Healthy Living in the North

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Nutrition Month: Celebrating food’s potential to bring us together

Happy Nutrition Month!

Each year, for the month of March, dietitians celebrate food and nutrition, and what it means for individuals and communities across Canada. Food has the potential to do so many things: it fuels us and supports health and wellness; through food we can discover, whether it’s learning a new recipe or exploring new tastes; and one of food’s greatest gifts is its potential to bring us together. What does eating together mean to you?

I’ve recently moved to northern BC to start a new role as a dietitian with Northern Health’s Population Health team. In the last few months, I’ve been building my social network in Prince George, and many of the connections I’ve been making are over a shared meal. Whether it’s gathering for a weekend potluck, eating lunch with co-workers, or meeting new friends for brunch, coming together often happens over food. Food supports conversation (it’s not often that you find a quiet brunch table!). Gathering over a meal is a time to connect: to share stories, discuss current events, reflect on your week, or maybe even learn something new.

tart on table

Food creates more than social connections.

Even if I’m sitting down to a cozy meal for one, by taking the time to prepare food for myself, I am celebrating meal time, and connecting both to myself and to the food I am preparing.

In these ways, eating together supports our physical, emotional and mental wellness by:

  • Connecting us to our own and other’s land, traditions and cultures
  • Connecting us to our communities
  • Building lifelong memories
  • Creating social connection
  • Teaching and learning new skills (especially true if you prepare a meal with others!)
  • Exploring a variety of foods – (nothing invites variety quite like a potluck!)

…meals are much more than just food and function, facts and figures. Meals are about culture and tradition. Meals are about love and harmony. Meals are about friendship and fun…meals are about family.” – Better Together BC

potluck items on table

Food has the potential to connect us.

Coming together around food can mean many things. If you’re thinking about ways to eat together more, consider starting with small steps:

  • Share a snack with friends during a hike or walk; snacking in nature may lead to interesting discussion!
  • Set aside at least one night or morning per week to eat together as a family, or add one more meal time to your current schedule (e.g. eat three meals together instead of two).
  • Plan a Saturday potluck with friends, and provide the recipe for your dish; this is sure to strike up some conversation!

What does eating together look like for you?

This March, join us in the Nutrition Month Eating Together Photo Challenge: share a picture of yourself eating together with family, friends, or colleagues, along with a short message explaining how you feel food brings you together. Check out the contest page to learn more.

Read how food brings other Northern Health employees together:

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Juggling the joys (and challenges) of breastfeeding my toddler

Jovie and her proud mama!

Having a mommy and daddy who work full-time is hard for a toddler. Despite a busy schedule, our two-year old daughter, Jovie, continues to enjoy breastfeeding. She always looks forward to snuggles after daycare – a time when she can have “mama num-num” (her name for breastfeeding!).

I’ve been grateful to be able to follow the recommendations from the World Health OrganizationHealth Canada, the Dietitians of Canada, and the Canadian Pediatric Society:

  • To exclusively breastfeed Jovie for the first six months of her life,
  • To introduce solid foods and other fluids around six months (her first meal with solid foods was turkey dinner at her first Christmas!), and
  • To continue breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond.

Learning to mother through breastfeeding has been an important part of my journey as a first-time mom. I’m constantly amazed by the many health benefits it has for both toddlers and mommies alike. Here are some of the reasons why I’m continuing to breastfeed Jovie during her toddler years, even while juggling a busy work schedule.

The benefits for breastfed toddlers can include:

  • Enhanced emotional security and comfort, as it helps them to achieve independence at their own pace.
  • Better jaw and tooth development for improved speech and oral health.
  • Strengthened immune systems and protection from chronic diseases and acute infections (especially with all the exposure they have to germs at daycare!).

The benefits for breastfeeding moms include:

  • Improved mental wellness – it’s a great opportunity for her to practice mindfulness, connect with her toddler, and tune into her own body.
  • Lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancers – the longer she breastfeeds, the lower her risk of cancer.
  • Help adjusting to being away from home while working (when Jovie was younger, I visited her daycare during my lunch break to give her “mama num-num”!).

