Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Brighten up your plate with local fruits and veggies!

I’m always amazed at the selection of local fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and gardens throughout the summer months!

Enjoying BC-grown produce is a great way to add variety and brighten up your plate with vibrant colours and fresh flavours. It can also be fun to explore some not-so-familiar (yet equally delicious) local produce. To learn more about the benefits of eating local, check out Marianne’s fantastic post: Enjoy BC’s bounty this summer.

lambs quarter wild spinach

Have you tried lamb’s quarters or wild spinach before?

One way that I’ve been able to put more local foods on my plate is by joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)  program in Terrace. This program allows community members to purchase a “share” of local produce from farmers before they plant their crops. Despite having a shorter growing season in northern BC, last week’s share included potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, mint tea, homemade pear jam, and a bag of lamb’s quarters* (*keep reading!).

I had quite the chuckle when I discovered that “lamb’s quarters” was in fact a vegetable – it’s a bag of mysterious dark leafy greens! According to my online search, lamb’s quarters is also known as goosefoot or wild spinach. It tastes similar to spinach, and can be enjoyed raw, steamed, or sautéed.

One of my favourite ways to eat spinach is as a creamy dip, so I decided to substitute lamb’s quarters in my signature spinach dip recipe. If you don’t have lamb’s quarters, no worries!  You can simply use fresh, frozen, or canned spinach.

spinach dip

Wild spinach puts the wild in this classic dip!

 (Wild) Spinach Dip

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of spinach or lamb’s quarters, washed
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup of yogurt, plain
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder or 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup parmesan or mozzarella cheese, grated (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the washed lamb’s quarters or spinach and cook until completely wilted.
  2. Let cool slightly and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Finely chop the lamb’s quarters or spinach.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the lamb’s quarters or spinach with the rest of the ingredients.

Serving suggestions:

  • Enjoy right away, or chill for 1 hour before serving to let the flavours combine.
  • I like to serve this dip with crackers, corn chips or bread, and veggies of my choice.

If you are looking to take advantage of more local produce this summer, here are a few of my favourite Foodie Friday recipes featuring local ingredients:

Do you have a favourite locally inspired recipe? Share in the comments below!

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: Beat the heat-take the cooking outdoors!

I have yet to travel to the southern United States, but it is definitely on my list of top 10 places I’d like to visit. My husband’s grandparents are American and I’ve heard wonderful stories of the culture and food from their travels throughout the south. The closest I’ve gotten to experience southern cooking was a trip to visit my husband’s late grandfather in West Virginia where we got to attend an outdoor potluck complete with fried chicken and cornbread (so delicious!).

One traditional southern dish I hope to experience one day (in true fashion) is a shrimp or crawfish boil. Shrimp and/or crawfish, along with baby potatoes, corn and sausage, are boiled with seasonings, drained, and then the entire contents of the pot are dumped onto the centre of a paper-covered table for all to pick away at and enjoy. Sounds like my kind of meal (although I may not want to be on cleanup duty that day)!

corn shrimp foil packet

Cooking up a shrimp boil-style foil packet on the BBQ is a great way to beat the heat!

With the recent heat wave we’ve had in the north, I’ve been looking for new recipes to throw on my BBQ, since I try to avoid using our stove when temperatures rise about 25 degrees. To my delight, I came across a post on Damn Delicious for a modified shrimp boil made in foil and cooked on the BBQ. After doing a bit of reading about traditional shrimp boils, I made a couple of modifications to the original recipe by using Old Bay seasoning instead of Cajun (although you could use both) and adding garlic and onion for extra flavour.

If you’re trying to watch your salt intake, you can omit the sausage (or eat only a couple of slices) and stick to Cajun seasoning (which should be lower in salt than Old Bay depending on the brand). Lastly, I added green beans to amp up the veggie content.

You can find the recipe here:
Shrimp Boil Foil Packets (as seen on Damn Delicious)

Don’t have a BBQ? No problem! The foil packets could be baked in the oven at 425F for 15 minutes. They could also be cooked over a wood fire (on top of a grill).

What are some of your favorite BBQ recipes?

