Healthy Living in the North

Nutritious and delicious Easter traditions

Child picking up coloured eggs.

Include non-food items in your Easter baskets and egg hunts to add variety this year! Items like stickers, colouring books, or stuffed animals can make great gifts, or include items that will get you and your family physically active like skipping ropes, hula hoops, or passes to the local pool or skating rink.

As a registered dietitian, I get asked questions on a daily basis about food and nutrition. Easter – filled with celebrations, Easter egg hunts, family, and friends – is often a time of sharing traditions, which often involves food. Holiday meals have great potential to be both nutritious and delicious!

A meal of ham or turkey, vegetables, buns or stuffing, and dessert has a good chance of having 3-4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, making it a nutritionally balanced meal.

There many ways to make your Easter meal even more nutritious, such as:

  • offering sweet potatoes or yams, as well as potatoes;
  • including colourful veggies, like carrots, brussel sprouts, and beets;
  • serving up something green like asparagus or a simple green leafy salad;
  • choosing whole wheat bread for your stuffing, and adding cranberries or chopped apples, walnuts, and finely chopped carrots and celery; and
  • considering a dessert that includes fruit and/or dairy, such as a fruit crumble or a milk-based pudding.

Adults may worry about how much they eat at these celebrations. Healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day. Rather, it’s about your overall approach to eating. On the day of the celebrations, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack pattern, so that you can listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Buffet style meals can often leave you feeling overfull from wanting to try a little bit of everything. Instead, survey your options, and choose those things you really want to try. You can always come back for more if you are still hungry. Take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly, and enjoy the time with family and friends. Remember that the holidays are about the whole experience – enjoy the meal, the company, and the memories made.

What about the treats and chocolate?

Easter egg hunts for the kids often involve searching for chocolate and candy treats. And while treats are definitely a part of traditions and a healthy approach to eating, sometimes it can be easy for everyone to overindulge in those treats. Include non-food items in your Easter baskets and egg hunts to add variety – they are just as fun as the chocolates and candy. Things like stickers, colouring books, or stuffed animals can make great gifts, or include items that will get you and your family physically active like skipping ropes, hula hoops, or passes to the local pool or skating rink.

What are your nutritious, delicious, and healthy Easter traditions? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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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Healthy holiday eating

Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet.

Make your holiday meal even more nutritious this year! Include lots of colourful veggies like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and beets!

Christmas is an exciting time, often filled with celebrations, parties, family, and friends. It’s also a time to share traditions, which often involve food. Holiday meals offer the opportunity for family members and friends to prepare and share a special meal together, and to learn from each other in the process. Even young children can help by doing things like washing vegetables, making paper place mats, setting the table, pouring water, and helping to clean up.

Looking at most holiday movies or commercials these days, we are made to think of holiday meals as always being rich and heavy. Think again! They actually have great potential to be nutritious and delicious! A meal of ham or turkey, vegetables, buns or stuffing, and dessert has a good chance of having 3-4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, making it a balanced meal.

Here are a few suggestions to make your holiday meal even more nutritious:

  • Offer sweet potatoes instead of, or alongside, white potatoes.
  • Include other colourful veggies like carrots, Brussels sprouts, and beets.
  • Boost up the stuffing by using whole wheat bread and adding cranberries or chopped apple, walnuts, and finely chopped carrots and celery.
  • Consider a dessert that includes fruit or dairy, such as a fruit crumble or milk-based pudding.

Some people worry about how much they eat at these special meals. Remember, healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day – it’s about your overall approach to eating. Give yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy!

On the day of the holiday celebration, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack patterns that incorporate healthy choices so that you can listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Buffet-style meals can often leave you feeling overfull from wanting to try a little bit of everything. Instead, survey your options and choose those things you really want to try. You can always come back for more if you are still hungry.

Remember to take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly and enjoy the time with family and friends. The holidays are about the whole experience – building a snowman, admiring light displays with your family, playing a favourite board game – not just what’s on your plate!

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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Making Christmas food hampers healthier: You can make a difference!

Cans of non-perishable food items

Are you donating food to an organization in your community this season? Choosing healthier food options is very important for households living with food insecurity as they have a greater risk of poorer health and increased chronic conditions.

December is a month we look forward to for all the wonderful holiday celebrations, sharing with our families and friends, and for giving. Sadly, not all families are financially stable enough to have the basic necessities they need, such as food. In communities across northern B.C., hard-working organizations are gearing up for food drives. This year, I want to challenge you to make an even bigger difference in the lives of families across our region by donating healthier foods to these initiatives.

