Healthy Living in the North

Time to take a second look in the mirror at our body image

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Northern Health’s Healthier You – Fall 2018 edition on Youth Mental Wellness. Read the full issue here.)

Wristbands stating Love Ourselves and Love Our Bodies.

When we turn on the TV or run through our social media feed, we are bombarded with images of thin, fit, photo-shopped, “perfect” people. But is this the norm? And is this healthy? In a recent study, girls, ages three and five, who were presented with dolls of different shapes preferred the thin version, describing the bigger dolls as sad, tired, and having no friends. We think we are immune to media, but even young children are exposed to messaging that implies being in a bigger body is bad. 

The fat phobic society we live in contributes to a negative body image. Body image is our own perception of our physical appearance, including our thoughts and feelings about the way we look. It impacts self-esteem, mental health, and well-being. Negative body image may lead to unhealthy dieting behaviours, the development of disordered eating and eating disorders, and may also lead to feelings of shame, guilt, low self-worth, and unhappiness. It’s estimated that 40 to 60 percent of girls aged six to twelve are concerned about their weight. 

As parents and caregivers, we often encourage our kids to be their healthiest. This may come across in messages about eating, activity, or striving to be a certain body size. While the intentions are good, these types of messages can often be misinterpreted by kids – that there is something wrong with their body and they need to change their shape or weight. If you look around where you live and in your family, healthy bodies are very diverse. Weight is not the biggest, or only, indicator of health. Focusing on well-being and healthy habits is more important than any number on the scale!

It’s important to have age-appropriate conversations with our children about health and body image, and work towards fostering a healthy relationship with our bodies.

How can you support youth to promote a healthy body image?

Be a positive role model. Be aware of your self-talk around weight and food, and get curious about your own beliefs and attitudes about body size and eating. For example, let your child catch you saying one positive thing about your body daily.

Celebrate diversity. Help your child to focus on their own unique qualities and talents rather than appearance as a foundation for self-esteem.

Open up the conversation. Talk about how media can impact our body image, or invite your kids to share how they are feeling about their bodies.

Teach your kids to view media messages critically. Help create awareness of how images and slogans make us feel about our bodies, and talk about how these images do not depict reality. Check out this tip sheet from MediaSmarts to get started.

Eat together. Plan and offer regular family meals as a way to encourage family time and model healthy approaches to eating. Get your kids involved in cooking too – how about a build your own taco or pizza night?

Make meals and snacks enjoyable. Practice an “all foods fit” approach in your home, offer a variety of foods and create a shame/guilt-free space to make food choices.

Take a balanced approach to physical activity. Encourage physical movement that is joyful, and focus on the fun, social aspects of being active. Refrain from teaching your child that activity is punishment or used to compensate for eating.

Explore what health really means to you and your family. Recognize that health is more than the absence of disease or having a certain body size. Health is inclusive of emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and physical wellness. Don’t let focusing on one (physical) compromise another (mental). Health may mean something different to you than your child.  Take the opportunity to explore. Plan family activities that promote a balanced view towards health.

If you think that you or someone you love has an eating disorder, please contact the Northern Health Eating Disorders Clinic at 250-565-7479.

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Making friends with food for your health

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Northern Health’s Healthier You – Winter 2018 edition on Healthy Relationships. Read the full issue here.)

Rilla Reardon holding fruit, standing with a photo that says "Celebrating our Natural Sizes."

When we think about healthy relationships, most of us think about our marriage or our relationship with our kids, but do you ever consider your relationship with food? We live in a world where it’s pretty easy to have negative thoughts about what and how we eat. We are bombarded with messages about diets, “good” or “bad” foods, and should/should-nots when it comes to our eating choices. Healthy eating brings to mind visions of perfectly portioned, balanced meals, prepped and packed snacks, and not a cookie or chip in sight.

