Healthy Living in the North

What have I learned in the garden? 10 tips from an amateur northern gardener

Garden with a rainbow in the background.

Before any seedlings emerged, a rainbow (with hints of a double rainbow) touched down in the garden! It’s going to be a good year!

Since moving to northern B.C. from the Lower Mainland, a hobby of mine that has ramped up considerably is gardening.

What used to be one tomato plant and a few pots of herbs on a small apartment patio has grown into a full patch of dirt about the size of that same Vancouver apartment! My crop has expanded from tomatoes and herbs to zucchini, peppers, kale, potatoes, spinach, green onion, lettuce, carrots, beets, peas, beans, corn, pumpkins, cucumber, six different herbs, raspberries, and some flowers thrown in for good measure.

For me, gardening is a great way to stay active, get outside, enjoy the sun, and eat healthy, super local food!

I am most definitely an amateur in the garden, but figure there are more than a few folks like me out there, so I thought I’d share my own top ten list of things I’ve learned over the last two years of gardening. I’m not talking pro tips – chat to an experienced local or check out the most recent issue of A Healthier You for those! – I’m talking about the realizations that I’ve had while fumbling around in the garden.

Ten things I learned in the garden

Frog on zucchini plant.

Perhaps the garden’s newest protector will keep the deer at bay?

1. Deer aren’t easy to fool. My first attempt at a deer repellent was to plant a wall of sunflowers in front of my veggies. If the deer can’t see the veggies, I figured, then they won’t eat them. This hypothesis was proven to be false.

2. Get organized! Visitors may poke fun at the spreadsheet that I’ve mounted in the greenhouse telling me when to thin seedlings, how far apart to space my plants, and how to harvest and prune, but I love my spreadsheet and you should, too!

3. Speaking of thinning plants, for me, this is undeniably the hardest part of gardening. When you grow something from seed, it just feels wrong to pluck it out of the ground simply to make room for other seedlings. I feel your pain.

4. Freeze raspberries on a baking sheet before putting them in a bag or container. My raspberry crop last year was amazing. And then I thought: “Hey, I should freeze these for loaves, muffins, and smoothies all winter long.” And then I thought: “Hey, I’ll just throw this bucket of raspberries in the freezer.” This worked very well until I went to grab a raspberry or two and found a massive frozen block instead. This year, to avoid having to chisel raspberries, I’m freezing the berries on a cookie sheet first. So far, so good!

Raspberries in a colander

How to properly freeze raspberries (and which Instagram filters make raspberry pictures pop) are just two things that took a full season of fun, first-time, error-filled gardening to learn.

5. Salads rock! My summer diet consists mostly of some variation on Carly’s full-meal-deal salad. A quick trip from the kitchen to the garden to snip some lettuce, grab some tomatoes and cucumbers, and cut some herbs is about all the dinner prep time I needed.

6. Deer and gardeners can co-exist. My neighbours have suggested fences, hanging soap, motion-activated sprinklers, and sprays to keep the deer at bay. My preferred approach (after the sunflower barrier failed): plant 10 times more than I could possibly eat and let the deer eat to their hearts’ content – being sure to snap pictures, of course, since the novelty of wildlife in the garden has yet to wear off for this new northerner.

7. Gardening can be great physical activity! Often when I’m in the garden, I lose track of time. Also, as an amateur, I probably do things a bit slower than the seasoned pros. It’s usually the setting sun that snaps me back into focus and reminds me that I’ve been outside for 2-3 hours bending, lifting, walking, shovelling, and just generally moving around!

Gardening information on a wall

The first year garden saw a handwritten spreadsheet (pictured). This year’s upgrade is a computer printout and has more information on pruning, harvesting, and fertilizing. No word yet on what next year’s version will look like.

8. Seniors are undeniably the best go-to source for local gardening information. Why were my cucumbers bitter? Why did the pumpkin leaves turn black? How should I prune my raspberries? I could spend some time Googling the answers and find some information that may or may not be applicable to Vanderhoof or, as I’ve done a few times now, I could draw on the wisdom of a seasoned local gardening veteran and get the right answer every time!

