Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Grow your own

Rebecca's daughter waters the garden at their home.

Rebecca’s daughter waters the garden at their home.

As the days continue to get warmer and we spend more time outside, my thoughts always turn to gardening. I love watching the tiny seeds I plant turn into something green and then, with luck, something edible. After a crazy day of work, I find gardening to be a huge de-stresser – whether I’m pulling weeds or just sticking my fingers in the dirt, my stresses melt away. Gardening has some great health benefits and is a fun activity to do as a family as well. My daughter’s favorite activity is watering!

Gardening has the following great benefits:

  • The food is local and you know exactly how fresh it is.
  • It tastes great.
  • It can be cheaper.
  • It is a source of physical activity.
  • It teaches your children where food comes from.

Some vegetables that grow well in our climate without a greenhouse include: potatoes, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, carrots, peas, beans, beets, radishes, zucchini, cucumber, turnips, and parsnips.

If you have leftover zucchini, here are some ways to use it up:

BBQ:

Turn your BBQ on to medium heat. Take a small zucchini and cut it in half lengthwise. Brush olive oil on the zucchini and then sprinkle with herbs such as oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper, etc. Grill the zucchini for four minutes on each side or until a fork goes in easily.

Stir fry:

Because zucchini cooks quickly, it can be cut into small pieces or rounds and added to a stir fry.

Make relish:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • ½ tsp mustard seed
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 zucchini (~12 oz), finely diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan combine the oil, onion, mustard seed, turmeric, salt pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) over medium heat, stirring often until the onion softens (about 6 minutes).
  2. Stir in zucchini, red bell pepper, brown sugar, and vinegar and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in ½ cup of water and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until the zucchini is tender.
  5. Whisk cornstarch with 1tbsp of water and add to the mixture.
  6. Cook, stirring until the mixture thickens.
  7. Pour into an airtight container and let cool.
  8. Store in the fridge up to 2 weeks.

What are some of your favourite things to grow in your garden and how do you like to serve them?

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Tales from the Man Cave: Knowledge versus “knowledge”

Are you using credible sources to create your knowledge?

Are you using credible sources to create your knowledge?

Knowledge is more accessible than ever. Between the internet and 24-hour news stations, we’re swamped with it. But there’s knowledge and then there’s “knowledge.” Let’s discuss the difference between the two, because separating them is vital to your health.

For me, knowledge is information gained through evidence-based research. This includes checking your sources and the sources of the people providing you with the information. That’s one of the reasons I follow the Northern Health position papers. Many heads have worked on them, combining research from a variety of credible sources.

“Knowledge,” on the other hand, is the 10-second sound bite. It’s the picture of a piece of fruit on Pinterest that comes with a quote like, “Seven strawberries a day cures the common cold” without offering a source. These more accurately align with Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” They may have portions of the truth or they might just feel like they could be the truth. But we weren’t we all taught from a very young age not to believe everything we’re told?

Between the knowledge and “knowledge,” I always choose the first, burying my head in books and listening to audio books, all by credible sources. And that’s the key isn’t it? It has to be credible.

Here are some tips that are based on sound research from credible sources to help you stay healthy in mind and body:

That’s just scratching the surface of the available knowledge that will help us stay healthy. We can’t fit all of it into our brains, but we have to make sure that what we do hold onto comes from a good place (as is the case with all of the links in the above health tips).

Good luck to you!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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IMAGINE Grants profile: Kids Helping Kids

Children take part in an exercise at a Kids Helping Kids event.

Children take part in an exercise at a Kids Helping Kids event.

When two grade seven students at Immaculate Conception Elementary School in Prince George observed that many of their classmates were leading sedentary lifestyles, their principal challenged them to educate their peers to be more physically active. They responded by recruiting more students, Action Schools! B.C., the City of Prince George, and School District 57 to create “Kids Helping Kids” – an IMAGINE Grant funded program that promotes the immediate and future benefits of healthy eating and physical activity.