But what if healthy eating was about more than nutrition? Let’s expand our thoughts on healthy eating to include something that affects our psychological, emotional and social health just as much as our physical health: building a healthy relationship with food.

What is a healthy relationship with food?

This looks different for everyone, but it’s a place where we are at peace with food. Food is more than providing your body with energy and nutrition, it also represents enjoyment, fun, family, culture, and experience. A healthy relationship with food allows us to eat for all of these reasons, without feelings of guilt. It includes ALL foods. It’s where we are practicing self-compassion when it comes to our eating habits, and letting go of perfection.

I’ve worked as a registered dietitian with Northern Health for five years, and seen first-hand the many ways that people struggle with eating. Whether it’s emotional eating, yo-yo dieting, struggling to keep a change, or low self-esteem related to our eating choices, I always encourage moving the conversation past “what I should be eating/not eating” to “why am I eating the way I am?” The majority of our decisions about food throughout the day aren’t necessarily about nutrition and physical hunger; what about habit, cravings, emotions, boredom, reward, etc.? If we only talk about nutrition in discussions about change, we aren’t addressing all the factors that play into our decisions about food. Examining our relationship with food and looking at the reasons behind WHY we are eating allows us to build a foundation for sustainable and positive change to our eating habits and behaviors.

Intuitive eating might be for you!

So, how do you build a positive relationship with food? Start with intuitive eating! Intuitive eating is an approach that helps us listen to our internal cues like hunger, fullness, and satisfaction to make decisions about what, when, and how much food to eat. As adults we are influenced by external cues like time of day, diets, food rules, and other messages about how to eat. Intuitive eating takes the focus off these external cues to help us learn to trust our bodies and be comfortable with our eating. It takes time to learn and master a new way of thinking about food and eating.

To get started, here are the first four principles of intuitive eating:

1. Reject the diet mentality. We live in a world that is obsessed with dieting. However, 95% of diets fail.  Get rid of diet books and magazines, unfollow “fitspiration” Instagram accounts, and opt out of conversations about diets and weight loss.

2. Honour your hunger. Keep your body nourished with regular, balanced meals and snacks. If you let yourself get too hungry, you may trigger a primal drive to overeat and override mindful decisions about food. Eating regularly and adequately helps establish the foundation to re-build trust in your relationship with food.

3. Make peace with food. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat what and how much of foods that you like and want. When you tell yourself you shouldn’t eat certain foods, it contributes to feelings of deprivation that can lead to intense cravings.

4. Challenge the food police. Stop labelling food as “good” or “bad.” These labels give us messages that we are “good” for eating “good” foods and “bad” for eating “bad” foods, and sets the stage for having emotional reactions to food that cloud our internal cues for hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Giving ourselves permission to eat for many different reasons (for enjoyment, social interaction, comfort, or just because, etc.) allows us to begin to trust our bodies to be able to make choices about food that make sense for us.

Additional Resources

To learn more about building a healthy relationship with food and intuitive eating, work with a Registered Dietitian, sign up for a program like Craving Change™ (see below), or check out some of these resources:

What is Craving Change?

Craving Change is a free group program offered in Prince George designed to help people build a better relationship with food. It is a five week workshop facilitated by a registered dietitian and nurse that aims to help people understand WHY they eat the way they do, and provides awareness building tools and change strategies to help people change their thinking in order to build positive eating relationships.

Designed for adults who:

  • Struggle to maintain healthy eating habits
  • Say they eat for comfort or in response to strong feelings
  • Want to feel more in control of their eating

How to sign up for Craving Change:

Craving Change is open to the public and sign up is by self-referral. It is currently being offered four times per year in Prince George. Please call 250-565-7479 and ask to be put on the Craving Change waitlist.

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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

No-bake energy bites in a bowl.

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin no-bake energy bites

Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Yield: About 25 one-inch balls

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Foodie Friday: Easy mason jar parfait

Yogurt parfait in mason jar.

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

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

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

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

Need an idea to fill your mason jar?

