Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Lentil Soup

food; healthy eating; nutrition

Batch soups make delicious meals – and can cost only pennies a serving!

As a single mom, I understand the value of a dollar and how expensive food has become. However, I don’t let this stand in the way of preparing and serving healthy food. With a little effort, I manage to stay on budget while not sacrificing nutrition and flavor. Here are a few tips I find helpful:

  • Read the flyers to find out what’s on sale. Make sure you know if it really is a good deal or just regular price.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time, so you only buy what you need.
  • Try a vegetarian meal, like the recipe below, once a week as meat is often one of the most expensive grocery items.
  • Buy foods that are in season; they are usually cheaper and tastier!
  • Make a grocery list and bring it to the store with you, to prevent impulse buying.
  • Buy only what you need. If you are a small family, the huge bag of potatoes really isn’t a deal if you throw out half.

Try this family favourite: my 4-year-old daughter loves this thick smooth soup with crackers or a biscuit. This soup is budget friendly with a per pot cost of about $2.24 or per serving cost of $0.22.

Food Fact: Lentils come in red, green and brown; they are easy to use as they don’t require pre-soaking. Lentils are an excellent source of fibre and a good source of protein, magnesium, potassium and folate.

Lentil Soup
(Makes 10 1-cup servings)

  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 10 cups of water
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • ¾ cup celery
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup butter or non-hydrogenated margarine

In a large pot combine lentils, water, salt, pepper, bay leaf, cloves and cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Cut up carrot, onion and celery into small pieces. Combine the vegetables, with the garlic and butter/margarine in a small pan and cook for 10 minutes; add to lentils. Simmer everything for 2 hours. Discard the bay leaf and cloves. Put soup through a blender or use a hand blender to puree. Enjoy!

For more ideas, the Dietitians of Canada has some great budget-friendly cooking tips.

What are some of your great and affordable meal ideas?


A recipe for family meals

healthy eating; food

All hands on deck makes family meals easier and fun!

If you are like most busy families today, the thought of family meals might send you screaming to the hills, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Family meals don’t have to be perfect.  Start with what your family already eats and just have everybody eat it together. Once family meals become routine, use Canada’s Food Guide to help add variety.


  • One or more family members – remember, you are a family even if you are just one!
  • Food
  • A place to eat


  1. Turn off all electronic devices. Remove toys, homework, books and other distractions.
  2. Sit down together and let everyone pick and choose from what you’ve provided in amounts that they like.
  3. Take time to enjoy the food and your time together.


Why not make cooking family meals a family affair? Have the kids help out in the kitchen. It may take more time in the beginning, but will save time in the long run as their skills develop and they take on more responsibilities. For example, kids can help plan the meals. Allowing kids to include the foods they like will make it more exciting for them to help out and more likely that they will eat the meal.

Also, you can assign tasks to each family member depending on when they get home and their abilities:

  • Younger kids set the table.
  • Older kids peel and slice the vegetables.
  • Experienced kids bake, broil or sauté the fish, chicken or meat or meat alternative.
  • Everybody helps with the clean up so that you can all get to your extra-curricular activities on time.

Family meals set the example for healthy eating. They help kids and adults become competent eaters who learn to like a variety of foods and are able to guide their food choices and intake based on their feelings of hunger and fullness.

As a bonus, I wanted to share with you a quick and tasty dish that my family likes to make on a busy week night: Quick Shepherd’s Pie


  • 4 potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey*
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots and celery
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen vegetables, thawed

*Substitute the turkey with beans, lentils or chick peas for an added source of soluble fibre.


  1. Cook then mash the potatoes with a little milk and margarine.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey, onion, carrots; cook, stirring, until the turkey is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour and oregano over the mix and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and frozen vegetables; bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.
  3. Ladle the stew into 4 bowls and top with the potatoes.

(This recipe was adapted from Eating Well Magazine Online:

Having kids help out in the kitchen saves time, family meals set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Can you think any other benefits?

