Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Brighten up your plate with local fruits and veggies!

I’m always amazed at the selection of local fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and gardens throughout the summer months!

Enjoying BC-grown produce is a great way to add variety and brighten up your plate with vibrant colours and fresh flavours. It can also be fun to explore some not-so-familiar (yet equally delicious) local produce. To learn more about the benefits of eating local, check out Marianne’s fantastic post: Enjoy BC’s bounty this summer.

lambs quarter wild spinach

Have you tried lamb’s quarters or wild spinach before?

One way that I’ve been able to put more local foods on my plate is by joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)  program in Terrace. This program allows community members to purchase a “share” of local produce from farmers before they plant their crops. Despite having a shorter growing season in northern BC, last week’s share included potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, mint tea, homemade pear jam, and a bag of lamb’s quarters* (*keep reading!).

I had quite the chuckle when I discovered that “lamb’s quarters” was in fact a vegetable – it’s a bag of mysterious dark leafy greens! According to my online search, lamb’s quarters is also known as goosefoot or wild spinach. It tastes similar to spinach, and can be enjoyed raw, steamed, or sautéed.

One of my favourite ways to eat spinach is as a creamy dip, so I decided to substitute lamb’s quarters in my signature spinach dip recipe. If you don’t have lamb’s quarters, no worries!  You can simply use fresh, frozen, or canned spinach.

spinach dip

Wild spinach puts the wild in this classic dip!

 (Wild) Spinach Dip

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of spinach or lamb’s quarters, washed
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup of yogurt, plain
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder or 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup parmesan or mozzarella cheese, grated (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the washed lamb’s quarters or spinach and cook until completely wilted.
  2. Let cool slightly and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Finely chop the lamb’s quarters or spinach.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the lamb’s quarters or spinach with the rest of the ingredients.

Serving suggestions:

  • Enjoy right away, or chill for 1 hour before serving to let the flavours combine.
  • I like to serve this dip with crackers, corn chips or bread, and veggies of my choice.

If you are looking to take advantage of more local produce this summer, here are a few of my favourite Foodie Friday recipes featuring local ingredients:

Do you have a favourite locally inspired recipe? Share in the comments below!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Food: a foundation for building relationships

Mother and daughter picking peas

Picking peas with mom? Cooking dinner with grandpa? An annual Canada Day family picnic? Food is a foundation for building relationships!

Take a moment to recall some of your favourite childhood memories. Do they have a theme? My fondest memories seem to have two things in common: they’re all associated with a sense of being loved, accepted, and cared for, and they all involve food!

Many of my childhood memories are of time spent at my grandmother’s house, which was always warm, inviting, and filled with the distinct aromas of freshly baked bread and sauerkraut. We raided the garden and gorged ourselves on raspberries, rhubarb, and garden peas – still among my favourite fruits and vegetables today. My grandmother constantly prodded us to “eat, eat!” more of her homemade perogies or honey cake and it was clear that was how she expressed her love for us.

I also have a great memory of peeling fresh peaches with my Mom to prepare them for canning. We had soaked the peaches in hot water and were using paring knives to remove the skin. This was my first attempt at wielding a paring knife, and I remember how my confidence grew as my Mom gently coached me. I also remember how special I felt to have been chosen to help her with that task.

Food-related activities provide many opportunities for personal connection, and research has shown that there are several benefits to eating and cooking with your family. Children and adolescents who have more frequent family meals tend to eat more nutritious foods, perform better at school, and have higher self-esteem. Getting your kids involved with meal preparation is helpful, too: teens who participate in food preparation tend to have healthier eating patterns.

Unfortunately, our busy lives can make it hard to find time to prepare and share regular family meals. But take heart – family meals don’t always have to be formal dinners around the dining table! The most important thing is to create opportunities to connect and to share your stories and attention.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with what works for your family – even if it’s just one or two family meals per week – and build from there.
  • Plan ahead to make things easier on hectic weekday nights.
  • Host a make-your-own pizza or burrito night.
  • If gathering everyone together for dinner just isn’t possible, join each other for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  • If after-school practices are scheduled around dinnertime, pack a picnic for the family to enjoy at the soccer field or baseball diamond.
  • Eating out? Ask everyone to put away their smartphones and tablets so you can focus on the meal and each other.
  • Start a new family tradition – maybe a brunch on Family Day or an annual chili cook-off on a summer long weekend?

For more inspiration, check out Better Together BC or the Family Kitchen.

