Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Family Day weekend

Muffins on a table.

Research has shown that families who prepare and eat meals (or even snacks) together are healthier. This Family Day, try baking together!

It seems like only yesterday we welcomed a brand new year and now January is already gone!

With the hectic activity of our day-to-day lives, it sometimes feels as if life is gliding on by, like an ice skater on a frozen northern B.C. lake. Thankfully, a few years ago, the British Columbia government decided that we all could use a break in early February to rest, relax and have fun with family and friends. The aptly named “Family Day” statutory holiday is observed on the second Monday in February. This year, it falls on Monday, February 8.

You may already have some ideas about how to spend your day off. Maybe you’ll catch some extra zzz’s or take the family out to one of those frozen northern B.C. lakes for some skating, hockey or ice fishing. Whatever you decide, remember that one of the best ways to have fun with family and friends is with food!

Research has shown that families who prepare and eat meals (or even snacks) together are healthier; they have lower risk of depression, lower rates of obesity, and their children generally have higher self-esteem and better academic performance – to name just a few benefits. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of family meals, check out The Family Dinner Project. Get your whole family into the kitchen by asking your kids to wash vegetables, measure broth, set the table or (maybe for older kids) chop like a MasterChef!

This Family Day, plan to make and enjoy something delicious with your family and friends like these Carrot Coconut Pineapple Muffins. They’re perfect served warm out of the oven with a mug of hot tea or cocoa after a day spent gliding on a cold and frozen lake.

Recipe and photos by Marianne Bloudoff from her fabulous foodie blog: french fries to flax seeds.

Muffins in a muffin tin

Carrot coconut pineapple muffins are a great snack to prepare and enjoy as a family this long weekend! How will you spend this Family Day?

Carrot Coconut Pineapple Muffins

Makes 12.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (or dairy if you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 can (398 mL or 14 oz) crushed pineapple (including liquid)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin pan or line with paper baking cups.
  2. Combine milk and flax seeds in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, coconut, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in shredded carrot, until all coated.
  4. Add pineapple, coconut oil and vanilla to milk/flax mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined – lumps are okay!
  6. Divide the batter evenly in the muffin cups and bake for 22 – 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.

More tips and ideas for cooking as a family:

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.

Share

It’s your time to shine!

This month, we want to know how you are preparing for the future by investing in your health! Tell us (or show us) what you do to invest in your body, your mind, and your relationships for your chance to win great weekly prizes and a $150 grand prize! To inspire you, we’ll be featuring regular healthy aging content on the Northern Health Matters blog all month long!


As I watch my 69 year old mom come racing down the local sledding hill with my kids in tow, I am filled with pride and happiness. My children have the opportunity to spend time with their “Nana” in a fun and meaningful way because she is healthy and fit. I could just say that my mom has “good genetics” or “got lucky” but the truth is, my mom has taken care of herself over the years and now our whole family is enjoying the benefits.

But what does it mean to take care of ourselves as we age, and how can we put the messages we are hearing into action? It simply means that you take control over your physical health and start making choices that will improve your quality of life as you age.

Pie chart with three investment categories

The time to invest in your health is now! What are you doing to invest in your body, mind, and relationships?

If you’re wondering how to start investing in your physical health, here are some suggestions for getting started on the right foot:

Slow & steady wins the race!

  • Start with small amounts of activity and slowly build on your success.
  • Challenge a friend or family member to get active with you.
  • Never give up! Setbacks happen but don’t let them stop you in your tracks.

A healthy outside starts from the inside!

  • Get energized for your activities by enjoying a variety of foods. Focus on whole grains, fruits & vegetables, lean meats and lower fat dairy products.
  • Get organized. Planning meals in advance will help you make healthy choices and keep you focused at the grocery store.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water throughout the day can help you feel revitalized!

Now is the time to take advantage of northern living!

  • Snowshoe in the winter – start slow so you don’t fall in the snow!
  • Walk in the spring – take a friend … there is strength in numbers!
  • Try berry picking in the summer – wear a hat & bring a water bottle!
  • Go for a bike ride in the fall – don’t forget to protect your head!

As we enter a new year full of opportunity and hope, I challenge you to put the excuses aside and make a commitment to improving your physical health. It is never too late to get started and become the person you always imagined you could be! Tell us how you are investing in your health for your chance to win great prizes!

Invest in yourself … because you can’t afford not to!

