Healthy Living in the North

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:


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

Liquid Sweeteners

  • Regular syrup
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup


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


  • 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


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

*balance out bitterness with sweet foods!


  • Lemon zest
  • Lime zest
  • Orange zest


  • 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.


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 started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.


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:

mango tumeric ginger smoothie on counter


  • 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


  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


Foodie Friday: Northwest Fish Tacos

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jeannie Parnell, a community developer with a passion for food. We recently did a joint presentation on nutrition and Indigenous Food Sovereignty. It was exciting to hear her talk about how she makes wholesome meals for her family by incorporating harvested traditional foods alongside foods purchased from the store.

Indigenous food, harvest, tacos

Jeannie Parnell is a community developer with a passion for food!

Jeannie is from the Stellat’en First Nation, near Fraser Lake, and currently resides in Prince Rupert with her husband and son. She explains:

“I wanted to make a healthier version of what is now being called the ‘Indian tacos’ Jeannie told me. ‘Indian Tacos’ are usually made with fried white bannock, topped off with chili, cheese and sour cream, and having little or no vegetables. Also, some Indigenous people are lactose intolerant so I wanted to create a recipe with the option of no cheese or sour cream with the addition of vegetables. I call this recipe the ‘Northwest Fish Taco’. The Northwest Fish Taco provides a healthy alternative that is less time consuming to make and is more versatile—you can use baked salmon or vary the vegetables!”

Jeannie likes to make most of her meals from food she and her family have harvested. She explains that they taste better and incorporate her family’s traditions:

Growing up as a family of nine, we relied heavily on our own Indigenous foods to supplement our food budget. My brothers are hunters. My mother did the fishing for our family for many years. My traditional teachings come from my mom who kept those going. She always had a smokehouse and did her own canning. We had a huge garden that we worked in as kids. I am so thankful for all of this; it enhanced my quality of life.”

Salmon, (which is rich in protein, omega 3 fats, vitamin D, and vitamin A) as part of healthy diet, can help us in overall wellness. Health Canada recommends that we eat 2 – 4 servings per week of fatty fish like salmon. This taco recipe is a delicious way to get in one of those servings! Check out the First Nations Health Authority Traditional Foods Fact sheets or these food and nutrition fact sheets for more information.

I’m looking forward to trying Jeannie’s Northwest Fish Tacos!


  • ½ head of purple or green cabbage, sliced
  • 2-3 Tbsp. of vegetable oil (try olive or grapeseed oil)
  • Juice from 1 lemon or 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Mix together. Set aside in the fridge.

tacos, harvest, indigenous food

Healthy and delicious tacos!


  • 6-8 corn or flour tortillas
  • ½ Tbsp. of vegetable oil such as olive oil

Heat the oil in a cast iron pan. Add tortillas and toast both sides until golden brown. Put aside.


  • ½ of a left over baked salmon, broken into chunks and bones removed
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable such as olive oil

Heat the oil in a cast iron pan. Add fish and toast on both sides until a little crunchy.

Avocado Dressing

  • ½ avocado
  • ½ cup of fresh dill (if using dried, use less)
  • Juice from ½ lemon (or 1 Tbsp. bottled lemon juice)
  • ¼ cup of water

Blend until smooth.

To serve:

Put salmon into each tortilla with the coleslaw on top. Top with avocado dressing and a squeeze of lemon. Serve with salad and roasted sweet potatoes if desired. Makes 6 – 8 tacos.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.


Holiday donations: how can you best support your local food bank?

On Friday, December 1st, CBC BC is hosting Food Bank Day. As a dietitian, this has me thinking about food charity and what it means for our communities. If you’re donating non-perishable food items this year, Loraina’s helpful blog on healthy food hampers reminds us to consider healthy food options.