There’s another benefit that may not be regularly considered: it helps to normalize breastfeeding in our society, especially when done in public.

Women have the right to breastfeed their toddler anytime, anywhere.

I’m thankful my daughter’s and my journey has been generally positive, but I’ve definitely experienced a few raised eyebrows myself along the way! In our Western society, breastfeeding toddlers are less understood and much less accepted than in other parts of the world. This is why it’s so important to support mothers along their breastfeeding journey.

Evidence shows that women who receive continued support are more likely to breastfeed their children for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, many families are lacking the support they need. Wondering how you can help? Check out the Growing for Gold program that’s improving breastfeeding support for moms across the North!

As a breastfeeding mom, I know how important support has been for us. Do you know of a mother-child dyad who is breastfeeding beyond infancy? Here are a few resources to help you on your journey to strengthen your support for them:

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One dietitian, one month, and 28 recipes: lessons learned

When I look at a recipe that calls for a long list of ingredients, specialized kitchen equipment, and various intricate steps, I understand how Harry Potter might feel in his potions class: any misstep could spell disaster!

Fortunately, that was not (totally) my experience with my Nutrition Month recipe challenge. In March, I set out to try a month’s worth of Foodie Friday recipes from the Northern Health Matters blog. In total, I tried 28 new recipes, and am I so proud to share that there were only a few disasters!

What did I learn?

  • I am actually quite terrible at following recipes (no, really) – but that can be okay if you have a higher risk tolerance! I’m sure that in home economics class we were taught to read through the whole recipe first, get all the ingredients together, and then get started. Apparently I approach cooking with a little more abandon. This sometimes resulted in …er… surprises.
  • I am very good at recipe modifications – this is a skill that can really come in handy! Got a 25 lb bag of dried kidney beans lurking in a closet? Great – sub them into every recipe that calls for beans! Forgot to buy the wheat germ? Just skip it! No grapes at the store for the broccoli salad? Just use baby tomatoes!
  • Combine my recklessness with recipe prep and my penchant for recipe substitutions, and small disasters do happen. Consider, for example, the “oatmeal bites” incident of March 30th. I liked the Power Cookies that I made to share on Dietitian’s Day, so I decided to whip up another batch for my book club meeting. I got to the step about the applesauce. No applesauce. No problem – I have canned plum puree! Then the recipe called for orange juice and rind. No oranges – but I have lemon! Look at me go! In my self-congratulatory state, I completed the rest of the required steps, popped everything in the oven, and promptly realized I had forgotten the sugar. After trying to sweeten the cookies with little chocolate sprinkles that didn’t stick and looked mildly suspicious, and knowing I couldn’t show up empty handed, I finally desperately rebranded these cookies as “oatmeal bites.” Groan, I know. However, we did discover that my oatmeal bites were lovely topped with the chocolate covered banana slices someone else brought to the meeting. Saved!
  • Some recipe modifications don’t work. For example, one should not consider the Grilled Caesar Salad recipe if one does not, in fact, have a grill. I should know. Baked lettuce is just sad. However, the dressing is lovely!

    salmon loaves

    The salmon loaves were made mini by cooking them in a muffin tin.

What recipes would I make again?

Despite a few small but edible disasters, the recipe challenge was a fun experience and my family and I were really pleased with the majority of the recipes we tried. Realistically though, 28 recipes is simply too much to incorporate into the regular repertoire, so below I have listed a few that I am most likely to make again. No surprise, the simpler recipes are the favourites! And true to form, I modified many of these recipes, and have indicated that below as well. Enjoy!

Great simple recipes calling for less than 10 ingredients:

  • Potato Leek Soup – I liked this so much I made it twice! (I skipped the milk.)
  • Hugwiljum (Salmon Soup) – Throw 6 ingredients into one pot, boil and simmer! Yes! (I used canned salmon.)
  • Salmon Loaf – Simply yummy. (I cut down the cooking time by using a muffin tray instead of a loaf tin.)
  • Roasted Root Veggies – This recipe is already so easy and versatile.

    baked oatmeal, berries

    Baked oatmeal made for a nutritious (and picturesque!) breakfast.