Jaime Bauman

About Jaime Bauman

Jaime graduated from the UNBC Nursing Program in 2003 and she is currently working as a team lead for Preventive Public Health Nursing in Prince George. Jaime is passionate about health promotion and working with children & families in the early years. Jaime embraces all that northern living has to offer with her husband, two daughters and their Rhodesian Ridgeback, Jake. In her spare time, Jaime enjoys a variety of outdoor activities with her family including gardening, hiking and cross-country skiing.

Share

Promoting mental wellness: 10 tips!

Quote from article over a background image of a snowy branch.

How can you promote mental wellness in your community?

I grew up in a household with parents who faced mental health issues at many points in their lives. To the outside world, they tried very hard at looking perfectly “normal”, even when they had their down episodes. They were very functional and had decent jobs.

Talking about and promoting mental well-being is important because one can be mentally unwell and not be diagnosed with an illness. This is a common issue in our society. The reality is that 1 in every 5 Canadians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. Despite this, there is huge stigma associated with mental health. For more information about the scale and reach of mental health issues in Canada, check out this report by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Evidence also shows that sustaining our positive mental health in rural communities appears to be harder compared to urban environments. This is not because there is more mental illness in rural communities, but rather because there are issues such as personal factors with stigma and low mental health literacy. In order to reduce this barrier, it is important to increase awareness about how to promote mental health. Talking openly about these ideas can also reduce the stigma of mental health issues.

So, I researched some ideas to promote mental wellness and here’s what I found. I’ve included a list of my research at the end of the article if you’d like to read more!

Healthy eating and physical activity

  • A daily intake of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables was shown to decrease psychological distress.
  • Exercising has been shown to increase hormones that make you feel happier like endorphins and monoamines.
  • Exercising can also act as a distraction from negative thoughts that may bring down a person’s mood.

Find an emotional balance

  • Balance your emotions through emotional expression of a range of emotions.
  • People who are firm and rigid about their opinion and refuse to change their views can develop mental health issues.

Make time for self and others

  • People who have healthy, supportive relationships are also able to balance how much they spend time with themselves and others.
  • Time spent at work, play, sleep, rest, and exercise, should all be balanced equally to avoid mental stress.

Reflect on your emotions

  • Having emotional literacy helps an individual to maintain mental health; this means that it is important to be aware of our emotional triggers, find ways to manage our emotions, practice self-motivation, and have empathy.
  • Try talking to a friend, counsellor or reflecting upon yourself to find out what brings out negative emotion, and make a list on how to reduce stress.

Have a positive lookout

  • Having a positive attitude is very important to mental health. Positive attitude and healthy thinking go hand-in-hand; it’s about thinking about something in a balanced way – looking at a situation in all aspects then deciding how you feel about it.

So … can you think of any other ways to support mental wellness?

If you want more information or the chance to talk with someone, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association. If you’re in Prince George, their office is at 1152 3rd Avenue.

Thanks for listening, cheers to happy thinking!

References

  • Austin, W., & Boyd, M. A. (2010). Psychiatric and mental health nursing for Canadian practice. Ontario: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Gulliver, A., Griffiths, K. M., & Christensen, H. (2010). Perceived barriers and facilitators to mental health help-seeking in young people: a systematic review. BMC psychiatry, 10(1), 113.
  • Cattan, M., & Tilford, S. (Eds.). (2006). Mental health promotion: a lifespan approach. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
  • Mental Health Commission of Canada (2010). Making the Case for investing in Mental Health in Canada.
  • Paykel, E. S., Abbott, R., Jenkins, R., Brugha, T. S., & Meltzer, H. (2000). Urban–rural mental health differences in Great Britain: findings from the National Morbidity Survey. Psychological medicine, 30(02), 269-280.
  • Richard, A., Rohrmann, S., Vandeleur, C. L., Mohler-Kuo, M., & Eichholzer, M. (2015). Associations between fruit and vegetable consumption and psychological distress: Results from a population-based study. BMC Psychiatry, 15.
  • Stuart, M. (2004). Promoting a family’s physical and mental health and well-being. Promoting the health and well-being of families during difficult times. The University of Arizona Cooperative extension.
  • Talen, M. R., & Mann, M. M. (2009). Obesity and mental health. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 36(2), 287-305.
Grace Gu

About Grace Gu

Grace is a fourth year nursing student at the University of Northern British Columbia. Grace stays healthy by eating healthy, exercising daily and listening to music and singing in her car. She enjoys going to church and staying in touch with her spirituality to find deeper meaning of life. She likes to spend time with her cat and family and enjoys helping people out in any way possible. Grace wants to work in the mental health field as her nursing specialty focus.