If you, your family or an organization you belong to are donating to food banks this year, I encourage you to focus your donations on healthier foods for families. Food banks really need healthier food donations so they can make healthier Christmas food hampers for the groups they serve.

What do I suggest? Use Canada’s Food Guide! Here’s the shopping list I came up with:

  • Non-perishable and nutritious food suggestions for meat and alternatives (which provide essential protein, vitamins, and minerals) include: canned salmon, tuna, sardines, chicken, beef chillies, ham, corned beef, a variety of beans (brown beans in tomato sauce, kidney, garbanzo, mixed beans), and peanut butter.
  • Non-perishable and nutritious food suggestions for vegetables and fruit (which provide essential vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates as well as fiber) include: canned tomatoes, mixed veggies, peas, green or yellow beans, corn, beets, and fruit such as peaches, pears, mixed fruits (with no added syrup or pear juice) and apple sauce.

Highly processed foods are often high in fat, salt, and sugar so choose the more nutritious items if you can.

Why are healthier food donations so important?

Choosing healthier food options is very important for households living with food insecurity as they have a greater risk of poorer health and increased chronic conditions. This concept – food insecurity – is an important one to think about this holiday season.

For many of us, financial stability is something we enjoy and may even take for granted. This is not the case for many families and they can become food insecure. Food insecurity exists:

Whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain.” (Hamelin, A., et. al., 2002)

This is the case for 1 in 8 households in Canada. This rate is even higher in homes that receive their income from minimum wages, part-time jobs, workers compensation, employment insurance or social assistance; are First Nation, Métis or Inuit; have children (especially with a lone mother); are homeless; are new immigrants; or have chronic health problems. Food insecurity is caused by financial constraints when income is too low or unsteady and there is not enough money left over to pay for enough healthy food after paying for necessities such as housing, utilities, transportation, and health expenses.

Look up your local food bank to find out where and when to drop off your healthy food donations for this season of giving. The Prince George Citizen recently profiled four local Christmas Food Hamper programs in Prince George.

Loraina Stephen

About Loraina Stephen

Loraina is a population health dietitian working in a regional lead role for external food policy, which supports initiatives to develop healthy eating, community food security and food policy for the north. Loraina was born and raised in the north, and has a busy lifestyle. Having grown up enjoying food grown from family gardens, hunting, and gathering, and enjoying northern outdoor activities, she draws on those experiences to keep traditions strong for her family, in her work and at play. (Loraina no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Foodie Friday: Eating well for healthy aging

As a dietitian, many Elders have talked to me about food’s role in honouring our bodies and connecting us to others and to our traditions. Considering these aspects of eating can make a big difference to the health and well-being of seniors!

Wondering what you can do to eat better as you age? Or maybe you’re looking to support healthy eating for older adults in your family and community? Here are a few suggestions:

Get back to the Canada’s Food Guide basics

Look to Canada’s Food Guide when making food choices. Include a variety of foods from the four food groups: fruit and vegetables, grains, milk & alternatives, and meat & alternatives. As you age, your body needs more of certain nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Foods that are good sources of calcium are milk (canned, powdered or fresh), fortified soy beverage, yogurt, cheese, seaweed and fish with bones. If you are over the age of 50, take a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU.

Consider joining a local food program

Programs that may be available in your community include:

  • Elders or seniors luncheons to share a healthy meal with others
  • Cooking groups to develop food skills like Food Skills for Families
  • Meals on Wheels for hot lunch deliveries
  • Good Food Box for a monthly offering of fresh, local produce

Eat together

Eating together is fun and enjoyable! Also, did you know that people who eat together, eat better? How does sharing dinner with a friend, joining an Elders luncheon group or teaching your grandkids a traditional family recipe sound?

Cook for yourself – you are worth the effort

Healthy meals are important for families of all sizes. A simple meal can be a healthy meal – aim to include at least three out of the four food groups. For example, yogurt with granola and berries or toast topped with baked beans and a glass of milk. Freeze leftovers for a quick meal later or reinvent them into a completely new meal.

Frittata

One of Emilia’s tips for healthy eating as you age – cook for yourself because you are worth the effort! Together with some toast and a glass of milk, this “leftover” frittata is an easy and delicious way to enjoy a balanced meal.

Need some quick and easy inspiration? Here’s a tasty recipe I call “Leftover” Frittata. You can use any vegetables, meat, or fish that you want!