Beth Moore

About Beth Moore

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.


Infographic: What is healthy eating?

As you know by now, March is Nutrition Month in Canada. We hope you’ve enjoyed some of the healthy recipes we’ve been sharing so far this month (like the spicy bean wraps and homemade pizza dough)!

Healthy eating is, of course, about proper nutrition, but it’s so much more! What we eat affects our own physical and mental wellness, our families, our communities, and more. If we have an unhealthy diet, we know that this is a major risk for developing a chronic disease or condition. Northern Health’s position on healthy eating offers a look at the importance of and the current status of healthy eating, as well as how we aim to improve this (and how you can help).

We wanted to highlight some of the main points of our healthy eating position in a more visually pleasing way for you. Take a look at our infographic on healthy eating – and consider how you approach your own personal relationship with food!

Healthy eating Infographic

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is regional manager, health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) and moderates all comments for the NH blog. When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.


Making it easy: the rule of “fave five”

healthy eating; food; recipe

Simple ingredients for simple (and fast) suppers!

Planning to eat healthy is always a good goal, but many of us don’t have the time or desire to be spending hours in the kitchen every day preparing a healthy meal from scratch. Recipes can call for a long list of ingredients, many of which we may not have on hand in the pantry or fridge, and require time for preparation, such as washing, chopping, grating, soaking, mincing, etc. Without planning in advance, these meals can be challenging to pull off. Having a few go-to recipes that can be made in a hurry is an easy solution for when you’re in a pinch!

When we think quick and easy food, we typically think of convenience or fast foods. Convenience meals and fast food are typically prepackaged, processed and often high in sodium, fat and calories. Making meals at home lets you control what ingredients you use, make healthy substitutions, and be flexible with the recipe depending on what is available. This can mean a delicious and nutritious meal that you can feel good about!

Making a meal with five ingredients or less cuts down on time spent on planning, purchasing and food preparation. Using simple ingredients that are often in our kitchen, meal making can be quick, easy and healthy!

To get you started, I’m sharing with you a personal favourite of mine: Spinach and Feta Frittata (adapted from a recipe from the Dietitians of Canada).

Makes 10 servings

  • 1 package (10 oz/300 g) fresh or frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1½ cups cubed peeled potatoes
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup feta cheese

-Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

-Spread in potatoes and spinach in 13- by 9-inch (33 by 23 cm) glass baking dish, lightly greased.

-In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Pour over vegetables and stir gently to distribute. Sprinkle evenly with feta.

-Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until eggs are set.

Food fact: Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate and calcium! Find new ways to include this nutritional powerhouse in your diet regularly. Add it to soups, casseroles, pasta sauces, smoothies and salads.

Do you have any “fave five” recipes?

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!


Foodie Friday: Spicy bean wraps

A well-stocked pantry can help with last minute, healthy meals.

A well-stocked pantry can help with last minute, healthy meals.

It’s 5 o’clock… do you know what you’re having for dinner? If you’re anything like me, you have no idea!  You may think, “I might as well go out to eat or get some take-out on the way home,” a decision that takes a toll on the pocket book and may not agree with your health either.  But what if you could look into your cupboards and create simple, satisfying, and healthy meals in a hurry?

Here are a few convenient items I keep stocked in my pantry, fridge, and freezer for quick meals:

  • Canned beans and lentils (chickpeas, black beans, pinto) – I just drain, rinse, and add them to a salad, soup, or wraps. There are more recipes at Pulse Canada.
  • Cheese – simple to shred and always a great addition to a pasta dish or a wrap.
  • Eggs – so quick and versatile to make omelettes, frittatas or an egg salad sandwich. has many more recipes.
  • Frozen vegetables – some of my favourites include colourful vegetables that inspire the appetite, like red peppers, baby carrots and Brussels sprouts. I microwave them and sometimes add a bit of chili flakes, honey and lemon juice for a zesty flavour. In my opinion, this is the ultimate veggie recipe site!
  • Frozen whole wheat tortilla wraps – always an easy meal – stuffed with your favourite ingredients, which for me includes bananas and peanut butter!