9. Gardening makes for colourful, jealousy-inducing pictures. Take many and share widely!

10. If I can do it, so can you!

Whether you try a single pot of herbs on a windowsill or dozens of rows and beds, give gardening a shot this year! It’s not too late (I was out planting some new seeds just yesterday!) and the healthy rewards are amazing!

Do you have any tips from your gardening experiences?

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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Snacking smart

Strawberries and trail mix.

Aim for one to two food groups in each healthy snack! Unlike a treat (best saved for occasional enjoyment), a snack should provide nourishment and energy to fuel your brain and workday activities!

So, what makes a healthy snack? What is a snack anyway? Did you know that there’s a big difference between a snack and a treat? Treats like sugar-laden cookies, granola bars, chocolate, or salty chips and cheezies are low in nutrients and best saved for occasional enjoyment. Smart snacking, on the other hand, involves planning for the day and keeping healthy choices on hand. Here are some of my smart snacking suggestions!

When I’m hungry two or three hours after breakfast, I grab my homemade pumpkin muffin and yogurt for coffee breaks. When I approach the midday slump and want a coffee or a nap, I unpeel my orange and sip on rooibos tea in the cafeteria or walk down the hall to clear my brain and get refreshed until dinner time.

A snack can be as little or as big as you want, but a healthy snack is portion-controlled and contributes key nutrients, fluids and fibre to help us meet our daily quotient. A sustaining snack will provide carbohydrates to fuel your brain and activity level and some protein for longer-lasting energy and blood sugar stabilization. To do this, try to include one to two food groups in your snack.

I suggest picking one carbohydrate food (grain, fruit, or milk) and one protein choice (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, meat, nuts, or legumes) to make a nutritious snack. For times when you just need a little pick me up, then either a small fruit or yogurt will do until your next meal. I also recommend keeping healthy snacks in your vehicle for when you spend a busy day in town or go on a long drive to visit family or friends and start craving sugar. I always keep a container of trail mix and a box of sesame seed snaps in my car because they don’t freeze in the winter or melt in the summer. Keep water bottles and 100% juice boxes in the trunk for emergency fluid needs!

Roasted chickpeas and raspberries

Smart snacking is portion-controlled and contributes key nutrients! Try some crunchy roasted chickpeas and a handful of fruit next time you feel that midday slump coming on!

Looking for more snack inspiration? Why not try one of Dietitians of Canada top 10 smart snacks!

  • Whole grain crackers with hardboiled egg
  • Handful of grapes and cheese
  • Veggie sticks with hummus
  • Apple slices and a chunk of cheese
  • Fresh fruit and yogurt
  • 2-4 tbsp nuts with dried apricots
  • Snap peas and black bean dip
  • Banana smeared with natural peanut butter
  • Crunchy roasted lentils or beans and green tea
  • Whole grain muffin and cottage cheese

What’s your favourite snack?


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!

Melanie Chapple

About Melanie Chapple

Melanie works as a clinical dietitian in Primary health care in Fort St. John. After completing her dietetic internship in Vancouver, she fulfilled her desire to move up north in 2006 because of the rich opportunity to gain experience working in all practice settings as a full-time dietitian. Melanie has a passion for food and nutrition, specifically baking, eating healthy snacks and sharing recipes with her clients and coworkers. In her spare time, you may see Melanie cycling through the Peace region, walking, or pulling her kids on a sled during the six months of snow.

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Foodie Friday: Easy fish on the campfire

A campfire on a beach can be the perfect place to make a quick, delicious summer meal.

A campfire is a great way to make a quick, delicious summer meal.

During the summer, meal prep time is often lost to outdoor activities and enjoying the sunshine. I like to call this season a time for “casual dining.” I aim for simple meals with minimal prep/cook time so I can get out of the kitchen and make good use of the warm weather. It’s even better when I can incorporate the meal making into my summer activities!