“Leftover” Frittata

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup vegetables of your choice, diced
  • ½ cup cooked meat or fish of your choice, diced
  • 1 tsp dried herbs of your choice
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup cheese, shredded (optional)
  • ⅓ cup milk

Instructions

  1. In an ovenproof skillet, cook vegetables with oil over medium heat until soft. Any vegetables like onion, broccoli, potato, spinach, carrot or red pepper work well. Add herbs and chopped meat or fish.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and cheese. Pour into skillet and stir to combine with veggies and meat. Let cook until edge is starting to set.
  3. Place skillet under broiler for about 3 minutes or until top is set and light golden.

To make a balanced meal, enjoy with toast, potatoes or rice and a glass of milk!

For personalized nutrition counselling, ask to be referred to a registered dietitian in your community or call HealthLink 8-1-1 to speak to a registered dietitian over the phone.


This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Healthier You magazine.

 

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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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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Simple and tasty lunches for your workday

A balanced lunch of a salad, a small container of nuts, and two oranges.

Look outside of plastic wrap and disposable sandwich bags! Keep a variety of glass or plastic containers on-hand to fit larger meals like salads, sandwiches and entrees as well as medium-sized items like fruit and cut-up vegetables and smaller items like nuts, dips, and salad dressings. Mason jars and recycled jam or pickle jars are also perfect for storing salads or beverages.

Do you find packing a lunch challenging? Time-consuming? Turns out you aren’t alone!

According to a recent Ipsos-Reid survey conducted for Dietitians of Canada, 45% of Canadians feel that eating healthy meals and snacks at work is challenging. The Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research found that only 37% of Canadians say they prepare lunch at home and over one third (36%) of Canadians skip lunch altogether.

Lunch is an important meal in your workday that shouldn’t be missed! As part of a balanced diet, a healthy lunch helps give your body and mind important nutrition to keep you awake and productive for the rest of your day.

What to put in your lunch bag: simple strategies

Keep variety in mind when you are planning your lunch. Choose foods low in salt, sugar and fat from 3 out of 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide: meat and alternatives, milk and alternatives, grain products, and vegetables or fruit (being sure to strive for at least 1-2 servings of vegetables or fruit). Here are a few ideas to help you build your lunch:

Meat and alternatives: Choose 1 option

  • 2-3 oz lean meat like chicken breast, turkey, pork or extra lean ground beef, fish like tuna, salmon, or tilapia, or seafood.
  • Meat alternatives like 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons nut butter, ¼ cup nuts or seeds, or ¾ cup beans, lentils or tofu.

Milk and alternatives: Choose 1 option

  • Dairy products like 1 cup milk, ¾ cup yogurt, or 1.5 oz hard cheese.
  • Milk alternatives like 1 cup fortified soy milk or non-dairy yogurt or cheese.

Grain products: Choose 2 whole grain options

  • 1 slice whole grain bread, 1 small bun, ½ tortilla, naan or pita, ½ bagel, 1 small homemade muffin, 4-6 crackers, or ½ cup pasta, rice, quinoa, barley, farro, or spelt.

Vegetables and fruit: Choose 1-2 colourful vegetables and fruit, aiming to eat a rainbow!

  • 1 cup raw leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale or bok choy, ½ cup raw or cooked vegetables like cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, squash, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes or yams on their own or in soups, stews, or stir-fry.
  • ½ cup fresh, frozen, or unsweetened canned fruits like grapes, melon, oranges, apples, bananas, kiwi, or berries, or ¼ cup dried fruit like apricots, raisins, or apples.
  • ½ cup 100% fruit juice, but choosing the whole fruit and vegetable options above more often.

Putting it together: Mix & match for simple and tasty lunch ideas

  1. Dinner leftovers are a quick go-to that don’t require extra prep.
  2. Pack hard-boiled eggs, cheese, fresh vegetables, a few olives and whole grain crackers for a snack-like lunch.
  3. Layer black bean dip, sliced chicken, avocado and arugula on a whole grain baguette for a simple sandwich with big flavour.
  4. Toss light tuna, snow peas and grape tomatoes with leftover whole grain pasta, basil pesto and a pinch of chili flakes – this dish is great cold or heated.
  5. Mix lentils, roasted red peppers, sweet potato, quinoa and a drizzle of lemony dressing for a delicious salad bowl.

Looking for more tasty lunch ideas? Check out this Foodie Friday post about freezer-friendly meals for food preparation tips that fit with your busy schedule!


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

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: Refresh your winter eating with vegetables and fruit

Bag of frozen cherry tomatoes

Meeting the daily vegetable and fruit requirements of Canada’s Food Guide in northern B.C.’s long winters can be a challenge, but frozen, canned, and dried produce can help!

I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t know that eating vegetables and fruit is good for you. However, it may not seem possible to meet the daily vegetable and fruit requirements of Canada’s Food Guide during our cold northern winters when nothing grows and most produce is shipped from far away and is quite costly.

