Healthy Living in the North

Ditching the can opener: Tools, services, and tips to make healthy, homemade meals accessible

This article was co-authored by Rebecca Larson, registered dietitian, and Valerie Pagdin, occupational therapist.


Person cutting apple with one hand.

A rocker knife and cutting board with pins and suction cups makes cutting fruits and vegetables safe and accessible.

When you have a disability, making healthy meals at home can present additional challenges. Fatigue and difficulty with jars and utensils can create barriers to cooking. But there are ways to make cooking a bit easier so that everyone can enjoy healthy, homemade meals:

  • Buy frozen or pre-cut vegetables or fruit so that the preparation is already done.
  • Look for items that don’t require a can opener. Containers with screw tops (like some fruit and peanut butter) or those that are in pouches (yogurt or tuna) are easier to open.
  • Get your milk in a jug. Two litre plastic jugs with handles are easier to hold and pour than a milk carton.
  • Buy cheese and bread that are pre-sliced or have the deli or bakery slice them for you.

There are also many tools that can help you maintain your independence in shopping and cooking tasks. Using utensils with larger handles, cutting boards with suction cups to hold them to the countertop, or a mobility device to help you walk or carry items more easily can make a big difference in your ability to buy what you want and cook it the way you like it. An occupational therapist can assess your needs and help you find solutions that work for you in the kitchen. Ask your physician or primary care provider for a referral to an occupational therapist.

Accessible eating utensils.

Contact an occupational therapist to learn more about tools to make homemade meals more accessible – tools like weighted spoons, high-rimmed plates, and tremor spoons.

If transportation is a challenge, many grocery stores and service groups have grocery delivery options. Meals on Wheels is available in many communities and can provide meals if meal preparation is difficult or if you need a break. Food boxes, which contain fresh vegetables delivered on a regular basis, are available in some communities and may be an option to consider. Your local home and community care department can connect you to these programs.

If you need additional suggestions or help to make homemade meals more accessible, contact HealthLink BC Dietitian Services by dialling 8-1-1.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

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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Foodie Friday: Berry Adventures

buckets of berries in a kayak.I am thankful to live on the beautiful traditional lands of the Tsimshian people. Recently, on a lovely morning when the water was calm and the sun was out, I departed for an adventure in my kayak. Because I went alone, I made sure someone knew where I was, picked a spot that wasn’t too remote, and brought safety supplies along. Part way along my journey, I stopped and picked two buckets of high bush cranberries. Although it was a bit of a juggling act to kayak back without spilling them, it was well worth the effort. I came home and looked through my wild plant books to make sure I had indeed picked cranberries, not some poisonous imposter. There are some excellent books available as well as reputable online sources, like this Edible Berries of BC guide. You can also seek guidance from an experienced picker or an Elder. When you aren’t sure, don’t eat it.

I embarked on the quest of deciding what to do with my berries. While I am quite familiar with making jam, I haven’t made jelly before. Since these cranberries have a significant seed in the centre, I decided to strain them out. I looked up how to do this and began navigating my way. It was trial and error as I was trying to blend the old and the new…recipes without pectin against those with pectin. So I’ll be honest with you, while I haven’t mastered the art of making wild cranberry jelly yet, here is what I learned. This is part of the adventure itself, to experiment and make something delicious! Next time I would just strain the berries and drink the juice!

Gathering berries has been an important activity, food and medicinal source for First Nations and Aboriginal peoples for thousands of years. Cranberries are known for their medicinal benefits, such as anti-bacterial properties that can help prevent urinary tract infections. They are also high in antioxidants that help boost the immune system and they are a source of vitamin C. For more information on traditional foods, access the First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets from the First Nations Health Authority.

The activity of picking berries is good for my mind, body and spirit. Being out in nature is healing for me. When I am having a tough time for one reason or another, being in nature helps to restore me to balance. I also enjoy being self-reliant. Berry picking can also be a family activity. When my children were young it was a great way to get them out and active.

Remember to leave some berries for other people and animals to eat, and be careful not to damage the plants so there can be future harvests.