Try this chili-flavoured bean wrap and see how quickly you can get dinner on the table tonight!

Spicy bean wraps
Makes 3 servings


1 tbsp canola oil

½ small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced or ½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 – 14 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

Dash of salt and pepper

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Shredded cheese, if desired


  1. HEAT canola oil in large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
  2. STIR in garlic and chili powder and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in beans and chicken broth and cook until beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
  3. MASH beans with a potato masher or the back of the wooden spoon, adding more broth if needed.
  4. SEASON mixture with salt and pepper and stir in cilantro.
  5. Top with shredded cheese if desired and serve with corn or flour tortillas.

Variations on the recipe:

  1. Dairy free: use Daiya non-dairy cheese as a topper
  2. Want more meat? Replace half the mashed beans with cooked ground chicken or beef.
  3. Other beans? Black beans or Romano beans would work well in this recipe.

Source:  Pulse Canada

Judy April

About Judy April

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


Diverse bodies are healthy bodies

healthy bodies, diverse bodies, move for life

Accept your body at its current size and shape and then enjoy your body by moving and eating in ways that support your health.

Growing up in outport Newfoundland, everyone was the same: the same skin colour, spoke the same way, attended the same church, and all without cable TV or the Internet. Needless to say, this did not provide an opportunity to know diversity. When I moved to Toronto in the early 1990s, I remember standing on the corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets and being overwhelmed by the diversity of people all around me. Overall, Canada ranks high for accepting diversity, especially to culture, language, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Where we, and the rest of North America, fail is with accepting size diversity.

Society, fueled by the media, tells us that bodies (male and female) should look a certain way – a way that very few people can achieve.  However, that doesn’t stop people from trying and the costs are great:

  • In a study of 5,000 teens, more than half of girls and a third of boys engage in unhealthy weight control behaviours.
  • Teen girls who diet are at 324% greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet.
  • 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
  • 98% of females are unhappy with their bodies.
  • Canadians spend more than $7 billion per year on diet programs, diet books and diet pills.
  • However, evidence tells us that 98% of people who lose weight will regain the weight and more.

Despite what TV makeover shows might suggest, the human body is not easily transformed.

Body shapes and sizes are the result of many factors beyond what one eats and how much one moves. For example, genetics, life stage, environment, cultural norms and socioeconomic status all influence body shape and size. In my 20 years as a registered dietitian, I have worked with many people who eat well and are fit and healthy but do not match society’s “ideal” body.

Body size and shape is not the determining measure of one’s health. To support health, wellness and positive body image, try these approaches:

  • Respect and care for your body. Accept your body at its current size, shape and capabilities.
  • Eat for well-being not weight loss. Listen to your body and eat according to hunger, fullness and satiety cues, nutritional needs, and cultural and family traditions.
  • Be active in your own way to support energy, strength and stress management.

For more information about challenges that youth are faced with when it comes to healthy eating, go to

How do you measure your health? When do you feel most healthy?


Data sources:

Neumark-Sztainer, Story, Hannan, Perry & Irving, 2002. Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics, 112(4), 900-906;  findings from Project EAT (population-based study of approximately 5000 teens).

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!


Get social and eat healthy

fresh food, pizza, whole wheat crust

Pizza is a fun way to gather with friends in the kitchen and make healthy foods together.

Juggling full-time paid work with a busy home life can test my ability to prepare, share and eat tasty, nutritious foods with family and friends. I’ve found it helps to have a few things in place to make it more likely that a fairly balanced family meal is made and served in my kitchen most nights—although frozen pizza sometimes makes an appearance, too!

