Healthy Living in the North

Make health fun in 2015

Two skiers on a chairlift on a ski hill.

Getting outside and trying new activities are two ways that Mandy plans to make health fun in 2015. How will you make health fun?

As 2014 comes to an end, many of us already have New Year’s resolutions dancing through our heads, wondering what commitments we will make to improve our health for 2015.

It seems as though exercising more, saving money, losing weight and quitting smoking are what most people hope to achieve for the upcoming year. The problem with resolutions is that 60% of adults make these promises each year but, of those, only about 40% will be successful. I admit that I have been guilty of this in the past: my commitment to run a half-marathon is going on six years and I don’t think this will be the year, either. So this year, I am taking a new approach: I am going to commit to having some fun in 2015!

Not “whoop it up and book a trip to Vegas” fun, but thinking of ways to improve my health with a focus on enjoyment at the same time. I am going to commit to:

  • Trying activities that are new to me. Zumba? Cross-country skiing? Geocaching? Yoga? Maybe I’ll find something I like and stick with it – and I have a better chance of accomplishing this if I bring a buddy with me!
  • Healthy meal planning. In the hustle and bustle of life, I often find it a struggle to make nutritious and delicious choices for my family at mealtimes and it’s not fun to be scrambling at the last minute. For 2015, I will focus more on meal preparation. I plan to enlist the help of my friends for new recipe ideas and my kids to help out in the kitchen. Maybe I will fit in a few potlucks and dinners with friends, too!
  • Getting outside more often. I really enjoy the outdoors and the fresh air and dose of vitamin D come as added bonuses. We have amazing natural environments in northern B.C. and four wonderful seasons. I will enjoy these with more snowshoeing, exploring new trails, playing soccer with my kids, bike riding, and going wherever my feet can take me! By committing to this at least a few times a week, I will also get in my recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week!

How will you make health fun in 2015?

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy is the Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health. She and her family moved from Manitoba to Prince George in 2013. Check back for more on Mandy soon!

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Community Health Stars: Seamus Damstrom

Young man sitting on shore with a fishing rod.

Seamus Damstrom, a Grade 12 student at Caledonia Secondary in Terrace, B.C., is Northern Health’s Community Health Star for December!

Our Community Health Star for the month of December is an outstanding young man from Terrace who exemplifies what it means to have a passion for health and wellness and to turn that passion into action! Seamus Damstrom is a Grade 12 student at Caledonia Secondary in Terrace, B.C. He was the only northerner in the 2013-2014 cohort of the provincial Healthy Living Youth Council. As a member of that group, Seamus had the chance to lead a health-promoting project in his school.

I was fortunate to be able to connect with Seamus to talk about his project, his passion for healthy eating, and his approach to creating healthy change.

What is the Healthy Living Youth Council?

The Healthy Living Youth Council is a one-year program organized by DASH BC. Every year, students from across B.C. can apply to join the Healthy Living Youth Council. I had 13 students in my cohort and each one of us initiated a project to promote health and wellness in our school.

What type of project did you initiate at your school?

To figure out what I wanted to do, I asked myself, what are my passions? The answer: food and helping people achieve optimal health through food. At school, people know that I’m a big food guy so it made sense to start there.

At that point, I looked at our canteen and noticed that while there were a few healthy options, most of the food being purchased was items like nachos and pizza. I then decided that I would try to use our school canteen to start a food revolution – introducing healthy food options and trying to change students’ eating habits.

Young man wearing a helmet and goggles on a ski hill

Seamus initiated a project at his school to bring healthy food options to the canteen. How are you being a health star in your community?

How did you accomplish this?

It was a long process but I wanted to make sure to do it right – I knew that change wouldn’t happen if I acted like a dictator so I started with the canteen teacher. We had a great dialogue and found recipes that were healthy and feasible for the canteen to sell.

The next step was to see what my fellow students wanted – if they would actually buy these new food items. I spent four months developing and testing a survey that would let students at Caledonia rank different food items, rate their price, and tell us how often they would buy each item. During this time, I met with Northern Health dietitians, shared the survey with other Healthy Living Youth Council members, piloted the survey with 10 students, and re-designed the survey to make sure that it was ready to go. In March, 461 of 700 Caledonia students completed surveys and then I started the long process of entering and analyzing results. By April, I had my results ready to go and met with the canteen teacher again to put them into action.

To start the food revolution, we put three healthy items — hummus & pita (by far the most popular option in the survey!), homemade soup, and homemade chili — on the menu once a week. We also provided samples of these items before selling them to increase interest.

