Healthy Living in the North

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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Down at the farm: Community Supported Agriculture

Summer is here! Amongst the many things to look forward to at this time of year is… Wednesday. Why Wednesday, you might ask? Well, this is when we take a weekly trip down to the farm and pick up our allotment of locally grown foods from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. This is the fourth year that my family and I have enthusiastically participated in the Skeena Valley CSA.

What is a CSA?

A CSA is a partnership between farmers and community members, which reduces risk to farmers and thereby supports local agriculture. Participants pay the farmer(s) in advance, providing them with the financial capital needed to plant, grow and harvest food for the season. In turn, participants enjoy local foods harvested throughout the growing sechopped rhubarb sitting on a table.ason. In our case, we receive weekly food allotments for about 20 weeks, from late May through to early October.

What food do we get from the CSA?

Every week, we are supplied with a variety of food items. In Terrace, it’s still early in the growing season, and at this time of year we tend to receive a combination of fresh produce, preserved items from the previous year, and other unique offerings. For example, a recent allotment included potatoes, jam, fresh lettuce, field flowers, lovage, lamb’s quarters, dried mint tea, eggs, raw honey and a bag of miso paste (produced by a local chef). Later in the season we will see dozens of other foods items, likely including cucumbers, tomatoes, berries, zucchini, cabbage, corn, apples and squashes.

What do we like about participating in the CSA?

There is so much I appreciate about being part of the CSA. For one, I am always impressed with the diversity of food items that we receive, and it is great exposure to what can be grown and harvested locally. Sometimes we receive foods that are unfamiliar to us: What, for example, do we do with “lamb’s quarters”? (Curious? Check out Emilia’s post about these leafy greens!)

I also like being able to dabble in seasonal food preparation. We can certainly preserve some of our CSA foods for later use, such as the rhubarb that I chopped up and fired into the freezer for future reincarnations into rhubarb muffins, rhubarb crumbles, or rhubarb iced tea (yes, it’s a thing). On the other hand, some of these items won’t keep well, so we have to be quite intentional and creative in incorporating these fresh and sometimes unfamiliar foods into our meals. Last week, I made a colourful salad with fresh lettuce, field flowers (totally edible!), and lamb’s quarters, mixed with chopped green cabbage and a miso dressing. It was crunchy and delicious!festive summer veggies and leaves in a wood bowl.

The CSA is also great for kids!

I love bringing my toddler to the farm. There are a few chickens, rabbits, and lambs on site, which is a curiosity for those of us who don’t have animals at home. More than that, however, on the farm we also get exposure to local agriculture, more than we do at the grocery store, or local farmers’ market. It’s rewarding to hear my daughter say, in relation to something we are eating, “Did this come from the farm?”

How about you? What opportunities do you and your family have to engage with the local food system? What are some of your favourite locally harvested foods?

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Foodie Friday: Summer hydration – Delicious thirst quenching drinks!

Summer is my season. I often joke that I was born into the wrong climate, since I really come alive in the hot summer months and play indoors during the winter. (I’m learning how to love snow!).  Here in northern BC, we don’t take our precious summer months for granted! As the days get longer and warmer, I prefer to spend most of my time outdoors. Whether it’s going for long bike rides, picnicking with friends, or spending weekends hiking the beautiful trails around Prince George, I’m out enjoying every minute of this weather!

When being active on hot sunny days, it’s important to stay hydrated. In her blog post, dietitian Carly Phinney tells us why staying hydrated is important. She suggests that we listen to our body’s cues for sensing thirst, and she explains that water is the best way to satisfy thirst. I couldn’t agree more!  Water is budget friendly, vital for our bodies, and oh so versatile!

I recently went on a hike with some friends who brought along an interesting drink that was very refreshing. It was water, but with a twist! (Stay tuned for Vash and Nick’s great summer drink recipe below). This got me thinking, what are some healthy ways to stay cool and hydrated this summer?