Here is what works for me:

  • Make a plan for the week’s suppers and post it on the fridge door.
  • Use the plan when grocery shopping so I have what I need.
  • Cooking once and eating twice. I never make just one pan of lasagna, pot of soup or batch of spaghetti sauce. I make two: one to eat and one goes in the freezer for another meal.
  • Making cooking go further. I make a big batch of oven roasted veggies that might get served with a piece of BBQ chicken and quinoa, but the leftovers get added to a pasta sauce, top a pizza, or get pureed with milk to make a soup.

Where I fall down is being social around food. The extra shopping, cooking and cleaning needed to host friends for dinner can put me off—and I know my friends feel the same way. To get around it, we’ve hosted “cook together” nights: we agree on a theme and then each family brings whole ingredients to one house to prepare, cook and eat together.

My favourite so far was the pizza party I hosted. I made whole grain pizza dough and salad dressing and others brought a topping for the pizza and a salad item. The result? Pizza with a pesto-infused sauce, topped with cooked red potatoes, chopped mushrooms, peppers, onions and tomatoes, and Parmesan and Havarti cheeses. Paired with a salad of leafy greens, grated beets, berries and toasted nuts served with my favourite blueberry salad dressing. Yum! Beyond the great food, the laughs and shared experience of hanging out and rolling pizza dough, slicing veggies and grating cheese was so much fun … and we all carried the leftovers home!

How about planning a cooking night with your friends? Here’s my pizza dough recipe to get you started:

Homemade Pizza Dough

1 cup                                      whole wheat flour
1 cup                                      enriched white flour
1 (28 gram) envelope         quick rise instant yeast
1 tsp.                                      salt
1 tsp.                                      sugar
¾ cup                                    hot water (heat for a minute in the microwave until 125 – 130°F)
1 tsp.                                      oil

  1. In a food processor, mix the flours, yeast, salt and sugar.
  2. While running the food processor, add the water and oil and blend until a ball is formed. Continue running for one minute to knead the dough.
  3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, cover and let rest 10 minutes. Roll out to form one large (12”) pizza crust. Add your favourite sauce and toppings and bake at 450°F for 10 – 12 minutes. This dough recipe can be frozen.

(Source: The Family Table by Marie Breton and Isabelle Emond, 2007.)

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!


March: a focus on food

food, healthy eating, food skills, cooking

The eternal question: what’s for dinner? We’re here to help!

March is national nutrition month, as declared by the Dietitians of Canada. The theme this year is to Simply Cook and Enjoy! Food and meals are a great way for families and friends to connect and what a better way than with a whole month dedicated to helping you build skills and confidence in the kitchen with food.

Stay tuned to our blog this month for an exciting new development “Foodie Friday.” Every two weeks we will present you with a recipe that is approved by our very own northern dietitians. It’s almost like having a personal dietitian develop recipes for you. The recipes they suggest will use ingredients that you can find in your grocery store, but also – when the seasons allow – local foods in creative and tasty ways.

Of course, Foodie Friday will be in addition to the regular blog posts. This month, we will regularly feature practical tips and tricks that you can use to solve the never ending question: what’s for dinner?

In addition to staying tuned to our blog and social media channels for tips and tricks about cooking and enjoying food, you can follow the Dietitians of Canada on their website, blog, Facebook (DietitiansCAN) and Twitter (@DietitiansCAN).

Happy cooking!

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.


Health at Any Size

self-image, weight bias, weight stigma, health at any size

A big part of being healthy is feeling good about yourself. How is that impacted by others?

Living in a small town where you are known by your work role (I’m a registered dietitian) can sometimes be a challenge. Awhile back, a stranger approached me in the grocery store, peered into my basket and said, “Just making sure you’re following your own advice,” and walked away. I can brush this incident off knowing that what was in my basket was in line with what I believe and say about healthy eating. This position includes a variety of foods – the foods highlighted in Canada’s Food Guide, but also chocolate and the occasional summer hot dog roast. But, this got me thinking about how we are judged by the foods we eat and this can impact what we eat, how we view ourselves, and – ultimately – our health.

“Fat” is not a four-lettered work. It is a descriptive word like short, tall or blond. Being fat is no more negative or positive than being thin. Healthy bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes; sometimes these bodies are fat and sometimes they are thin.