The growth of the program throughout School District 57 has been remarkable. “The first year was run as a pilot project with independent schools,” explained Sue McDonald, Coordinator with Kids Helping Kids. “Year two, the program was offered to approximately half of the schools in the area, and last year it was offered to all schools in the Prince George area.” According to McDonald, the next phase of Kids Helping Kids is to expand beyond Prince George with the intention to “firmly embed [healthy eating and physical activity] as part of each school’s culture, truly making a difference in the future.”

Students take leadership roles, teaching other students about the value of nutrition.

Students take leadership roles, teaching other students about the value of nutrition.

Along with the program’s expansion, Kids Helping Kids is unique because of its peer-to-peer emphasis that teaches students life-long leadership skills. “…I am so thankful to have been in a leadership role,” said David, a School District 57 student and Kids Helping Kids participant, “teaching younger students and making a difference in their lives.”

“I went from a 15-year-old boy who could barely run a kilometre to a 17-year-old who is healthy, happy, and physically fit,” David continued, describing the impact that the program has had on his life. “I learned keeping healthy isn’t just about being more physically active. It’s about eating properly and making sure you’re not having too many candies, not eating that box of cookies that you have in your cupboard. It is keeping yourself running around, playing games and having fun with what you do. [Taking part in the program] was a lot of work, but it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was also one of the hardest.”

Northern Health couldn’t be more proud of Kids Helping Kids and of children like David.

About the IMAGINE Grants

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Grants fund health promotion projects by community partners, including northern groups/organizations and schools or districts, to support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s Position Statements. We’re happy to introduce an ongoing series of blog posts that will highlight past recipients of IMAGINE Grants and share their great work with you!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Foodie Friday: Taste the Rainbow Potato Salad

A vibrant, colourful potato salad in a bowl.

Liven up your summer BBQ with this potato salad!

School is out, the sun is shining, and Canada Day is just around the corner. Summer is here! That means picnics at the lake and backyard barbeques with family and friends. For me, no summer barbeque is complete without the quintessential summer salad – the potato salad. While there are plenty of ready-made potato salads that you can pick up from your local grocery store, nothing quite compares to the homemade version. Trust me, it’s worth the effort!

This potato salad recipe is my interpretation of the famous potato salad that my boyfriend’s mother makes. His family can’t get enough of her potato salad, and I must admit, it might even trump my own mom’s potato salad (shhh – don’t tell her!). I love this recipe because it incorporates a variety of vegetables into the salad in a way that even picky eaters can enjoy. Extra veggies mean not only extra vitamins and nutrients, but extra flavor as well!

My mom did teach me one great tip: to steam your potatoes over boiling water instead of putting them in boiling water. This lets you control how tender they get and keeps them from absorbing too much water. You end up with the perfectly cooked potato that is tender yet still keeps its shape in the salad.

So, forget the store-bought potato salad — liven up your barbeque with this colourful dish, and enjoy all of the fun that summer brings.

Taste the Rainbow Potato Salad
Serves 6-8

  • 2 lbs. of potatoes (use a mixture of colours if you can)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced
  • 5-6 radishes, grated
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 4 dill pickles, grated
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

1. Quarter (or more if they are larger) your potatoes and steam or boil until just fork tender. Set aside to cool.

2. Hard boil your eggs by placing your eggs in a saucepan, covering with water, and bringing to a boil. Set the timer for seven minutes, then remove the eggs, and place the saucepan in the sink. Run cold water over the eggs (without draining) until they are cool. Peel and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the carrot, celery, radishes, green onion, pickles, mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and Dijon mustard. Grate in your eggs, and mix thoroughly.

4. Add your potatoes, and combine gently so as not to break up the potatoes too much. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Chill in the fridge for a few hours so the flavours can meld and enjoy!

Food Safety note: As this potato salad contains eggs, mayonnaise, and yogurt, you want to make sure you keep it refrigerated or in a cooler on ice. Too much time in the hot sun equals unhappy tummies later on.

Source:  frenchfriestoflaxseeds.com (my blog).