  • Add fruits and vegetables to your water; it’s a great way to add some excitement to a classic beverage (think: strawberries, cucumber, berries or citrus).
  • Freeze your favourite fruits and eat them as frozen snacks throughout the day. Depending on the season, I like eating frozen grapes, cherries, and berries. (For the little ones, be sure to cut those grapes in half before freezing).
  • Make your own frozen snacks and fruit pops for a refreshing munch.
  • Mash up your favourite fruits, freeze them into ice cubes, and add to cold water.

I’d like to share two recipes that I’m going to be using a lot this summer:

One of my favourite summer drinks is a classic: homemade lemonade! This lemonade recipe is lower in sugar compared to store bought varieties, and is made extra tasty by using freshly squeezed lemons!

Three people drinking a refreshing twisted water.

Enjoying Vash and Nick’s refreshing water after a sizzling hike!

Classic homemade lemonade:

  • 2 tbsp. of honey
  • 1 litre of water (regular or fizzy)
  • 4 fresh lemons, juiced (you can use a lemon juicer or your hands)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • A few handfuls of ice cubes (either regular ice cubes, or ones that have frozen fruit in them!)
  • Mint leaves as a garnish (optional)

Optional additions:

  • Mashed blueberries and strawberries (fresh or frozen!)
  • Sliced oranges and limes (creates a citrus medley!)

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir honey and ½ litre of water until completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. In a pitcher, combine the rest of the water and lemon juice. Add in the honey mixture once cooled. Stir. Add sliced lemons, ice cubes, mint and fruits (if using). Enjoy!

The second recipe, as promised, is Vash and Nick’s delicious thirst quencher!

Man enjoying drink with a Hawaiian shirt.

There are many ways to add refreshing tastes to water. A variety of homemade lemonades can be enjoyed as part of a summer potluck.

Vash and Nick’s famous water recipe:

  • 1 cup of water (can be regular or fizzy)
  • A handful of frozen or fresh berries (whole or mashed)
  • A squeeze of lime juice (to taste)
  • A squeeze of lemon juice (to taste)
  • Vash adds chia seeds for a refreshing crunch, but this is completely optional!

Let the water sit for a minute or two (bring it with you on a walk or hike), or store in the fridge for a few hours to let it really cool down. Enjoy!

Different takes on Vash and Nick’s water:

  • Mash up strawberries and mint
  • Cut up cubes of watermelon and add basil
  • Slice lemons, limes and oranges (for a citrus twist!)
  • Add some fruit-filled ice cubes

Looking for more information on healthy drinks?

Creating some fun recipes at home can help support healthy options, and get family and friends involved. What are some ways that you stay hydrated and cool during the summer?

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. Laurel is a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience working with groups across the lifecycle within BC and internationally to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking and travelling. She is looking forward to exploring more of the North!

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International No-Diet Day: say good-bye to diet

Do you have something that you are super sensitive and/or passionate about? The thing that gets you so riled up that you have to speak up or do something? For me, that something is weight. More specifically, how weight, and its connection to eating and health, are viewed in our world.

In today’s world, it seems normal to make comments and pass judgements about body size.

Just in the past month I’ve witnessed these scenarios:

  • One work colleague to another: “You look awesome! Have you lost weight?” Why is this problematic? It’s because it assumes that all weight loss is good and achieved in safe ways. It also implies that the person didn’t look good before losing the weight.
  • During lunch one day, a staff member attributed certain eating habits to someone based on their size: “You must eat healthy, you are so little!” to which the individual commented that they enjoyed a varied diet including full fat dairy, especially cheese, and had a sweet tooth. This comment fails to recognize that there are many things that influence body size.

These are just two common examples of “diet culture.” I suspect you have your own examples.  Diet culture is a way of thinking in which food and body size are judged and body size is valued over health.

