Healthy Living in the North

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Foodie Friday: Handling Halloween

Ingredients for stew recipe

Use some of B.C.’s delicious fall harvest vegetables to prepare a Moroccan stew this fall!

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are changing to beautiful colours of yellow, red and orange and it is getting darker earlier (way earlier) – all evidence that autumn is here. For many children, this means that one of their most anticipated holidays of the season is near: Halloween! Kids everywhere look forward to trick-or-treating on Halloween and this can be a dilemma for many parents who worry about the sugary treats that their kids will be eating.

I often remind parents in this situation of Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. Sugary treats in and of themselves are not the problem; it is when these treats replace healthy foods and are frequently eaten instead meals and snacks that they can be a problem.

Parents and caregivers are responsible for offering regular meals and sit-down snacks. In other words, parents decide what to provide and when to provide it. Children, in turn, are responsible for deciding how much to eat and whether or not to eat what is offered. This allows children to learn to self-regulate food intake (including sweet treats) by listening to their internal cues of hunger and fullness to decide how much to eat.

Now let’s apply the Division of Responsibility in Feeding to the pile of Halloween candy that your kids bring home on October 31!

As the parent or caregiver, you decide when to offer the treats. Maybe you will offer some with an after-school snack or perhaps as dessert a few times a week. When candy is on the menu, offer it along with the snack or meal and let your child choose what and how much to eat from everything that is offered. Eventually, the novelty of the candy will wear off and you will notice they will begin to eat less of the candy and more of the healthier options as long as you keep the structure of regular meals and sit-down snacks. Kids, like adults, crave variety when it comes to eating and will tire quickly of eating only the candy portion of their meal or snack.

How will you handle Halloween this year?

Another tell-tale sign of autumn is the fall harvest in our gardens, communities, and grocery stores! I myself love autumn because of the food we reap from the fall harvest: colourful winter squash from my garden, B.C. McIntosh apples (think homemade applesauce and apple pie!), and pears from the neighbours’ trees, to name a few.

The recipe below is a favourite dish in our house and I often make it before the trick-or-treating begins.

Moroccan Stew

Adapted from Dietitians of Canada‘s Simply Great Food

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 small to medium-sized butternut squash or 1 sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger root, grated
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can (19 oz / 540 ml) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 4 cups low-sodium broth

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, squash, ginger, cumin and cinnamon; cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas and broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until vegetables are just tender.
  4. Enjoy!
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

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.

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World Breastfeeding Week: One mom’s story

Child at breast.

With the support of a daycare, one Prince George mom has been able to keep up breastfeeding while balancing work demands. How can you support breastfeeding in your community?

October 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada. The theme for the week this year is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work. We all have a role to play in supporting mothers to balance work and family demands. For me, this story of a working mom in Prince George is a great example of how we can support breastfeeding and strike this balance. Many thanks to the mom who shared this story and photo with me:

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I was committed to finding ways to spend as much time with my son as possible, and to keeping up breastfeeding. So, as I interviewed and visited daycares, one of the most important questions I asked was whether the care provider was open to me visiting on my lunch hour to nurse my son. Both my previous and current daycares were very accommodating by providing us with a quiet and comfortable place to nurse. I’m proud to say that I’ve been spending lunch hours with my son for a full year now! Not only is it best for his healthy physical development, it’s also best to foster our attachment. And it’s a lovely midday break from the stresses and worries of work!

How can you support breastfeeding at home, at work, and in your community?

Stacy Hake

About Stacy Hake

Stacy is the Administrative Assistant for the Perinatal Program. She started with Northern Health at Mental Health & Addiction Services before moving over to the Northeast Medical Health Officer’s office and then onto the Perinatal Program. She lives and works in Fort St. John with her husband, two children and mother-in-law. When not working, she volunteers with her children’s dance/theatre productions and cheers during swimming lessons.

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World Breastfeeding Week: We all have a role to play!

Quote from article.

How can you support breastfeeding in your family, workplace, and community?

Canada celebrates World Breastfeeding Week every year from October 1-7 (check out the Government of B.C.’s proclamation of the week for 2015!). This gives Canadians the chance to acknowledge and promote breastfeeding as an important milestone on the road to lifelong health for both mothers and babies.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding in addition to complementary foods into and beyond the second year. The longer a baby is breastfed, the greater the health benefits. Unfortunately, many mothers wean their children early and the main reason for this is a lack of support.

We all have a role to play! The journey to successful breastfeeding requires the support of families, health care providers, and other community members. Families can show support by helping with day-to-day tasks so that the new mother can focus her time and attention on feeding her baby. Health care providers can encourage women to breastfeed and assist them to find skilled help if they have concerns. Community gathering places can show that they are welcoming to breastfeeding mothers. Northern Health’s Growing for Gold campaign provides window decals for businesses and facilities to show their support for breastfeeding mothers.

