Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: the high protein super snack you should consider

I have to say, I love yogurt – but I’m picky about it! It has to taste good, be creamy and rich, but not too sweet. All my children like yogurt and it disappears from our house at an alarming rate. But I don’t really mind; after all, it’s a good, protein-rich snack.

Bowl of yogurt with cup of tea.

Try eating yogurt with granola or flax seeds for breakfast, mix it with fruit for a smoothie, or enjoy it as a snack by itself!

Yogurt has been around for a long time and is thought to have originated in Mesopotamia around 5000 BCE. It was eaten widely prior to the 19th century in India, the Russian empire, and south east and central Europe. Yogurt is created by heating milk to just below the boiling point and then cooling it slightly and adding bacterial culture. The mixture is then kept warm for 4-12 hours to allow the bacteria to break down some of the lactose in the milk to lactic acid.

I have often been asked how to pick a good yogurt. My first piece of advice: taste matters a lot. My other tip would be to look at the sugar content; it can vary widely from virtually none to the equivalent of nine teaspoons of sugar in a little container! Try to pick a lower sugar yogurt. I often recommend staying away from the 0% fat yogurts because they often add more sugar or sweeteners to them to off-set the lower fat content. When it comes to fat content, I tend not to worry about it that much; dairy fat hasn’t been shown to be much of a health problem, if at all.

After you have found your preferred yogurt –  enjoy! It’s a very versatile food. You can eat it with granola or flax seeds for breakfast, mix it with fruit for a smoothie, or enjoy it as a snack by itself. How do you like your yogurt?

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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Foodie Friday: back to school lunches

It’s now the first week of school. Where did the summer go?!  If you are like me and a parent of school-aged kids, you are now struggling to get back into the school routine and this includes packed lunches. Sometimes we just need some suggestions and creativity to find lunch solutions that keep our children engaged.

Back to school blocks.

Your child is going to need something nutritious to eat to get them through the school day.

One of the best things that happened this last year was my children’s school instituted a play first lunch, where the kids play outside and then eat their lunch. This has resulted in my daughter eating more of her lunch as she isn’t in such a rush to get outside and play. If you’re interested in this concept you can find more information here.

However, no matter how the lunch time is structured, your child is going to need something nutritious to eat to get them through the rest of the school day. Looking for ideas? Try Lise’s Master Fruit Muffin Recipe, for some more lunch ideas check out HealthLink BC. Overall, remember that variety is key. Rarely would anyone want to eat the exact same food day after day; your child is unlikely to want the same lunch every day. Aim for at least three out of the four food groups and don’t forget the ice pack. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sandwich, wrap, roti or pita stuffed with meat, cheese, egg, tuna, peanut butter*, jam, vegetables and/or hummus.
  • Chili, stew, perogies, soup, samosas, pasta salad
  • Waffles, pancakes or muffins
  • Cereal and milk
  • Quiche, scrambled or hard-boiled eggs
  • Crackers or tortilla and cheese
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Kebabs (meat, cheese, vegetable)

*Note: due to allergies, some schools do not allow peanut butter.  Alternatives such as Wowbutter may be allowed.

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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Foodie Friday: the smells of home

It’s officially summer in the north and the days are long. But where I live, the weather hasn’t exactly been warm, especially in the mornings! So, this calls for something warm for breakfast – like this baked oatmeal, which is a quick, but hearty, morning meal!

Bowl of oatmeal on counter.

Oatmeal in the morning is quick, nutritious, and delicious!

Oatmeal is one of those meals that makes me feel nostalgic. Oatmeal was a staple when I was little, as my mother wanted a breakfast that would ‘stick with me’ and keep me full until lunch.  To this day, I love the smell of cinnamon and apples; to me, it’s the smell of home. Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate and with the milk and eggs in this recipe, it does have some protein. Enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal (makes approximately 30 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 cups quick oats
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 apples, diced

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the oil, sugar, and eggs.
  2. Add in the oats, baking powder, salt, milk, cinnamon, and diced apples. Mix together well.
  3. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.
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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Foodie Friday: the joys of the harvest

As the days get shorter and crisper, my thoughts turn to the kitchen more.  The ground has frozen where I live, I have pulled everything from my garden and now have a bounty of root vegetables to use.  Beets have been a favorite of mine since I was a child and I’m glad that my own children seem to love them, too.

bowl of harvard beets

Harvard-style beets are a favourite of my family.

Beets are a very versatile vegetable that are relatively easy to prepare. As my fellow dietitian colleague says, “you can’t beat beets!” They have an earthy sweet taste when roasted, or a lighter taste when boiled and chopped, or pickled or grated and added to a salad.  However, one of my favorite ways to eat beets is how my mom (and her mom) used to make them as harvard beets; my own children love them this way too.  How do you like to eat your beets?