Delicious baked goods that feature foods from 3 or 4 food groups:

Other items that I will use to (hopefully) impress dinner guests

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Eating 9 to 5 Challenge: And the winner is…

Ross, who won a Vitamix Blender with the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge is pictured.

Congrats to Ross, who won a Vitamix Blender with the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge!

This March was National Nutrition Month and its theme was Eating 9 to 5, which focused on people’s eating habits at the office/work site and their time-strapped schedules around the work day. In support of National Nutrition Month, Northern Health held the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge, which brought four weeks of challenges to northerners who completed tasks for entries into weekly team draws, as well as an individual draw for a Vitamix blender! We truly believe that everyone who took part and experienced a positive change to their eating habits as a result of the Challenge is a winner! Based on the amazing entries that were submitted, a lot of people received a ton of great tips for eating healthier before, during, and after work, and put those tips into action! Before we announce who won prizes, we want to thank everyone who took part and wish everyone good, healthy eats (and drinks) during your 9 to 5, and beyond!

After a brief delay, we’re happy to announce that the grand prize winner of the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge is Ross Knudson! Ross took part in the challenge on his own, literally naming his team “Ross Solo” … which is close to the moniker he uses when fighting the Empire. Ross won a Vitamix blender. Congrats, Ross!

We’d also like to congratulate The Northern Healthy Eaters, who took home our Week 1 prize of four Dietitians of Canada cookbooks; Anita, who entered as an individual, winning the Week 2 draw for four Thermos lunch bags; The District Divas, winners of Week 3’s four travel mugs; and, lastly, team We Love Our Pharmacy, who won two fruit/veggie trays for their next meeting!

Throughout all four weeks, we received fantastic entries that showed how serious people were about eating healthy in the workplace, but it was the Creative Challenges that put the biggest smiles on our faces! Here are a few random highlights:

The text "Make Lunch Fun"  surrounds a pencil crayon drawing of several pieces of fruit.

The Crazy Cantaloupes sent in this lovely piece of artwork, which, ironically, does not feature a cantaloupe.

A cupcake and a doughnut say "Eat us! We are so delicious!" to which team The Steamed Veggies respond, "No thanks, meeting snacks! I will just have my apple! I'm good!"

We know cupcakes and doughnuts are unhealthy, but, according to The Steamed Veggies, they’re actually evil! Stick to those apples!

And, without a doubt, the most adorable creative entry goes to The OR Health Freaks who put one of their kids to the test with this food quiz:

Thanks again to everyone who entered the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge! Feel free to let us know if any of the tips or challenges helped you make positive changes to your eating habits in the comments below.

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In focus: Robyn Turner, Clinical Dietitian, Vanderhoof

Robyn Turner standing on a hill above a valley and river.Robyn Turner never thought she would have the career she’s had working as a clinical dietitian in Vanderhoof. Learn what it’s like to work in a rural Northern BC community and what kind of work she’s most passionate about.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian.

I never really anticipated coming to the North, let alone a rural community. My career turned out different than what I first had in mind. Nonetheless, it’s been very exciting!

By taking the opportunity to come North, I’ve been able to be myself as a dietitian and get my feet wet in a lot of areas – including working with individuals admitted to hospital through one-on-one nutrition counselling, and those living in complex care.

I’ve been able to use creativity and initiative to improve nutrition in my area, and because it’s not as congested here in Vanderhoof, I can do more things than I could in a bigger centre. When I was just starting as a dietitian, I thought I would be working casual for a few years, filling temporary roles, and then naturally work in a specific area. That’s definitely not the case with my work now, which I enjoy. I like being able to do a little bit of everything.

What’s your take on what dietitians do?