Diet culture causes harm in some of the following ways:

  • It presents eating as moralistic, meaning food is “good” or “bad.” If you choose to eat “bad” foods then you are bad and should be ashamed. This view doesn’t consider that we all have different living circumstances and access to resources. For example, socio-economic factors, such as income and education, have a large impact on a person’s ability to access food. Even I, who has a lot of economic privilege, pause before purchasing a cauliflower head for $7.99. In truth, no food is good or bad. Rather, healthy eating is eating a variety of “good-tasting” and “good-for-you” foods in amounts that are satisfying and support health and wellness (in fact, this is how dietitians define “diet,” in a supportive, not restrictive way).
  • It overvalues food and eating by promoting the idea that nearly every health problem can be fixed by changing what, how, and/or how much you eat. While modifying diet may sometimes positively impact your health, it isn’t a cure all. There are many factors that impact health, including genetics, access to resources like money and health care, culture, experiences of trauma (especially in childhood), and social and physical built environments. The belief that diet = health places high value on one component of health (physical) without considering the collective impact of other components (mental, social, etc.).
  • It suggests that being “fat is bad.” Specifically, fat people are described using many negative labels. Jeon and colleagues recently assessed comments on YouTube and found there were “frequent disinhibited aggressive messages” against overweight individuals online. This is weight bias and stigma, a form of discrimination, which has been shown to negatively impact health (check out this article or a previous blog written by me if you want to know more). The truth is that when you look at the stats, it looks like those in the overweight and lower levels of obesity categories have lower health risks. So, why is it okay to discriminate against larger bodies (i.e. fattism)? Is it really about health?
  • It promotes the idea that weight loss, by any means, is to be celebrated. I’ve seen many disordered eating behaviours that are reinforced in bodies of all sizes because they promote weight loss. I’ve had past clients tell me they’ve been complimented for their weight loss . . . while on chemotherapy. I was on the receiving end of similar comments about weight loss a few years ago from a nurse colleague. My mother had just died unexpectedly at age 54. I was devastated and, for a few months, I wasn’t able to focus on taking care of myself well – I wasn’t nurturing myself with regular meals and snacks. My body was physically showing my grief. This was not a sustainable or a healthy approach to eating. However, as I came to terms with this personal tragedy, I returned to my usual way of eating and moving. Perhaps, rather than focusing on weight, we should look to creating supportive environments that celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes. All bodies are good bodies!

Diet culture causes harm. Diets fail to deliver long term weight loss. Instead, they typically increase your likelihood of gaining weight and negatively affecting your relationship with food and your body.

spirit mascot holding scale.

May 6 is International No Diet Day. On this day, ask yourself, “what can I do to stop diet culture”?

May 6 is International No Diet Day.

May 6 is International No Diet Day.On this day, consider giving up diets and contributing to diet culture. Since habits are a better predictor of health than size, consider ways to take care of your body, mind, and soul. Here are a few ideas to ponder:

  • Smash your scale and pledge to not weight yourself. Check out this video for inspiration.
  • Feed yourself faithfully – plan and enjoy regular meals and planned sit-down snacks of foods that you enjoy.
  • Practice intuitive eating. Take time to listen to and respond to your body’s cues for hunger, fullness, and satiety. Remember, it’s okay to choose to eat beyond fullness. Chances are, when you give yourself permission to do so, you will eventually learn to trust yourself to eat the right amount for you. Intuitive eating is non-judgemental. Check out Emilia’s blog post Ditch the Diet, Not the Healthy Eating for more ideas.
  • Explore new foods and cooking methods. Discovering new foods and new ways of cooking can help you to connect with the food that you eat.
  • Honour and share your food traditions with family and friends.
  • Recognize and stop engaging in diet (e.g. “Today is my cheat day.”) and fat (e.g. “Do I look fat in this?”) talk. Check out this blog and this video for definitions and strategies to deal with these.