Harvard Beets  

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced cooked beets (canned beets work too)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup water or beet juice if using canned beets
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp margarine or butter

Instructions:

  1. Mix the sugar, corn starch and salt in a sauce pan.
  2. Add in the vinegar and water (or beet juice) and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in the margarine.
  4. Add in the beets and cook until warm.
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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Ditching the can opener: Tools, services, and tips to make healthy, homemade meals accessible

This article was co-authored by Rebecca Larson, registered dietitian, and Valerie Pagdin, occupational therapist.


Person cutting apple with one hand.

A rocker knife and cutting board with pins and suction cups makes cutting fruits and vegetables safe and accessible.

When you have a disability, making healthy meals at home can present additional challenges. Fatigue and difficulty with jars and utensils can create barriers to cooking. But there are ways to make cooking a bit easier so that everyone can enjoy healthy, homemade meals:

  • Buy frozen or pre-cut vegetables or fruit so that the preparation is already done.
  • Look for items that don’t require a can opener. Containers with screw tops (like some fruit and peanut butter) or those that are in pouches (yogurt or tuna) are easier to open.
  • Get your milk in a jug. Two litre plastic jugs with handles are easier to hold and pour than a milk carton.
  • Buy cheese and bread that are pre-sliced or have the deli or bakery slice them for you.

There are also many tools that can help you maintain your independence in shopping and cooking tasks. Using utensils with larger handles, cutting boards with suction cups to hold them to the countertop, or a mobility device to help you walk or carry items more easily can make a big difference in your ability to buy what you want and cook it the way you like it. An occupational therapist can assess your needs and help you find solutions that work for you in the kitchen. Ask your physician or primary care provider for a referral to an occupational therapist.

Accessible eating utensils.

Contact an occupational therapist to learn more about tools to make homemade meals more accessible – tools like weighted spoons, high-rimmed plates, and tremor spoons.

If transportation is a challenge, many grocery stores and service groups have grocery delivery options. Meals on Wheels is available in many communities and can provide meals if meal preparation is difficult or if you need a break. Food boxes, which contain fresh vegetables delivered on a regular basis, are available in some communities and may be an option to consider. Your local home and community care department can connect you to these programs.

If you need additional suggestions or help to make homemade meals more accessible, contact HealthLink BC Dietitian Services by dialling 8-1-1.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

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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Making your own baby food

Solid foods for babies on a plate.

At about six months old, your baby may be ready for solid foods. Some easy prep will give your baby lots of textures and options to explore! Trying new foods with your baby is a time of exploration and fun. Enjoy the experience!

Many parents are interested in making their own baby food. Why? Primarily, it’s cheaper than buying prepared baby foods and is easy to do. You also have full control over what your baby is eating and you can introduce them to the foods your family eats. At about six months old, your baby will be ready for solid foods.

When offering your baby food:

  • Start by offering food a couple times a day. By the time your baby is close to nine months, they should be eating 2-3 meals a day with 1-2 snacks.
  • To begin, your baby will only eat about a teaspoon of food at a time, so don’t make too much baby food at once.
  • Offer your baby a variety of textures including ground, mashed, soft foods and finger foods.
  • Offer an iron rich food (meat and alternatives or infant cereal) daily.
  • Whenever possible, eat with your baby. They learn from modelling your behaviour.

Baby food prep

  • Some foods like yogurt, rice, and pasta require very little or no prep to make them into baby food. You can cut bread into strips and grate cheese to make them the right size for your baby to hold or pick up.
  • Vegetables: Wash and peel your vegetables, removing any seeds. Chop the vegetable into small pieces and steam over boiling water until soft. Put the cooked vegetable in a bowl with a little water and mash with a fork.
  • Fruit: Pick soft, ripe fruit. Wash and peel the fruit; remove any pits or large seeds. Cut into pieces. Soft fruits like banana and peaches can be mashed with a fork. For firm fruit, before mashing, take the pieces and boil in a small amount of water until soft.
  • Meat & Alternatives: Meats like beef, turkey, wild game, and others should be well cooked and then ground, finely minced, or shredded. Fish can be baked or poached; skin and bones must be removed before mashing with a fork. Soft beans, lentils, and eggs can be mashed with a fork after cooking. A little water might need to be added to moisten.

Trying new foods with your baby is a time of exploration and fun. Enjoy the experience!

For more information visit HealthLink BC.


This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine. Read the full issue – all about child health – below!

 

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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Foodie Friday: Broccoli salad – a versatile recipe!

Broccoli salad

Broccoli salad is easy and versatile! Don’t be afraid to experiment with this recipe – that’s half the fun in cooking!

