Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Beat the heat with homemade fruit pops!

Families in a park.

Looking to stay cool during your next summer picnic, event, or festival? Try making your own popsicles!

Much of northern B.C. has been enjoying some beautiful weather these past few weeks. I have been loving relaxing in the sun, reading a book or listening to music.

I recently attended the Edge of the World Music Festival on Haida Gwaii. It was a beautiful hot and sunny day with not a cloud in sight; a perfect day to lay out a blanket and chill out while listening to some great music.

I was overjoyed by the nice weather, but I quickly realized I would not be able to enjoy the music without something to keep me cool. Ice pops to the rescue!

When I was a kid, I remember my mom making homemade ice pops in plastic molds. At the festival, I was delighted to find someone selling homemade ice pops like the ones my mom used to make. It was just what I needed.

Since then, I purchased my own ice pop moulds and have started experimenting with different flavours. One of my favourites so far is this recipe for watermelon mint popsicles. They taste delicious and fresh and are a smart alternative to many store-bought ice pops that are high in sugar. A quick scan online shows that many popular ice pop brands have two to four teaspoons of added sugar per serving!

Watermelon slice

Sarah is a fan of watermelon-mint popsicles. What combinations will you try?

Watermelon mint popsicles

Recipe adapted from Zoku.

Don’t have moulds? Ice cube trays and cut pieces of firm straws can do the trick!

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (about 3½ cups) seeded, cubed fresh watermelon
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • Sweetener of choice (optional – if your watermelon is sweet, you won’t need to add sweetener. If you want a sweeter base, simply add a little sweetener to taste.)

Instructions

  1. Make the watermelon base: In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth.
  2. Assemble popsicles: Insert sticks and pour the watermelon base until almost full. Let freeze completely, then remove the pops and enjoy.

If you enjoy these, start experimenting with different fruit combinations or try using various types of milk as the liquid base. One of my favourite flavour combinations is coconut milk and pineapple. Last year, Amy showed us her strawberry-coconut variety! What combinations will you try?

Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Summertime patio snacking

Guacamole

Patio season has come early in northern BC this year so it’s time to think about healthy snack options for when you’re out enjoying the sun! Carly’s go-to is strawberry mango guacamole!

The sun is shining, the days are getting longer, and across northern BC, patio furniture and mosquito lanterns are being hauled out of storage. Patios and lounging tend to go hand-in-hand with snacking so this summer, consider including some healthy choices to go alongside your patio snack favourites!

Here are some of my favourite patio snacks:

  • Veggie tray: Consider making your own at home with your favourite veggies, or keep it real simple and pick one up from the produce department of your local grocery store.
  • Fruit skewers: Cool, crisp and refreshing fruit can be artfully arranged on bamboo barbecue sticks for individual serving, no-bowl-needed, patio snacks.
  • Cheese and crackers: With so many interesting varieties to choose from, get creative with this simple platter. Try a new cheese from the deli (or just go with standard cheddar) and stock up on whole grain crackers.
  • Air popped and lightly seasoned popcorn: Popcorn is a whole grain and can be easily flavoured with spices from your own cabinet – try garlic or onion powder, dill, paprika or even nutritional yeast.
  • Hummus and pitas: Hummus is protein-rich and easy to make at home with a blender or food processor and it pairs perfectly with oven-toasted pita triangles.
  • Guacamole and chips: For a variation on the traditional stuff, try this fruity summer guacamole from one of my favourite cookbooks, Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

Strawberry Mango Guacamole

Adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients

  • 2 medium avocados, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 fresh mango, pitted, peeled, and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped hulled strawberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • Corn chips, for serving

Instructions

1. Combine all ingredients except for the corn chips in a bowl.

2. Enjoy!

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: A hiker’s power food

I admit it: I’m a little sad to see my snow sports and equipment go into an early retirement this year. However, there’s one activity in particular that I’m more than happy to get an early start on this year: hiking! Northern B.C. is known for its stunning wilderness and unparalleled hiking trails. As a Vancouver Island transplant, I have an immense appreciation for the outdoors but have yet to discover the vast network of outdoor trails that northern B.C. has to offer. If you see me daydreaming at work while gazing out of the window, you can bet that’s where my mind is wandering!

Cookies on a plate

Because of their energy boost, fibre content, delicious flavour, and packable qualities, the Power Cookie is a staple of Karli’s hiking meal plan!

One of the most important parts of hiking, as well as any outdoor activity that makes you break a sweat, is getting proper fuel and nutrition to stay energized. Depending on how long and how intense your hike is, you can burn a pretty significant amount of calories each day. On overnight hikes, it’s especially important to plan your meals to make sure you’ve brought enough food to eat while still considering how much weight you’re carrying. Check out Mountain Equipment Co-Op’ websites on backcountry meal planning and backcountry cooking for awesome tips and meal ideas.

One food has remained a staple in my hiking meal plans for as long as I can remember: the Power Cookie. I make a batch of these little energy balls for hiking for a few reasons:

  • Oats, whole wheat flour, and applesauce give your body the carbohydrates it needs to refuel energy stores and fibre to help digestion.
  • Dried fruit, dried coconut flakes, and orange zest give these cookies a sweet and tangy taste.
  • They’re easy to make and pack into the trails!

The Power Cookie

Yields about 20 two-inch cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 ½ cups large-flake oats
  • 1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup diced dried apricots
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, and eggs. Blend well. Stir in the applesauce.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this mixture to the applesauce and mix well. Stir in the almonds, oats, coconut, apricots and cranberries. Ensure the mixture is well-blended. Chill the mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Form the dough into 1″ x 2″ bars or balls and place on a large baking sheet. Press each one down with a fork to flatten slightly.
  5. Bake on the centre oven rack for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden brown. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.
Karli Nordman

About Karli Nordman

Karli is a Dietetic Intern completing her internship throughout Northern Health. She has had a growing interest in food and nutrition for as long as she can remember and is a big advocate for a food first approach to overall health and happiness. Her passions are evenly divided between her career path and being outdoors - which makes northern B.C. the perfect place to both learn and explore.

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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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Foodie Friday: Leftover pumpkin? Here’s a healthy go-to snack!

No-bake energy bites in a bowl.

The season of sweet treats is coming soon so it’s a great time to try a new healthy, go-to snack and use up some leftover pumpkin in the process!

As fall comes to a close and the winter season begins, your taste buds may also be shifting gears in preparation for all things Christmas. Sugar cookies, fudge, and candy canes are among the treats that many of us tend to expect during the holidays! These treats can be hard to avoid so, in preparation for this abundance of goodies, I’m carrying forward a favourite healthy fall recipe as a go-to healthy snack.

Use up those leftover cans of pumpkin puree or, better yet, put your pumpkins from Halloween to good use in this recipe that can be enjoyed any time of the year!

Full of healthy fats, fibre and protein, this quick grab-and-go snack is the perfect choice any time of the day. It’s guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth and nourish your body with good nutrition to get you through your busy day!

Pumpkin no-bake energy bites

Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Yield: About 25 one-inch balls

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (about 1 cup) chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds or flax seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (dry, not cooked)
  • 1 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  1. Combine the dates, honey, pumpkin puree, chia or flax seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and combined.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Once the mixture is cool (and easier to work with), use a spoon to shape it into your desired size of energy balls (the recipe should yield about 25 balls if you aim for one inch in diameter).
  4. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Tip: Instead of balls, you can also press the mixture into a parchment paper-lined pan, let it cool, and then cut into bars.

Tip: Try adding some chocolate chips to take the decadence factor up a notch!

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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