A dietitian supports individuals where they’re at in reaching their health goals. Doesn’t matter if they’re told to go see a dietitian or are self-motivated to change something about their health. Wherever they’re at, a dietitian is there to help support them and achieve their goals to improve their overall health.

Could you describe a day in your life as a dietitian?

There is no “regular” day. Generally my day starts with rounds, or I might go to another community. In a day I may see someone for a diabetes consultation, or modify a tube feed or do a swallow assessment. Sometimes I see children who are having challenges with eating or chronic constipation. My day always varies!

I pull a lot of areas of nutrition together when I’m working. I never know if I’m going to be doing acute care, or focusing on quality and enjoyment of life in complex care, or advocating for someone. I have to be ready to use all my nutrition knowledge. Sometimes I’m pulled into community practice meetings, quality improvement initiative meetings with the hospital kitchen staff, or community projects with schools or local First Nations.

For example, I was working on a family food skills project at the Men’s Shed in Vanderhoof. The Shed is a space for men in the community with a kitchen and a place to hang out. I was part of a food skills program there for men who were living alone for the first time or had partners with a change in health. These men were all of a sudden having to cook for themselves for the first time and didn’t know where to start. If people don’t have food skills, it’s something they need to build. Building those food skills is something I’m really passionate about.

Basically in my job you never know what hat you’re going to be wearing – it could be a counselor or advocate hat or a clinical dietitian hat. It’s always different, which keeps it exciting.

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

People often don’t realize that advocacy is a big part of my job. I’m not always seeing individuals one-on-one. I spend a lot of time helping people understand nutrition issues. My role involves a lot of nutrition awareness and advocacy. There’s a lot of collaboration and quality improvement involved in the different health improvement projects I’m a part of. If there’s a primary care community project focused on health and I don’t go – that’s a big part of health that’s not present. I represent nutrition and health and can provide education to other people on my health care team.

What part of your role is the most rewarding?

When you have those moments of success – those clients who are dedicated to change, who come to all their appointments with you, and take your recommendations and apply them to their life and see positive results in their health – that’s rewarding. It might take six months or a year for them to see those results. When you have clients who can get off medications or see their numbers come down – that’s when you know the stuff you’re saying and the recommendations you’re giving are working.

It’s nice too, when there are people in the community that show appreciation for my work, especially in a small town. I’ve had people recognize and draw on the importance of my role. There’s also a lot of doctors I work with who are appreciative and will advocate for me. When I came to the North I didn’t expect to have as much interaction with doctors as I do. They’re present and invested and actually want to hear my opinion. Overall, it’s been great being in Vanderhoof. Three years later and I’m excited to see where else I can go in this job!

 

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you, your patients, or someone you know could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health – you might need a referral. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to talk to a dietitian.

 

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you eat together! Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

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Dietitian pro-tips: The 4th edition

A child and an adult man stirring food in a bowl together.

2019 has been a big year for dietitians, with the release of the new Canada’s Food Guide; we recently shared what Northern Health dietitians had to say about this new and improved guide.

During this Nutrition Month, the blog has featured the work of a few local dietitians, including Amelia and Allie. Others have been sharing their knowledge about food and nutrition.

For the last few years, on Dietitians Day, our amazing team has shared tips on food, nutrition, and healthy eating in a “pro-tips” blog post. This year, we are doing it again, but with a twist! Part of eating is done with our eyes, so why not share photos that bring our tips to life? “See” what our dietitian team members have to say!

Lise Luppens (Terrace)

Cook together with family or friends! Even toddlers and preschoolers can get involved. Learn more about building healthy relationships in the kitchen.

A jar of overnight oats.

Hannah Zmudzinski (Dietetic Student)

Mornings can be hectic! Planning meals ahead of time can help simplify your day. Try making breakfast the night before with these delicious overnight oats:

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup quick oats
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 4-5 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup chocolate soy beverage or milk
  • Top with fresh or frozen berries

Instructions:

  • Mix contents into container and chill in fridge overnight.
  • Next day, you can enjoy the oats at home, or wherever your morning takes you!
A woman holding a glass of green onions regrowing in water.