Tamara Grafton

About Tamara Grafton

Tamara is a registered dietitian currently working with the clinical nutrition team at UHNBC and in long term care facilities in Prince George. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she now lives the rural life on a ranch with her husband and young son. She has a passion for nutrition education, healthy eating and cooking. In her downtime, she enjoys reading food blogs, keeping active, and trying out new recipes on her family and friends

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Foodie Friday: You DO win friends with salad

All right, so for anyone who grew up in the ‘90s, I’m sure you remember that Simpsons episode where Lisa becomes a vegetarian and then her dad Homer, brother Bart, and mother Marge all chant “You don’t win friends with salad” around her over and over again. Now I know what you are all thinking: it’s Foodie Friday and Lindsay is writing a blog post about salad, come on!

Well, it’s true. I am writing about salad. But let me put your mind at ease – it’s not just any salad. This salad is what I like to call my SOS salad and in my opinion, you can definitely win friends (and fill hungry tummies) with this!

The SOS salad can be used as a meal rather than just a side dish. How can you win friends with this salad? First and foremost, it’s really tasty. It’s also filling, quick to make, and last but not least, nutritionally balanced. I personally like to make a huge batch of this salad to have on hand for lunches or dinners so that I can spend more time biking, hiking, and visiting with loved ones.

We have all heard that vegetables and fruits are important. Why? They are full of vitamins, minerals, and fibre (both soluble and insoluble). A high intake of vegetables and fruits can help lower blood pressure as well as your risk of heart disease and stroke. They can also protect against some types of cancer. Of course, there are many barriers to accessing fresh vegetables and fruit including income, geographic location, affordability, availability, and perhaps a need for increased food skills with preparation. Luckily, fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables all offer health benefits, so if accessing fresh vegetables and fruit is difficult, there are other options.

Now for this awesome salad! I will provide a list of different ingredients but please feel free to omit, substitute, or add anything that you see fit. You can definitely be creative with this.

Lindsay’s SOS Salad

Ingredients: (choose whatever you’d like)salad

  • 4 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled (you can use up leftover rice from the night before!)
  • ½ head of red lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
  • ½ cucumber, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • ¼ medium red onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium beet, shredded
  • ½ zucchini, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¾ cup nuts, chopped (walnuts, pecans, almonds, use whatever you’d like)
  • 1 avocado, diced (for topping)
  • ¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled (for topping)

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Toast your nuts: Add chopped nuts to a small frying pan on medium heat and stir constantly until fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Once they are done, remove from pan and set aside on a separate plate or bowl to cool.
  2. Add your cooked and cooled brown rice to a large bowl. Add your lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, zucchini, shredded carrots and beets, and chickpeas.
  3. Top with toasted nuts, avocado, and feta cheese. Toss!
  4. Prepare the dressing. Add all ingredients to a jar, cover, and shake vigorously until mixed.
  5. Divide salad into bowls or containers for your lunch, add dressing to your liking, and enjoy!
Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn't at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.

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Foodie Friday: Dealing with food hypersensitivities 

Many people avoid a food due to a food hypersensitivity (this includes both food allergies and food intolerances). I am one of those people and maybe you are too!  It can be very frustrating to feel ill after eating. The pain, exhaustion, and physical toll of a reaction can lead to sick days at work and missed social events. Here are a few strategies to help you stay ahead of your food hypersensitivity:

  1. Read every food label: Get in the habit of reading labels three times—once at the grocery store, once when you’re putting the food away at home, and then when you use the food. Remember, companies can change their ingredients at any time, so don’t assume a food that was safe last week is still safe this week.
  2. Plan ahead: Having a food hypersensitivity can mean that you need to cook from scratch more often; processed foods tend to include the most common food hypersensitivities. Cook double portions and freeze leftovers so you have quick meals available when time or energy is wanting.
  3. Ask a lot of questions: Don’t be shy—when you eat out, phone ahead to see if the restaurant can accommodate food allergies and intolerances. When you’re at the restaurant, keep asking questions about how the food is prepared. Is there a possibility that your food has been cross-contaminated in the preparation area? For example, if you order french fries, were they deep fried in the same oil as the breaded fish? If you’re intolerant to wheat or gluten you’ll react when you eat the french fries.
  4. Become informed: This is likely the most important aspect of living well with a food hypersensitivity. Check out these resources:
    • Food Allergy Canada: this website contains important information especially for those with anaphylactic reactions to food.
    • Health Canada: You’ll find handouts on the 10 most common food allergies: eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and other cereal grains containing gluten, seafood, sulphites, sesame, and mustard. Did you know that casein is a part of milk, and those with egg sensitivities need to avoid albumin? These handouts help you learn the many different names of common food hypersensitivities.
    • Health Link Allergy Dietitian: Did you know that you can call 8-1-1 or email HealthLinkBC to connect with an allergy dietitian? You could also ask your family doctor for a referral to a local dietitian. A dietitian will have access to more helpful resources and be able to get answers to your questions.

What if I can’t figure out my food hypersensitivity?

There are no definitive tests to diagnosis food allergies or food intolerances. The best way to figure out food hypersensitivities is to eliminate the suspect food or foods for a period of 4-6 weeks to see if symptoms improve. This is a difficult task: it involves keeping detailed food records, and a symptom diary to track possible food reactions. There are many people who can’t figure out which foods are bothering them and they spend years avoiding more and more foods. Food is part of life, celebration, and enjoyment; when we can’t freely eat most foods, life can become very stressful and isolating. If this is you, consider reaching out to gain support and learn how to add foods back into your diet. As allergy dietitian Wendy Busse says, “We sometimes have to move beyond the search for a cure or perfect diet.”

Today’s recipe is a happy combination of sweet, chocolaty flavours which avoid the top 10 food allergens. Enjoy!

Thumbprint cookies (adapted from Food Allergy Recipe Box)

chocolate thumbprint cookies

These chocolaty cookies have an ingredient list free from the top 10 food allergens.

Yield:  35-40 cookies

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350C
  2. Combine No nut butter, vanilla, applesauce, and sugar in a microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 30–40 seconds until mixture is creamy and soft.
  3. In a second bowl combine dry ingredients: rice flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a fork until all ingredients are well mixed.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Mix with a fork or your hands until you can form a cookie dough and no dry flour remains.  If mixture is still dry mix in 1–3 tablespoons of water.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease with oil. Roll dough into tablespoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet.
  6. Finally, place a chocolate chip on top of each cookie and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Note: The approximate cost is $6.50 for the whole recipe.  Special flour, No nut butter, and allergen-free chocolate are pricey, but still less expensive than store-bought allergen-free cookies.

Judy April

About Judy April

Judy works in Dawson Creek at the Dawson Creek and District Hospital as a dietitian. A true northerner, she grew up just 75 km away in Fort St. John. Judy loves gardening herbs because of the great aroma they bring to her home and the meals cooked there. She even brings the herbs indoors to flourish on her windowsills in the winter.

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Foodie Friday: More than Just a Pot of Soup

As kids, my sister and I spent many a summer day at my grandparents’ house in East Vancouver. We did all sorts of fun things – I remember lots of cards games with grandma, walks to the corner store and grocery shopping trips (turns out I’ve always loved grocery shopping), and helping out in my grandpa’s small but impressive backyard garden (he even had two rows of corn!). Sometimes my two cousins would also be there, which meant endless hours of make believe games, and our annual trip to the PNE for a day filled with rides (and a little cotton candy). But I think my best memories from those summer days came from time spent in the kitchen.

little girl sitting on grandpa's lap

Sitting on my Grandpa Bloudoff’s lap as a child.

My Grandma and Grandpa Bloudoff were of Doukhobor heritage, and this was reflected in many of the delicious foods they would make with us when we visited. We would set up assembly lines to stuff and pinch together homemade perogies, or help mix up the fruit filling for our favourite Russian fruit tarts. But one of my absolute favourite dishes was the borscht my grandparents made. As a kid, I can’t tell you why I loved it – it was just a vegetable soup. It was one of my favourite things to eat when I was at their house and I was so happy when we were sent home with jars of soup to eat later.