Kelly Bogh

About Kelly Bogh

After spending many years in Ottawa and B.C.'s Lower Mainland, Kelly returned to her hometown of Prince George to complete her dietetic internship with Northern Health. One of the things she loves about Prince George is living in the "Bowl" and being able to get most places on foot! When she's not sifting through the research underlying dietary recommendations, she enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time with family and friends (including four-legged furry ones).

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Foodie Friday: Build your own quick and tasty wraps (and enjoy more time outdoors!)

The sun is shining, the temperatures are rising, and it finally feels like summer is just around the corner! The longer days mean that there is plenty of time to enjoy an outdoor adventure after work, or a BBQ with friends and family.

For me, a new puppy at home has made life that much more exciting (and busy)! Many of my evenings are spent romping in our backyard. In true puppy form, our little Arlo adores ripping up moss, jumping in our strawberry patch, and digging in the dirt. Our poor little strawberry plants!

Dog in strawberry patch with person watching while eating a wrap.

Arlo the puppy enjoys digging up strawberries while dietitian Emilia gets to enjoy her wrap.

I’ve also noticed that more time playing outside means less time spent in the kitchen. Luckily, I know that eating well does not need to be fancy or complicated. Takes wraps, for example! They are one of my favourite on-the-go meals and I’ve been enjoying them a lot lately. With so many combinations to choose from, this super quick and easy meal is sure to be a family favourite.

To get started, try building your own wrap by mixing and matching items from the following categories:

  • Wrap: tortilla, pita, or roti (a type of flatbread popular in India). Choose whole wheat wraps for added fibre and nutrition.
  • Protein: canned or cooked fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, pork, or beef (I like using leftover hamburger patties or roast chicken), shrimp, hummus, beans, or tofu.
  • Toppings: lettuce, spinach (I often buy the ready-to-eat bags), shredded carrots, avocado, sliced red peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, apple, or pineapple.
  • Cheese (optional): cheddar, mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese, or another favourite.
  • Condiments: mayo, mustard, pesto, salsa, hot sauce, etc.

Here are just a few of my favourite wrap/pita combos:

  • Jarred or smoked fish, lettuce, cucumber, and mayo
  • Hardboiled egg, chopped green onion, tomato, and mayo
  • Black beans or leftover ground meat, cheddar cheese, and red pepper with salsa and Greek yogurt
  • Chicken or turkey, sliced apples, cheese, spinach, and honey mustard
Wraps

Dilly salmon wraps are one of hundreds of wrap combinations that you can try! Just mix and match from Emilia’s list!

Dilly Salmon Wraps

Ingredients

Wraps

  • 1 cup salmon (jarred, canned, or leftover salmon fillet)
  • 4 large whole wheat tortilla wraps
  • Veggies of your choice (I used lettuce and red peppers)
  • Cheese of your choice (optional)

Dilly Sauce

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp dry or 1 tsp fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Mix the Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, and dill.
  2. Combine salmon with dilly sauce and mix well (you will probably have leftover sauce — it makes a great veggie dip, too!)
  3. Spoon salmon mixture onto each wrap and top with veggies and cheese of your choice.
  4. Fold in sides and roll tortilla up tightly.

You can serve this meal family-style: just prepare all the toppings and let kids (and adults) choose their own veggies and condiments. What fun!

More tasty and nutritious grab-and-go meal and snack ideas:

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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What can you do to support safe and inclusive school environments for children with food allergies?

The lunch bell rings and Johnny enthusiastically starts to eat his tuna salad sandwich, apple, cookie, and milk. As he is chatting with his friends, he suddenly starts to feel sick. His mouth feels itchy and his tummy starts to hurt. Johnny finds his teacher and tells her he is not feeling well. His teacher is aware that Johnny has a food allergy and recognizes the signs of a serious allergic reaction. She gives him life-saving medication and calls 9-1-1.

Students in classroom

Creating allergy-aware schools is everyone’s job! Students, parents, and schools all have a role to play!

May is Allergy Awareness Month: it’s a great time to talk about how we can create safe and inclusive environments for children with food allergies so they may safely eat, learn, and play.

In Canada, approximately 300,000 children have food allergies. The most common food allergens are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, seafood, wheat, and sulphites. Anaphylaxis is the most serious type of allergic reaction and can be deadly if untreated.