Hannah Wilkie (Fort St. John)

Re-grow veggies from veggie scraps! For example, you can re-use the bottoms of green onions by placing the roots in a glass with a small amount of water. Watch them re-grow before your eyes. Just be sure to change the water frequently!

 

Two children sitting on the counter with muffin tins.

 

Dena Ferretti (Terrace)

Dietitians also have picky eaters; even when both parents are dietitians! Shocking, I know. In our house both our children have very different palettes. My daughter loves black olive pizza and my son loves Thai sweet and spicy sauce with his rice. What helps us navigate the waters of “I don’t like that” or “I won’t eat that” is involving them in cooking. Remember, food is completely new to children and it may take 20 or more exposures to a new food before they adopt it. Those exposures can include something as simple as seeing the food, touching the food or smelling the food – we haven’t even begun to talk about bringing that food to their mouth. Be patient and try to have fun with your children around food.

Apple slices with peanut butter on one of them.

Robyn Turner (Vanderhoof)

Healthy eating doesn’t need to be complicated. Pair simple foods from two or three food groups from Canada’s Food Guide to make fast, portable, and tasty snacks. One of my favourites is a classic: apple with peanut butter!

 

A hand holding a button that says Dieting with a line through it.

 

Flo Sheppard (Terrace)

Ditch dieting. Instead, build a healthy relationship with food and your body. Feed yourself faithfully with foods you enjoy and that make you feel good. Listen to your body to know what and how much to eat to feel satisfied. Take care of, and appreciate, your body for all it can do.

A woman holding a pot of ingredients to make tortillas.

Emilia Moulechkova (Terrace)

A playful approach to food can go a long way to support healthy eating. Build variety into your diet by trying a new food, recipe, or method of cooking. Here I am on my 30th birthday having fun making homemade corn tortilla for the very first time. We served them family style and let everyone choose from a variety of toppings such as lettuce, onions, red pepper, refried beans, ground beef, and salsa. Yum!

 

People enjoying a workplace potluck.

Laurel Burton (Prince George)

Healthy eating is much more than food and nutrients; it’s also about fostering social connection and creating a sense of community. Looking for more ways to eat with others? Take a cooking class with a loved one, or plan a monthly dinner date with friends. At my workplace we try to come together every few months to share food. After all, nothing invites variety quite like a potluck!

Looking for more RD tips? Check out our previous posts!

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you eat together! Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

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In focus: Allie Stephen, CBORD Quality Improvement Dietitian, Prince George

Allie Stephen sitting at her desk with a mug that says "Dietitians (heart) food."

After interning with Northern Health in June 2018, Allie Stephen, originally from Ottawa, worked in many different areas of nutrition. I recently talked to her about why she loves being a dietitian and how food services and quality improvement projects can create positive change for staff and patients.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian, and what is CBORD? 

After my internship, I started working at UHNBC [the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George] as a casual clinical dietitian, and got to work in different areas of the hospital with inpatients and outpatients.

In September, I started at the Northern Health Regional Diet Office in my current role as the CBORD Quality Improvement Dietitian.

CBORD is a food and nutrition computer system used in healthcare – it’s used to facilitate food services in all our hospitals and long term care facilities. Using CBORD, the Regional Diet Office maintains menus, patient/resident diet and allergy information, and supports other CBORD users (including Food Services staff, dietitians, speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists) in managing patient/resident dietary needs.

I really enjoy the variety this position offers, from training CBORD users to enhancing dining experiences in long term care, to implementing international safety standards.

What’s your take on what dietitians do?

There are so many places you can find dietitians! They’re in food service, public health, on primary care teams and in hospitals, but also in grocery stores, private practice, education, and government.

In food services, a dietitian uses scientific evidence to build/manage menus and meet general nutrition needs, with the understanding that there will be (and should be!) adjustments made to further meet individual needs.

No matter where they are, dietitians help make nutrition information practical and meaningful. Being a dietitian comes down to being an advocate for wellness through food.

Could you describe a day in your life as a dietitian?

