Healthy Living in the North

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: Maple Peanut Butter Fruit Dip and snacking

The maple peanut butter fruit dip, sprinkled with cinnamon, is surrounded by chopped fruit.

Snack healthy with this maple peanut butter fruit dip.

It’s 3 p.m. You’re feeling a bit sluggish. You hear that familiar rumble in your stomach. Must be time for a snack!

Snacking is a normal healthy eating activity. It’s a great way to keep our energy up between meals and the perfect time to incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Unfortunately, many pre-packaged snack foods are missing the things our bodies need, giving us added sugar, salt, and fat instead. They may be convenient, but they aren’t very filling, and may be doing more harm than good. Fortunately, there are plenty of convenient, easy to prepare, and easy to pack real food snacks. Here are 10 tasty and simple ideas to get you started on your way to smarter snacking:

  • Cut up vegetables (such as carrots, celery, peppers, or cucumbers) with your favourite dip – try this vibrant Dilly Beet Hummus!
  • Low-fat yogurt topped with granola and blueberries.
  • Cheddar cheese and whole grain crackers.
  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, cereal, and chocolate chips.
  • Grab and go fruit – think apples, bananas, oranges, or pears.
  • Avocado toast – fork mash 1/4 of a ripe avocado on whole grain toast, season with salt and pepper.
  • Homemade whole grain muffins.
  • Peanut butter and banana on rice cakes.
  • Hard boiled eggs.
  • Smoothie made with frozen fruit, yogurt, and milk.

Sometimes I like to swap my veggies and dip for fruit and dip instead. In this recipe, Greek yogurt pairs with nutty peanut butter and maple syrup to create a dip that eats like a meal. The cinnamon gives it a subtle spicy kick that will have you licking the bowl clean! Plus, it’s easy enough for everyday snacking and fancy enough for guests. Give it a try!

Maple Peanut Butter Greek Yogurt Dip (makes approximately 1 cup)

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 2 tbsp natural peanut butter (no salt, no sugar added)
  • 2 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until well combined.
  2. Allow to sit for an hour to let the flavours meld…if you can. Otherwise, grab your favourite fruit and start dipping!

Source: http://frenchfriestoflaxseeds.com/2014/05/12/maple-peanut-butter-greek-yogurt-dip/

Tell me, what are some of your favourite smarter snacks?

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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What’s for lunch?

Cutting vegetables for lunch.

Including vegetables in your child’s lunch is important to their overall health!

When I think back to my elementary school days, lunches were certainly a highlight. The entire school would file down to the lunchroom/gymnasium with our lunch pails for 30 minutes of socializing, and of course, eating. The food was brought from home (no hot lunch programs in our town) and consisted of the usual lunch pail fare of the eighties: squashed peanut butter and jam sandwiches, tetra pack fruit punches, a bruised apple (that would end up coming back home usually) and leftover Halloween candy (which would not).

I packed my own lunches and distinctly remember being jealous of the kids whose parents took the time and creativity to make their lunches special. Thermoses of warm leftover soup and spaghetti, veggies and dip, homemade banana bread and salads were uncommon sights in my lunches and enviable! My single dad who worked shift work would take us grocery shopping, buy us the convenience foods we saw on TV, and then the rest was up to us. In fact, I wonder if my dad has any idea what we really ate back then?

What made me reminisce about this was hearing about 9 year- old Martha Payne from Scotland, who started her own blog about lunch, called Never Seconds. In order to bring attention to the quality of food served in Scottish school cafeterias, she started taking a picture of her lunch daily and then critiquing it. She has caught the attention of the international media, created a platform for discussion about food in schools and receives an influx of photos daily from around the world of what people (and kids in particular) are eating for lunch.

Luckily in B.C., we have guidelines around what types of healthy food and beverages can be sold to children in schools. We have wonderful programs like the Farm to School Salad Bar and the School Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Program, where kids are exposed to new foods and encouraged to eat more produce. However, not all schools have cafeterias or hot lunch programs. Not all schools have salad bars. Some kids are still packing their lunches from home (albeit without the pb&j), or in the case of secondary schools, heading off campus to local fast food establishments.

The times have changed, and our understanding of the importance of feeding children well has grown. We lead busy lives and convenience is key, but are we sacrificing quality and health for a little more time? I’ll take a page from Martha Payne then and ask, what are you (and more importantly, your children) eating for lunch today?

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is the NH Men's Health Coordinator. Previous to this, she worked as the school nutrition lead for Northern Health’s population health department. Her passion for food and health promotion drew her to the nutrition field and she relocated to northern B.C. from the east coast. Although she has fully embraced northern living, she enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She stays active by training for triathlons, and is looking forward to this year’s community garden harvest – a personal experiment that is so far succeeding!

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Naturally flavoured water: Cheers to your hydration

Fruit and herbs

Combinations of fruit and herbs can add great flavours to your water!

Drink 8 cups of water a day. That’s been drilled into our heads since we were young, right? While that guideline is actually a myth, making sure you drink enough fluid to stay properly hydrated is a definite must for living healthy. Even so, it wasn’t until a major health scare occurred in my family that I turned a leaf with a pretty significant health kick and started paying closer attention to the hydration aspect of my health.

“Every cell in your body needs water,” says Holly Christian from NH Population Health Nutrition. “It keeps you hydrated, is calorie-free and has no added sugar or sodium. Choose water regularly throughout the day.”

Sliced strawberries, orange slices and basil

Sliced strawberries, orange slices and basil

Excess sugar is a problem in many drinks and can lead to other problems, such as weight gain or cavities, so it’s always better to choose water. Healthy Families BC says that water is the best option to satisfy thirst and stay hydrated.

With all this in mind, I started filling a one litre bottle with good old-fashioned tap water and aiming to drink at least two of them every day (more when I exercised, and when it’s particularly hot outside, like now; Healthy Families BC also has some great info on why drinking water when it’s hot is important).

In order to keep me interested in water, I started flavouring it using simple fruit and herb combinations. Now, I can sip through my water consistently during the day without getting bored of the taste, I’m always properly hydrated (giving me much more energy!), I’m not taking in an excess of sugar, and I get a tasty fruit snack at the end of each bottle.

Sliced cucumbers, lemon slices and mint

Sliced cucumbers, lemon slices and mint

Here are some of my favourite flavoured water mixes:

  • A handful of raspberries and a slice of lemon.
  • Two sage leaves and a handful of blackberries.
  • Two mint leaves, a few cucumber slices and a slice of lemon.
  • A couple of large strawberries, sliced, and a handful of blueberries.
  • Two basil leaves, a couple of sliced strawberries, and an orange slice.

Next up on my list is watermelon chunks with fresh rosemary!

Have you ever tried to flavour your own water? Have any great flavours to add to our list?

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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