This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work”. The theme highlights the importance of supporting mothers to balance work and family demands. Workplace support not only helps the mother and family, but benefits employers through higher productivity, greater employee satisfaction and less employee absenteeism as breastfed babies get sick less often. Check out Breastfeeding and Returning to Work and the web-based Breastfeeding Buddy app from HealthyFamiliesBC with tips, tools, and videos to support breastfeeding.

Communities throughout northern B.C. are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in a variety of ways. Whether you are a breastfeeding mother, a family member, or simply interested in creating a community that is supportive of breastfeeding, I encourage you to acknowledge or join in with the celebrations in your community.

I’ve listed some of these activities below. What’s happening in your community?

  • Prince George: Mayor’s proclamation & Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 11:00 a.m. at the Northern Interior Health Unit (doors open at 9:30 a.m. for registration).
  • Quesnel: Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 11:00 a.m. at the Quesnel Child Development Centre (come early to register).
  • Hazelton: Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 11:00 a.m. at Starting Smart at the Grace Lynn Family Centre (behind Wrinch Memorial Hospital). Door prizes and a light brunch served after the challenge. Arrive at 10:30 a.m. or call ahead to register: 250-842-4608. You can also register and latch on at home, if transportation is difficult.
  • Fort St. John: Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 11:00 a.m. at Community Bridge (10142 101 Ave). Arrive by 10:45 a.m. to register.
  • Smithers: Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at Smithers Public Library (3817 Alfred Ave).
Karen Warner

About Karen Warner

Karen is currently working as a Lactation Consultant at UHNBC after a long career with Preventive Public Health. Karen's strong commitment to providing support to breastfeeding families is a result of what she has learned through her work over the years: that a healthy start in life is the first step in the journey to long term well-being. Promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding is key to influencing that healthy start. In her leisure time, depending on the season, you will find Karen crafting, gardening, hiking, cross-country skiing or just hanging out enjoying time with her family.

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Foodie Friday: Take the stress out of weekday mornings – busy morning breakfasts

Square of baked oatmeal and glass of milk.

Give your body’s energy factory the fuel it needs to support you throughout the day! Try Carly’s make-ahead baked oatmeal!

If you’re anything like me, you wake up on a workday morning and amble into the kitchen in search of breakfast. You may be thinking about the meetings you’ve got scheduled that day, the workout you are trying to squeeze in before work or making your kids’ lunches. Probably the last thing on your brain is a nutritious and satisfying meal to kick-start your energy.

But research shows that people who eat breakfast have more energy and better mental alertness and concentration for their workday. Think of it this way: overnight, when your body rests, so too does your energy production factory (your metabolism).When you wake up in the morning, if you don’t give your energy factory fuel (food) to work with, it won’t produce much energy. As a result, you’ll likely feel tired well into the day!

If you need a little more convincing of breakfast’s many benefits, I suggest you check out this article from Today’s Dietitian.

Because it’s so good both hot and cold and reheats well, let this filling and nutritious make-ahead breakfast take the stress out of your weekday morning routine! I like to make this ahead of time, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but you could also throw it together in less than 20 minutes while cleaning up from a weeknight supper if you’d prefer. This is a recipe I found on Epicurious – a foodie’s dream website with hundreds of well-tested recipes.

Square of baked oatmeal on a plate

This make-ahead baked oatmeal is delicious hot or cold and portions out easily for nutritious and filling weekday breakfasts!

Berry Banana Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup toasted, chopped walnut or pecan pieces
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups berries
  • 2 cups milk or milk alternative
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and half of the nuts. Set aside.
  3. In another mixing bowl, combine the milk, egg, maple syrup, melted butter and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish, cut bananas into 1 cm rounds and arrange evenly on the bottom of the baking dish. Scatter half of the berries into the bottom of the baking dish with the bananas. Evenly spread the dry oat mixture on top of the fruit in the baking dish. Evenly pour the milk mixture on top of the oats – make sure to get all of the corners saturated. Scatter the other half of the berries and toasted nuts on top.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden and there are no wet areas. Serve with additional melted butter or maple syrup to taste.

This baked oatmeal is scrumptious both hot and cold and lends itself well to reheating or travelling. To make breakfast a breeze, allow the baked oatmeal to completely cool, then cut into squares and portion into reusable containers or wax paper for transport on your busy mornings!

Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

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Foodie Friday: Easy mason jar parfait

Yogurt parfait in mason jar.

