Healthy Living in the North

Manage your munchies & fuel up: 5 tips for Nutrition Month!

March is Nutrition Month in Canada. For the last two weeks, dietitians Marianne and Rebecca have been sharing their tips for small, nourishing changes that we can all make to boost our health.

This week, they’re offering five more tips to help you on your 100 Meal Journey. Don’t miss the tips for week one and week two.

Bowl of nuts.

Try to keep treat-type snacks out of sight so you’ll be less likely to nibble. Nourishing snacks like nuts can be kept within reach!

Manage munchies! Keep treat-type snack foods out of sight so you’ll be less likely to nibble.

Studies show you are more likely to choose available, easily reached foods, so try these tips to make the healthy choice, the easy choice:

  1. Keep nourishing snacks (e.g., hardboiled eggs, cut-up veggies, yogurt, nuts, whole grain crackers) on an eye-level shelf in the fridge or cupboards so that something healthy is the first thing you see.
  2. Put high-fat, high-sugar treats like cookies into non-transparent containers at the back of the fridge or cupboard so they’re out of sight.
  3. Clear kitchen counters of all food except for a bowl of fresh fruit for crunchy snacking.

Healthy Families BC has tools and tips to check if your home and work are set up to make healthy choices easy.

Fuel up! Eat fibre- and protein-rich foods for long-lasting satisfaction.

Finding yourself hungry too soon after eating meals or snacks? You might need to add more fibre- and protein-rich foods to your meals. Fibre helps fill you up and protein helps your energy last longer. Together, they deliver meal and snack satisfaction!

  1. Fibre up. Choose more vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains (e.g., barley or oatmeal), ground flax, nuts and seeds, and pulses (e.g., lentils, black beans, chickpeas).
  2. Put protein on your plate. Enjoy small portions of meat, fish, poultry or alternatives (e.g., eggs, pulses, tofu) and milk products.

Want to try these tips? Try this fibre- and protein-rich recipe.

What small, nourishing changes have you made this month?


These tips are adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month and join other Canadians on a 100 Meal Journey at nutritionmonth2016.ca.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Defend against vending machine temptation

Vending machine

This vending machine is double trouble with salty and sugary treats as well as sugar-filled beverages. Do you have a machine like this in your workplace? Use the Healthier Choices in Vending Machines in BC Public Buildings guide to become a vending machine crusader!

Vending machines – they can be pretty tempting things. With their bright colours, blinking lights, and palatable treats, they can be hard to resist even if you aren’t feeling hunger pangs. Just think of the small child at the local hockey arena, begging their mom or dad for a chocolate bar or bag of chips after skating lessons. Clearly, just the sight of salty and sweet treats can be enough to make us want to part with whatever change is in our pockets! And they show up in the most random places! I was at my vet’s office just the other day and they had a vending machine in the corner! No wonder it can be hard to make healthy choices when vending machine temptation is so often staring you in the face.

In a perfect world, we would always have a healthy snack stashed away in our desk or bag to tide us over until our next meal so we wouldn’t have to turn to the vending machine. But our lives aren’t perfect and sometimes we find ourselves without any other options but what is available to purchase. In those situations, how can we navigate the world of vending machines to make healthier choices?

It can be hard to know exactly what you are getting when you put those coins into a vending machine. Unlike at the store, you can’t pick up the package and read the nutrition label. You can only compare products based on the front of the package and what you might already know about that snack or beverage. If you’re lucky, you might have access to machines that stock fresh options like fruit, vegetables, yogurt, or tuna and cracker snack packs. But if you’re faced with a more traditional machine, look for the least processed items like packages of peanuts, trail mix, dried fruit, or granola bars made with these ingredients.

And did you know that B.C. has established guidelines for healthier choices in vending machines that are in buildings owned, leased, or occupied by provincial public bodies? This means that in these places you will find items lower in sugar, salt, and fat, and higher in essential nutrients. Take a peek through the glass at the offerings in your workplace’s vending machines and see if they meet the guidelines. If not, why not see if you can get them implemented? You could become the office vending machine crusader!

For more tips on defending against vending machine temptation, check out this short video from Dietitians of Canada – and remember to keep checking back on the Northern Health Matters blog for more great posts to help you make healthy choices all Nutrition Month long!


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

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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Snacking smart

Strawberries and trail mix.

Aim for one to two food groups in each healthy snack! Unlike a treat (best saved for occasional enjoyment), a snack should provide nourishment and energy to fuel your brain and workday activities!