 

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is the Registered Dietitian with the Shapedown BC program at UHNBC. 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 creating new recipes and writing about them on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Celebrate Aboriginal Day!

seaweed, Aboriginal health, healthy eating

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

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

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

June 21st is Aboriginal Day all across Canada!

soapberries, Aboriginal health, healthy eating

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

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

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

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

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

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

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Tales from the Man Cave: Heart Advice for Men’s Health Week

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

In honour of Men’s Health Week, I want to talk about things men (and everyone, really) can do to help reduce the risk of heart disease. To do the subject justice would require a book but for today I will mention only the briefest of actions that can be carried out.

Here is my list of factors you may be able to change which will help the health of your heart:

  1.  Smoking. Just quit. This is beyond doubt the number one thing you can (and should) do. It is the number one modifiable factor under your control which can help you have a longer life. About 30% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking.
  2. High blood pressure. Cigarette smoking injures the lining of the blood vessels and increases the risk of developing blood clots, which contributes to hardening of the arteries. Even inhaling others’ cigarette smoke has been shown to lower good cholesterol. Studies have shown that HDL levels often go up soon after a person quits smoking.
  3. High blood cholesterol. Fatty foods are a contribution to poor heart health. Check out Canada’s Food Guide for advice on eating well.
  4. Diabetes. I’m talking about type 2 diabetes which can come under your control somewhat by monitoring what you eat and engaging in physical activity.
  5. Physical inactivity. Plan to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a week. If you work in an office make a plan to stand up many times during your working day. Remember our mantra “every move counts.” Decrease screen time and get outside as much as possible. Walk the dog or just walk.
  6. Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    From Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke, among other things. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines can help you.

  7. Stress. The direct relationship between stress and heart disease perhaps lies in all of the above. If people have stressful lives, suffer anxiety and depressed mood, these can contribute to all of the other negative behaviours and at the same time make changing behaviour much more difficult. Increased alcohol consumption, comfort eating and watching more movies on TV, may provide short-term stress relief through self-medication, but in the long run will not work well for you. It’s better to go for short walks in nature and learn some relaxation strategy such as meditation. Decrease alcohol consumption and increase physical activity to release those feel good hormones and engage with the family and community. In addition to this guys need to talk about their stressors.

No one can guarantee the health of your heart in the future but by following some simple steps you can decrease your risk and feel less stressed.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Foodie Friday: Tropical overnight oats

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

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

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

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

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

Tropical overnight oats:
Serves 1

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

About Rilla Reardon

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

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The farmers’ market: a telltale sign of summer

salad greens, farmers' market

Fresh greens at a local market – yum!

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

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

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

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

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

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

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

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IMAGINE Grants profile: Family FUNdamentals

An eight month year old laughing.

Family FUNdamentals is ensuring that kids stay laughing as they grow older through healthy eating and physical activity.

About the IMAGINE Grants

Northern Health’s IMAGINE grants fund health promotion projects by community partners, including northern groups/organizations and schools or districts, to support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s Position Statements. We’re happy to introduce an ongoing series of blog posts that will highlight past recipients of IMAGINE grants and share their great work with you!

Introducing Family FUNdamentals in Terrace, B.C.

Running June 5 to July 3, 2014 in Terrace, Family FUNdamentals —  a program funded by the IMAGINE Grants — is working with children five years of age and younger to prevent eating disorders before they start. Program facilitator, Anne Peltier, explains the need for such a program: “There is growing literature to suggest that children as young as three are aware of weight and body size and commonly express a desire to be thinner. Children at an early age are exposed to messages that emphasize the importance of being thin and looking fit.”

The only program in B.C. designed specifically for parents with children under five, Family FUNdamentals’ goal, as described by Anne, “…is to foster a competent parent/child relationship with food and activity to promote healthy growth and development of children and prevent disordered eating.” They accomplish this goal by focusing on healthy eating, weight, activities, positive body image, and proactive parenting skills that encourage fun through family-based activities.