High Bush Cranberry Jelly

A bowl full of freshly picked berries.Ingredients

  • 2 small buckets of cranberries
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ boxes of Certo light

Instructions

  1. Boil cranberries with water for 10 minutes.
  2. Make a cheesecloth bag and place inside a strainer inside a bowl. I used elastic bands to hold my cheesecloth in place.
  3. Let the juice drip out overnight. I got about 7 cups of juice. If you have less pour some hot water through the berries to get more. I squeezed my bag, but if you want a clear liquid you aren’t supposed to!
  4. Sterilize the jars and metal lids. I put them in the oven at 225 degrees for 10 minutes.
  5. Put snap lids in water that is hot but not boiling.
  6. Mix Certo with a ¼ cup of sugar. Stir into juice. Bring to a boil. Add rest of sugar and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
  7. Test mixture for the right consistency by putting some on a spoon and letting cool in the fridge. If it firms and then falls off the spoon in one ‘flake’ it’s done, otherwise boil it longer.
  8. Pour into hot jars, wipe rims with a clean cloth dipped in the water the lids are in, put on snap lids and metal lids and tighten.
  9. If the lid pops down, it’s sealed.
  10. Enjoy with turkey on fried bread!
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: Beat the heat with homemade fruit pops!

Families in a park.

Looking to stay cool during your next summer picnic, event, or festival? Try making your own popsicles!

Much of northern B.C. has been enjoying some beautiful weather these past few weeks. I have been loving relaxing in the sun, reading a book or listening to music.

I recently attended the Edge of the World Music Festival on Haida Gwaii. It was a beautiful hot and sunny day with not a cloud in sight; a perfect day to lay out a blanket and chill out while listening to some great music.

I was overjoyed by the nice weather, but I quickly realized I would not be able to enjoy the music without something to keep me cool. Ice pops to the rescue!

When I was a kid, I remember my mom making homemade ice pops in plastic molds. At the festival, I was delighted to find someone selling homemade ice pops like the ones my mom used to make. It was just what I needed.

Since then, I purchased my own ice pop moulds and have started experimenting with different flavours. One of my favourites so far is this recipe for watermelon mint popsicles. They taste delicious and fresh and are a smart alternative to many store-bought ice pops that are high in sugar. A quick scan online shows that many popular ice pop brands have two to four teaspoons of added sugar per serving!

Watermelon slice

Sarah is a fan of watermelon-mint popsicles. What combinations will you try?

Watermelon mint popsicles

Recipe adapted from Zoku.

Don’t have moulds? Ice cube trays and cut pieces of firm straws can do the trick!

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (about 3½ cups) seeded, cubed fresh watermelon
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • Sweetener of choice (optional – if your watermelon is sweet, you won’t need to add sweetener. If you want a sweeter base, simply add a little sweetener to taste.)

Instructions

  1. Make the watermelon base: In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth.
  2. Assemble popsicles: Insert sticks and pour the watermelon base until almost full. Let freeze completely, then remove the pops and enjoy.

If you enjoy these, start experimenting with different fruit combinations or try using various types of milk as the liquid base. One of my favourite flavour combinations is coconut milk and pineapple. Last year, Amy showed us her strawberry-coconut variety! What combinations will you try?

Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Make zoodles with your summer harvest!

It is the peak of summer! Now is the time when you have the best selection of fresh and vibrant fruit and vegetables in the grocery store, farmers market, or in your own gardens.

One vegetable that you likely have more of than you know what to do with is the almighty zucchini. Gardeners, like I aspire to be, who grow zucchini learn to become very creative with their bounty, or try to pawn off the squash on their friends and family. When I lived in Vancouver, I had a small garden plot as part of a community garden and I loved growing and cooking with zucchini. Just check out these beauties!

Zucchini and tomato

Zucchini plant
Zucchini is a good source of fibre which helps lower blood cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, and keeps you regular. Like all vegetables, zucchini is also a good source of vitamins and antioxidants. Specifically, zucchini contains carotenoids: lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, which may reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, and eye disease through their protective effect in the body. In the recipe below, adding avocado to the pesto sauce adds an extra boost of antioxidants and fibre and also replaces some of the olive oil.

If you grow or buy zucchini, or are one of the lucky recipients of this delicious vegetable, below is a great way to use them and get at least two servings of vegetable in. Round out the meal with a grilled chicken breast and some crusty garlic bread.