Fast forward to my early 20’s, when I decided I wanted to learn how to make this borscht. I had realized their borscht was different – it was tomato based, and didn’t include beets like many other borscht recipes I had seen. I needed to know their secrets! My grandpa didn’t have a recipe written down, so I convinced him we needed to spend an afternoon together where he cooked and I documented all of the ingredients and steps involved. Not only did I learn the recipe, but we also had the opportunity to reconnect as adults- all because of a pot of soup.

Both of my grandparents have since passed, and I’m so grateful to be able to look back on moments like these. Food really is that great connector of culture, relationships, and family. Now when I dig into a big bowl of my grandpa’s borscht, it not only fills my belly with hearty nourishment, but it fills me with family memories and makes me smile.

Grandpa’s Doukhobor Borscht (recipe from EvergreenEats.com)

bowl of borscht

One of my favourite dishes growing up was the borscht my grandparents made.

Makes 10 – 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup green peas (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • 796 mL (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
  • 6 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh dill
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • sour cream or heavy cream, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cover the potatoes with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook until just tender.
  2. Transfer the cooked potatoes to a large bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the cooking water in the pot. Mash the potatoes with 2 tbsp butter and 1/3 of the canned tomatoes.
  3. Turn the heat on the pot up to medium-high. Add the celery, carrots, peas, 1/2 the onions, 1/2 the cabbage, 1/2 the potato/tomato mixture, and 1/2 of the remaining tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt 2 tbsp of butter then add the remaining onions. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until translucent (do not brown them). Add the remaining potato/tomato mixture and remaining tomatoes. Cook another 5 min then add to the pot.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of butter in the skillet, and add the remaining cabbage. Cook until soft, but do not brown, approximately 10 min. Add to the pot.
  6. Add fresh dill to the soup, season with salt & pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream or drizzle of heavy cream if desired.

Notes: If you have other veggies hanging around your fridge or freezer, throw them in. Green beans, peppers, spinach…maybe even some beets!

 

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Celebrating Dads in the Kitchen

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I got thinking about the things that I appreciate about my husband (and dad to my two daughters).  One of the things I love is that he’s not shy to get in the kitchen and get his hands a little dirty.  I’m no stranger to dads in the kitchen, considering I grew up with a single dad who kept the home cooked meals coming most days of the week.  However, I do recognize that cooking remains a woman dominated arena in our society.

Most of the meal prep in my house does still fall on the shoulders of yours truly, mostly because my work day ends earlier so it just makes sense.  This time of year though I notice a real shift in that balance as the barbeque and smoker re-emerge from the storage shed (what is it with boys and fire?!).

dad cooking with kids in kitchen

Cooking with dad is a whole different experience than cooking with mom!

Cooking with dad is a whole new experience for my girls then cooking with mom.  For one thing, he is way better at harnessing their “kid power”, and is generally more playful while cooking then I am.  This makes work in the kitchen feel like anything but!  He tends to give them more autonomy with the knife and other kitchen tools (ack!) which I know gives them a lot of confidence in their abilities in the kitchen and other areas.  And last, but certainly not least, whether he realizes it or not, he promotes a more free and flexible attitude about cooking, as illustrated by this frequently overheard dialogue: Daughter says, “Mom says that’s too much butter” or “Mom says we have to do it like this”, which is always followed by Dad saying, “Well Mom isn’t in here right now is she!” which is followed by copious amounts of mischievous giggling.

To all the dads out there getting dirty in the kitchen, I salute you!  Happy Father’s Day!

 

Below is a recipe my husband and kids like to make together.  It is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Meals.

Shells with Grilled Chicken and Mozzarellapasta dish

Ingredients:

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound (450g) of chicken breast cutlets
  • 8oz (or 225g) pasta shells
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tub of mini bocconcini, halved (or large bocconcini cut into 1/4” pieces)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Instructions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, heat grill to medium and lightly oil grates.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Grill until cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove from grill and cut into thin strips.
  2. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.  Add chicken, tomatoes, bocconcini, parsley, parmesan, and butter.  Toss to combine.  Add reserved pasta water a little at a time to create a sauce that coats shells (you may not need all the water).  Serve with a little more parmesan if desired.