As many people do, I enjoy spending time at the lake on the weekends. Preparing supper without having to leave the beach is ideal for me. This recipe is quick, easy and delicious- and can be cooked right at the campfire, maximizing your fun in the sun!

Foil Packet Fish and Veggies

Ingredients:

  • 4 white fish filets
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1-2 tsp seasoning (I use Mrs. Dash; however, any blend will work – get creative!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Note: Remember you’ll also need aluminum foil!

Directions:

  1. Slice vegetables thinly.
  2. Thaw and rinse fish filets.
  3. Tear off two pieces of aluminum foil twice as long as the filets and lay on top of each other.
  4. Grease the inside of the aluminum foil with butter where the fish will be placed.
  5. Place one fish filet in the middle of your aluminum foil and sprinkle with seasoning.
  6. Pile ¼ of the vegetables of top of the fish.
  7. Bring the ends of the foil together and seal shut.
  8. Do this for the rest of the fish filets.
  9. Cook on hot coals for 12 minutes each side.
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Foodie Friday: 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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Celebrate Aboriginal Day!

seaweed, Aboriginal health, healthy eating

Seaweed is left in the sun and open air to dry (Kitkatla, 2011).

I have learned so much about the many Aboriginal customs in  my work here at Northern Health. Did you know 30% of the Aboriginal people in B.C. live in the Northern Health health region?

Aboriginal peoples include three distinct populations: First Nations, Inuit and Métis. There are 54 First Nations in the health region with a great diversity of traditions, cultures and languages. There are six Métis associations across the north and a small Inuit population. Of the 300,000 people we serve, over 17% are Aboriginal. In the northwest, this jumps to 30%!

June 21st is Aboriginal Day all across Canada!

soapberries, Aboriginal health, healthy eating

Soapberries are whipped to make an ice cream-like treat!

This Aboriginal Day, I encourage you to make an effort to get to know the Aboriginal cultures in your area! Many communities host local events. Check out this interactive map from the First Nations Health Authority to find an event in your area or check your local event listings. For example, there will be a parade and event in Fort George Park in Prince George. Come out and celebrate Aboriginal cultures and traditions! I know I’ll be going with my children.

My favorite part of Aboriginal Day in previous years has been watching the dancers, especially the young children. It brings tears to my eyes seeing their joy and pride in who they are. I also love the food. Every year, I look forward to getting some salmon, fried seaweed and clam fritters. I also can’t resist the fried bread and berries!

What’s happening in your community? Do you plan to stop by?

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: Tropical overnight oats

Ingredients for the overnight oats recipe and a bowl of it with the ingredients combined.

Get the day started on the right foot with this easy and tasty breakfast!

As we transition into the warmer summer months, I notice that my food choices change with the rising temperature and that I begin craving my typical summer breakfast choices. Gone are the mornings where all I want is a steaming bowl of oatmeal.

With the change in seasons, many of us see a change in our eating habits. Summer is BBQ season and a time for cool, refreshing dishes that get us away from the stove and into the sunshine. If you aren’t careful, summer can bring with it less balanced meals. Here’s a recipe to get your day started off right, with a refreshing and balanced breakfast!

I also serve this dish warm in winter months. In the warm version,  I cook the first four ingredients on the stove top and use everything else as garnish. The cool, summer version below comes together in minutes, making for a quick grab and go breakfast in the morning! Whichever version you prefer, this a great breakfast choice that packs the fibre and protein to get you through till lunch!

Tropical overnight oats:
Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup instant oats or Muesli
  • ½ diced banana
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk or Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp pineapple tidbits or diced pineapple
  • 1 tbsp shredded coconut
  • Garnish to your liking (brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, nuts, chia seeds, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a Mason jar or Tupperware container the night before. It will be ready to eat by morning!
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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The farmers’ market: a telltale sign of summer

salad greens, farmers' market

Fresh greens at a local market – yum!

One of the greatest things about northern B.C. in the summer are the local farmers’ markets. I love waking up early on a Saturday morning and going to our local market in Prince George. The streets are buzzing with people and activity in a way that I didn’t think was possible at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday! The smells of fresh baking, the sense of security that comes from local meats and vegetables, and the admiration of the work of local artisans creates a sense of community that is hard to duplicate in another setting.