From more than 20 years working as a dietitian, I know that you can’t tell how someone eats, moves, or takes care of themselves based on their size or shape. Doing so can cause physical and emotional harm. This “no-diet day”, ask yourself, “what can I do to stop diet culture”? Take a moment to think about one, tangible thing you will do. Please share!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has worked in northern BC for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Currently, she is the Chief Population Health Dietitian and Team Lead for the Population Health Nutrition Team. She takes a realistic, supportive, and non-judgemental approach to healthy eating in recognition that there are many things that influence how we care for ourselves. In her spare time, you are likely to find Flo cooking, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.

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Gathering with food: northern voices

In March, we celebrated Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, dietitians across Canada highlighted food’s potential, including the ability of food to bring us together. In support of this theme, Northern Health held a photo contest, asking northern community members to submit photos of themselves eating together with family, friends, or co-workers, with a brief description of what eating together means to them.

It’s inspiring to see how our communities come together over food and we wanted to highlight the wonderful submissions we received. These posts have some common themes, including:

  • Meal and snack times provide an opportunity to connect with loved ones.
  • Life can be quite busy, so having some time to gather, relax, and celebrate food can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health.
  • Food also teaches valuable life skills, such as teamwork, food preparation, sharing, and many more!

In the following pictures, it’s clear that families across the north use mealtime to connect with loved ones. These are some of the responses to our question, what does eating together mean to you?

family eating together.

Food brings us together in many ways. Teaching kids cooking basics, manners, team-work (by setting and clearing the table or unloading the dishwasher), sharing, and serving [the food].  Then there is the conversation while seated together, sharing a meal…conversations are best around the dinner table with 3 boys!” -Colleen from Prince George

family time together.

My husband and I always make a point of sitting down together to eat; we need this time to reconnect.” -Brenda from Dawson Creek

family eating together.

Food brings us unity and strengthens our bond as a family and as a community. We gather and share foods. While eating, we share our happy experiences and concerns.” -Marian from Prince George

family eating together.

Sitting down to eat together gives us a chance to connect, catch up on the day, or start the day together. It helps us bond as a family!” -Michelle from Prince George

family meal photo.

Some of my fondest memories have been centered on food… from social and family gatherings to parties and celebrations… I associate the smiles, laughter, and fun with how food can really bring people together, through simple preparation, eating together or cleaning up the last of the skimmings.” -Pamela from Prince George

Thanks again to all who submitted fantastic entries to our Nutrition Month contest, and a special shout-out to our contest winner, Marian from Prince George! While we enjoyed reading each of the submissions, Marian’s collage of pictures really demonstrated the variety of ways in which food can bring us together, through food preparation, cooking, and eating!

Explore some of our other blog posts to see how food can bring us together:

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. Laurel is a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience working with groups across the lifecycle within BC and internationally to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking and travelling. She is looking forward to exploring more of the North!

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Dietitians share their Pro Tips!

To celebrate Nutrition Month this March, my colleagues and I had a potluck. The theme was “Throwback Thursday,” where we prepared foods that were important to us during our childhood. During the potluck, we gathered and shared stories about the different foods and their significance in our lives.

This Nutrition Month, Northern Health dietitians are highlighting the potential of food. This includes celebrating food’s potential to bring us together; exploring food as an important part of a child’s discovery of the world; and in  one colleague’s case,  reflecting on the dietitians she has met throughout the years and how they have influenced her (and others) both personally and professionally.

group shot of dietitians together.

Dietitians from across Northern Health at a meeting in Prince George; September, 2017: a group of passionate advocates for the role of food in health!

We are lucky to have a group of dedicated and passionate registered dietitians who work for Northern Health in a variety of capacities. Whether it’s in the hospital, in food service, or population health, dietitians are committed to their work in supporting the health and well-being of the people and communities they serve.

Celebrating Registered Dietitians across our northern BC region!

Officially a Northern Health tradition, March is when we ask our dietitians for nutrition “pro tips.” So, what did they have to say about food and nutrition?