It was really important to me to do this project in a thoughtful and sustainable way. For example, instead of going in and removing the very popular nachos, which surely would have caused a riot, I worked with the canteen teacher and Northern Health dietitians to add some veggies to the nacho plate and kept the price higher than the new, healthier items. Now, for the 2014-2015 school year, nachos have been taken off of the menu and no one seems to have noticed!

How is the project going now?

I learned a ton during a reflection period after the new items had made their way onto the menu. I thought carefully about the project and applied these lessons to new food projects for this year. Although my time on the Healthy Living Youth Council is done (I’m a mentor to new participants now), a friend and I started a Healthy Living Club at my school. In addition to carrying on with the canteen food project, which is working on a follow-up survey, we have a food and nutrition bulletin board with tips and recipes at school and are working on a mental wellness board, too. The hummus and pita dish is still available in the canteen and we are working with the new canteen teacher on some new recipes. And the nachos are gone!

Young man in a park in running clothes

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program highlights exceptional individuals like Seamus who are improving health in their communities. Nominate a Community Health Star in your community!

Where did your passion for food come from?

My Grade 8 foods teacher got me into cooking. By grade 10, I wanted to become a chef and looked into the educational options for that. My parents told me to take a year to think about my different options before committing to a program and in that year, I realized that I’m more interested in using food to help people, so now I’m hoping to become a dietitian.

Food is everything for me and I strongly believe that everything you eat impacts you. Eating healthy can improve your life and I feel like there is so much to learn from food.

What is your message to people wanting to promote health in their community?

You’re never too small to make a change. I’m just a country bumpkin but I feel like I did pretty well on this project! It was a little change in a big world, but that’s where you start. Even the smallest voice can push the snowball down the hill and create a big change!


 

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

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.

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Foodie Friday: Winter baking

Rural driveway lined with snow and frost

Warm baking tastes that much better on frosty winter days and cold nights! When you are baking, keep an eye out for sugar and fat content. Healthy baking options high in fibre and low in added sugar do exist! (Photo by Northern Health staff member Shellie O’Brien)

The winter weather has officially landed and with it, I find myself wanting to do more baking. On these cold wintery nights, there is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a warm baked good right out of the oven.

Unfortunately, many baked goods can be high in sugar and fat and low in fibre, which is why I make an effort to seek out healthier recipes for baked goods that are still as delicious as the originals!

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas and makes a great snack or dessert option. It can also be part of a quick breakfast when paired with something like fruit and yogurt to create a balanced meal! These bars are high in fibre and low in added sugar, but what’s even better is that they come together in less than 30 minutes including prep and cook time!

Chocolate PB Chip Oat Bars (from the Real Life RD)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar (original recipe calls for coconut palm sugar)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup milk (original recipe calls for almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips or peanut butter chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line an 8” x 8” baking pan with greased parchment paper.
  3. Process your oats into a flour using a blender or food processor.
  4. Add your oat flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl. Add the mashed banana, milk, and vanilla and gently stir until almost completely mixed. Fold in your chocolate chips. Spread onto baking pan.
  5. Bake the bars for 18-20 minutes or until the center is set and cooked through.
  6. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the parchment paper. Let the bars cool completely before slicing into squares.
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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Foodie Friday: Go-to blogs for quick and healthy recipes

Granola bars that have been baked in a muffin tin

Food blogs can be a great source of delicious and healthy recipes. What are your favourite food blogs?

It seems that in recent years, cookbooks have become a thing of the past. I hate to admit that, sadly, some of my favourite cookbooks have become coffee table decorations or bookshelf treasures rather than go-to sources for mealtime. With food blogging becoming ever-so-popular, it has become a habit of mine to flip open my laptop when I’m craving creativity in the kitchen or needing a quick and healthy supper. There are thousands of food blogs out there, but to get you started I’ve listed three of my favourites here.

The Lean Green Bean

I first started visiting this blog when I was a part of the “Foodie Penpals” program, but I quickly learned The Lean Green Bean had more to offer. The author, a registered dietitian herself, creates recipes that are meant to be quick, easy, and healthy and that use ingredients that you most likely already have in your cupboards or freezer. Many recipes include frozen vegetables or canned or dried beans – ingredients that are both accessible and affordable. As a dietitian, these two qualities are very important to me. Maybe I’m a sucker for snacks, but I also especially like this blog for the creative breakfast bars. See these Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Bars for a make-ahead breakfast idea.