When I travel, I will always stop at a local market if I see one. From downtown Vancouver to Williams Lake, McBride, Dawson Creek and Terrace, the locally produced goods and the social atmosphere will always draw me to visit (and likely make a small purchase!). Did you know that northern B.C. has at least 13 farmers’ markets? Check out this list of markets in our region!

In one of our recent videos (below), Theresa Healy visited the farmers’ market in Quesnel to talk to vendors and visitors. They share their experience that the market is about more than getting local groceries.

Social benefits aside, farmers’ markets are also good for our environment and local economies. Growing local food supports the environment as it reduces the need for food to be transported to the local population from afar. With respect to helping the local economy, one study done by a researcher at the University of Northern BC estimates that, in 2012, over $113 million was spent at local farmers’ markets across British Columbia. The consumer gets food that is produced close to home and in its peak season, so it is fresher. Also, if you are a beginner green thumb like me (see a previous post), vendors are a total wealth of information about local growing! The total equation is win-win-win!

Have you visited your local farmers’ market yet this summer? What is your favourite part of the market?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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Foodie Friday: Northern B.C. Farmers’ Markets 2014

A picture of carrot spice muffins

Carrots: from a farmers’ market staple to a tasty breakfast treat!

This past September, I moved to Prince George to do an internship with Northern Health. This ten month term will put me that much closer to becoming a Registered Dietitian while giving me the opportunity to explore areas of B.C. that I have never been to before. During my time here, I’ve managed to check out farmers’ markets in each town that I’ve visited, including Prince George (both the indoor and outdoor market), Fort St. John, and Dawson Creek. All of these markets have exposed me to great foods that I hadn’t tried before, like Guinness jelly and pickled green beans!

There are 13 markets to choose from in northern B.C. They’re a great place to support local farmers – it’s nice to know where your money’s going — and artists in your community. Eating local reduces your carbon footprint and may introduce you to tasty new products. Food picked nearby may be fresher and higher in nutritional value than grocery store foods that are often picked weeks or months in advance of sale. In addition to produce and canned goods, you can often find homemade soaps, breads, candles, and, occasionally, live entertainment.

Remember to bring along a few bags to carry home your purchases in and be sure to take some cash since many vendors do not have access to card readers .And don’t forget to bring along the family or invite a few friends to join you!

I made this Robin Hood recipe a few weeks ago with fresh carrots purchased from my local farmers’ market. I always try including a seasonal fruits or vegetables into my baking to improve its nutritional value. I hope you enjoy this hearty breakfast muffin as much as I did!

Carrot Spice Muffins (Recipe from: http://www.robinhood.ca/Recipes/Muffins-Biscuits-Quick-Breads/Bran-Muffins/Carrot-Spice-Muffins)
Makes approximately 12 muffins

Ingredients

Muffins

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup (125 mL) oil
  • 3 cups (750 mL) grated carrots
  • 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) all-purpose whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar (I only used a ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) natural bran
  • 2 ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp (5mL) baking soda
  • ¾ tsp (4 mL) baking powder
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ½ cup (125 mL) chopped walnuts or pecans
  • ½ cup (125 mL) raisins

Streusel Topping (Optional)

  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) lightly packed brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line 12 muffin pans with paper liners.
  2. Beat eggs and oil until light.
  3. Stir in carrots.
  4. Add next 8 ingredients Stir just until moistened.
  5. Stir in nuts and raisins.
  6. Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full.
  7. Combine nuts and brown sugar for topping in small mixing bowl. Sprinkle on top of muffins.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.
Laura Ledas

About Laura Ledas

Laura is UBC Dietetic Intern completing her 10 month internship with Northern Health. Even during the Prince George winter, Laura dreams about her summer garden. She loves spending time being active outdoors and is looking forward to enjoying more seasonal vegetables as the weather begins to warm!