This #nutritionmonth, what pro tips would you like to share with northerners?

Judy (Dawson Creek):  Grow a little food in your yard, balcony, or a sunny window sill in the winter! Discover the joy of nurturing the food that can nurture you!

Flo (Terrace): Be a good eater. Be aware of and respond to, your body’s cues of appetite, hunger, fullness, and satisfaction; be open to trying new foods and expanding the variety of foods you eat and feel good about eating. Good eaters have good health!

Allie (dietetic intern): Frozen vegetables can be a great alternative to fresh vegetables. They’re just as nutritious, keep well in the freezer, and can be cost-effective!

Lise (Terrace): Consider activities that allow kids to see, touch, smell, taste, and talk about food. This helps them to build familiarity with a variety of foods.

Laurel (Prince George): Spring is coming! Consider sharing a meal with family or friends at your local park or picnic site. 

Emilia (Terrace): Consider healthy school fundraising! Some ideas include seedling sales or school-made calendars. Check out the Fresh to You Fundraiser to sell bundles of locally grown produce!

Christine (Terrace): All foods can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Refrain from labelling foods; food is not inherently “good” or “bad.”

Flo (Terrace): Eat well and be active for the sake of health, pleasure, and well-being. Care for your body at whatever size you are now. All bodies are good bodies!

Laurel (Prince George): Food has the potential to connect us! Whether it’s a quick snack at coffee break, on a road trip with friends, or a Saturday morning family breakfast, mealtime is a chance to tune in and connect with loved ones.

Lise (Terrace): Preparing food and eating it together can be fun for all! Have you considered cooking with kids?

Interested in reading pro tips from years gone by?

  • Nutrition Month 2016: Dietitians share their knowledge in the first-ever “Pro Tip” blog.
  • Nutrition Month 2017: Dietitians contribute to the second annual “Pro Tip” blog!

Food has so much potential. It connects us all. Through food, we can discover so much: new tastes, new traditions and cultures, new stories and new relationships. Registered dietitians promote health through food and nutrition, but we also recognize that there is so much more to food than nutrients. Food shapes us all. Happy Nutrition Month!

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. Laurel is a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience working with groups across the lifecycle within BC and internationally to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking and travelling. She is looking forward to exploring more of the North!

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A study in self-care: what’s on the menu?

Imagine your “happy place.” Where are you? What is it about this place that allows you to let go of stress? Now, come back to this reality. What can you do to gain that same feeling of relief?

As a university student, I’ve had ups and downs with stress. The first few years of my degree, I found I was feeling more overwhelmed that I’d ever felt before; I was having difficulty balancing school with life. When I did let myself break away from the books – to skate, hike, share dinner with friends, watch a movie, etc.,  I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I found that I would return to my assignments feeling energized and ready to go. All this is to say: I wasn’t very good at self-care.

Self-care is time we take to intentionally look after the many aspects of our health: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. It’s time to reflect and refresh, and it looks different for everyone. Now, in the final months of my dietetic internship with Northern Health and getting set to launch into the “real world,” I’ve learned what self-care means to me: connecting with food!

three girls eating outside at a picnic table together.

For me, self-care means connecting with food!

I’ve found I feel the most refreshed when I take the time to make and eat a meal or snack I’m excited about. I don’t consider myself a gourmet cook by any means, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment when I create something from scratch. I choose the dish, I get the ingredients together, I decide which steps to follow and which to skip… it’s a creative outlet that gives my food added value. A successful stint in the kitchen also gives me the chance to share something I’m proud of with friends and family. Heck, even if it wasn’t successful, past triumphs give me the confidence to at least share a laugh!