Zucchini noodles with chicken breast

I’d love to get some new ideas of what to do with all the zucchini that is in its prime, so please leave a comment to share how you use it!

Creamy avocado basil pesto with zoodles (zucchini noodles)

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 5 zucchini, large
  • 1 avocado, pit removed
  • 15 basil leaves, fresh
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper, ground
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese

Instructions

1. Julienne zucchini lengthwise by hand or with a mandolin. You can also use a vegetable noodle-making gadget to make long spiral noodles- or ZOODLES!

Zucchini noodles in a bowl

2. Place zucchini noodles in a colander with 3/4 tsp salt. Let sit for 30 minutes and drain liquid.

Bowl of zucchini noodles

3. In a blender or food processor, mix together avocado, basil, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, and lemon until smooth.

4. In a sauté pan on medium heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add zucchini noodles. Cook for 2 minutes. (You can also leave them cold for more crunch). Note: I chose not to cook the zucchini this time, which made life a lot easier in this heat wave we are having!

5. Add sauce and parmesan cheese to the pan and coat the zucchini noodles. Heat through.

Zucchini noodles with parmesan cheese

6. Serve and enjoy!

Zucchini noodles with pesto

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian with Northern Health's clinical nutrition team at UHNBC. Erin has a passion for growing and cooking food as well as teaching patients, clients and families about incorporating a balanced, wholesome diet into a healthy lifestyle. In her spare time, you can find her cooking up a storm, writing about food and nutrition, and growing vegetables at her community garden. During her dietetics internship, Erin explored the north from Fort St. John to Haida Gwaii, learning about clinical and public health dietetics with many adventures along the way.

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“Local solutions to local problems”: The Open Gate Garden Project in McBride

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Garden entrance gate

For project organizers, the Open Gate Garden in McBride demonstrates “local solutions to local problems.”

The Robson Valley Community Learning Project in McBride received an IMAGINE grant for their Open Gate Garden Project.

We recently checked in with the project and asked how their story might inspire others. Here’s what they shared:

One of the interesting aspects of our story is that the Open Gate Garden has become established during a major economic downturn. Our project seems to be demonstrating local solutions to local problems.

The principles of inclusion, diversity and consensus structure the work of the Community Literacy Task Group. For this reason, most of the gardeners take ownership for the project and there is a high level of unity and commitment. The Open Gate Garden is an example of what is possible when we work together, using our gifts and combining our skills. Growing food is what most of the old timers in the community know how to do. For the newcomers, like the retired urban teachers, it’s what they want to learn. There is a transmission of knowledge in an easy and relaxed manner.

Potatoes dug up and laying above ground.

Potatoes grown and sold as part of the community garden project help to sustain the Open Gate Garden.

The metaphor of ‘community as a garden’ and/or ‘garden as a community’ could be used to tell this story. Our garden design is an asset to the McBride community because of its beauty. The beds are as unique as the gardeners who tend them.

Others would be inspired by the possibility that a healthy community can come from the wide range of folks that reside there. We believe that building the capacity, the optimum human resources of the tiny population in our valley, is what it will take to restore a stable economy. So often, we hear about ‘attracting outside investments’ to solve our economic problems. Yet, we all eat. There is a market for locally grown, whole foods. Most are aware of threats to food security, climate change, and environmental devastation. Surely developing independent food systems could be a start to establishing a local economy! Our story shows that community gardening is a start. From this start, engaged citizens are emerging, other related projects are blossoming, folks are becoming connected, and we are beginning to generate revenues from growing potatoes to sustain the Open Gate Garden.

Woman bagging potatoes

“We walk, bend, stretch, dig, rake, shovel and eat fresh, local food. We co-operate, collaborate and communicate in meaningful ways. Gardening together in the Open Gate Garden is a real joy.”