Share

10 most popular blog posts of 2015!

Collage of past blog photos

What was your favourite blog article of 2015?

I love this time of year! Why? Because I absolutely love browsing all of the “Top 10” and “Best of 2015” lists and videos circulating around the Internet!

I think that there’s something really cool that reveals itself through the most-clicked, most-watched, and most-read pieces of content. It’s a neat glimpse into what has inspired, intrigued, and captivated others and I always end up learning a ton from those stories, images, and videos. For me, the 10 most-read blog posts from Northern Health’s blog are no exception!

So, without further ado, here are the 10 most-read blog posts from the Northern Health Matters blog in 2015:

#10: Foodie Friday: Veg out for dinner tonight

#9: Introducing Spirit, the Northern Health mascot!

#8: Excellence in Northern Health nursing: Valerie Waymark & Leslie Murphy

#7: Northern Health welcomes the Canada Winter Games to northern B.C.

#6: Community Health Stars: Wayne Mould

#5: For a great full-body workout, try Nordic walking – and choose your training partners with care!

#4: Making Christmas food hampers healthier: You can make a difference!

#3: Introducing a unique book on Indigenous determinants of health

#2: Excellence in Northern Health nursing: Barb Schuerkamp and Linda Keefe

#1: Love our bodies, love ourselves

Thanks for reading in 2015! We can’t wait to share more great healthy living stories with you in 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.

Share

Family health over the holidays

In the now-classic Canadian tale of holiday mayhem, Stuart McLean’s Dave Cooks the Turkey, befuddled husband, father, and record store owner Dave realizes with alarm (on Christmas Eve) that not only has he been tasked with cooking the Christmas turkey – but that in fact this means he should have actually purchased one. While amusing to hear, Dave’s ensuing story of holiday-prep turmoil may have been a difficult lived experience. Balancing family and workplace commitments while shopping, cooking and entertaining make this time of year busy and stress may not be avoidable – but there are ways we can manage holiday pressures end enjoy the season.

The Canadian Mental Health Association offers some great, practical tips on staying grounded, calm and capable during the holidays. As they say, it’s hard to think of Peace on Earth without peace of mind!

Family wearing snowshoes

What traditions or activities will you try this season to connect with family and friends? The Lamont family (2015) enjoys some winter snowshoeing!

Plan ahead. If you’re entertaining, use the “keep it simple” strategy. Try menus you can make ahead of time or at least partially prepare and freeze. Decorate, cook, shop, or do whatever’s on your list in advance. If you’re visiting (or supporting your guests), consider a plan for getting home safely at the end of the festivities – many communities offer special holiday transportation services and/or free ride programs like Operation Red Nose. Then you can really relax and enjoy visiting friends, relatives and co-workers.

As much as possible, organize and delegate. Make a list and check it twice. Rather than one person cooking the whole family meal, invite guests to bring a dish. Kids can help with gift-wrapping, decorating, baking, or addressing or decorating cards.

Practice mindful eating and drinking. The holidays are great time for the giving and receiving of delicious nibbles and drinks. Eating “one more cookie” or partaking in “one more drink” are normal parts of holiday celebrations but be mindful of how your body is feeling. You can help maintain your regular sense of well-being by eating regular meals and snacks and engaging in enjoyable physical activity. This is a great time of year to combine indoor pleasures with outdoor fun-times like snowman-building or rambles through now-sparkling neighbourhoods!

Stay within budget. Finances are a huge source of stress for many people. Again, eliminate the unnecessary. Set a budget, and stay within it. A call, a visit or a note to tell someone how important they are to you can be as touching as and more meaningful than a gift. You can also enjoy free activities like walking or driving around to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, or making your own decorations or presents. Craigslist and swap events are great places to find inexpensive brand-new items, and excellent-condition used items.

Remember what the holiday season is about for you. Make this your priority. Whether it’s the usual holiday advertising that creates a picture that the holidays are about shiny new toys, always-happy families and gift giving, remember that this season is really about sharing, loving, and time spent with family and loved ones. Develop your own meaningful family traditions that don’t have to cost a lot of money. Also, remember not to take things too seriously. Finding fun or silly things to do, playing games or watching movies that make you laugh, playing with pets, and spending time alone or with a partner or friends are all good ways to reduce stress.