Every day is different. Usually my day-to-day involves some troubleshooting with CBORD users to make sure patients and residents are receiving meals that are appropriate and safe, while aligning with their preferences and recommendations made by their dietitian or health care team. Often I’m trying to think like the computer – it’s kind of like detective work!

Another big part of my day is regional food/nutrition project work. Right now, for example, my team is working to implement the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI).  Dysphagia means “difficulty swallowing,” and IDDSI is a global initiative to standardize how food and beverages used in dysphagia management are named and described. This will help make sure we’re classifying them consistently, which ultimately promotes mealtime safety and quality of care.

A constant in my role is working alongside the Regional Diet Office, food services, and dietitian teams to look at innovative ways of providing enjoyable meal service to residents and patients.

Food is, after all, a big part of our lives and being able to enjoy our favourite foods is important!  

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

I support a lot of the day-to-day use of CBORD, but I also support teams to take on food and nutrition related initiatives and projects. Most of these initiatives have to do with improving services and patient experiences. I love seeing all the initiatives that come to fruition.

What part of your role is the most rewarding?

At every Northern Health location there are people and team members who are so invested in the services they provide to patients and residents – they’re proud of the work they do. At the Regional Diet Office, we support them so they can take on projects that are important to their teams and communities.

For example, in Masset, they recently transitioned to a core menu where they’re doing more scratch cooking and home-made recipes. A lot of care was put into the transition – their dietitian, kitchen staff, recreation staff, and residents were all on board. The change was very well received and everyone involved was very excited to be a part of it.

It’s a great example of how our people are invested in providing the best care they can for patients and residents. I’m really happy to be able to support these kinds of projects and interact with different people across the North. The dietitian and food services teams in particular are great – I have a lot of respect for everyone I’ve been able to learn from and work with. I’m proud to be a Northern Health dietitian!

~

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you or your patients could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you eat together! Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

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Healthy eating: the pressure is on

Tagine in an Instant Pot.
Chickpea and chicken tagine in the Instant Pot.

You’ve likely heard the expression “knowing and doing are two different things.” I think this is especially true when it comes to healthy eating. Most people have a good sense of what healthy eating is – and it’s recently been simplified with the new Canada’s Food Guide. The challenge is how to actually practice healthy eating in your life.

While there may be a few potential barriers to healthy eating, the one I relate to the most is lack of time. Recently, I was sharing dinner with a group of work colleagues and the conversation turned to balancing work commitments with getting a meal on the table. A common strategy emerged – the trendy Instant Pot, which is an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and so much more, in one appliance. As a relatively new and slightly reluctant owner of this kitchen tool, I appreciated hearing and sharing tips on how the Instant Pot can simplify mealtime.

Here are five benefits to using the Instant Pot, from a variety of Northern Health staff:

Eggs and an Instant Pot.
Pressure cook a dozen eggs in the shell for 3-4 minutes to get easy-to-peel, soft boiled eggs.

One pot cooking = less clean up

The Instant Pot allows you to do multiple types of cooking in the same pot. For example, you can brown beef, pork, or chicken before adding vegetables to make a stew. Just remember to deglaze the pot by adding a little liquid to remove any meat bits stuck on the pan. This helps avoid getting the dreaded “BURN” message! Depending on your timeline, you can choose to slow cook or pressure cook your stew.
-Adele Bachand, Regional Manager, Healthy Settings

Put all your ingredients in the pot and forget it = no watched pot

I like that I can put all the ingredients for Moroccan soup in the Instant Pot, set the timer, and leave it. While it’s cooking, I take my dog for a walk around the neighbourhood. By the time we get back, I have a tasty bowl of soup waiting for me.
-Sabrina Dosanjh-Gantner, Regional Manager, Healthy Living & Chronic Disease Prevention

Cook once and eat twice = time saved

Pressure cook a dozen eggs in the shell for 3- 4 minutes to get easy-to-peel, soft boiled eggs. These make a great addition to breakfast, as a portable snack or lunch, or deviled eggs for your next work potluck.
-Emilia Moulechkova, Population Health Dietitian / Regional Lead – School Age Nutrition

Soup in an Instant Pot.
Mexican chicken soup.