We also asked Nancy Taylor, Community Literacy Outreach Coordinator (pictured during harvest time in the garden), about the impact of the Open Gate Garden and the IMAGINE Community Grant they received:

Our IMAGINE grant funding has helped to pay for the infrastructure of the Open Gate Garden where lots of good stuff happens. Folks from all walks of life are included in the project. We share information, skills, and knowledge. We walk, bend, stretch, dig, rake, shovel, and eat fresh, local food. We co-operate, collaborate, and communicate in meaningful ways. Gardening together in the Open Gate Garden is a real joy. We are grateful for the support we have received from Northern Health. Our community is healthier because of the Open Gate Garden.

What project might serve as a start in your community? You can start planning now because the next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants is coming soon!


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

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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Planting seeds, fighting stigma, and growing community: Healthy Minds Community Garden

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Fox in a community garden

How can a community garden reduce stigma around mental health concerns? The Healthy Minds Community Garden in Fort St. James accomplished just that – promoting social connections and healthy lifestyles along the way!

The Healthy Minds Peer Support group in Fort St. James offers a safe and confidential venue for those impacted by mental and emotional health issues. The group aims to break isolation, promote healthy lifestyles, support integration into the community, and reduce stigma around mental health concerns.

At first glance, one might ask how a community garden fits into this vision. For facilitator and Mental Health & Addictions Advisory Committee member Greg Kovacs, there are so many worthwhile connections between a community garden and mental wellness. He highlighted these when he first proposed this project to the IMAGINE Community Grant program:

A healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and mental health problems. We also know working with the soil, planting, and harvesting is therapeutic and conducive to those on their road to recovery and healthy living principles. Community gardens have proven successful in numerous communities worldwide in providing valuable educational tools and skills acquisition for those most in need.

For Kovacs, there was a crucial social piece to this project, too:

Isolated mental health clients gain socialization skills, confidence, and practical life-affirming experience. [The garden] is a great way to keep fit, socialize, and an excellent form of therapeutic exercise for participants.

After a successful IMAGINE Community Grant application in 2015, Kovacs and the rest of the Healthy Minds Peer Support group got to work.

Empty lot

A look at the garden space before the Healthy Minds Community Garden took shape. Construction involved over 50 volunteers and over 1,500 volunteer hours.

How did the project go? Kovacs provided an inspiring update:

This project exceeded expectations on many levels. The construction of the garden space involved over 50 volunteers, from children to seniors across all socioeconomic and racial divides. Together, we logged over 1,500 volunteer hours. This garden has provided socialization opportunities [and] improved the mental and physical health of many community members. Through these interactions, awareness of mental health, physical health, and environmental health has been raised.

Two classes from David Hoy Elementary School helped in the construction and planting of garden beds. The grade 9 woodworking class from the high school built two flower garden beds for us. We also had involvement from adult mental health service users. Friendships were made, and a sense of community bonding was achieved. We were able to produce many pounds of fresh, organic vegetables – from lettuce to corn and peppers. Also, with five local newspaper articles on the garden project, mental health and community gardening has been highlighted, and these topics have become common conversations around all community events. Raising awareness of mental health is the first step in reducing, and eventually eliminating stigma around it.

Community garden

A look at the completed garden space reveals the transformation that took place. For the project coordinator, a similar transformation occurred in the lives of those involved in the garden as the “unifying space” helped them to develop social connections.

One of the most important goals of sharing projects supported by IMAGINE Community Grants is the opportunity to share the lessons learned from different projects. Everyone who has been involved in a big project – whether it’s a personal home renovation, organizing a local sporting event, or getting a project off of the ground in a community – knows that it’s not always rainbows and sunshine! With the benefit of hindsight, Kovacs shared what he learned:

All in all, it has been a very positive experience. There were, however, some challenges. It was difficult to get people involved in the actual construction. A lot of skilled labour was required, and in short supply … Being the project lead, it was difficult at times to gauge the skill level of volunteers … Volunteers often require close supervision. It is important to allow people some freedom, while discerning what projects they can succeed at. I could have used some more help with the administrative duties … If I undertook this type of project in the future, I would not make funding applications, or commitments, until I had people committed to certain duties.

The takeaway for Kovacs, though?

