load on the veggies whether grilled veggies like mushrooms, onions, zucchini, peppers or fresh ones like sliced tomatoes, leafy garden greens, onions, grated cabbage, avocado or hot or sweet peppers
  • Add a lower fat cheese (<20 MF), preferably a sharply flavoured one for added zing!
  • Use less traditional condiments like hummus or tzatziki
  • Use lower sodium bacon or turkey bacon or leave out the bacon sometimes

 

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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