Invite others. If you have few family or friends, reach out to neighbours. Find ways to spend the holidays with other people. If you’re part of a family gathering, invite someone you know is alone to your gathering.

Connect with your community. Attend diverse cultural events with family and friends. Help out at a local food bank or another community organization.

When the weather outside is frightful… Some people get the winter blahs each year, and a much smaller number (2-3%) develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Paying attention to nutrition, exercise and sleep and being careful with alcohol are also important if you have a history of depression. If your low mood carries on into the New Year and starts to affect your daily life, you should see your family doctor.

Dave’s family did enjoy a turkey in the end, albeit one achieved through rather non-traditional means involving a hairdryer, a hotel, and a bottle of scotch. Dave somehow managed to deliver on his commitments to his family, but had he been better at delegating and sharing his tasks, he may not have spent precious time ladling gravy on top of lightbulbs that night to make the house smell like he actually cooked the bird.

This is a time of year we may all catch ourselves making big promises – and we would be well-served to remember that delivering on small ones, like simply enjoying each other’s company, has more substantial effects in the end. Enjoy your holidays, be they in company of family, friends, faith or in quiet contemplation.


This article was written by Andrea Palmer in partnership with Dr. Sandra Allison, Northern Health Chief Medical Health Officer. A version of this article first appeared in the NCLGA newsletter.

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

Share

A splendid – and safe! – holiday meal: Tips for safe turkey cooking

Cooked turkey

When it comes to turkey and meat, keep in mind two safety tips – temperature control and eliminating cross-contamination – and you and your guests will enjoy a splendid and safe meal this holiday season!

‘Tis the holiday season – such an exciting time! Many of us will have family and friends over, often to dine. But if someone gets sick from a meal that we made, well now that holiday spirit just won’t be the same, will it?

That’s why I want to share safe food handling tips so that you and your good company can continue having a happy holiday. Since winter holidays mean turkey dinner for many, I’ll focus on that.

A 2006 study in Quebec found that a third of raw turkeys tested were positive for Salmonella and Campylobacter. Salmonella and Campylobacter are bacteria that are commonly found on poultry that can make you sick if the food is not prepared properly. Consuming undercooked turkey is of particular concern for children, the elderly, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals as they are more likely to experience illness and experience it in more severe forms.

So it’s really the luck of the draw when you purchase that raw turkey. You cannot tell if it has bacteria like Salmonella or Campylobacter. Rather than play against the odds, it’s important to play it safe by preparing it safely! The following food safe practices boil down to two subjects: temperature control and eliminating cross-contamination.

If you purchase a fresh turkey, make sure it is kept in the fridge at 4 degrees Celsius or colder and cooked within 2-3 days after purchasing. If the turkey is frozen, it can be thawed safely in the refrigerator or under cold running water. In both instances, it’s good practice to keep the turkey stored in its original plastic wrapper to prevent any potential cross-contamination.

Washing hands, utensils and cutting boards before and after contact with the turkey (or any other raw meat for that matter!) are also key to preventing contamination of the bird and other foods. At the same time, recent research says “don’t wash the bird” as splash from the washing process can travel 3 feet or more and contaminate the counter, utensils and any food dishes within that zone. You don’t want to have raw turkey juices on the salad fixings! We want to deliver the turkey into the oven with as little cross contamination, splashing and dripping as possible.

How can you tell your food is done? Visual cues are unreliable. The only sure way to check is to use a probe thermometer and check the internal temperature of the turkey. Your entire turkey and the stuffing must reach at least 75 degrees Celsius (167 F) to be safe to eat. If your turkey is done but your stuffing isn’t, remove the stuffing and cook it separately.

The goal of these tips is to leave as few opportunities as possible for the bacteria to grow and to minimize cross-contamination to other foods. In that way, you and your merry company can enjoy both a splendid meal and holiday!

Happy holidays!

Alicia Parayno

About Alicia Parayno

Alicia is an Environmental Health Officer at the Vanderhoof Public Health Unit. Born and raised in Metro Vancouver, Alicia wanted to experience more of B.C. so, after finishing her education at BCIT, she completed a practicum in Prince George in 2014. Since she enjoyed her northern B.C. experience, she was ready to jump at the opportunity to return to Northern Health the following summer. During her spare time, Alicia likes to walk, hike, cycle, occasionally run and ski when she can. She also enjoys baking, attempting to crochet and having teatime – more than once a day.