Chocolate Covered Katie

I find myself visiting this blog frequently. Not only because the main focus is on treats with a healthy twist, but because the author, like me, has chocolate on the brain at all times. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to explore the entire recipe collection, but I have a good reason: I visit this blog specifically for the single-serve desserts. Single ladies, you know what I’m talking about! Next time you have a sweet tooth, try one of these Single Lady Cookies. Chocolate craving? No problem! Check out this One Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug or this Single Serving Mocha Chocolate Cake.

Oh She Glows

While I am not a vegetarian, a food culture of vegetarianism is on the rise and after three close friends became vegetarians (one vegan) I arrived at the Oh She Glows blog with a mission to find tasty vegan recipes made with familiar ingredients. The recipes you will find here are elegant vegetarian versions of classic dishes that are sure to please meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. I especially like this blog for the snack recipes. The author has dozens of recipes for muffins, granola bars, and healthy cookies that I have personally made staples to my day. For example, these Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars. Try mixing and matching the nuts and seeds to find your perfect fit – just keep the ratios consistent! Also, I use muffin tins when I make granola bars so I can skip the messy step of cutting when they come out of the oven.

Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars (from: Oh She Glows)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium/large bananas)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts – pecans and hazelnuts work, too!), chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish (approx. 8.5″ x 12.5″) and line with a piece of parchment paper so the bars are easier to lift out. I use muffin tins so that I don’t need to cut the bars later!
  2. In a large bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Place the rolled oats into a food processor (or blender on the lowest speed) and pulse until the oats are coarsely chopped (but still with lots of texture). Stir oats into the banana mixture.
  4. Chop the walnuts and cherries and stir these and the rest of the ingredients into the banana-oat mixture until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Press down until compacted and smooth out with hands until even.
  6. Bake for 23-27 minutes until firm and lightly golden along the edge. If you used a muffin tin like me, place dish on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, carefully loosen and remove granola bars, and cool. If you are using a baking sheet, remove granola slab and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then into the freezer for another 10 minutes. Slice into bars once they are cool.

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do and take some time to discover your own favourites. Feel free to share your favourites in the comment section below!

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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Life: Don’t get left behind

Football player scoring touchdown

Group environments and team sports helped Dan to get active again. What gets you moving?

There are many risks in life that we cannot control, but there are some we can control.

It is a little sad that it took a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) to start that train rolling for me, but here it is. In 2007, I exhibited some troubling symptoms and had them extensively checked out. The end result was MS. I am one of the lucky ones, I guess, since there have been no issues for me since the original event. With the shock of the diagnosis, I started eating better and slowly regained my interest in exercise.

But then, a position change at work and the arrival of our first child began to keep me very busy and my renewed focus on my personal health was pushed to the back of the line. As this work stress and new family stress increased, I slipped back into poor eating habits. I justified these habits by saying that I had a lack of time to prepare healthy meals. Now, I can stand up and say that my name is Dan and I am a stress eater. In the blink of an eye, I was over 350 lbs and my body hurt. I couldn’t kneel down to play with my children or walk with my family without extreme effort.

Jump forward to a change in employer and a new, supportive environment for workplace health. I could feel my sense of control increasing. I wanted to get active again but I struggled with going to a gym – it was not working for me. It took me a long time to realize what type of exercise was a good fit for me. I thought back to my university days and to playing on the rugby team, which had eventually led to me joining a men’s rugby team and winning three provincial championships. Then it hit me: right from high school (Go Prince Rupert Rainmakers!), I had always excelled at team sports in group environments. That’s what I needed back in my life to motivate me: groups and social support!

Fast forward to group fitness classes. I joined a gym to test the waters. Some old injuries resurfaced and tried to demotivate me, telling me “don’t do it, just rest.” But the functional fitness classes worked for me. I found a home and, wouldn’t you know it, the old injuries that I had relied on to stop me from getting off of the couch disappeared. I can now walk, run, and play with my kids and it feels great!

All of the things that I did in life that appeared as work when I was not healthy became easy and fun again. The weight loss that I achieved was not a goal of mine but a side effect. My story reminds me that there are always life and work events that pop up to slow down or turn back the progress to our personal health, so roll with the punches and plan your next move. I want to be around for a long time, not only for me, but for my family.

For more information and resources for men’s health, visit Northern Health’s Northern BC Man Challenge.