Mason jar breakfasts can pack a powerful punch and are super easy to grab-and-go! Try Rilla’s recipe or mix it up with your favourite fruits and nuts.

Mason jars are a great way to take your breakfast up a notch. Their fun presentation gives a sneak peek into a colourful, appealing meal before we actually dig in!

Mason jars can be used to store and transport your meal and can also be used for baking or shaking/mixing ingredients.

This cool idea makes portion control at breakfast easy, with the added bonus of a portable and environmentally friendly container! Make a mason jar your new favourite Tupperware or lunchbox.

Need an idea to fill your mason jar?

Mix up the goodness of quinoa with greek yogurt, fruit and nuts for a breakfast with some staying power. This meal combination has a healthy dose of good fats, protein and carbs to start your day off right!

This recipe is extremely versatile. Try using granola in place of quinoa, a variety of fruit in place of blueberries, or other nuts, dried fruit or nut butter in place of almonds! The options are endless, and ensure that you’ll never be bored with your breakfast meal again!

Easy Mason Jar Parfait

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup cooked and cooled quinoa
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ banana, sliced
  • 1 tbsp almonds
  • Pure maple syrup, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Prepare quinoa the night before as per package instructions. Cool overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Layer yogurt, quinoa, fruit and nuts and top with maple syrup to taste.

Try making these the night before or in batches for a quick grab-and-go breakfast in the morning!

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Foodie Friday: Turn up the heat! Cooking healthy meals on the BBQ

BBQ chicken, mango salsa, asparagus, and carrots on a plate.

Think outside the steak for the grill this summer! Erin’s jerk chicken recipe is a great option for a healthy and quick BBQ dinner!

Summer is here!

Hot weather invites you to enjoy the outdoors, and cooking is no exception. Unless you enjoy cooking in a hot kitchen while gazing out at the beautiful sunshine, it’s time to pull out the barbecue and get creative!

While I was in Vancouver, I ran a community kitchen as part of a local organization that empowered families to grow their own food and cook delicious and healthy meals from their bounty. We cooked everything on a barbecue, from cedar-planked salmon to homemade wild blueberry perogies, to show that anything is possible with a little creativity and improvisation.

When you think about barbecuing, are you envisioning a juicy steak with grilled potatoes and corn on the cob?

While that is definitely an option, I like to try new things on the barbecue and also look outside of the typical steak and potato meal for cancer prevention.

Eating a diet high in red meat has been shown to increase cancer risk and grilled or barbecued meat may further increase your risk of developing cancer. According to the Dietitians of Canada, when meat is cooked at a high temperature, like on the grill, fat can drip onto hot flames. This can cause flare-ups and cancer-causing compounds may be formed. To help keep healthy while enjoying your favourite foods on the barbecue, here are a few tips.

Tips for a healthy BBQ season

  • Choose kabobs or thin cuts of meat to minimize time on the grill.
  • Trim off visible fat to help reduce flare-ups.
  • Marinate your meats to reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds by 80-90%!
  • Barbecue at a lower temperature.
  • Trim off any burnt or charred pieces.
  • Opt for vegetarian items! Grilling vegetables doesn’t increase your cancer risk.

Last night, I enjoyed this spicy jerk chicken with mango salsa, using butterflied and marinated chicken for a quick and healthy summer dinner.

Chicken, vegetables, and rice on a plate.

Butterflied chicken (or small cuts of meat on a kabob) is one way to minimize time on the grill and make your BBQ healthier this summer. What are your BBQ favourites?

Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded 1 inch thick
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes
  • ½ tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced

Mango Salsa

  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Combine spices and lime juice together to create a paste. Rub over chicken and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Turn the barbecue on to medium heat.
  3. Make the mango salsa by combining mango, red onion, tomato, cilantro, lime juice and salt together in medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  4. Place chicken on the barbecue and cook for approximately 5 minutes, until golden brown. Flip chicken and cook on the other side until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.
  5. Serve chicken with mango salsa and your favourite sides.

Food safety is still important on the grill. For tips to keep barbecuing safe, check out tips from Health Canada.

Don’t feel like cooking? Check out Carly’s “full-meal-deal salad” for a quick summertime dinner.

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian with Northern Health's clinical nutrition team at UHNBC. Erin has a passion for growing and cooking food as well as teaching patients, clients and families about incorporating a balanced, wholesome diet into a healthy lifestyle. In her spare time, you can find her cooking up a storm, writing about food and nutrition, and growing vegetables at her community garden. During her dietetics internship, Erin explored the north from Fort St. John to Haida Gwaii, learning about clinical and public health dietetics with many adventures along the way.

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