But don’t despair! Just remember that vegetables and fruit come in many forms, including frozen, dried and canned, and these, too, have benefits:

  • Convenience: Since the washing, peeling and chopping is already done, food and meal preparation time is shortened by using canned, dried or frozen produce.
  • Freshness: If you are lucky enough to grow your own food or support a local farmer, you can preserve food at the height of its freshness and quality. I’ve also been known to buy seasonal produce and preserve it. Last year, I transformed blueberries from the grocery store into a home canned blueberry sauce to use on my waffles instead of maple syrup.
  • Nutritious: Especially in the winter when growing and shipping conditions can increase the time it takes for fresh produce to reach you, preserved produce will have less nutrient loss.
Tomato plant

When you are picking your tomatoes this year (or buying seasonal produce), consider freezing a few batches for healthy options in the winter months!

The larger nutrition goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables – and using canned, dried and frozen versions makes that easier! Here are a few ways to include these products in your diet:

  • Make fruit salad or smoothies using frozen or canned fruit.
  • Top cereal with dried fruit like raisins, diced apricots or dates.
  • Mix dried fruit with cereal and/or nuts for an on-the-go snack.
  • Add canned or frozen fruit to plain yogurt to add sweetness and nutrition.
  • Top wholegrain pancakes or waffles with canned fruit like peach slices, frozen fruit or fruit sauce like applesauce or pear sauce.
  • Add frozen, canned or dried fruit or vegetables to wholegrain muffin and quick bread recipes — I like grating all that summer zucchini into 1 cup batches that I freeze and add to my muffins later in the year.
  • Add frozen vegetables to rice, soup or pasta sauce.
  • Mix chopped frozen spinach or kale into yogurt-based dips.
  • Add canned or frozen applesauce or pear sauce or frozen ground cherries into your meatball or meatloaf recipe to add sweetness and fibre and lower the fat slightly.
  • Make homemade milk-based soups using frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes or asparagus.
Tomato soup on a stove

Healthy soups are a breeze with frozen vegetables! Flo’s simple winter soup involves roasting some tomatoes, blending them up, adding a couple extras based on your preference, and then enjoying!

When selecting canned, dried or frozen produce, choose fruit processed in water or juice rather than syrup and choose vegetables processed with little or no salt.

One of my favourite winter meals is tomato-based soups. I grow and pick tomatoes in the summer and store them in the freezer. In the winter, I pull these tomatoes out and roast them in the oven with a little bit of vegetable oil and seasoning. Once cooked, I blend them until they’re smooth and either mix with milk to make a “creamy” tomato soup or add to a pot of chick peas and other vegetables to make a vegetarian soup. After a day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, a bowl of hot soup hits the spot!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Foodie Friday: Healthy snacks for work

Two jars filled with granola.

With a bit of planning and Carly’s tips, your late morning and mid-afternoon snacking trips to the convenience store or cafeteria can be replaced by healthy, energy-boosting snacks that make you feel full!

It’s Monday morning, 10 minutes before you need to leave your house to get to work. You’re frantically searching your cupboards for a snack that will stave off the inevitable mid-morning or late afternoon hunger pang. Instead of saying to heck with it and walking out of your door snackless, only to buy something sugary/fatty/salty from the workplace café later on in the day, I’ve got some ideas for healthy, portable snacks!

Listen to your body – when you feel your stomach grumbling, your brain becoming foggy, or a slight headache coming on, these may all be signs that you need to eat! A healthy snack can boost your energy levels during the busy workday, allowing you to maintain productivity and master the desire (or need) to drink another cup of coffee or raid the office candy stash. A well-balanced snack usually contains at least two of the four food groups and has some protein or healthy fats which help you to feel full.

Here are some ideas for energy-boosting snacks:

  • An apple cut into wedges with several slices of cheddar cheese
  • Peanut butter spread onto a slice of toasted whole grain bread
  • An individual portion cup of yogurt with a handful of granola
  • Carrot and celery sticks with herb and garlic cream cheese
  • A homemade banana chocolate chip muffin
  • Cucumber slices with tzatziki
  • A handful of unsalted mixed nuts

Keep in mind that store-bought snacks like granola bars may be convenient, but they are often loaded with added sugar, fat, and salt, so be sure to read the label to avoid these additives.

The key to healthy and portable snacks may be a little preparation done on a Sunday as well as keeping plenty of packing supplies on hand like reusable containers, plastic food wrap, and re-sealable baggies.

This recipe is a delicious and protein packed granola that I love to add to plain or lightly sweetened yogurt or even to simply eat on its own! I’ve adapted the recipe from Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

Bowl of yogurt topped with granola.