The successes greatly exceeded the challenges. I have been approached by many strangers complimenting the work our group is doing. The word is out, and most of our beds are already reserved for the 2016 planting season. This garden is poised to become a new standard in community gardening. With a focus on aesthetics, as opposed to just food production, our garden has become a popular lunch, and socialization place for local workers and all community members. There is a lot of pride in this community garden. It is known as a very tranquil and serene sanctuary, overlooking the beautiful Stuart Lake. Seeing the faces of people who see the garden for the first time—priceless! … Be prepared to get projects off the ground with a few dedicated and imaginative people, and once things begin to take shape, others will join.

Two people paint a sign.

Volunteers put the finishing touches on the sign welcoming gardeners, guests, and visitors to the Healthy Minds Community Garden in Fort St. James.

The impact of the Healthy Minds Community Garden and the Healthy Minds Peer Support group really comes to light when you ask Kovacs for one thing that he wants to share about the project:

It is extremely difficult to list only one, as there are so many! … I believe that the greatest benefit, among many, is that of community bonding, or socialization. People that would not normally mix are working, laughing, and talking with each other. With so many phenomena dividing people in society today, the garden is a unifying space. One participant in particular, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been suffering from a life-threatening illness and has been isolating for over a year. We managed to get her out to the garden one day, and that resulted in her riding a bicycle to the garden every weekend to help and mostly just to socialize. She has reserved a garden bed for 2016. Largely as a result of stigma, many people experiencing mental health issues suffer in silence. My personal objective is to reach as many of these people as possible, and the Healthy Minds Community Garden is accomplishing this. I also have to mention that the health benefits of growing and eating whole foods has not been lost on those participating in the garden.

Clearly unable to contain his excitement, pride, and desire to share more about the community garden, Kovacs’ “one thing” continues to a list of community partners:

The involvement of the school kids, and the excitement in their eyes when they see what they have grown, is priceless. I believe that many of those kids will continue to garden and eat healthy throughout their lives. I also have to mention that the school this year is going to plant three beds as a result of the success of the program.

We have also reserved a bed for Nechako Valley Community Services Society youth counselling program in Fort St. James, and two beds are reserved for clients of Carrier Sekani Tribal Council’s youth program. So far, we have two beds reserved for seniors as well. We have built two extra height beds for people with mobility issues. The entire garden is wheelchair accessible. I strongly believe that this garden will continue to grow and be of great benefit to all in this small community.

This project is, beyond any reasonable doubt, a resounding success.

Garden bed

Growing so much more than just healthy, local food, the community garden has become first and foremost a health-promoting gathering space where people can connect.

Do you have ideas to promote social connections, reduce stigma, boost healthy eating, and make your community healthier? Start gathering your team and brainstorming your project – the next round of IMAGINE Community Grants will start September 19, 2016.


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

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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Making your own baby food

Solid foods for babies on a plate.

At about six months old, your baby may be ready for solid foods. Some easy prep will give your baby lots of textures and options to explore! Trying new foods with your baby is a time of exploration and fun. Enjoy the experience!

Many parents are interested in making their own baby food. Why? Primarily, it’s cheaper than buying prepared baby foods and is easy to do. You also have full control over what your baby is eating and you can introduce them to the foods your family eats. At about six months old, your baby will be ready for solid foods.

When offering your baby food:

  • Start by offering food a couple times a day. By the time your baby is close to nine months, they should be eating 2-3 meals a day with 1-2 snacks.
  • To begin, your baby will only eat about a teaspoon of food at a time, so don’t make too much baby food at once.
  • Offer your baby a variety of textures including ground, mashed, soft foods and finger foods.
  • Offer an iron rich food (meat and alternatives or infant cereal) daily.
  • Whenever possible, eat with your baby. They learn from modelling your behaviour.

Baby food prep

  • Some foods like yogurt, rice, and pasta require very little or no prep to make them into baby food. You can cut bread into strips and grate cheese to make them the right size for your baby to hold or pick up.
  • Vegetables: Wash and peel your vegetables, removing any seeds. Chop the vegetable into small pieces and steam over boiling water until soft. Put the cooked vegetable in a bowl with a little water and mash with a fork.
  • Fruit: Pick soft, ripe fruit. Wash and peel the fruit; remove any pits or large seeds. Cut into pieces. Soft fruits like banana and peaches can be mashed with a fork. For firm fruit, before mashing, take the pieces and boil in a small amount of water until soft.
  • Meat & Alternatives: Meats like beef, turkey, wild game, and others should be well cooked and then ground, finely minced, or shredded. Fish can be baked or poached; skin and bones must be removed before mashing with a fork. Soft beans, lentils, and eggs can be mashed with a fork after cooking. A little water might need to be added to moisten.