Socializing around food is something I’ve come to value quite a bit. There are many great benefits to eating together, but what I like most is the opportunity to enjoy the company of others. Gathering around food allows us to come together, catch up, and share stories; it can be a means of self-care in itself. The best part is, it doesn’t need to be complicated! There are lots of ways to socialize around food:

  • Host a potluck
  • Make snacks for the hiking trail
  • Pack a picnic basket for the beach or park
  • Make a snack to share in a blanket fort
  • Share baking with coworkers or your community group
  • Join a local community kitchen or cooking club
  • Berry pick in your favourite berry patch
  • Explore a local farmers’ market
  • Volunteer to cook or serve food at a community dinner

…the possibilities are endless!

March is Nutrition Month, and Northern Health dietitians are encouraging you to share how you gather around food. What food-related activities will give you a break and let you breathe that sigh of relief?

Allie Stephen

About Allie Stephen

Allie is currently a dietetic intern with Northern Health, working with dietitians in a variety of different areas. Allie grew up in Ottawa and came out west to study to be a dietitian at UBC. She loves all that BC has to offer and her experiences in the North are no exception - she is continuously inspired by the beautiful scenery and the wonderful people she has met. In in her spare time, Allie enjoys hiking, canoeing, dancing, biking, eating with friends and family, reading, as well as exploring more of beautiful BC!

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From my family to yours: personalized no-bake energy balls!

Girl picking blackberriesFor Nutrition Month this year, we’re thinking about all of the ways we can make food with the family, and we’re celebrating how food can have the potential to fuel, create discovery, and bring us together!

Growing up in a family whose parents immigrated to Canada in the mid-90’s, we were quite traditional with our food habits. My parents valued eating together as a family and we were not permitted to start eating until every single person sat down at the dinner table. As a ritual in our household, my brother and I sat down and called each of the family members present to join us before every meal. This, my parents explained, taught us discipline and respect and would help build character. Our friend’s families on the other hand, either said grace or simply dove right into the food as soon as everyone sat down.

Meals allowed us to share the best parts of our day as well as our struggles. Not only was personal news shared but international news as well, since the children didn’t watch the news or read newspapers. These daily rituals helped reinforce values, mold our personalities, and allowed us to revisit some of the traditions my parents were taught in their youth; traditions like: how to hold a bowl, how to hold our chopsticks and present our food, how to speak during meals, and what to do when finished.

As we got older and committed to extracurricular activities and work, conflicting schedules made it harder to bring everyone together for dinner. Today, we cherish the times we get to sit down and enjoy a family meal, and all the other ways food brings us together.

Some examples of how food brings my family together:

  • Harvesting fruit trees and berry bushes: we have a cherry tree, a golden plum tree, goji berry bushes, and blueberry bushes in our backyard. This means there was always something easy to pick off a tree or bush and eat throughout most of the growing season.
  • Harvesting wild berry bushes: there are enormous blackberry bushes down the fire lane by our house. After work/school we would head home and my family would pull out a ladder, place it on a dolly, and walk it down the fire lane to pick wild blackberries. We got some interesting looks from unfamiliar faces driving by.
  • Meal prep on the weekends: some weekends we would make my mom’s famous Taiwanese beef stew. This involved a lot of prep and a long slow simmer to make sure the beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender.
  • Grocery shopping together: grocery store runs always happened after dinner to avoid the rush hour traffic. The end of the day is also a great time to go for marked down food. My brother and I would play games and see who could spot the marked down foods first.
  • Preparing snacks together: whether it’s cutting up veggie sticks, storing berries in little to-go containers for lunch, or making granola bites, one of us would attempt to toss whatever we were preparing at each other and the other one would try and catch it in their mouth. Tips: the trick is in a high toss so the catcher has time to react and to use something with a bit of weight (berries work better than popcorn).

One of my favourite snacks is No-Bake Energy Balls. They’re so versatile – you can mix and match ingredients and make easy substitutions.  To store in the winter, you can simply freeze/refrigerate them in a sealed container outside or in the garage. These energy balls are perfect for every season!