So, what makes a healthy snack? What is a snack anyway? Did you know that there’s a big difference between a snack and a treat? Treats like sugar-laden cookies, granola bars, chocolate, or salty chips and cheezies are low in nutrients and best saved for occasional enjoyment. Smart snacking, on the other hand, involves planning for the day and keeping healthy choices on hand. Here are some of my smart snacking suggestions!

When I’m hungry two or three hours after breakfast, I grab my homemade pumpkin muffin and yogurt for coffee breaks. When I approach the midday slump and want a coffee or a nap, I unpeel my orange and sip on rooibos tea in the cafeteria or walk down the hall to clear my brain and get refreshed until dinner time.

A snack can be as little or as big as you want, but a healthy snack is portion-controlled and contributes key nutrients, fluids and fibre to help us meet our daily quotient. A sustaining snack will provide carbohydrates to fuel your brain and activity level and some protein for longer-lasting energy and blood sugar stabilization. To do this, try to include one to two food groups in your snack.

I suggest picking one carbohydrate food (grain, fruit, or milk) and one protein choice (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, meat, nuts, or legumes) to make a nutritious snack. For times when you just need a little pick me up, then either a small fruit or yogurt will do until your next meal. I also recommend keeping healthy snacks in your vehicle for when you spend a busy day in town or go on a long drive to visit family or friends and start craving sugar. I always keep a container of trail mix and a box of sesame seed snaps in my car because they don’t freeze in the winter or melt in the summer. Keep water bottles and 100% juice boxes in the trunk for emergency fluid needs!

Roasted chickpeas and raspberries

Smart snacking is portion-controlled and contributes key nutrients! Try some crunchy roasted chickpeas and a handful of fruit next time you feel that midday slump coming on!

Looking for more snack inspiration? Why not try one of Dietitians of Canada top 10 smart snacks!

  • Whole grain crackers with hardboiled egg
  • Handful of grapes and cheese
  • Veggie sticks with hummus
  • Apple slices and a chunk of cheese
  • Fresh fruit and yogurt
  • 2-4 tbsp nuts with dried apricots
  • Snap peas and black bean dip
  • Banana smeared with natural peanut butter
  • Crunchy roasted lentils or beans and green tea
  • Whole grain muffin and cottage cheese

What’s your favourite snack?


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

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: Healthy snacks for work

Two jars filled with granola.

With a bit of planning and Carly’s tips, your late morning and mid-afternoon snacking trips to the convenience store or cafeteria can be replaced by healthy, energy-boosting snacks that make you feel full!

It’s Monday morning, 10 minutes before you need to leave your house to get to work. You’re frantically searching your cupboards for a snack that will stave off the inevitable mid-morning or late afternoon hunger pang. Instead of saying to heck with it and walking out of your door snackless, only to buy something sugary/fatty/salty from the workplace café later on in the day, I’ve got some ideas for healthy, portable snacks!

Listen to your body – when you feel your stomach grumbling, your brain becoming foggy, or a slight headache coming on, these may all be signs that you need to eat! A healthy snack can boost your energy levels during the busy workday, allowing you to maintain productivity and master the desire (or need) to drink another cup of coffee or raid the office candy stash. A well-balanced snack usually contains at least two of the four food groups and has some protein or healthy fats which help you to feel full.

Here are some ideas for energy-boosting snacks:

  • An apple cut into wedges with several slices of cheddar cheese
  • Peanut butter spread onto a slice of toasted whole grain bread
  • An individual portion cup of yogurt with a handful of granola
  • Carrot and celery sticks with herb and garlic cream cheese
  • A homemade banana chocolate chip muffin
  • Cucumber slices with tzatziki
  • A handful of unsalted mixed nuts

Keep in mind that store-bought snacks like granola bars may be convenient, but they are often loaded with added sugar, fat, and salt, so be sure to read the label to avoid these additives.

The key to healthy and portable snacks may be a little preparation done on a Sunday as well as keeping plenty of packing supplies on hand like reusable containers, plastic food wrap, and re-sealable baggies.

This recipe is a delicious and protein packed granola that I love to add to plain or lightly sweetened yogurt or even to simply eat on its own! I’ve adapted the recipe from Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

Bowl of yogurt topped with granola.

Try to aim for at least two of the four food groups along with some protein and healthy fats for a snack that gives you energy and fills you up! Yogurt and granola are a great option – and making your own granola is easy!