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Foodie Friday: Lentil Soup

food; healthy eating; nutrition

Batch soups make delicious meals – and can cost only pennies a serving!

As a single mom, I understand the value of a dollar and how expensive food has become. However, I don’t let this stand in the way of preparing and serving healthy food. With a little effort, I manage to stay on budget while not sacrificing nutrition and flavor. Here are a few tips I find helpful:

  • Read the flyers to find out what’s on sale. Make sure you know if it really is a good deal or just regular price.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time, so you only buy what you need.
  • Try a vegetarian meal, like the recipe below, once a week as meat is often one of the most expensive grocery items.
  • Buy foods that are in season; they are usually cheaper and tastier!
  • Make a grocery list and bring it to the store with you, to prevent impulse buying.
  • Buy only what you need. If you are a small family, the huge bag of potatoes really isn’t a deal if you throw out half.

Try this family favourite: my 4-year-old daughter loves this thick smooth soup with crackers or a biscuit. This soup is budget friendly with a per pot cost of about $2.24 or per serving cost of $0.22.

Food Fact: Lentils come in red, green and brown; they are easy to use as they don’t require pre-soaking. Lentils are an excellent source of fibre and a good source of protein, magnesium, potassium and folate.

Lentil Soup
(Makes 10 1-cup servings)

  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 10 cups of water
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • ¾ cup celery
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup butter or non-hydrogenated margarine

In a large pot combine lentils, water, salt, pepper, bay leaf, cloves and cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Cut up carrot, onion and celery into small pieces. Combine the vegetables, with the garlic and butter/margarine in a small pan and cook for 10 minutes; add to lentils. Simmer everything for 2 hours. Discard the bay leaf and cloves. Put soup through a blender or use a hand blender to puree. Enjoy!

For more ideas, the Dietitians of Canada has some great budget-friendly cooking tips.

What are some of your great and affordable meal ideas?

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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A recipe for family meals

healthy eating; food

All hands on deck makes family meals easier and fun!

If you are like most busy families today, the thought of family meals might send you screaming to the hills, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Family meals don’t have to be perfect.  Start with what your family already eats and just have everybody eat it together. Once family meals become routine, use Canada’s Food Guide to help add variety.

Ingredients

  • One or more family members – remember, you are a family even if you are just one!
  • Food
  • A place to eat

Preparation

  1. Turn off all electronic devices. Remove toys, homework, books and other distractions.
  2. Sit down together and let everyone pick and choose from what you’ve provided in amounts that they like.
  3. Take time to enjoy the food and your time together.

Tips

Why not make cooking family meals a family affair? Have the kids help out in the kitchen. It may take more time in the beginning, but will save time in the long run as their skills develop and they take on more responsibilities. For example, kids can help plan the meals. Allowing kids to include the foods they like will make it more exciting for them to help out and more likely that they will eat the meal.

Also, you can assign tasks to each family member depending on when they get home and their abilities:

  • Younger kids set the table.
  • Older kids peel and slice the vegetables.
  • Experienced kids bake, broil or sauté the fish, chicken or meat or meat alternative.
  • Everybody helps with the clean up so that you can all get to your extra-curricular activities on time.

Family meals set the example for healthy eating. They help kids and adults become competent eaters who learn to like a variety of foods and are able to guide their food choices and intake based on their feelings of hunger and fullness.

As a bonus, I wanted to share with you a quick and tasty dish that my family likes to make on a busy week night: Quick Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey*
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots and celery
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen vegetables, thawed

*Substitute the turkey with beans, lentils or chick peas for an added source of soluble fibre.

Preparation

  1. Cook then mash the potatoes with a little milk and margarine.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey, onion, carrots; cook, stirring, until the turkey is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour and oregano over the mix and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and frozen vegetables; bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.
  3. Ladle the stew into 4 bowls and top with the potatoes.

(This recipe was adapted from Eating Well Magazine Online: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/quick_shepherds_pie.html)

Having kids help out in the kitchen saves time, family meals set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Can you think any other benefits?

Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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