This long weekend, you may be going to a celebration in the park or camping (like I am!), but no matter what you are doing, you will likely be spending some quality time with friends and family. These events often revolve around food.

Are you are looking for a versatile and easy salad to include in your menu? Look no further than the broccoli salad!

Broccoli salads come in a variety of types and flavours. Maybe you have a favourite? To get you started this long weekend, I’ve included a recipe for you below. However, I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly. The original recipe called for ½ lb of bacon; that’s a lot of bacon! So, in the recipe below, I’ve cut that back. Recipes like this one allow you to get creative! Don’t have green onions? Fine, skip them (I did). Have extra cherry tomatoes in the fridge? Add them in! Don’t be afraid to experiment, that’s half the fun in cooking!

Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of broccoli
  • 2 cups of grapes, cut into halves
  • 5 slices of cooked bacon
  • ½ cup celery
  • 3 green onions, diced

Dressing:

  • 1 cup salad dressing
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp vinegar

Instructions

  1. Chop the broccoli into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Slice the celery into small pieces.
  3. Crumble or slice the bacon.
  4. Combine the broccoli, celery, grapes, onion and bacon in a large bowl.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the salad dressing, sugar, and vinegar together well.
  6. Pour the dressing on the salad and mix well. Refrigerate until serving.
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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Foodie Friday: Quinoa, have you tried it?

Quinoa and peas

Quinoa is easy, versatile, and packs a nutritional punch! Don’t be intimidated by this relatively new ingredient!

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is one of those foods that many of us had never heard of just a few years ago but now, we see it everywhere! In talking to people, I find there are many who aren’t sure what to do with quinoa or how to cook it.

Quinoa is very versatile, easy to prepare, and delicious; it can be eaten either hot or cold. You can use quinoa to make a hot cereal dish in the morning, use it as a side dish, use it in soups or salads, or make it the base of stews or chili. One of the big benefits of quinoa is that it cooks a lot quicker than other whole grains like brown rice, so it can be a great choice for those time-crunched days.

So, what is quinoa and what are its benefits?

Quinoa is native to South America and is a seed, although we generally use it like a grain in cooking. Quinoa is a good source of fibre, folate, protein, phosphorus, copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Quinoa comes in white, red, and black varieties and the cooking time varies slightly between the varieties. It has a slightly nutty taste but is overall mild. I love quinoa for its ease of cooking and use it regularly!

Try this quinoa recipe to make a tasty side dish. Leftovers can easily be stored in the fridge for a couple days. They also freeze well for use later.

Quinoa with Peas

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter/margarine
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¾ cup frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp parsley

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the quinoa and cook 2 minutes until toasted.
  2. Pour in the chicken broth and add the onion, garlic, thyme and pepper. Cover and let come to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, add in the frozen peas. Re-cover; reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Continue simmering until the quinoa is tender and has absorbed the chicken stock, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  5. Stir in the parsley and enjoy.
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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Nutritious and delicious Easter traditions

Child picking up coloured eggs.

Include non-food items in your Easter baskets and egg hunts to add variety this year! Items like stickers, colouring books, or stuffed animals can make great gifts, or include items that will get you and your family physically active like skipping ropes, hula hoops, or passes to the local pool or skating rink.

As a registered dietitian, I get asked questions on a daily basis about food and nutrition. Easter – filled with celebrations, Easter egg hunts, family, and friends – is often a time of sharing traditions, which often involves food. Holiday meals have great potential to be both 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 nutritionally balanced meal.

There many ways to make your Easter meal even more nutritious, such as:

  • offering sweet potatoes or yams, as well as potatoes;
  • including colourful veggies, like carrots, brussel sprouts, and beets;
  • serving up something green like asparagus or a simple green leafy salad;
  • choosing whole wheat bread for your stuffing, and adding cranberries or chopped apples, walnuts, and finely chopped carrots and celery; and
  • considering a dessert that includes fruit and/or dairy, such as a fruit crumble or a milk-based pudding.

Adults may worry about how much they eat at these celebrations. Healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day. Rather, it’s about your overall approach to eating. On the day of the celebrations, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack pattern, 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. Take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly, and enjoy the time with family and friends. Remember that the holidays are about the whole experience – enjoy the meal, the company, and the memories made.

What about the treats and chocolate?

Easter egg hunts for the kids often involve searching for chocolate and candy treats. And while treats are definitely a part of traditions and a healthy approach to eating, sometimes it can be easy for everyone to overindulge in those treats. Include non-food items in your Easter baskets and egg hunts to add variety – they are just as fun as the chocolates and candy. Things like stickers, colouring books, or stuffed animals can make great gifts, or include items that will get you and your family physically active like skipping ropes, hula hoops, or passes to the local pool or skating rink.

What are your nutritious, delicious, and healthy Easter traditions? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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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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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