Granola

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole or slivered raw almonds, divided
  • ½ cup raw walnut pieces
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup dried fruit (such as cranberries, apricots, cherries)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil (or other light-flavoured vegetable oil)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 F (140 C). Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Put ½ cup of the almonds into a food processor and process for about 10 seconds to create a ground meal (similar in texture to sand). Transfer the ground almond meal to a large bowl.
  3. Put the rest of the almonds and the walnuts into the food processor, process until finely chopped. Transfer to the large bowl.
  4. Add the oats, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt to the nut mixture in the large bowl. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until all the dry ingredients are wet.
  6. Spread the granola onto the large baking pan in a 1 cm layer and gently press down on the top to compact the granola slightly. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the granola is lightly browned.
  7. Cool the granola completely and then break into clusters.
  8. Store the granola in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks in the fridge or 4-5 weeks in the freezer.

What’s your favourite workplace snack?

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: Go-to blogs for quick and healthy recipes

Granola bars that have been baked in a muffin tin

Food blogs can be a great source of delicious and healthy recipes. What are your favourite food blogs?

It seems that in recent years, cookbooks have become a thing of the past. I hate to admit that, sadly, some of my favourite cookbooks have become coffee table decorations or bookshelf treasures rather than go-to sources for mealtime. With food blogging becoming ever-so-popular, it has become a habit of mine to flip open my laptop when I’m craving creativity in the kitchen or needing a quick and healthy supper. There are thousands of food blogs out there, but to get you started I’ve listed three of my favourites here.

The Lean Green Bean

I first started visiting this blog when I was a part of the “Foodie Penpals” program, but I quickly learned The Lean Green Bean had more to offer. The author, a registered dietitian herself, creates recipes that are meant to be quick, easy, and healthy and that use ingredients that you most likely already have in your cupboards or freezer. Many recipes include frozen vegetables or canned or dried beans – ingredients that are both accessible and affordable. As a dietitian, these two qualities are very important to me. Maybe I’m a sucker for snacks, but I also especially like this blog for the creative breakfast bars. See these Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Bars for a make-ahead breakfast idea.

Chocolate Covered Katie

I find myself visiting this blog frequently. Not only because the main focus is on treats with a healthy twist, but because the author, like me, has chocolate on the brain at all times. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to explore the entire recipe collection, but I have a good reason: I visit this blog specifically for the single-serve desserts. Single ladies, you know what I’m talking about! Next time you have a sweet tooth, try one of these Single Lady Cookies. Chocolate craving? No problem! Check out this One Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug or this Single Serving Mocha Chocolate Cake.

Oh She Glows

While I am not a vegetarian, a food culture of vegetarianism is on the rise and after three close friends became vegetarians (one vegan) I arrived at the Oh She Glows blog with a mission to find tasty vegan recipes made with familiar ingredients. The recipes you will find here are elegant vegetarian versions of classic dishes that are sure to please meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. I especially like this blog for the snack recipes. The author has dozens of recipes for muffins, granola bars, and healthy cookies that I have personally made staples to my day. For example, these Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars. Try mixing and matching the nuts and seeds to find your perfect fit – just keep the ratios consistent! Also, I use muffin tins when I make granola bars so I can skip the messy step of cutting when they come out of the oven.

Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars (from: Oh She Glows)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium/large bananas)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts – pecans and hazelnuts work, too!), chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish (approx. 8.5″ x 12.5″) and line with a piece of parchment paper so the bars are easier to lift out. I use muffin tins so that I don’t need to cut the bars later!
  2. In a large bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Place the rolled oats into a food processor (or blender on the lowest speed) and pulse until the oats are coarsely chopped (but still with lots of texture). Stir oats into the banana mixture.
  4. Chop the walnuts and cherries and stir these and the rest of the ingredients into the banana-oat mixture until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Press down until compacted and smooth out with hands until even.
  6. Bake for 23-27 minutes until firm and lightly golden along the edge. If you used a muffin tin like me, place dish on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, carefully loosen and remove granola bars, and cool. If you are using a baking sheet, remove granola slab and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then into the freezer for another 10 minutes. Slice into bars once they are cool.

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do and take some time to discover your own favourites. Feel free to share your favourites in the comment section below!

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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Preparation is the key to healthy lunches (and September Healthy Living Challenge #3!)

Lunch bag

Preparation is key to making healthy lunches!

Be prepared – It’s a sentiment that many of us remember well from our Boy Scout/Girl Guide days. Back then, we were learning the importance of organization and preparation in being of service to others, but it’s also key in simplifying our own daily lives today. Now that school is back in session, the best way that parents can make sure their kids are getting healthy lunches is to be prepared.

Many parents work outside of the home and are also busy shuttling kids to their after school activities, helping with homework, and keeping the house clean and the family fed. Add to that the responsibility of providing healthy lunches (that kids will eat) and it’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed. With a bit of planning and advanced preparation, lunches can better become a part of the daily routine and less of a chore.