Note: You can substitute the pasta shells for whole wheat pasta and/or add a side salad to increase the fiber of this meal.

Carmen Maddigan

About Carmen Maddigan

Born and raised in Fort St John, Carmen returned home in 2007, after completing her internship in Prince George. She has since, filled a variety of different roles as a dietitian for Northern Health and currently works at Fort St John Hospital providing outpatient nutrition counselling. In her spare time, Carmen can be found testing out a variety of healthy and tasty meal ideas. She also enjoys running, camping, and playing outside in the sun or snow with her family.

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Foodie Friday: Living out your healthy cultural traditions

Culture is so important for health and wellness. It shapes how we define health and wellness and how we practice it.

As a society, health and wellness seem to be narrowly defined by weight. Health is much more than the physical parameter of weight, which is influenced by unrealistic beauty standards in Canada – it includes mental and emotional health. Sadly, when someone doesn’t fit the standard around weight, they may be treated in ways that harm their mental health. We need to stop blaming or shaming people for their weight or health issues. Most people who are overweight have tried very hard, often unsuccessfully, to lose weight—after all 95% of diets fail within 2 years. We are all built differently: healthy bodies exist in a variety of shapes and sizes. People of all sizes should be accepted and treated with respect. Our goal should therefore be supporting a healthy body image for all. I truly believe health is the responsibility of our society and communities. It’s about making the healthy choice the easy choice.

The holistic role of culture

Cultural traditions shared with me by my Indigenous colleagues are great examples of the holistic role culture plays in healthy eating, physical activity, healthy minds, and healthy relationships. Engaging in these activities supports individuals, families, and communities to be healthy in all aspects of their lives. Here are some activities that can be enjoyed in the summer months and, coupled with food preservation, can extend the health benefits throughout the year:

  • Berry picking with your friends and family
  • Salmon fishing
  • Gathering traditional plants and medicines
  • Seaweed gathering
  • Clam digging
  • Gathering herring
  • Hunting
  • Gardening

Here is what some of my colleagues shared:

“My family celebrates food and berry harvesting and preservation from the oolichan, the salmon, moose and bear.”

Lloyd McDames, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Terrace who is from the Kitselas First Nation

“As a whole, our community of ?Esdilagh First Nation comes together every year to a culture camp.  Our Chilcotin traditional healers come from neighbouring communities to our members. We have been bringing awareness to the community members about the traditional medicines and living off the land. The culture camp brings us together as a way of connecting to our community members so that we can all learn together as one and start living in a healthier way.”

-Thelma Stump, the Health and Wellness Manager for ?Esdilagh First Nation

Angie Combs, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison at Wrinch Memorial Hospital, picks Is (soapberries in Gitxsan). She said,

“I gather the berries in mid-June when they are green. I enjoy being active outdoors and find berry picking peaceful. It makes me happy because I know I will be preserving them and serving them in the middle of the winter for my friends and family. I look forward to the fun and laughter of when my family gathers to enjoy a bowl of freshly whipped Is.”

soapberry ice cream, woman preparing ice cream

Angie Combs whips up Yal Is for the residents at Wrinch Memorial Hospital.

Here is her recipe for Yal Is:

Yal Is (soapberry ice cream in Gitxsan) 

(serves 6- 8 people)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint canned green soapberries (canned in water)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)

Method:

  1. Put canned soapberries in a sieve. Crush berries.
  2. Strain through sieve to remove seeds, collecting the juice in a stainless steel or glass bowl.
  3. Add the water to the juice. Beat until frothy with electric beater.
  4. Add banana and continue to beat. Add sugar and continue to beat until stiff like stiff egg whites.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Note: the soapberries lose their volume quickly after mixing; however, all you need to do is mix it again with the beater until it forms firm peaks. Some berries used to be mixed by hand and some people still do this.

Want to learn more? Here are a couple of academic papers about Indigenous culture, body image, and traditional physical activity:

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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Food: a foundation for building relationships

Mother and daughter picking peas

Picking peas with mom? Cooking dinner with grandpa? An annual Canada Day family picnic? Food is a foundation for building relationships!

