Healthy Living in the North

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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Infographic: What is healthy eating?

As you know by now, March is Nutrition Month in Canada. We hope you’ve enjoyed some of the healthy recipes we’ve been sharing so far this month (like the spicy bean wraps and homemade pizza dough)!

Healthy eating is, of course, about proper nutrition, but it’s so much more! What we eat affects our own physical and mental wellness, our families, our communities, and more. If we have an unhealthy diet, we know that this is a major risk for developing a chronic disease or condition. Northern Health’s position on healthy eating offers a look at the importance of and the current status of healthy eating, as well as how we aim to improve this (and how you can help).

We wanted to highlight some of the main points of our healthy eating position in a more visually pleasing way for you. Take a look at our infographic on healthy eating – and consider how you approach your own personal relationship with food!

Healthy eating Infographic

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.

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Making it easy: the rule of “fave five”

healthy eating; food; recipe

Simple ingredients for simple (and fast) suppers!

Planning to eat healthy is always a good goal, but many of us don’t have the time or desire to be spending hours in the kitchen every day preparing a healthy meal from scratch. Recipes can call for a long list of ingredients, many of which we may not have on hand in the pantry or fridge, and require time for preparation, such as washing, chopping, grating, soaking, mincing, etc. Without planning in advance, these meals can be challenging to pull off. Having a few go-to recipes that can be made in a hurry is an easy solution for when you’re in a pinch!

When we think quick and easy food, we typically think of convenience or fast foods. Convenience meals and fast food are typically prepackaged, processed and often high in sodium, fat and calories. Making meals at home lets you control what ingredients you use, make healthy substitutions, and be flexible with the recipe depending on what is available. This can mean a delicious and nutritious meal that you can feel good about!

Making a meal with five ingredients or less cuts down on time spent on planning, purchasing and food preparation. Using simple ingredients that are often in our kitchen, meal making can be quick, easy and healthy!

To get you started, I’m sharing with you a personal favourite of mine: Spinach and Feta Frittata (adapted from a recipe from the Dietitians of Canada).

Makes 10 servings

  • 1 package (10 oz/300 g) fresh or frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1½ cups cubed peeled potatoes
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup feta cheese

-Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

-Spread in potatoes and spinach in 13- by 9-inch (33 by 23 cm) glass baking dish, lightly greased.

-In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Pour over vegetables and stir gently to distribute. Sprinkle evenly with feta.

-Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until eggs are set.

Food fact: Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate and calcium! Find new ways to include this nutritional powerhouse in your diet regularly. Add it to soups, casseroles, pasta sauces, smoothies and salads.

Do you have any “fave five” recipes?

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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Diverse bodies are healthy bodies

healthy bodies, diverse bodies, move for life

Accept your body at its current size and shape and then enjoy your body by moving and eating in ways that support your health.

Growing up in outport Newfoundland, everyone was the same: the same skin colour, spoke the same way, attended the same church, and all without cable TV or the Internet. Needless to say, this did not provide an opportunity to know diversity. When I moved to Toronto in the early 1990s, I remember standing on the corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets and being overwhelmed by the diversity of people all around me. Overall, Canada ranks high for accepting diversity, especially to culture, language, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Where we, and the rest of North America, fail is with accepting size diversity.

Society, fueled by the media, tells us that bodies (male and female) should look a certain way – a way that very few people can achieve.  However, that doesn’t stop people from trying and the costs are great:

  • In a study of 5,000 teens, more than half of girls and a third of boys engage in unhealthy weight control behaviours.
  • Teen girls who diet are at 324% greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet.
  • 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
  • 98% of females are unhappy with their bodies.
  • Canadians spend more than $7 billion per year on diet programs, diet books and diet pills.
  • However, evidence tells us that 98% of people who lose weight will regain the weight and more.

Despite what TV makeover shows might suggest, the human body is not easily transformed.