Equipment: I’ve personally found that having a few tools on hand means more options in what I can pack. A lunch bag, utensils, some sturdy reusable containers  in assorted sizes, a reusable water bottle, a thermos and a cold pack make packing hot or cold food convenient and safe. Sauces or dressings can be packed separately to keep things from getting soggy (like salad or homework), and spills or messes are better contained.

Menu: I used to scoff at people who made menu plans for their families, but now I wonder how I got along without them! When I lay out a menu, put together a list, and do one shopping trip for the week, it means that everyone knows what to expect for lunch and supper (so they can pitch in), there are fewer trips to the store/drive-thru, and we can make larger batches for supper and use the leftovers for lunches! I’ve also gotten in the habit of packing the lunches when I’m cleaning up from dinner so there’s less of a scramble in the morning!

Ingredients:  Having the right ingredients on hand also cuts down on packing time. Vegetables and fruit require a bit of prep, so when I get back from grocery shopping I usually wash and chop my produce right away. That way, when I’m making lunches during the week, everything is grab-and-go ready. I also like to portion out things like yogurt or crackers, and boil a few eggs to have on hand for snacks or sandwich filling. I do buy prepackaged snack foods on occasion, but I check with the Brand Name Food List to ensure I’m making a healthier choice.

If we make the time to plan and prep a bit, healthy homemade lunches can be convenient, cost-effective, and rewarding.  Try to include enough food for at least one meal and two snacks (2-3 vegetable or fruit servings, as well as food from each food group) to meet Canada’s Food Guide recommendations. And don’t forget to pack a healthy lunch for yourself while you’re at it!

Now for your Week 3 Challenge! We want you to send in your tips for making a healthy lunch – along with a photo of it! Be creative – do you have kids that like to help? Why not put them in the picture too! Do you have a favorite lunch box? Show us! It can be a lunch you made for yourself, or for your kids, your friends or anyone! This challenge will be judged by our nutritionists to make sure entrants qualify though, so make sure you use the above recommendations to make a real healthy meal! Then visit our contest page, enter your tips and picture of your lunch, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a selection of great cookbooks! Deadline is Tuesday, September 25 at noon.

What things does your family do to make packing healthy lunches more convenient? (Tell us below and on the contest form!)

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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Workplace Food Wars

health foods in the candy dish

Celebrate good food together and take the war out of your workplace by sharing food that is a healthy choice for everyone.

I am a foodie. I love to eat good food and share good food with others. However, the last thing I want to find are brownies in the lunchroom for everyone… with a note to please “help” eat them!

I love brownies, but they aren’t a good food choice for my health. They typically have high sugar and fat content and low nutrient value, but if those brownies are on the table, they’ll be on my mind all day. After passing them up fifteen times, I’ll be ready to throw away my common sense, give into the addictive struggle and eat them anyway.

I can control my food environment at home and make sure it’s safe, but how do I manage it at work when I am surrounded by candy dishes, chip bowls, and sweet leftovers people bring in from home? This got me thinking about why people bring food into the workplace. Food can create a friendly environment, an opportunity for conversation and sharing, a brief escape from duties and – in the case of sugar – a short-term sugar high.

Now, to be clear, the challenge is not having food in the workplace. The challenge is the types of food in the workplace. We need to find healthier ways for coworkers to gather, celebrate, and enjoy food together. For example, I’ve had great success with black bean brownies from the new Dietitians of Canada cookbook. I made them and brought them into my workplace. To my surprise, the healthy alternative was quickly eaten and everyone wanted the recipe.

Why should we think about the food we bring to the workplace? Many workplaces (including Northern Health) have policies restricting scents in the office due to allergies. We don’t smoke at work and many schools are nut-free. These policies are in place to keep people safe while at work and, in order to create safer environments, they should be extended to consider the food environment at work.

I encourage you to think about the food environment where you work:

  • Remove the candy from the candy dish.
  • Start the counter-movement and fill the candy dish with healthier alternatives. I have candy jars with almonds, kale chips, roasted chickpeas and often a bowl of fruit.
  • Make a personal statement: “I will not contribute to sweets and unhealthy foods in the workplace.” This means not bringing leftover cakes, cookies, Halloween candy, and Christmas goodies.

Celebrate good food together and take the war out of your workplace by sharing food that is a healthy choice for everyone. Visit our website for more guidelines on living a healthier life.

What health promoting foods do you put in your candy dish?

[Ed. note: Don’t forget to join the September Healthy Living Challenge and enter the Week 2 Challenge for your chance to win a Fit Kit!]

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables! (Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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