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

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

Easy Mason Jar Parfait

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Foodie Friday: Workplace potlucks

Various dishes on a table.

How do you ensure that your potlucks are healthy potlucks?

Northern Health promotes teamwork and a sense of community in the workplace. In keeping with this vision, weeks can sometimes get busy with team meetings, events or gatherings. Often, these occur over the lunch hour – a time that tends to fit best into everyone’s busy schedules.

Because this means that we are often eating lunch with our coworkers, workplace potlucks are a popular choice for meetings and gatherings. These situations can, however, sometimes make healthy eating a challenge!

Here are some tips to ensure your next workplace potluck is a healthy workplace potluck!

  • Skip the sweets and desserts at events. Enjoy fresh fruit instead!
  • Follow the plate method and aim to fill half your plate with vegetables.
  • Have a sign-up sheet for potlucks with spots to fill under the four food groups. This makes sure there will always be balanced options!
  • Make sure to bring something healthy and tasty that you know you like – that way you can be sure of at least one healthy choice!

Try preparing some Mexican Quinoa Bites for a quick and easy potluck item!

Mexican Quinoa Bites

Recipe from The Lean Green Bean

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 cup black beans, cooked
  • ¼ cup avocado, smashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • ½ cup corn kernels, cooked
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ⅓ cup ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup low-fat Mexican shredded cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Rinse quinoa and cook according to package directions. Let cool slightly.
  3. Combine beans, avocado, peppers, corn and onion in a small bowl and mix well.
  4. Add spices and stir to combine.
  5. Add cooked quinoa, egg, ground pepitas, and cheese. Mix well.
  6. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray and spoon in quinoa mixture.
  7. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes.
  9. Gently remove from pan. Serve with salsa.

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Foodie Friday: Winter baking

Rural driveway lined with snow and frost

Warm baking tastes that much better on frosty winter days and cold nights! When you are baking, keep an eye out for sugar and fat content. Healthy baking options high in fibre and low in added sugar do exist! (Photo by Northern Health staff member Shellie O’Brien)

The winter weather has officially landed and with it, I find myself wanting to do more baking. On these cold wintery nights, there is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a warm baked good right out of the oven.

Unfortunately, many baked goods can be high in sugar and fat and low in fibre, which is why I make an effort to seek out healthier recipes for baked goods that are still as delicious as the originals!

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas and makes a great snack or dessert option. It can also be part of a quick breakfast when paired with something like fruit and yogurt to create a balanced meal! These bars are high in fibre and low in added sugar, but what’s even better is that they come together in less than 30 minutes including prep and cook time!

Chocolate PB Chip Oat Bars (from the Real Life RD)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar (original recipe calls for coconut palm sugar)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup milk (original recipe calls for almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips or peanut butter chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line an 8” x 8” baking pan with greased parchment paper.
  3. Process your oats into a flour using a blender or food processor.
  4. Add your oat flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl. Add the mashed banana, milk, and vanilla and gently stir until almost completely mixed. Fold in your chocolate chips. Spread onto baking pan.
  5. Bake the bars for 18-20 minutes or until the center is set and cooked through.
  6. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the parchment paper. Let the bars cool completely before slicing into squares.

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Foodie Friday: Easy fish on the campfire

A campfire on a beach can be the perfect place to make a quick, delicious summer meal.

A campfire is a great way to make a quick, delicious summer meal.

During the summer, meal prep time is often lost to outdoor activities and enjoying the sunshine. I like to call this season a time for “casual dining.” I aim for simple meals with minimal prep/cook time so I can get out of the kitchen and make good use of the warm weather. It’s even better when I can incorporate the meal making into my summer activities!

As many people do, I enjoy spending time at the lake on the weekends. Preparing supper without having to leave the beach is ideal for me. This recipe is quick, easy and delicious- and can be cooked right at the campfire, maximizing your fun in the sun!