Dan Bomford

About Dan Bomford

Dan finds motivation through the effort expended by others. Group style fitness fits him well, as indicated by a long history of involvement in team sports: basketball, rugby, baseball, and handball. What fits you best? Finding the perfect work-life balance takes time and often risk. Currently, Dan is focused on his personal health and the health of his children and family. Cooking healthy meals for kids aged 5 and 2 is one of the most difficult tasks for Dan these days.

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Community Health Stars: Myles Mattila

A graphic that states, "Nominate a Community Health Star."

The Community Health Stars program aims to shine a light on northerners who are positively influencing health.

Biking, playing hockey, and hanging out with friends: standard fare for a 15-year-old male in northern B.C. Myles Mattila shares these interests, but it’s his other extracurricular hobby that makes him anything but your average teenager; in his spare time, Myles works to promote mental health in youth throughout the Prince George area.

Myles’s mental health work is directly connected to his love for hockey, exemplifying the impact that professional athletes can have as positive role models. A ninth-round draft pick of the Vancouver Giants in the 2014 WHL draft and a midget player in Prince George, Myles was inspired to begin working with mindcheck.ca after reading a newspaper article in the Vancouver Province. The article was about the two-year anniversary of Rick Rypien’s suicide, and the impact that the tragic loss had on his friend and Vancouver Canuck teammate, Kevin Bieksa. In the article, Bieksa talked about the Raise-it-4-Ryp Golf Tournament, a charity event that he hosts in honour of Rypien, which raised $23,000 dollars for mindcheck.ca.

Myles wears a mindcheck.ca shirt, promoting the mental health site.

Myles promotes mindcheck.ca.

“I related to the story,” said Myles of the Vancouver Province article, “because I had a teammate with mental health issues, and was unsure how to help. I came to the conclusion that my peers should have the resources they need to get help, regardless of the mental distress that they’re experiencing.” Having been exposed to mindcheck.ca, Myles would, like Bieksa, strap on a skate of a different kind – one that would help him cut through the stigma surrounding mental health issues in youth.

Mindcheck.ca provided an excellent starting point for Myles. The website – a partnership between Fraser Health, BC Mental Health & Substance Services, and the Provincial Health Services Authority – addresses mental health in a manner that is accessible for youth. It features a broad range of topics, including depression, mood and anxiety issues; coping with stress, alcohol and substance misuse; body image, eating disorders, and more. Offering a range of resources like quizzes, stories, tips, and helpful contact information, mindcheck.ca also has links for friends and family members of youth who are suffering from mental illness and would like to learn more.

Mental health is an often-overlooked health subject, affecting more people than you might think and, unlike many other health issues, there is a stigma surrounding the topic. In fact, according to the Canadian Medical Association, only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. A shocking number when considering that one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. Due to the stigma, two in three Canadians will suffer in silence and only one out of five children who require services will obtain them.

The importance of educating youth on mental health and wellness cannot be overstated. Mental health and substance use disorders are the primary health issues experienced by young people in their teens and early 20s. Additionally, 75% of mental health and substance use issues begin by the age of 24, often going unrecognized and untreated, which makes early identification vital to providing help.

Given the above statistics, you can imagine the tremendous challenges faced by youth looking for help. “There is stigma attached to youth,” said Myles, “and even worse is the stigma for a youth who also has mental illness. The belief can be that they are incapable of having insight into what they need so that then others speak for them without necessarily being their voice. While promoting mindcheck.ca, I have realized that talking is important for everyone to raise awareness about mental health. It makes it easier for everyone to open up and share their experiences when they are in need … breaking down the stigma of mental health, trying to make it an issue that everyone can talk about. ”

So, what is the message that Myles wants youth to take away from his presentations and the mindcheck.ca website? “…that they are not alone,” he said. “Many people struggle with mental illness. If they are struggling, they need to be aware that they have resources and contacts who can help them get through these difficult times.” He also recommends that anyone, youth or otherwise, who wants to champion the cause of mental health in youth can find promotional materials at mindcheck.ca.

Northern Health’s Community Health Stars

Northern Health couldn’t be happier to have someone like Myles as a voice for youth and mental health in our region and our first Community Health Star. Community Health Stars is a new and ongoing program that shines the light on members of northern communities who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to spread the message of personal health and wellness. You can nominate a person who you feel would make a great candidate for Community Health Star at northernhealth.ca.

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: Back to basics – scratch cooking

A whisk in a pot with chocolate pudding

Scratch cooking can be simple, quick, low cost, healthy, and tasty!