Body shapes and sizes are the result of many factors beyond what one eats and how much one moves. For example, genetics, life stage, environment, cultural norms and socioeconomic status all influence body shape and size. In my 20 years as a registered dietitian, I have worked with many people who eat well and are fit and healthy but do not match society’s “ideal” body.

Body size and shape is not the determining measure of one’s health. To support health, wellness and positive body image, try these approaches:

  • Respect and care for your body. Accept your body at its current size, shape and capabilities.
  • Eat for well-being not weight loss. Listen to your body and eat according to hunger, fullness and satiety cues, nutritional needs, and cultural and family traditions.
  • Be active in your own way to support energy, strength and stress management.

For more information about challenges that youth are faced with when it comes to healthy eating, go to keltymentalhealth.ca.

How do you measure your health? When do you feel most healthy?

 

Data sources:

Neumark-Sztainer, Story, Hannan, Perry & Irving, 2002. Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics, 112(4), 900-906;  findings from Project EAT (population-based study of approximately 5000 teens).

http://keltymentalhealth.ca/sites/default/files/Youth%20Disordered%20Eating%20Fact%20sheet.pdf

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Diet+industry+expands+right+along+with+North+America+waistlines/8268951/story.html

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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Get social and eat healthy

fresh food, pizza, whole wheat crust

Pizza is a fun way to gather with friends in the kitchen and make healthy foods together.

Juggling full-time paid work with a busy home life can test my ability to prepare, share and eat tasty, nutritious foods with family and friends. I’ve found it helps to have a few things in place to make it more likely that a fairly balanced family meal is made and served in my kitchen most nights—although frozen pizza sometimes makes an appearance, too!

Here is what works for me:

  • Make a plan for the week’s suppers and post it on the fridge door.
  • Use the plan when grocery shopping so I have what I need.
  • Cooking once and eating twice. I never make just one pan of lasagna, pot of soup or batch of spaghetti sauce. I make two: one to eat and one goes in the freezer for another meal.
  • Making cooking go further. I make a big batch of oven roasted veggies that might get served with a piece of BBQ chicken and quinoa, but the leftovers get added to a pasta sauce, top a pizza, or get pureed with milk to make a soup.

Where I fall down is being social around food. The extra shopping, cooking and cleaning needed to host friends for dinner can put me off—and I know my friends feel the same way. To get around it, we’ve hosted “cook together” nights: we agree on a theme and then each family brings whole ingredients to one house to prepare, cook and eat together.

My favourite so far was the pizza party I hosted. I made whole grain pizza dough and salad dressing and others brought a topping for the pizza and a salad item. The result? Pizza with a pesto-infused sauce, topped with cooked red potatoes, chopped mushrooms, peppers, onions and tomatoes, and Parmesan and Havarti cheeses. Paired with a salad of leafy greens, grated beets, berries and toasted nuts served with my favourite blueberry salad dressing. Yum! Beyond the great food, the laughs and shared experience of hanging out and rolling pizza dough, slicing veggies and grating cheese was so much fun … and we all carried the leftovers home!

How about planning a cooking night with your friends? Here’s my pizza dough recipe to get you started:

Homemade Pizza Dough

1 cup                                      whole wheat flour
1 cup                                      enriched white flour
1 (28 gram) envelope         quick rise instant yeast
1 tsp.                                      salt
1 tsp.                                      sugar
¾ cup                                    hot water (heat for a minute in the microwave until 125 – 130°F)
1 tsp.                                      oil

  1. In a food processor, mix the flours, yeast, salt and sugar.
  2. While running the food processor, add the water and oil and blend until a ball is formed. Continue running for one minute to knead the dough.
  3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, cover and let rest 10 minutes. Roll out to form one large (12”) pizza crust. Add your favourite sauce and toppings and bake at 450°F for 10 – 12 minutes. This dough recipe can be frozen.

(Source: The Family Table by Marie Breton and Isabelle Emond, 2007.)

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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