Share

Foodie Friday: The humble but nutritious squash

This time of year I find myself turning to comfort foods. Perhaps it’s the cold weather or maybe it’s the darker days, but I find myself turning more to casseroles and stews, rather than salads and sandwiches.

Stuffed squash on a plate

For Rebecca, stuffed acorn squash is a go-to comfort recipe for the winter. What healthy recipes do you turn to during our winter months?

Today, I want to share one of my comfort recipes that my daughter and I love! My daughter loves being able to eat this dish right out of the squash shell. Try it with your kids and I’m sure they’ll love it, too!

Winter squash come in a number of varieties and are widely available in the grocery store this time of year. They’re a great, versatile vegetable that is quite shelf-stable, lasting months if kept in a cool spot. Squash are a nutrition powerhouse, too. Most are very high in vitamin A, fibre, potassium and magnesium. Most commonly, squash are used in soups, stuffed, mashed as a side dish, or used in pie (mmm, pumpkin!).

Beef-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Yields 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 small acorn squash
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ lb (500 g) ground beef
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp celery*
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground sage
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup cooked rice
  • ¼ cup cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Cut squash in half and remove seeds and membranes. Place squash cut side down in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Add water and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 F for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserts into the flesh easily.
  2. Meanwhile, cook beef, onion and celery over medium heat in a saucepan until the beef is no longer pink. Stir in flour, salt and sage until well blended. Add milk and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in rice.
  3. Transfer squash to a baking sheet and place flesh side up. Fill cavity with meat mixture. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with cheese and bake for 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

*I didn’t have celery, so I used red pepper instead.

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.

Share

Healthy holiday eating

Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet.

Make your holiday meal even more nutritious this year! Include lots of colourful veggies like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and beets!

Christmas is an exciting time, often filled with celebrations, parties, family, and friends. It’s also a time to share traditions, which often involve food. Holiday meals offer the opportunity for family members and friends to prepare and share a special meal together, and to learn from each other in the process. Even young children can help by doing things like washing vegetables, making paper place mats, setting the table, pouring water, and helping to clean up.

Looking at most holiday movies or commercials these days, we are made to think of holiday meals as always being rich and heavy. Think again! They actually have great potential to be nutritious and delicious! A meal of ham or turkey, vegetables, buns or stuffing, and dessert has a good chance of having 3-4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, making it a balanced meal.

Here are a few suggestions to make your holiday meal even more nutritious:

  • Offer sweet potatoes instead of, or alongside, white potatoes.
  • Include other colourful veggies like carrots, Brussels sprouts, and beets.
  • Boost up the stuffing by using whole wheat bread and adding cranberries or chopped apple, walnuts, and finely chopped carrots and celery.
  • Consider a dessert that includes fruit or dairy, such as a fruit crumble or milk-based pudding.

Some people worry about how much they eat at these special meals. Remember, healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day – it’s about your overall approach to eating. Give yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy!

On the day of the holiday celebration, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack patterns that incorporate healthy choices so that you can listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Buffet-style meals can often leave you feeling overfull from wanting to try a little bit of everything. Instead, survey your options and choose those things you really want to try. You can always come back for more if you are still hungry.

Remember to take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly and enjoy the time with family and friends. The holidays are about the whole experience – building a snowman, admiring light displays with your family, playing a favourite board game – not just what’s on your plate!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

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

Share

Foodie Friday: Holiday pecan pie balls

It’s that festive time of year! A time for anticipation, socializing, giving and joy! It’s also a time to dust off the recipe box to create some of your favourite dishes for your friends and family as many traditions are based around food!

Maybe you’ve been invited to different gatherings over the next few weeks – office parties, gatherings with friends, and family dinners. Do you have an old stand-by recipe that you bring to these get-togethers? Or are you looking for something new and exciting? Or maybe you’re short on time? Have no fear! Try this super easy and fast recipe that has only three ingredients! And believe me, it will impress.

Rolled balls on a plate.

Pecans, dates, and vanilla are all you need for this holiday treat that packs a nutritional punch! Try them today!

How does this recipe compare to other baking? Well like with any sweet treat, a couple of these balls will do. But nutritionally, these little balls are powerhouses!