Trying new foods with your baby is a time of exploration and fun. Enjoy the experience!

For more information visit HealthLink BC.


This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine. Read the full issue – all about child health – below!

 

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Foodie Friday: Eating foods you love!

Caesar salad in a bowl.

For registered dietitian Beth, the “good vs. bad” food debate is getting old! “A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you.” Love kale? Try it as part of your next Caesar salad.

As a registered dietitian, I talk about food a lot, whether it’s with my clients, friends, family, or even on occasion with random strangers. Time after time, the “good food vs. bad food” theme (“healthy vs. unhealthy”) arises. Usually people start the conversation with statements like this:

  • “I only eat gluten-free bread, that’s healthy right?” (Gee, I missed the memo on that one)
  • “I eat a banana with my yogurt at breakfast – that’s bad, right, because bananas have a lot of sugar?” (They do?)
  • “Sometimes we eat chips but I know that’s bad.” (Not if you enjoyed them!)
  • “I force myself to eat kale because I heard that it’s healthy, but I don’t like the taste of it.” (That does not sound like fun.)
  • “I don’t eat anything white.” (Oh, so no cauliflower or halibut for you?)

People, people! A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you!

Yes, kale is a healthy food, but what’s so special about it? Nothing, really. It’s just like any of the other leafy greens and, when eaten regularly and with a variety of other foods, it will give you some vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that your body needs to keep well. And if you like the taste of kale and love eating it, all the better! I happen to enjoy eating kale, but if I didn’t, I can tell you how unhappy I would be if I had to eat it only because it’s “good for me.”

Eating is a lot easier than that! I choose when, what, and how much I eat based on what my body is telling me that I need for that particular time. I choose foods based on flavour, a variety of textures and tastes, and how hungry I feel. This means I include a wide range of foods that will meet my nutrition needs and satisfy my cravings. I do not choose what to eat based on the latest health trends or food fads and I certainly do not buy in to the good versus bad debate.

Speaking of kale, are any of you wondering what to do with all that kale you are getting out of your garden right now? Or, if you do not have a garden, then the kale your neighbours keep giving you?

Here is a list of ideas:

  • Steam it and serve it with a little olive oil and lemon juice sprinkled on top.
  • Substitute it in your favorite quiche or frittata recipe.
  • Make the all famous kale chips (a hit at my house).
  • Chop it up and add to your favourite summer pasta recipe.
  • Cook it up and freeze it for later to throw in a smoothie with frozen berries for a cool summer treat.
  • Mix it up with beans, some cooked quinoa, and roasted vegetables.
  • Add it to soups and stews.

Here’s a recipe that I adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon that adds an interesting twist to Caesar salad. It’s also a great way to use up some of that kale this time of year!

Caesar Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Salad

  • One large bunch of kale, torn in to bite-sized pieces
  • One head of romaine, torn in to bite-sized pieces
  • Croutons (optional)

Instructions

  1. Soak the almonds in water for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
  2. Cut off the top of the garlic head to expose the raw cloves. Cover in foil and bake in the oven at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and golden. Let cool.
  3. Squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins and into a food processor.
  4. Add the soaked almonds, oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and ¼ cup of water. Process until smooth.
  5. Place lettuce and kale in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. If you like a bit of a crunch, add some croutons.
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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Foodie Friday: Healthy grilling

Skewers

A bit of char from the grill makes for a delicious veggie skewer!

Summer is the time to enjoy leisurely meals outside, and BBQing is one of our favourite ways to justify stepping out of the hot kitchen. With a little creativity and planning, barbecue favourites can be just as healthy as meals made indoors!

Give these healthier options a try at your next barbecue:

Sausages: Instead of traditional beef or pork wieners that tend to be greasy and salty, try leaner chicken or turkey sausages.