The program originated from Family Services of the North Shore, expanding upon the work of the Jessie’s Hope Society to ensure that the provincial eating disorders prevention work becomes Jessie Alexander’s legacy. IMAGINE grants funding allowed coordinators to facilitate the program in their community, as well as purchase resources and the food needed to prepare the healthy snacks provided during the program.

Parents and guardians in and around Terrace can register for the program by contacting Anne or Tara at 250-638-1863, toll free at 1-888-638-1863, or by visiting them in person at The Family Place: 4553 Park Ave., Terrace. For parents interested in Family FUNdamentals who are not near Terrace, Anne recommends appropriate online resources or discussing healthy living with professionals, such as dietitians or paediatricians.

Northern Health is proud to help provide a starting point for amazing programs like this!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Foodie Friday: Is your salad dressed to impress?

The ingredients to make a salad dressing.

Everything you need to make a delicious, healthy salad dressing tonight.

A good dressing is the key to bringing your favourite salad creations to life, transforming a salad from OK to yummy! I’ll admit that I use a bottle of store-bought salad dressing once in a while (especially when I’m travelling), but there are many reasons why I prefer to whip up my own:

  • It’s easy! It takes all of two minutes, does not require specialized kitchen gadgets, and you probably already have most of the ingredients in your cupboards.
  • It’s flexible! You can create endless variations of flavours at a fraction of the cost of store-bought dressing.
  • It can be healthier because you control the ingredients!

The two main components of a basic salad dressing are acid and oil. If you are in a rush, the acid and the oil will be all you really need, but additional spices can really boost the flavour. Here are some tips to help you make gourmet dressings that are sure to impress:

Choosing your ingredients

  • Acid – Try a variety of vinegars like balsamic, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, or rice vinegar. Feel free to mix and match your vinegars or try adding a splash of lemon, lime, or freshly squeezed orange juice for a citrus twist.
  • Oil – Choosing neutral-tasting oils such as canola, sunflower, or grape seed will not overpower the other ingredients; however, if you are feeling adventurous, you can go for a more flavourful oil such as sesame, flaxseed, olive, or avocado!
  • Spice – Not only do spices enhance the flavour of your dressing, they also prevent it from separating too quickly. It can be as simple as adding a bit of pepper or you can try a variety of dried or fresh herbs, including basil, cilantro, oregano, or thyme. Other options include garlic, mustard (dry or prepared), soya sauce, ginger, or a touch of honey.

Preparing your dressing

  • Ratio – While the traditional salad dressing ratio is three parts oil to one part vinegar, the best ratio depends on your taste. I prefer a zesty dressing with more vinegar than oil. Once you learn the ratio that works for you, you can go ahead and just eyeball it!
  • Mix, Whisk, or Shake – The final step takes some vigorous mixing with a fork or a whisk to blend the oil with the water based acid. A good trick is adding the ingredients directly into a jar or plastic container then just giving it a good shake. This way you can store any leftover dressing in the fridge.

Getting started

Here are some salad dressing ideas to help you get started:

  • Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette: Balsamic vinegar, lemon juice (optional), canola oil, mustard, pepper.
  • Orange Twist Balsamic Vinaigrette: Balsamic vinegar, freshly squeezed orange juice, orange zest (optional), garlic, pepper, touch of honey.
  • Classic Italian Vinaigrette: White wine or red wine vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic, dried basil and/or oregano, and pepper.
  • Zesty Oriental Dressing: Rice wine vinegar, lime juice, canola oil, a bit of sesame oil, a splash of soya sauce, minced cilantro, a touch of honey.

Do you have a favourite salad dressing that you would like to share? Please comment below!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Emilia is a UBC Dietetics Intern completing her 10 month internship with Northern Health. Emilia’s internship placements have taken her throughout northern BC, from Quesnel all the way to Haida Gwaii. She has been enjoying all the north has to offer, including trying cross-country skiing for the first time. With a background in psychology, she is very interested in learning more about the unique and complex health challenges facing rural communities.

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