No-Bake Energy Balls

Recipe Adapted from: Wonder How To Food Hacks

Ratio guide (see examples of ingredients below):

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup assorted ingredients
  • ½ cup something nutty/sticky
  • 1/3 cup something liquid/sugary

No bake energy balls

Examples of ingredients:

Nutty/Sticky

  • Peanut butter
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Almond butter
  • Cashew butter

Liquid Sweeteners

  • Regular syrup
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup

Nutty/Crunchy/Seedy

  • Chopped almonds
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Chopped cashews
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Sweet/Fruity

  • Mashed bananas
  • Dried cranberries
  • Dried raisins
  • Dried blueberries
  • Dried apricots
  • Shredded coconut

Sweet/ Chocolatey

  • White chocolate chips
  • Milk chocolate chips
  • Yogurt chips
  • M&M’s

Bitter

  • Dark chocolate chips*
  • Cocoa powder*
  • Ground coffee beans

*balance out bitterness with sweet foods!

Tangy/Citrusy

  • Lemon zest
  • Lime zest
  • Orange zest

Spices

  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground ginger

Ingredients of energy balls Instructions:

  1. Combine your ingredients.
  2. Stir and shape into balls (2 Tbsp or 2 inches in diameter) on to a baking sheet. No need for a food processor, just stir until all the ingredients are combined and can be formed into balls. If too wet, add more rolled oats. If too dry and crumbly, add more nutty/sticky ingredients or liquid sweetener.
  3. Refrigerate for 20-30 mins and enjoy! Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze to keep them longer.

Check out two other recipes for energy balls from NH dietitians: see Rilla’s and Amy’s recipes.

What role does food play in bringing people together in your life? Is there a food you like to make with your family and friends? Share your ideas using #NutritionMonth on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! Follow Northern Health or the Dietitians of Canada for more updates on how to unlock the potential of food!

Terry Lok

About Terry Lok

Terry is currently completing his dietetic internship with Northern Health. He re-located from the Lower Mainland to learn and explore in the gigantic outdoor playground that we call northern BC. Terry is passionate about a whole foods approach to preventive health and chronic disease management. You can find him skiing and hiking on the mountains, browsing for hours at the local grocery store or hosting potlucks around the local parks.

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Food and Fun: Building Healthy Relationships in the Kitchen

This month, we’re celebrating Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme, “Unlock the Potential of Food.” Food offers so much, including the potential for us to discover new tastes, skills, and experiences, as well as the potential to bring us together.

little girl mixing bowl with spoon.

Cooking with kids is so much fun!

My daughter recently had her second birthday, and she’s already a budding chef! She will declare, “I want to cook,” and proceed to push a chair to the kitchen counter, ask for exactly two bowls, a big spoon, and “more spices please.” She then mixes things together, perhaps adds a little water, decants from one bowl to the other, and, yes, makes a bit of a mess.

At other times, she “helps” me with a recipe. She has stirred the dry ingredients together for apple crisp and has “beaten” eggs for homemade muffins. Of course, I help her to “help” me.

Why do I support these messy kitchen adventures? Is it because it keeps her happily occupied for a few minutes so I can get something else done? Well, yes…but I also have ulterior motives….

Children are exposed to the world of food through the role modeling, attitudes, and habits of their families, friends, caregivers, and educators. Cooking with kids can help to build a foundation for healthy relationships with food. How is this?

  • “I want to cook!” Cooking together supports positive attitudes about food and eating. Food is a pleasure, and food preparation can be fun.
  • “What’s dis, mama?” Food preparation activities help kids get familiar and comfortable with a greater variety of foods. And this, in turn, helps them to (eventually) enjoy a variety of food.
  • “Me cook!” Cooking teaches food skills. At this age, cooking with kids helps to normalize the fact that we can make tasty dishes from simple ingredients. This builds their confidence that they will eventually be able to do this too.

 The child feels independent and it’s kind of a milestone…They think: OK, if I can do this, if I can just mix this, then I can do that too. It’s baby steps towards bigger things.”