Many Novembers, I have stood in biting cold or sloppy wet snow to watch the local Remembrance Day parade process to the Terrace Cenotaph. I’m always moved to tears by our veterans, who serve as very visual reminders of the contributions made to keep Canada safe and free.

November 11th always adds perspective to my life and helps me reflect on what is important. It calls to mind the efforts of those at home during early war efforts, when food was scarce and the emphasis was on local production, preparation, and preservation. I think about how reliant we’ve become on convenience foods, supposedly for the sake of ease and saving time. However, I only have to pull out the old cookbook handed down to me by my mother to access simple and low cost recipes that are tasty and healthy. Homemade pudding is one example.

Store-bought puddings are often heavily packaged, list sugar as the ingredient present in the largest amount, include fillers and preservatives, and are made with milk that, unlike regular fluid milk, typically isn’t fortified with vitamin D.

Making your own pudding is quick. In fact, you can assemble the dry ingredients in the following recipe to make your own pudding mix to use later or, because it’s so quick, you can make it on-demand when the need for a tasty and healthy snack or dessert occurs. If you do make the mix, store it in a cool and dry place until you are ready to add the wet ingredients, as per the recipe.

Chocolate pudding topped with bananas

Adding fresh fruit makes this a balanced snack that includes two food groups from Canada’s Food Guide.

Chocolate Pudding

Makes four ½ cup servings

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

1. Add sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and flour to a pot. Whisk in 1 cup of milk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk in the rest of the milk. Continue to stir over medium heat until thickened.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.

2. Cool in the refrigerator or enjoy while still warm.  To make a balanced snack that includes two food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, top the pudding with some sliced bananas, pears, or strawberries!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Foodie Friday: Freezer-friendly meals

A picture of lentil soup serves as an example of a freezer friendly meal.

Soup makes a great freezer friendly meal!

Fall is a busy time with kids returning to school, sports and team activities starting up, and winter to prepare for – think snow tires and shovelling. When it starts to get cooler outside, our bodies often desire a hearty and hot meal. But how do we feed our desire for this warm and nourishing meal when we are strapped for time? Instead of reaching for the phone to order an expensive and less-than-healthy meal, reach into the freezer! There are many recipes that can be eaten hot from the oven or stove that also create tasty leftovers. These can be packaged up and frozen for a convenient meal solution for future busy times.

I like to freeze leftovers like the Hearty Lentil Soup recipe below. This is a complete meal in one dish that can be easily reheated on a busy evening. Carrots, celery, onions, and tomatoes cover your vegetable requirement, lentils pack a punch with plenty of protein and fibre, farmer’s sausage adds even more protein, and I add bacon because it’s just so darn tasty! In one serving (1/8 of the recipe) of this soup, the lentils alone provide 17 grams of protein and 11 grams of fibre. Getting enough protein is important so that our bodies can build and repair our hardworking muscles, especially after we use them to shovel the driveway! Aside from all of the numbers, this soup will fill your belly, nourish your body, and just simply make you feel cozy on a cold fall or winter night.

The recipe below has been adapted from Flavour First, a cookbook written by my dietitian idol, Mary Sue Waisman.

Do you have a favourite freezer-friendly meal?

Hearty Lentil Soup

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

• ½ pound (~4-5 strips) bacon, chopped into ½ inch cubes
• 1 cup farmer’s or Kielbasa sausage, coarsely chopped
• 1 cup onion, finely diced
• 1 cup carrots, finely diced
• 1 cup celery, finely diced
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 8 cups chicken broth or stock
• 19 ounce (540 ml) can diced tomatoes
• 1 pound (500 g) dry green or red lentils, rinsed well
• 1 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
• 2 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
1. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the bacon to cook. Stir often to be sure the bacon doesn’t become crisp. Cook for about 3 minutes to render some of the fat and then add sausage, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook and stir for 5-8 minutes until vegetables are tender and translucent but not browned.
2. Add chicken broth or stock, tomatoes, lentils, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils are soft, about 30-40 minutes.
3. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper.

References:

Recipe adapted from: Mary Sue Waisman. Flavour first: delicious food to bring the family back to the table. 2007. Centax Books.

Check out www.lentils.ca for more lentil nutrition facts and recipes.

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: The sweet and savory side to winter squash

Several types a squash are shown.

The variety of squash types gives you versatility in your meal planning.

The Sweet and Savory Side to Winter Squash

Much to my delight, winter squash have always marked the arrival of Fall. These festive vegetables are actually harvested in early fall and stored throughout the winter. There are so many varieties to choose from—acorn, butternut, kabocha, buttercup, hubbard and more. They often make me wonder why pumpkins get all the glory this time of year!