As a dietitian who has supported families with an allergic child, I understand that keeping your child safe at school can seem like a daunting task. I have also come to understand that prevention is not enough. While some schools will ask parents not to send foods with certain allergens like peanuts to classrooms, it is important that students and schools have the knowledge and skills to respond to allergic emergencies appropriately. Creating allergy-aware schools is everyone’s job!

What can schools do?

All school boards are required to develop an allergy-aware policy as well as an individual anaphylaxis emergency plan for each student with a serious allergy. In addition, schools can:

  • Work with parents to develop realistic prevention strategies. For example, some schools have “allergy-aware” eating areas while other schools have specific rules about allergens in the classroom.
  • Support ongoing training for all staff including teachers, bus drivers, and food service staff.
  • Consider non-food items for some class and school celebrations.
  • Take steps to ensure students with allergies are not bullied or left out.
  • Raise awareness about food allergies in the classroom, at school assemblies, or consider running a school-wide allergy awareness challenge.

What can parents and caregivers of children with allergies do?

  • Inform your school about your child’s allergy.
  • Provide your school with epinephrine auto-injectors, if needed.
  • Plan ahead for field trips and special events.
  • Teach your child how to protect themselves and reduce risk of exposure.
  • Read food labels carefully every time you shop and be aware of cross-contamination.
  • Guide your child as they learn to take on more responsibility for managing their allergy.

What can children with allergies do?

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after eating.
  • Do not share food, utensils, or containers.
  • Be careful with food prepared by others.
  • Carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times (by age 6 or 7 children are usually mature enough to do so).
  • Tell your friends about your allergies and what they should do in an allergic emergency.
  • Tell an adult as soon as you suspect an accidental exposure to an allergen.

Looking for more information about food allergies at school?

Here are a few of my top picks for resources and tools for parents, caregivers, or anyone working in and with schools:

Looking for personalized support? HealthLink BC’s Allergy Nutrition Service provides support to families who have concerns and question around food allergies. Just dial 8-1-1 and ask to speak with a registered dietitian.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Foodie Friday: Fiddleheads, a springtime treat

little boy picking fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a (delicious!) young fern

Besides the singing birds and the extra vitamin D from the sunshine, my favourite part of spring is the increased variety of locally produced fruit and vegetables that start to pop up in the grocery stores and farmers markets. By this time of year, I am aching for variety and freshness that can often only be found by buying local. To my excitement, the outdoor farmers market season has started in my community with the Prince George Farmers’ Market expanding outdoors at its downtown location as of late April. I love spending my Saturday mornings grabbing a coffee to-go and browsing the market for delicious produce, meat, eggs, and bread – yum. When does your local market open for the season?

When I was at the market in Prince George last Saturday, I noticed vendors selling bags of fiddleheads. Have you come across these where you live? A friend of mine from Vancouver first introduced me to fiddleheads several years ago and I’ve never looked back. I promptly bought two bags on Saturday and ate them later that day for dinner.

So, what is a fiddlehead?

Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a young fern. The safest and most delicious fiddleheads come from the ostrich fern. They grow in moist, shaded areas and are only available for a few weeks in the spring. To identify the ostrich fern fiddleheads, look for ones that are growing in a crown (or cluster) low to the ground, have a deep U-shaped groove on the inside of the stem, and brown, papery scales, which should be removed before eating. Check out this video for more information on identifying and harvesting fiddleheads safely.

Using Internet Explorer? Open the video in YouTube.

What do I do with fiddleheads?

wild filddlehead

Have you come across fiddleheads in your community?

Eat them! Fiddleheads are delicious and taste a lot like asparagus. They are a good source of vitamins A and C as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

They need to be properly washed and cooked before consuming as raw fiddleheads can make you ill. To prepare fiddleheads, wash them well in several rounds of cold water and ensure the brown scales are removed (the ones I got from the market were already cleaned). Then, either boil for 15 minutes or steam for 10-12 minutes before sautéing them for an easy side dish.

Easy sautéed fiddleheads

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 454 g-1 lb fiddleheads
  • 2-3 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare fiddleheads: Rinse several times with cold water and remove any brown scales that remain. Cover with plenty of water and boil for 15 minutes (or steam for 10-12 minutes).
  2. Heat butter or olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir.
  3. Sautee fiddleheads for 4-5 minutes until heated through.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
Tamara Grafton

About Tamara Grafton

Tamara is a registered dietitian currently working with the clinical nutrition team at UHNBC and in long term care facilities in Prince George. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she now lives the rural life on a ranch with her husband and young son. She has a passion for nutrition education, healthy eating and cooking. In her downtime, she enjoys reading food blogs, keeping active, and trying out new recipes on her family and friends

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Babies, solid foods, and allergies: What do you need to know?