Unfortunately, weight bias (negative assumptions, beliefs and judgments based on body weight) and weight stigma (being devalued based on your body weight) are more common than we’d like to admit.

No matter our size or weight, we all have the right to health. When I hear people talk about “getting healthy,” their first step is most often to try to lose weight. This comes from three very common myths:

  1. Weight loss will improve health – Strategies to lose weight are not always healthful. Attempts at weight loss are associated with increased rates of disordered eating and overall long-term weight gain. Studies have shown that weight “yo-yo”ing is more harmful to health than being at a stable, higher weight.
  2.  Fatness causes disease and early death – Studies show that people in the “overweight” body mass index (BMI) category live longer than those in the “normal weight” category and that poor health is more likely at the extremes (very “underweight” and very “obese”).
  3.  Weight management is about energy balance – Eating less and moving more is thought to be the magic bullet to lose weight, but this doesn’t consider things like family history, personal dieting history, socioeconomic status, the environment and the many other factors that impact one’s weight.

Research tells us that people who are the victims of weight bias and stigma are at risk for poor body image, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, anxiety and suicide and are more likely to avoid medical care, experience stress-induced illness, avoid physical activity and engage in unhealthy eating behaviours. That doesn’t sound like health to me. We would all benefit from this prescription for life:

  • Eat well
  • Move daily
  • Hydrate often
  • Sleep lots
  • Love your body
  • Repeat for life
  • Let your weight settle where it is meant to be

 Weight bias and stigma must stop. Have you noticed weight bias in your day to day life?

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!


Seedy Saturday in Prince George

Seedy Saturday in Prince GeorgeA star is born and we named it kale. It’s funny how food trends come and go, then cycle back around in a different disguise. We must recognize that the media plays a big role in how we live and what we eat. Journal articles, newspapers and T.V. stations pooled together to target kale as their latest victim. The media has cloaked this green leaf veggie in a sequined shawl and thrown it on the run way for the world to see in a new light. But how “new” is it?

Kale has been grown and eaten around the world since 2000 B.C.  It likes to bath in bright sunlight and grows best in moist soils. It flourishes in colder climates and can withstand light frost. When grown in northern BC, it can be harvested from August into November – depending on when the snow sticks. For these reasons, it’s easy to understand why so many northerners grow and enjoy eating this hardy vegetable.

What makes it good for me?
Kale is a ‘dark green’ leafy vegetable high in vitamins, minerals. Vegetables are highly promoted in Canada’s Food Guide and bring bright color and delicious tastes to our plates. Kale can taste bitter to some people so zest it up by stir-frying it with garlic, lemon juice and pepper or add it to your winter soups! Explore the internet to find recipes that tempt your taste buds!

Now that you know what all the fuss is about, what’s the next step?
Seedy Saturdays of course! If you haven’t heard about these community events before, let me bring you up to speed. Seedy Saturday in Prince George (other communities across BC also have them in the winter) provides you with lots of great information you need to get growing a healthy garden. This is a great opportunity to possibly pick up some kale (and other) seeds and plant them for the summer. You can bring a friend along to listen to enthusiastic workshops outlining effective ways to grow your own food. By attending this event you are supporting local farmers and contributing to the local eating initiatives in BC. If you are living in an apartment and don’t have access to a garden … don’t sweat! There are often options available to rent out garden spaces. Connect with your local community gardens networks.

Seedy Saturday is organized by Community Gardens Prince George and supported by the Exploration Place as a Heritage Week event: Saturday February 22, 2014 from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at Exploration Place, Prince George.

Celebrate local food, build community, learn new skills, and taste the difference!

Laura Ledas

About Laura Ledas

Laura is UBC Dietetic Intern completing her 10 month internship with Northern Health. Even during the Prince George winter, Laura dreams about her summer garden. She loves spending time being active outdoors and is looking forward to enjoying more seasonal vegetables as the weather begins to warm!