 ~ Mother*

Cooking with kids helps to build their lifelong relationship with food, and it’s also important in the “here and now.” Time in the kitchen is quality time, a way to connect, an investment in adult-child relationships. And cooking together is not only fun for the kids – it’s rewarding for adults too:

It’s something we can do together; they get excited about it and it makes me feel good.”

~ Father*

What opportunity do you have to cook with kids? Wondering where to start? Consider taking a peek at our Cooking with Kids poster to see what children of various ages are capable of doing in the kitchen. You might also enjoy kids’ cooking videos from the annual “Hands-On Cook-Off contest” (or consider submitting a video yourself!).

You can also find more inspiration on our blog:

(*Quotes from “A Hands on Approach to Family, Food and Fun”.)

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Foodie Friday: New Year’s resolution challenge

Just a couple more days until we ring in the New Year (how is it 2018 already?!) and some of us might already be thinking about our New Year’s resolutions. Setting goals, whether big or small, is key to achieving desired changes in our lives. Without SMART goals, we tend to get sidetracked, distracted, and lose motivation along the way.

Many of us choose health-oriented goals for the New Year. The end of one year and the beginning of another is an opportunity to reflect on your health and how you care for yourself.  This reflection may help you identify what health means to you and new ways you’d like to try to achieve better health.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with more traditional goals like wanting to move more or eat healthier. But I think it’s safe to say that after a few months, especially if the changes are too different from our normal behaviours, most of us lose our motivation to eat better and revert back to our usual ways (which may not be all that problematic to begin with!). Instead of choosing really broad goals like “eat better”, break your goals down into smaller, achievable steps that work towards your overarching goal. Here are some examples:

  • I will eat a fruit at breakfast every day this week.
  • I will bring my lunch from home four out of five days of the work week this month.
  • I will only eat out once per month for the next six months.

Healthy eating goals don’t need to only focus on what types of food we choose. What can be equally as important is improving our attitudes, behaviours and feelings about eating, such as being open to trying new foods, taking time to prepare meals and snacks, tuning in and responding to internal cues of hunger, fullness and satiety, feeling good about eating, and so on. For this upcoming year, I’d like to challenge you to think beyond goals focused solely on particular food choices, and consider adding goals that work towards mindful eating. Mindful eating is deliberately paying attention, without any judgement about the why, when, what, and how much you eat, with the goal of enjoying and feeling good about eating.  Some examples might be:

  • I will focus on the taste, texture, temperature, flavour, and pleasure of my food by removing distractions (no tv/cell phone/music) from one meal per day.
  • I will take time today to enjoy my food and notice when I feel full and satisfied. I will honour my body’s cues to finish eating.
  • I will build a routine around my evening meal (e.g. setting the table, lighting candles, saying thank you to the cook, etc.) that allows me to pause and gives permission to take time to eat.

For more tips on practicing mindful eating, visit the Centre for Mindful Eating.

Now here’s a recipe to enjoy mindfully!

Turmeric, Ginger, and Mango Smoothie

Adapted from: desireerd.com

mango tumeric ginger smoothie on counter

Ingredients:

  • ½ of a fresh mango (or generous ½ cup frozen mango)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • 1 cup milk or fortified milk alternative
  • ¼ cup cashews
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1 pinch sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Blend all ingredients together.

Tip: I found the cashews didn’t quite blend up in my Magic Bullet. Unless you have a high quality blender like a Vitamix, I would suggest soaking the cashews first in warm water, then draining off the water before blending.

Tamara Grafton

About Tamara Grafton

Tamara is a registered dietitian currently working with the clinical nutrition team at UHNBC and in long term care facilities in Prince George. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she now lives the rural life on a ranch with her husband and young son. She has a passion for nutrition education, healthy eating and cooking. In her downtime, she enjoys reading food blogs, keeping active, and trying out new recipes on her family and friends

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