Are you worried that your baby might develop a food allergy? I was. A baby is at higher risk of developing an allergy if they have a parent or sibling with a food allergy, eczema, asthma or hay fever, or if the baby has severe eczema. My husband had various nut allergies when he was young, many of which he outgrew, but he still has a strong reaction to Brazil nuts. Given my husband’s history, my daughter is at higher risk of developing a food allergy.

baby eating solids

Early introduction to common food allergens may help reduce the risk of children developing allergies.

You might be a bit nervous about introducing certain foods to your baby – I was! The foods most likely to be involved in food allergies are called “common food allergens.” They are:

  • Eggs
  • Milk and milk products
  • Peanuts
  • Seafood (fish, crustaceans, and shellfish)
  • Sesame
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts (almond, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.)
  • Wheat

As a dietitian, I have seen the advice on introducing common food allergens change – a lot! Years ago, it was thought best to wait to offer these foods until baby was a year old, or two years old, or even older. However, research over the past 10 years has shown us that there is no benefit to waiting that long. In fact, new research, especially research on peanuts, shows that earlier introduction may actually help to reduce risk of allergies. Wow!

What does this mean for feeding your baby? The most current research supports these guidelines:

  • Start offering solid foods when your baby is about six months old.
  • Offer foods high in iron twice per day; iron is very important for babies. Examples include well-cooked meat, poultry, and fish; cooked eggs, lentils, beans, chickpeas and tofu; and peanut, tree nut, and seed butters. For more ideas, see “Pumping iron: First foods for building strong babies”.
  • Don’t wait. You can offer common food allergens when baby is ready for solids, at around six months of age.
  • Worried about allergy risk? Introduce common food allergens one at a time (other foods do not need to be introduced one at a time). In the event of an allergic reaction, symptoms often appear within minutes of eating the food, but they can also occur hours later.
  • Worried that a food caused an allergic reaction? Stop offering that food and connect with your child’s doctor for a diagnosis. You can continue to offer other new foods to your baby, including other common food allergens.

When it was time to start our baby on solid foods, I was a little nervous about things like peanut butter. I made sure to offer these foods when my husband and I were both around, and I watched my daughter for signs of a reaction. Luckily, we have not yet seen any signs of allergy, and she has now been introduced a wide variety of common food allergens.

It was helpful to know where to go for help in case we had questions. Did you know that there is a Registered Dietitian at HealthLink BC who can support families who have concerns about food allergies? They are only a phone call away – just dial 8-1-1.

Looking for more information and support? HealthLink BC’s resource “Reducing Risk of Food Allergy in Your Baby” provides additional information on introducing common food allergens to infants.

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

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Foodie Friday: rolling into the summer season

I don’t know about you, but my taste for certain foods has been changing lately with the increasing temperatures. Longer and warmer days mean that my desire for fresh salads and cold items is definitely increasing. No longer am I craving hearty stews or soups!

The longer days are also bringing a lot of my friends out of hibernation. It seems like everyone is getting out much more and getting together for more barbecues and potlucks. I must admit, this sometimes leads to accidentally staying up a little later because of the prolonged sunlight, too.

When friends and family get together, I find it’s always fun preparing and enjoying meals together. This creates space to connect and learn new ways to create delicious meals. If you have children, including them in meal preparation develops cooking skills and also teaches them how to make healthy food choices. If you like to combine making and eating dinner with hanging with your pals, or you’re looking for a fun, healthy recipe to make with your kids, boy do I have an idea for you!

salad rolls, peanut sauce

In fact, I have two words for you: PEANUT SAUCE. Pair that with some salad rolls filled with whatever your heart desires and you have a fun, tasty, and healthy small meal or side dish for you and yours. My favourite peanut sauce recipe is the Orchid Lime Dressing recipe from the Whitewater Cooks with Friends recipe book. Once you try this, you will be hooked! Look for the Whitewater Cooks books at your local library! While this is one of my favourites, peanut sauce can be made with as few as 3-5 ingredients and can be a great addition to your pantry survival kit, too!

P.S Do you have a peanut allergy in your family?  Feel free to skip the peanut sauce and consider sweet chili sauce instead! Check out the most recent issue of Healthier You magazine for information on how to connect with an allergy dietitian by dialling 8-1-1.

Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn't at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.

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Foodie Friday: making recipe modifications work for you

I love to modify recipes, especially my baked goods, to use less sugar and oil, as well as to increase the fibre and protein. I’ve found that I can pretty reliably reduce sugar by half in most recipes. I usually add 1/4 cup-1/3 cup of ground flax seeds or oat bran to add fibre to cookies, muffins, and even waffle batter!  I have also read that 1/3 cup of ground flax seed in a recipe can reduce the need for added fat (oil) by 1-2 tbsp as ground flax seed contains heart-healthy essential fats. I also try to include a mashed fruit or vegetable into baked goods whenever possible, like in pumpkin muffins or Banana Oat Bran Loaf from the Dietitians of Canada Cook book: Simply Great Food.

flax seeds, spoon, glass dish

Flax seeds are a great source of essential fat and nutrients

This year, my kids and I cooked up lots of lentils (red and green) to try several recipes that were featured during Nutrition Month 2017.  Lentils are a great ingredient for my kids to see and use as they are high in soluble fibre, magnesium, protein and other important vitamins and minerals.

Combining my recent lentils kick with my own tendency to modify recipes, I modified this lentil granola bar recipe to reduce the added brown sugar (original recipe had 1 cup) and replaced half the oil with ¼ cup of agave nectar to balance out the moisture and sweet taste. I added raisins, sunflower seeds, and coconut to make them more nutrient dense and tasty.

My kids love measuring and mixing the ingredients.  Not to mention the enjoyment we had eating this healthy snack around the table. Try these soft lentil granola bars with your kids or grandkids for a satisfying snack!

P.S If you are making them together, consider making a short film and entering the Hands-On Cook-Off contest!

Lentil Granola bars – recipe adapted from Pulse Canada

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup agave or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 slightly beaten egg
  • ¾ cup lentil puree

Directions to make lentil puree:

  1. Wash/rinse red or green lentils well.
  2. Remove any blemished dry lentils.
  3. Add 1/3 cup lentils to 1 cup water and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes until well cooked.
  5. Stir often.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line a 10” x 13” baking pan with greased parchment paper.
  3. In mixing bowl combine rolled oats, sugar, coconut, walnuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients: oil, egg, syrup, vanilla extract, and lentil puree.
  5. Mix until just moistened.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly browned.
  7. Removed from oven and cut into 2” bars while still warm.
Melanie Chapple

About Melanie Chapple

Melanie works as a clinical dietitian in Primary health care in Fort St. John. After completing her dietetic internship in Vancouver, she fulfilled her desire to move up north in 2006 because of the rich opportunity to gain experience working in all practice settings as a full-time dietitian. Melanie has a passion for food and nutrition, specifically baking, eating healthy snacks and sharing recipes with her clients and coworkers. In her spare time, you may see Melanie cycling through the Peace region, walking, or pulling her kids on a sled during the six months of snow.

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Foodie Friday: Building Your Pantry Survival Kit

The idea of a “pantry survival kit” might sound a little overboard – after all, I’m not talking about traditional emergency preparedness or doomsday scenarios! I’m simply referring to everyday life where lately, I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water on the home front. My family seems to have a lot of extracurricular commitments when spring hits and I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way with many sports winding down and others ramping up – or maybe you’ve found yourself in the midst of final exams or peak work season. Whatever your extra time commitments may be, keeping a home-cooked meal at the top of your priority list might feel like a struggle.

When life gets busy, it gets even harder to plan ahead for healthy meals throughout the week. You may find yourself arriving at home only to find the fridge shelves emptier than your stomach! This can be the trigger for a quick drive to the nearest fast food joint or a speed dial takeout order. And this is where a pantry survival kit comes in. What is a pantry survival kit? It’s a recipe (or two) in your arsenal that can be cooked from pantry items exclusively! With this kit in mind (and in your pantry), you can have dinner on the table way before the pizza guy comes knocking.

fresh herbs, kitchen, pantry ingredients

A pantry survival kit helps avoid hunger disaster!

The benefits of a home-cooked meal are numerous: you’re more likely to consume higher amounts of fiber, heart healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals, as well as less sodium and trans fat. If you are feeding a family, cooking and eating together at home will help your children develop healthier eating habits as they grow into adulthood. You’re likely to save a few bucks as well and for the next month, cooking and eating together could even net you a cash prize through the  Hands-on Cook-off contest!