But with their hard rind, tough flesh, and often knobbly appearance it is not surprising that preparing winter squash might seem like a daunting task. With a few tips, you will be surprised at how easy it is to incorporate this hearty vegetable into your Fall and Winter meal repertoire!

Preparing Winter Squash

Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. You could also cut in quarters, wedges, or cubes. If the squash is too hard to slice, microwave on high for 3 minutes or look for pre-cut pieces at the grocery store.

Cooking Winter Squash

Just like a potato, there are many different ways to cook winter squash. They can be baked, steamed, stir-fried, microwaved, stuffed, or roasted. Roasting winter squash enhances flavour and is my preferred method because there is no peeling or chopping required! Simply bake in a lightly oiled roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until tender. Once the squash is done, you can easily scoop out the soft flesh.

Enjoying Winter Squash

There are endless ways to transform your winter squash into a delicious and healthy meal – both savory and sweet! Each type of squash offers a unique flavour, but can be easily substituted for one another in any recipe. Here are a few ideas:

Savory Side:

  • Make a colourful alterative to mash potatoes
  •  Use it for burrito filling – try  squash, black beans, avocado, and cheese
  • Add to your favourite pasta dish – toss diced roasted squash with pasta, olive oil and parmesan  or add pureed squash to homemade mac and cheese for a surprisingly creamy sauce
  • Add roasted squash  to soups, stews, or chilli – try pureeing baked squash with vegetable broth, and low-fat milk or soymilk for a delicious soup
  • Top a salad with roasted squash for a light meal – pairs well with dark greens, walnuts, cranberries and feta cheese
  • Create an edible bowl for leftovers with twice-baked stuffed squash

Sweet Side:

  • Enjoy with chopped nuts, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup for an easy and nutritious dessert
  • Mix with yogurt and pumpkin spice and layer with granola for a new take on yogurt parfait
  • Try squash for breakfast on oatmeal, pancakes or waffles

So, I challenge you to try a new winter squash recipe this Fall!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

As a Community Dietitian based in Terrace, Emilia supports 15 different aboriginal communities in the Nass Valley, Kitimaat Village and the Hazeltons. Emilia recently completed her dietetics internship with Northern Health as part of her dietetics training from the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about finding unique, client-centered approaches to supporting families in their current feeding efforts. In her free time, Emilia enjoys cooking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.

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Tales from the Man Cave: “Man Maintenace,” because men need tune-ups too

A man is seeing his family physician.

Regular “man maintenance” can help you live a healthier life.

Every day, we seem to hear the same general suggestions about how to live healthy – don’t smoke, moderate your drinking, avoid drug use, eat healthy and live actively. But maybe, as we men age, we should add “get it checked out” and “talk to someone” to that list.

We think it’s common sense to see your family doctor if your health is distressing you, but common sense isn’t always common, especially when it comes to guys and their health. Remember, health is one of those things you might not think of until it’s too late. However, with a few well informed truths perhaps you can avoid some of the nasty issues that are out there, waiting in the wings.

“Getting it checked out.”

For young men, one step towards avoiding testicular cancer is a self-exam; however, your GP is your best bet if you aren’t sure and is definitely your next step if you think there may be an issue. As for us older fellas, in each successive decade of life there are other tests and checkups we should have done, like blood pressure, cholesterol, and the less pleasant prostate and colorectal screening. Once again, your GP is the best person to talk to about what’s right for you.

“Talk to someone.”

Stress is unavoidable in modern life – pressure at work, trouble with relationships, and our own expectations can all lead to increased levels of stress. What is a guy to do?

Well, let me suggest that any time is a good time to talk to someone about stress.

A few words with your significant other or a close friend may be all you need. However, if it persists or even worsens, then you may need to see a health care provider. Stress can affect your sleep, appetite, concentration, mood, and more.  These things can actually lead to the early development of disease and they are signs that it is time to see a professional. To say that managing stress is important is an understatement!

What are some things that can reduce stress and help us deal with it in healthy ways? That everyday advice we mentioned is a start: healthy diet, be physically active for 150 minutes a week, don’t smoke. Also, remember to be social, make sure you have a healthy work and life balance, get enough sleep, and practise relaxation. I find relaxation tapes help and information on mindfulness is plentiful on the web as well. All of these things will help you take small steps towards a healthier life.

What do you do to reduce stress in your life?

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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