Foil Packet Fish and Veggies

Ingredients:

  • 4 white fish filets
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1-2 tsp seasoning (I use Mrs. Dash; however, any blend will work – get creative!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Note: Remember you’ll also need aluminum foil!

Directions:

  1. Slice vegetables thinly.
  2. Thaw and rinse fish filets.
  3. Tear off two pieces of aluminum foil twice as long as the filets and lay on top of each other.
  4. Grease the inside of the aluminum foil with butter where the fish will be placed.
  5. Place one fish filet in the middle of your aluminum foil and sprinkle with seasoning.
  6. Pile ¼ of the vegetables of top of the fish.
  7. Bring the ends of the foil together and seal shut.
  8. Do this for the rest of the fish filets.
  9. Cook on hot coals for 12 minutes each side.

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Foodie Friday: Tropical overnight oats

Ingredients for the overnight oats recipe and a bowl of it with the ingredients combined.

Get the day started on the right foot with this easy and tasty breakfast!

As we transition into the warmer summer months, I notice that my food choices change with the rising temperature and that I begin craving my typical summer breakfast choices. Gone are the mornings where all I want is a steaming bowl of oatmeal.

With the change in seasons, many of us see a change in our eating habits. Summer is BBQ season and a time for cool, refreshing dishes that get us away from the stove and into the sunshine. If you aren’t careful, summer can bring with it less balanced meals. Here’s a recipe to get your day started off right, with a refreshing and balanced breakfast!

I also serve this dish warm in winter months. In the warm version,  I cook the first four ingredients on the stove top and use everything else as garnish. The cool, summer version below comes together in minutes, making for a quick grab and go breakfast in the morning! Whichever version you prefer, this a great breakfast choice that packs the fibre and protein to get you through till lunch!

Tropical overnight oats:
Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup instant oats or Muesli
  • ½ diced banana
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk or Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp pineapple tidbits or diced pineapple
  • 1 tbsp shredded coconut
  • Garnish to your liking (brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, nuts, chia seeds, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a Mason jar or Tupperware container the night before. It will be ready to eat by morning!

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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Making it easy: the rule of “fave five”

healthy eating; food; recipe

Simple ingredients for simple (and fast) suppers!

Planning to eat healthy is always a good goal, but many of us don’t have the time or desire to be spending hours in the kitchen every day preparing a healthy meal from scratch. Recipes can call for a long list of ingredients, many of which we may not have on hand in the pantry or fridge, and require time for preparation, such as washing, chopping, grating, soaking, mincing, etc. Without planning in advance, these meals can be challenging to pull off. Having a few go-to recipes that can be made in a hurry is an easy solution for when you’re in a pinch!

When we think quick and easy food, we typically think of convenience or fast foods. Convenience meals and fast food are typically prepackaged, processed and often high in sodium, fat and calories. Making meals at home lets you control what ingredients you use, make healthy substitutions, and be flexible with the recipe depending on what is available. This can mean a delicious and nutritious meal that you can feel good about!

Making a meal with five ingredients or less cuts down on time spent on planning, purchasing and food preparation. Using simple ingredients that are often in our kitchen, meal making can be quick, easy and healthy!

To get you started, I’m sharing with you a personal favourite of mine: Spinach and Feta Frittata (adapted from a recipe from the Dietitians of Canada).

Makes 10 servings

  • 1 package (10 oz/300 g) fresh or frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1½ cups cubed peeled potatoes
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup feta cheese

-Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

-Spread in potatoes and spinach in 13- by 9-inch (33 by 23 cm) glass baking dish, lightly greased.

-In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Pour over vegetables and stir gently to distribute. Sprinkle evenly with feta.

-Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until eggs are set.

Food fact: Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate and calcium! Find new ways to include this nutritional powerhouse in your diet regularly. Add it to soups, casseroles, pasta sauces, smoothies and salads.

Do you have any “fave five” recipes?

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

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

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