So, what’s the secret to building a pantry survival kit?  It all starts with a good recipe that appeals to you. Then, all you need to do is keep the pantry stocked with those ingredients. I’ve included one of my favourite pantry recipes below. I like this one because my whole family enjoys it and it’s quick enough to get on the table in about 25 minutes, especially with my kids helping to open cans, chop basil, set the table, etc…  The only “fresh” ingredients in this recipe are the garlic (which has a pretty decent shelf life) and the basil. I try to keep a few potted herbs growing on my window to brighten up my pantry meals but you could also substitute for dried basil.

Bow Tie Pasta with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes and Basil 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves of garlic, 1 minced and 3 thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for the pan
  • 3/4 lb of bow tie noodles
  • 2 14 oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can of navy beans (or other white bean of your choice), drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted (optional) water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the sliced garlic with the 3-4 tbsp of olive oil and set aside.
  3. Heat the tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and beans and bring to a light simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer until some of the liquid has evaporated and it is slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the basil. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  4. Serve the sauce over bowtie noodles and drizzle with the garlic infused olive oil.
Carmen Maddigan

About Carmen Maddigan

Born and raised in Fort St John, Carmen returned home in 2007, after completing her internship in Prince George. She has since, filled a variety of different roles as a dietitian for Northern Health and currently works at Fort St John Hospital providing outpatient nutrition counselling. In her spare time, Carmen can be found testing out a variety of healthy and tasty meal ideas. She also enjoys running, camping, and playing outside in the sun or snow with her family.

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Are “picky eaters” just “eaters in training”?: Tips to help build kids’ food acceptance skills

Child eating a cherry

Kids are often unsure about new or unfamiliar food. With time and practice, they can learn to eat a variety of foods.

It’s lunch time. You prepare a meal and sit down to eat with your kid(s). They eat all of the [food x] but leave [food y] completely untouched. What’s the deal? Is it always going to be like this? Why can’t they just eat a bit of everything? How do kids go from here (“rejecting” certain foods) to there (accepting a wide variety of foods)?

Come on a little trip with me!

Imagine you take a trip to an unfamiliar place. Somebody presents you with bread, cheese, and a bowl of … green, lumpy, semi-solid something. They gesture for you to eat it. You hesitate. You feel anxious. You don’t know what this is – you certainly don’t feel like eating it!

Stay on this trip with me. Imagine now that you eventually learned to like that green, lumpy, semi-solid something, and now you even look forward to when it might be served again! Whaaaat? How could it be? How did you come to accept, and even like, that food?

It could look like this:

First, you looked to see that other people were actually eating it. But you looked at the “semi-solid something” and decided that you were not yet ready to try it. The next week, it was offered again, and now it was a little less scary. Maybe you poked at it with your spoon. Later, you gave it a sniff. Then, you stuck your finger in it. Maybe someone told you what was in the dish. Maybe you had the opportunity to see it being prepared, and you even got to help. Eventually, you put a little in your mouth but then spit it into a napkin. You decided it was tasty, and that you wanted a little more of this … broccoli soup or green jello or guacamole or whatever this dish is in your mind.

Back to reality. Think of a time when you learned to like a new food. What helped you to learn?

Kids are often unsure about new or unfamiliar food. With time and practice, they can learn to eat a variety of foods. We can help to make this learning process feel safe.

Here are some things to try to support your kids to learn to eat a variety of foods:

  • Make the same meal or snack for everyone. Sit and eat together. Seeing others eat a food is a great way to learn about it.
  • Offer new foods with familiar foods. If they are not yet comfortable with one food, kids can eat from the other items at that meal or snack.
  • Serve new foods over and over, without pressure or praise. Kids may need to see a food 15 to 20 times before they decide to eat it.
  • Be honest about what you are serving. Kids need to experience foods in order to learn.
  • Teach your kids to politely turn down food they aren’t yet ready to eat.
  • Respect tiny tummies. Serve a small amount to start and allow seconds. Kids’ hunger and appetite change from day to day, meal to meal.
  • Involve kids in growing and cooking food, and in packing their lunch.
  • Praise kids on their table manners, not on how much or what they eat.
  • Expect that in time your “eater in training” will learn to accept a variety of food. They will learn at their own pace.

For more information, see: Coaching Kids to Become Good Eaters and The Picky Eater.

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

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