Fresh meats: Avoid the extra salt, sugar, and preservatives in pre-marinated meats or store-bought barbecue sauce – make your own marinade in only a few minutes! Just mix together a liquid base or two (lemon juice, balsamic or apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce) with some fresh or dried spices (garlic, onion, basil, parsley, pepper) and a little oil. Remember that fattier cuts of meat like marbled steak and chicken thighs tend to grill better than very lean beef or chicken breast because they stay juicy when cooked over an open flame. Don’t worry, these meats can fit into a healthy meal, too – just remember to trim any excess fat.

Tin foil: This kitchen essential makes cooking vegetables on a barbecue a snap! Simply cut up whatever you like (potatoes, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and bell peppers all work really well) into bite-sized pieces. Get fancy with seasonings or just leave them plain and let the delicious flavours shine through. Make sure to seal the tin foil package with a folded seam and then place it on the grill with the seam side up (so the vegetables don’t fall out!).

Food on sticks: Vegetables also taste delicious with a bit of char from the grill. Get your kids involved in the food prep by asking them to assemble the skewers. Give the recipe below a whirl this weekend!

Marinated vegetable skewers

Ingredients

Skewers

  • 1 red & 1 green bell pepper, chopped into largish pieces
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1 cm thick rounds
  • 10 (or so) mushrooms, whole or halved depending on their size
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 1 red onion, chopped into largish pieces
  • 8-10 bamboo skewer sticks, pre-soaked in water

Marinade

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ – ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (dried basil works, too!)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

Instructions

  1. Soak the skewer sticks in water for at least 20 minutes – this helps to prevent the sticks from burning when placed on the barbecue.
  2. While the skewers are soaking, chop the vegetables – make sure that the pieces are large enough to be properly skewered so they don’t fall off.
  3. Mix up your marinade in a large bowl and place all of the chopped vegetables into the bowl. Let the vegetables marinate for at least half an hour (just enough time to heat the grill and have a cool drink on the patio!).
  4. Now comes the fun part: skewer a piece of each type of vegetable, alternating to make a nice pattern. Once the skewers are ready to go, you can cook them right away over low-medium flame on the barbecue or store them in the fridge for several hours until meal time.
Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

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

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Foodie Friday: Prep your meals in bulk so you can get back outside!

Quinoa salad

Lindsay’s Mexican Quinoa Salad is a great option when you want to cook just once and enjoy over and over! Prep once and get back to your summer outdoor adventures!

Oh summer in the north!

I don’t know about you, but as soon as summer hits, it feels like all my weekends and evenings become jam-packed with plans. Plans to bike, hike, and go on adventures somewhere new.

The longer days of summer mean more daylight hours to be doing activities and this definitely reduces the time to prepare dinners and lunches. When life gets busy, bulk meal prep is a must! Not only does meal prep at home save you money, it also encourages greater fruit and vegetable consumption and a higher intake of fibre.

One of my favorite “go-to” meals for summer is a Mexican Quinoa Salad. Anyone who knows me will tell you: I love Mexican spices. Actually, I’m almost obsessed with Mexican spices. I have a standard blend of chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika that I throw into the majority of my meal repertoire. If you’re used to buying taco or fajita seasoning, I am here to tell you that this is no longer needed! You can make your own Mexican spice mix with common spices found right in your own spice cupboard. Check out this taco seasoning recipe.

Ready to get those Mexican spices into a meal that lasts? The salad recipe below will make about 8-10 servings, so feel free to decrease it as needed. It makes a great potluck item, can definitely feed you and your friends for a few meals, is convenient to pack, and will keep well for about three days, refrigerated.

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

Salad

  • 2 cups quinoa (uncooked)
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • ½ large red onion, or 1 small, diced
  • 2 x 540 ml cans black beans
  • 1 x 341 ml can corn
  • 1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese

Dressing

  • 3 limes, juice and zest OR 1/3 cup lime juice
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chili powder (domestic, not international chili powder), or to taste
  • ½ tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder

Instructions

  1. Combine 2 cups quinoa and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Set aside and/or refrigerate and allow to cool.
  2. Combine all salad ingredients together in an extra-large bowl.
  3. Combine all dressing ingredients in jar or blender, as desired. Pour over salad ingredients and mix well.
  4. 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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