Take a moment to recall some of your favourite childhood memories. Do they have a theme? My fondest memories seem to have two things in common: they’re all associated with a sense of being loved, accepted, and cared for, and they all involve food!

Many of my childhood memories are of time spent at my grandmother’s house, which was always warm, inviting, and filled with the distinct aromas of freshly baked bread and sauerkraut. We raided the garden and gorged ourselves on raspberries, rhubarb, and garden peas – still among my favourite fruits and vegetables today. My grandmother constantly prodded us to “eat, eat!” more of her homemade perogies or honey cake and it was clear that was how she expressed her love for us.

I also have a great memory of peeling fresh peaches with my Mom to prepare them for canning. We had soaked the peaches in hot water and were using paring knives to remove the skin. This was my first attempt at wielding a paring knife, and I remember how my confidence grew as my Mom gently coached me. I also remember how special I felt to have been chosen to help her with that task.

Food-related activities provide many opportunities for personal connection, and research has shown that there are several benefits to eating and cooking with your family. Children and adolescents who have more frequent family meals tend to eat more nutritious foods, perform better at school, and have higher self-esteem. Getting your kids involved with meal preparation is helpful, too: teens who participate in food preparation tend to have healthier eating patterns.

Unfortunately, our busy lives can make it hard to find time to prepare and share regular family meals. But take heart – family meals don’t always have to be formal dinners around the dining table! The most important thing is to create opportunities to connect and to share your stories and attention.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with what works for your family – even if it’s just one or two family meals per week – and build from there.
  • Plan ahead to make things easier on hectic weekday nights.
  • Host a make-your-own pizza or burrito night.
  • If gathering everyone together for dinner just isn’t possible, join each other for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  • If after-school practices are scheduled around dinnertime, pack a picnic for the family to enjoy at the soccer field or baseball diamond.
  • Eating out? Ask everyone to put away their smartphones and tablets so you can focus on the meal and each other.
  • Start a new family tradition – maybe a brunch on Family Day or an annual chili cook-off on a summer long weekend?

For more inspiration, check out Better Together BC or the Family Kitchen.

Kelly Bogh

About Kelly Bogh

After spending many years in Ottawa and B.C.'s Lower Mainland, Kelly returned to her hometown of Prince George to complete her dietetic internship with Northern Health. One of the things she loves about Prince George is living in the "Bowl" and being able to get most places on foot! When she's not sifting through the research underlying dietary recommendations, she enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time with family and friends (including four-legged furry ones).

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Foodie Friday: Build your own quick and tasty wraps (and enjoy more time outdoors!)

The sun is shining, the temperatures are rising, and it finally feels like summer is just around the corner! The longer days mean that there is plenty of time to enjoy an outdoor adventure after work, or a BBQ with friends and family.

For me, a new puppy at home has made life that much more exciting (and busy)! Many of my evenings are spent romping in our backyard. In true puppy form, our little Arlo adores ripping up moss, jumping in our strawberry patch, and digging in the dirt. Our poor little strawberry plants!

Dog in strawberry patch with person watching while eating a wrap.

Arlo the puppy enjoys digging up strawberries while dietitian Emilia gets to enjoy her wrap.

I’ve also noticed that more time playing outside means less time spent in the kitchen. Luckily, I know that eating well does not need to be fancy or complicated. Takes wraps, for example! They are one of my favourite on-the-go meals and I’ve been enjoying them a lot lately. With so many combinations to choose from, this super quick and easy meal is sure to be a family favourite.

To get started, try building your own wrap by mixing and matching items from the following categories:

  • Wrap: tortilla, pita, or roti (a type of flatbread popular in India). Choose whole wheat wraps for added fibre and nutrition.
  • Protein: canned or cooked fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, pork, or beef (I like using leftover hamburger patties or roast chicken), shrimp, hummus, beans, or tofu.
  • Toppings: lettuce, spinach (I often buy the ready-to-eat bags), shredded carrots, avocado, sliced red peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, apple, or pineapple.
  • Cheese (optional): cheddar, mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese, or another favourite.
  • Condiments: mayo, mustard, pesto, salsa, hot sauce, etc.