Try to aim for at least two of the four food groups along with some protein and healthy fats for a snack that gives you energy and fills you up! Yogurt and granola are a great option – and making your own granola is easy!

Granola

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole or slivered raw almonds, divided
  • ½ cup raw walnut pieces
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup dried fruit (such as cranberries, apricots, cherries)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil (or other light-flavoured vegetable oil)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 F (140 C). Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Put ½ cup of the almonds into a food processor and process for about 10 seconds to create a ground meal (similar in texture to sand). Transfer the ground almond meal to a large bowl.
  3. Put the rest of the almonds and the walnuts into the food processor, process until finely chopped. Transfer to the large bowl.
  4. Add the oats, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt to the nut mixture in the large bowl. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until all the dry ingredients are wet.
  6. Spread the granola onto the large baking pan in a 1 cm layer and gently press down on the top to compact the granola slightly. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the granola is lightly browned.
  7. Cool the granola completely and then break into clusters.
  8. Store the granola in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks in the fridge or 4-5 weeks in the freezer.

What’s your favourite workplace snack?

Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

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Old wedding custom translates to healthy eating advice

Variety at lunch

Variety at lunch (whole grain crackers, cheddar and havarti cheese, leafy salad with yogurt-based basil dip, sliced kiwi, toasted walnuts and trail mix, dried cherries and other dried fruit).

Recently, my oldest niece walked down the aisle to begin what I hope is a happy life filled with fun, friendship and health. As we made sure she had good luck by having something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, I remember thinking that these four ‘somethings’ work for healthy eating too! In particular, to me, these stand for the value of variety in healthy eating.

Variety, defined as eating many different types of foods from each of the four groups of Canada’s Food Guide, adds interest to our diet (= less boring!), helps kids and adults like a larger range of food and adds a wide range of nutrients for good health. Food companies lead us to believe we are eating variety but simply having multiple flavours isn’t the same thing – plain versus ketchup, salt and vinegar or all dressed potato chips isn’t true variety—where is real food? What practical advice can we take from this old wedding custom?

Something Old: Try old favourites in new ways or pull out some of granny’s recipes and give them a healthy makeover. Try oatmeal topped with a spoonful of peanut butter and sliced bananas, spaghetti sauce made with ground turkey and/or cooked lentils, sandwiches using hummus instead of mayo, pizza made with a base of sliced zucchini or perogies filled with berries and topped with yogurt.

Something New: Try a new food from each of the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide:

  • Vegetables & fruit – chop some eggplant and add to a mixture of potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and a little oil and roast in the oven until tender or use spaghetti squash as a base for spaghetti sauce—I know I am still working on Swiss chard!
  • Grain products – cook some quinoa with your steel cut oats or use it in place of rice as a side dish or in rice pudding.
  • Milk & alternatives – add kefir (a fermented milk drink found in the dairy section of the grocery store) to your smoothie or use lower fat buttermilk (which makes baked goods fluffier)in baking.
  • Meat & alternatives – nut butters like cashew butter, almond butter or pea butter, or edamame (fresh soy beans found in the freezer section of the grocery store).

Something Borrowed: Try a food, dish or custom from another culture to experience the world while staying at home. For example, add some peeled slices of jicama from Mexico to your veggie plate, enjoy a bowl of dal from India or yam and peanut soup from Africa or try eating with chopsticks or your hands!

Something Blue: Eat colourfully—whether it’s blueberries, kale, purple cabbage, kiwi or tomatoes, the richer and varied the natural colour, the more nutrition you’re putting into your body! I remember once being at a dinner party where each family was given a particular colour to match to their food offering. Dinner that night was colourful and healthy—on the menu was big green salad filled with red beets, tomatoes, peppers and tomatoes and topped with a homemade strawberry dressing, roasted purple potato wedges, large pasta shells filled with orange squash, tofu and feta cheese, and a brown dessert—chocolate covered strawberries. Yum!

While this might seem like a lot of work on top of the challenges and responsibilities of daily life, remember that small steps over time make a big difference. Variety doesn’t mean you need to eat eight different vegetables and fruit each day—variety allows you to take advantage of the changing seasons—you eat more leafy greens as salads in the spring/summer, more root vegetables as soups and stews in the fall/winter; variety isn’t about one meal or one day, it’s your pattern of eating over time. So, take that first step to variety that works for you! My niece’s first step down the aisle led to a day filled with many happy memories, the purchase of a home and much luck thus far! Think about what you will gain from eating a variety of real food from Canada’s Food Guide. What will your first step be?

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “Eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groupsmeans to Flo. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

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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