Pressure cooking = soup broth in a fraction of the time

Normally turning a chicken carcass into broth requires a few hours of simmering. In the Instant Pot, it takes about 30 minutes of pressure cooking to yield a tasty broth, which you can transform into soup or use in other recipes. Best of all, you don’t get the moist chicken smell throughout your house!
-Rhoda Viray, Regional Manager, Public Health Practice

No need to soak dried beans before cooking = time and money saved

Since it only takes 35 minutes on the pressure function to cook dried chickpeas to tender, it’s easier to include plant-based proteins in my menu planning. I often cook a big batch of chickpeas on the weekend – these become hummus, a chicken and chickpea tagine (also cooked in the Instant Pot), or a chickpea and sweet potato soup (also cooked in the Instant Pot). I also appreciate that I’m reducing the number of cans I add to the recycle bin.
-Flo Sheppard, Chief Population Health Dietitian

Looking for more ideas? Check out Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for online communities dedicated to Instant Pot support and tips! Do you have an Instant Pot? If so, what’s your favourite way to use it? If not, consider entering Northern Health’s Nutrition Month contest for a chance to win one!

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In focus: Amelia Gallant, Primary Care Dietitian, Fort St. John

Amelia Gallant sitting at a table with a balanced meal and Canada's Food Guide.

From Newfoundland to British Columbia – nutrition has literally brought Amelia Gallant far and wide in her work as a dietitian. Making what she calls a “risky move,” she left the East Coast to pursue nutrition work in B.C. a year and a half ago. She now works, lives, and plays in Fort St. John. Get a sneak peek of what it’s like to work as a primary care dietitian in a health care team setting and learn why she loves the nutrition work she does.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian

I’ve been a dietitian for about five years now. I started in Newfoundland working in food services in a hospital kitchen setting. Later, I moved to the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s to work for a for-profit food services company. It definitely had a different scope than my previous work. I ran a few different programs in the dining hall and across campus but my role was largely around food service management. I decided I wanted to move out of that role and into more of a health services role – that’s how I ended up in Fort St. John! Now I work as a primary care dietitian at Northern Health. I’m part of a health care team which means I work closely with nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, mental health and substance use professionals, as well as doctors and nurse practitioners, to support patients.

What dietitians do: Amelia’s take

I think a dietitian loves food and loves science, and uses both to help people create and achieve health goals. In primary care for example, a dietitian can help people to understand what to eat to manage their chronic disease. Dietitians understand that food is more than nutrients and that the how to eat part is just as important. Dietitians use strategies that can help a patient understand their food environment and how they react to it, or to understand their own attitudes towards food and eating.

A day in the life of a dietitian

No day is the same, really! Some days I work with patients in back-to-back appointments. Some days I’m out in the community visiting patients in their homes. I work with other health care professionals to help them understand what dietitians do and how we can help patients together. I also try and further my own knowledge on new nutrition topics – I may call my other dietitian colleagues at Northern Health with questions or to get their opinion on a topic. I’ve got a great network of support!

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

Sometimes people can have expectations about seeing a dietitian that aren’t necessarily true. When you come to see me I won’t ask you to step on a scale or give you a diet plan to follow. Dietitians are invested in the ways we can help a patient improve their health and we try to do that in the most sustainable way. What I will do, is help you identify small changes that you’re ready to make, and offer support along the way to help you meet your long-term nutrition goals. Dietitians ultimately want patients to succeed – whatever that might mean for them.

What part of your role do you find the most rewarding?

Working with people is very rewarding. When I work with someone and they feel supported in their health journey – that’s very rewarding. Sometimes patients feel shameful when it comes to their health or nutrition – I love when someone has a moment of “this isn’t what I expected” and realizes that I’m on their side. It makes them feel more confident in their ability to reach their goals – it’s great to be a part of that!