Here are just a few of my favourite wrap/pita combos:

  • Jarred or smoked fish, lettuce, cucumber, and mayo
  • Hardboiled egg, chopped green onion, tomato, and mayo
  • Black beans or leftover ground meat, cheddar cheese, and red pepper with salsa and Greek yogurt
  • Chicken or turkey, sliced apples, cheese, spinach, and honey mustard
Wraps

Dilly salmon wraps are one of hundreds of wrap combinations that you can try! Just mix and match from Emilia’s list!

Dilly Salmon Wraps

Ingredients

Wraps

  • 1 cup salmon (jarred, canned, or leftover salmon fillet)
  • 4 large whole wheat tortilla wraps
  • Veggies of your choice (I used lettuce and red peppers)
  • Cheese of your choice (optional)

Dilly Sauce

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp dry or 1 tsp fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Mix the Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, and dill.
  2. Combine salmon with dilly sauce and mix well (you will probably have leftover sauce — it makes a great veggie dip, too!)
  3. Spoon salmon mixture onto each wrap and top with veggies and cheese of your choice.
  4. Fold in sides and roll tortilla up tightly.

You can serve this meal family-style: just prepare all the toppings and let kids (and adults) choose their own veggies and condiments. What fun!

More tasty and nutritious grab-and-go meal and snack ideas:

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: Fiddleheads, a springtime treat

little boy picking fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a (delicious!) young fern

Besides the singing birds and the extra vitamin D from the sunshine, my favourite part of spring is the increased variety of locally produced fruit and vegetables that start to pop up in the grocery stores and farmers markets. By this time of year, I am aching for variety and freshness that can often only be found by buying local. To my excitement, the outdoor farmers market season has started in my community with the Prince George Farmers’ Market expanding outdoors at its downtown location as of late April. I love spending my Saturday mornings grabbing a coffee to-go and browsing the market for delicious produce, meat, eggs, and bread – yum. When does your local market open for the season?

When I was at the market in Prince George last Saturday, I noticed vendors selling bags of fiddleheads. Have you come across these where you live? A friend of mine from Vancouver first introduced me to fiddleheads several years ago and I’ve never looked back. I promptly bought two bags on Saturday and ate them later that day for dinner.

So, what is a fiddlehead?

Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a young fern. The safest and most delicious fiddleheads come from the ostrich fern. They grow in moist, shaded areas and are only available for a few weeks in the spring. To identify the ostrich fern fiddleheads, look for ones that are growing in a crown (or cluster) low to the ground, have a deep U-shaped groove on the inside of the stem, and brown, papery scales, which should be removed before eating. Check out this video for more information on identifying and harvesting fiddleheads safely.

Using Internet Explorer? Open the video in YouTube.

What do I do with fiddleheads?

wild filddlehead

Have you come across fiddleheads in your community?

Eat them! Fiddleheads are delicious and taste a lot like asparagus. They are a good source of vitamins A and C as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

They need to be properly washed and cooked before consuming as raw fiddleheads can make you ill. To prepare fiddleheads, wash them well in several rounds of cold water and ensure the brown scales are removed (the ones I got from the market were already cleaned). Then, either boil for 15 minutes or steam for 10-12 minutes before sautéing them for an easy side dish.

Easy sautéed fiddleheads

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 454 g-1 lb fiddleheads
  • 2-3 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare fiddleheads: Rinse several times with cold water and remove any brown scales that remain. Cover with plenty of water and boil for 15 minutes (or steam for 10-12 minutes).
  2. Heat butter or olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir.
  3. Sautee fiddleheads for 4-5 minutes until heated through.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
Tamara Grafton

About Tamara Grafton

Tamara is a registered dietitian currently working with the clinical nutrition team at UHNBC and in long term care facilities in Prince George. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she now lives the rural life on a ranch with her husband and young son. She has a passion for nutrition education, healthy eating and cooking. In her downtime, she enjoys reading food blogs, keeping active, and trying out new recipes on her family and friends

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