  • Pecans are a great source of healthy fats that are great for the heart, vitamin E which helps prevent disease, and a whole bunch of other vitamins and minerals that promote health. (Not to mention they are also delicious!) When you roast pecans in the oven, the flavour they develop tastes amazing.
  • Medjool dates are moist, sweet and meaty fruits that are gooey and delicious. Dates are a great source of fibre, potassium and antioxidants, all of which help keep the body running the way it’s meant to run! Look for them in the produce section in a square container.

This recipe is allergen-free except for nuts.

Holiday Pecan Pie Balls

Makes about 12-14 one-inch balls.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/8 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 5-7 minutes or until toasted in colour and smelling fragrant. Watch them carefully because they burn very quickly! Let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove pits from the date by making a cut down the side with a sharp knife. The long pit will come out easily.
  3. Place dates, pecans, salt (if using), and vanilla in a food processor. Pulse until fairly smooth.
  4. Pinch a small amount out of the bowl and roll between clean hands to form a ball.
  5. Store in the fridge until ready to serve! Enjoy!
Amy Horrock

About Amy Horrock

Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Amy Horrock is a registered dietitian and member of the Regional Dysphagia Management Team. She loves cooking, blogging, and spreading the joy of healthy eating to others! Outside of the kitchen, this prairie girl can be found crocheting, reading, or exploring the natural splendor and soaring heights of British Columbia with her husband!

Share

Making Christmas food hampers healthier: You can make a difference!

Cans of non-perishable food items

Are you donating food to an organization in your community this season? Choosing healthier food options is very important for households living with food insecurity as they have a greater risk of poorer health and increased chronic conditions.

December is a month we look forward to for all the wonderful holiday celebrations, sharing with our families and friends, and for giving. Sadly, not all families are financially stable enough to have the basic necessities they need, such as food. In communities across northern B.C., hard-working organizations are gearing up for food drives. This year, I want to challenge you to make an even bigger difference in the lives of families across our region by donating healthier foods to these initiatives.

If you, your family or an organization you belong to are donating to food banks this year, I encourage you to focus your donations on healthier foods for families. Food banks really need healthier food donations so they can make healthier Christmas food hampers for the groups they serve.

What do I suggest? Use Canada’s Food Guide! Here’s the shopping list I came up with:

  • Non-perishable and nutritious food suggestions for meat and alternatives (which provide essential protein, vitamins, and minerals) include: canned salmon, tuna, sardines, chicken, beef chillies, ham, corned beef, a variety of beans (brown beans in tomato sauce, kidney, garbanzo, mixed beans), and peanut butter.
  • Non-perishable and nutritious food suggestions for vegetables and fruit (which provide essential vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates as well as fiber) include: canned tomatoes, mixed veggies, peas, green or yellow beans, corn, beets, and fruit such as peaches, pears, mixed fruits (with no added syrup or pear juice) and apple sauce.

Highly processed foods are often high in fat, salt, and sugar so choose the more nutritious items if you can.

Why are healthier food donations so important?

Choosing healthier food options is very important for households living with food insecurity as they have a greater risk of poorer health and increased chronic conditions. This concept – food insecurity – is an important one to think about this holiday season.

For many of us, financial stability is something we enjoy and may even take for granted. This is not the case for many families and they can become food insecure. Food insecurity exists:

Whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain.” (Hamelin, A., et. al., 2002)

This is the case for 1 in 8 households in Canada. This rate is even higher in homes that receive their income from minimum wages, part-time jobs, workers compensation, employment insurance or social assistance; are First Nation, Métis or Inuit; have children (especially with a lone mother); are homeless; are new immigrants; or have chronic health problems. Food insecurity is caused by financial constraints when income is too low or unsteady and there is not enough money left over to pay for enough healthy food after paying for necessities such as housing, utilities, transportation, and health expenses.

Look up your local food bank to find out where and when to drop off your healthy food donations for this season of giving. The Prince George Citizen recently profiled four local Christmas Food Hamper programs in Prince George.

Loraina Stephen

About Loraina Stephen

Loraina is a population health dietitian working in a regional lead role for external food policy, which supports initiatives to develop healthy eating, community food security and food policy for the north. Loraina was born and raised in the north, and has a busy lifestyle. Having grown up enjoying food grown from family gardens, hunting, and gathering, and enjoying northern outdoor activities, she draws on those experiences to keep traditions strong for her family, in her work and at play.

Share