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you or your patients could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you “eat together!” Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

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Serving up healthy school lunches, salad bar style

Evelyn Meehan with two students and the school's salad bar.

Evelyn Meehan, special education assistant and school meal coordinator at Silverthorne Elementary in Houston, with two of her students and the school’s salad bar.

For Houston’s Silverthorne Elementary, setting students up for success begins with a meal made with love. Until recently, many residents in this small community travelled 120km round trip to purchase groceries, so providing students a healthy lunch at school has been a top priority. Even with the distance, Evelyn Meehan, special education assistant and school meal coordinator, is up for the challenge. She is the driving force behind the school’s daily salad bar and hot meal program.

“Many of our families struggle with accessing healthy foods,” says Evelyn. “Parents, staff and the whole community believe in this program. They see the difference it’s making for all of our students to have access to healthy meals, prepared with love.”

The salad bar spread at Silverthorne Elementary.

Quite the salad bar spread at Silverthorne Elementary.

What’s on the menu at Silverthorne?

Students choose from a selection of fruits, vegetables, green-leafy salad, and salad dressing. Foods from other food groups are also offered, such as whole wheat buns, turkey wraps, pasta salad, boiled eggs, cheese, and milk. The menu is nutritionally balanced, yet simple. This helps keep costs down and meal preparation manageable.

Hands-on learning

The school also has a garden, but it may not be what you’d expect. Due to a short growing season and challenges with maintaining a garden during the summer months, they’ve had to get creative. Students learn to plant and grow seeds in vertical growing systems that use only water and nutrients, rather than dirt.

“We have indoor gardens, which allows us to grow our own food right in the classroom, year-round,” says Evelyn. “We grow a few varieties of lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, tomatoes, herbs, and peas, and use the produce in our salad bar.”

Programs like this provide students with fun hands-on learning experiences, which, overtime, set the stage for life-long healthy relationships with food.

“Not only are we feeding hungry bellies with good food, kids get to see, grow, and taste a variety of healthy foods. You can see the excitement in their faces!”

A wonderful partnership

Two years ago, Evelyn and the school’s principal started looking for ways to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables to students, many of whom did not regularly get access to these foods at home. That’s when they learned about the Northern Health Salad Bar Kit Loan program.

“Borrowing salad bar equipment from Northern Health was a really valuable stepping-stone for our program,” says Evelyn. “It allowed us to try out the salad bar program and decide whether it was a good fit.”

The salad bar kits are valued at $2,600 and include a plastic table top salad bar, plexiglass sneeze guard, stainless steel inserts, serving utensils and salad dressing bottles. Schools can borrow a kit for up to 12 months, for free. After that, they are encouraged to apply for a grant to purchase their own equipment. A number of grants may be available to help cover start-up costs including Northern Health IMAGINE Grants, Farm to School BC grants, and Farm to School Canada grants.

Sustaining success

Last fall, Silverthorne Elementary received a grant from Farm to School BC. With the grant money they purchased their own salad bar kit, as well as new dishware, a toaster oven, and an electric grill for their hot breakfast program. This has allowed them to continue offering the salad bar, as part of their long-term plan for promoting healthy eating.

What advice does Evelyn have for schools interested in trying a salad bar program?

“Go for it! Try different things. Don’t make big amounts at first.”

She also encourages schools to connect with a Northern Health Population Health Dietitian.

“A Northern Health Population Health Dietitian is a great resource that can support you with anything from borrowing salad bar equipment, to connecting with environmental health officers, and helping with grant applications.”

Do you have a salad bar program in your school? We’d love to hear from you! (email below) What advice or message do you have to share with other schools interested in trying the program?

More Information

Have a great idea for a school food program? Farm to School BC is offering grants of up to $3,500 to help bring your idea to life! For more information, or to access to application form, visit the Farm to School BC website. Applications are due November 19.

To borrow a salad bar kit, or for more resources and information about starting a salad bar program, contact a Northern Health Population Health Dietitian at 250-631-4236 or PopHthNutrition@northernhealth.ca.

Granting resources

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