In speaking with various food bank employees, I have come to notice a theme: donating money to your local food bank is the most effective way to be sure that nutritious foods are available for families. Here’s why:

  • Food bank staff know exactly which foods are in need.
  • They purchase in bulk and can buy 3-4x more food with each dollar.
  • Food banks are costly to run, so monetary donations also help with operational costs (e.g. building costs such as rent, hydro and heat).
  • Both perishable and non-perishable items can be purchased by staff, which helps to ensure that food bank users have consistent access to a variety of nutritious foods.

Monetary donations help us to buy foods when needed, so that we can have a consistent supply of food throughout the year. Purchasing food ourselves allows us to provide both perishable items (such as eggs, meat and cheese) and non-perishables. That said, we can use, and are happy to receive, any form of donation, whether it be food, money or physical (volunteering).”

(Salvation Army staff member)

How can you help your local food bank?

  • Food Bank BC has an online donation system:
    • Donations above $20 are eligible for a tax receipt.
    • They help food banks across BC, including those in rural and northern communities.
  • If you know your local food bank, you can drop by with a monetary donation.
  • You can visit Food Bank BC to find a food bank near you.

Why are food banks in need?

Northern BC has the highest cost of food in the province, as well as the highest rates of food insecurity:

 Food insecurity exists when an individual or family lacks the financial means to obtain food that is safe, nutritious, and personally acceptable, via socially acceptable means.”

(Provincial Health Services Authority, 2016)

Statistics on food insecurity

  • In northern BC approximately 16% of households (1 in 6) experience some level of food insecurity.
  • Those most deeply affected are single parent households with children, those on social assistance, and many people in the work force.
donations, food drive, charity

Donating money to your local food bank is the most effective way to be sure that nutritious foods are available for families.

How can food banks help?

In Canada, household food insecurity is primarily due to a lack of adequate income to buy food.  While food banks are not a solution to food insecurity, they can help provide short term, immediate access to nutritious food.

This holiday season, if you are thinking about donating to the food bank, consider a monetary donation. This will help support food bank staff in purchasing high quality, nutritious foods to lend immediate support to families during the holidays, and beyond.

On Friday, December 1st, tune in to CBC Food Bank Day and listen to live programs and guest performers, and learn about the issue of food insecurity in our province.


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!


Foodie Friday: Discovering BC Apples

This September, my partner and I visited an apple orchard in the Okanagan. From Honeycrips to Ambrosia, Granny Smith to Gala, we had so much fun sampling, comparing, and discovering all the different local apple varieties!

Fast forward two months, and winter is just arriving in northern BC. It’s the perfect time to enjoy fresh, crisp BC-grown apples from this year’s harvest, which wrapped up not too long ago!

apples BC apples explore BC

So many awesome kinds of apples to try!

Maybe you are searching for that perfectly sweet, crisp apple, or simply looking for a fun activity to do with the kids. Either way, have you considered doing your own apple taste test from the comforts of your own home?  All you need to do is pick out a few different varieties of apples from your local grocery store, and let your taste buds guide you. If you plan on trying this with kids, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Ask kids to describe how the apple looks, feels, smells, sounds, and taste. What colour is the apple? Is it sweet or sour? Soft or crunchy?
  • Encourage them to explore further. Where do apples grow? What are your favourite ways to eat them?
  • Invite kids to taste each apple, if they like, without any pressure. Remember, seeing, touching, exploring, and sharing a snack together are all good learning – even if kids don’t eat a particular food!
  • Consider serving some slices with a peanut butter or yogurt based dip (or try Marianne’s maple peanut butter fruit dip) to amp up the nutrition. Bonus: kids will love dunking their fruit in a yummy dip!

If you’d like to try an apple taste test as part of a classroom-based activity, be sure to check out this “Taste the Difference” lesson plan.

Whether fresh or baked, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy apples this season. I love this cheddar-apple quesadilla recipe because it’s simple enough to make on a busy weeknight, yet fancy enough to impress guests. Kids can help too, by washing apples, grating cheese, and assembling the quesadillas.


  • 1 apple of your choice, thinly sliced
  • 4 whole-wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, or other cheese of your choice
  • 1/2 tsp of dried thyme

    apple quesadilla

    These quesadillas are sure to impress.


Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).

  1. Sprinkle half the cheese over one half of tortilla.
  2. Place several apple slices on top of cheese, and sprinkle remaining cheese and dried thyme.
  3. Fold tortilla in half and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Looking for more recipes featuring apples? Here are two of my favourites from the Northern Health Matters blog:

“As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

Lindsay`s Morning Glory Muffins 

Do you have a favourite apple recipe? Share in the comments below!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!


A dietitian’s take on the sticky topic of Halloween candy

Whether you are carving pumpkins, dressing up in costumes, or taking the kids trick-or-treating, there is fun to be had by all this Halloween season!

As a dietitian, a question I get asked a lot this time of year is, “What do I do with all the Halloween candy my kids brings home?”

Friends, family members, and online sources offer up many strategies for parents to try. However, the emphasis is often on getting kids to eat less candy, so what is supposed to be a fun and positive experience can quickly turn into a battle.

Beth’s blog about Handling Halloween reminds us that Halloween is a great time to practice the Division of Responsibly in Feeding. You as the parent are responsible for offering a variety of foods at regular meal and snack times, while kids decide what and how much they want to eat from the foods you provided.

To build on this, registered dietitian Ellyn Satter suggests using Halloween as a learning opportunity and letting kids manage their own stash. You will need to set few ground rules first, of course!  It could look something like this:

Trick or treat!

  • On Halloween and the next day, let kids eat as much of their candy as they want.
  • Then, put the candy away until meal and snack times.
  • At meal and snack times, let them choose a few pieces of candy.
  • If they follow the rules, they get to manage their own stash. If not, you manage if for them using the same principles.

Hold on. Did a dietitian just say it’s okay to let kids eat as much candy as they want on Halloween?  Yes!  Allow me to explain:

Of course it is likely that kids eat more candy than usual on Halloween, and that’s totally normal. After that, the key is offering candy as part of regular sit-down meals and snacks, while you continue to choose the rest of the food served. This helps kids become competent eaters by helping them learn to:

  • Feel more relaxed about all kinds of foods, including candy.
  • Enjoy candy as part of a normal, healthy eating pattern.
  • Listen to their tummies when deciding how much to eat (studies show that when foods are restricted, kids may eat more of those foods when they get a chance, even when they are not hungry).

So there you have it – a dietitians take on Halloween candy. To learn about ways that you can support a more safe and inclusive Halloween for children with food allergies check out Lindsay’s blog, Foodie Friday: Halloween celebrations – more than just food.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!


Foodie Friday: Halloween celebrations – more than just food

One of the many beauties of living in Canada is the dramatic change in seasons, each one bringing something to look forward to. What do you look forward to in the fall?

For many, one of the most exciting days is Halloween, especially for the kids (or perhaps the inner child in all of us adults!). While it might seem odd for some cultures in the world to think about kids going door-to-door asking strangers for candy, Halloween is a huge part of our culture in North America. Do you know how Halloween originated? An ancient Celtic festival called Samhain gave birth to what we now know as Halloween. The Celts celebrated the harvest and the start of the long winter. The festival was celebrated on October 31st, when the boundary between the living and the dead was believed to be at its weakest.

Nowadays many children look forward to dressing up, trick-or-treating around the neighbourhood, and coming home with a huge loot of candy. This means eating foods that may not be the most nutritious. In my family growing up, our Halloween tradition was always having hot dogs before we went out trick-or-treating.  During this time of celebrating, it is important to recognize that food provides more than just nourishment.  Food is a huge part of our culture and celebrations, and Halloween can be used as an excellent teaching opportunity for moderating enjoyable treats.

While trick-or-treating is exciting for the children that can enjoy candy, there are many children that live with severe food allergies who are unable to take part in all of the treats that are handed out. Around 2.5 million Canadians self-report having at least one food allergy. The highest incidence is found in young children, less than three years of age. How do you ensure a fun Halloween for all the kids in your neighbourhood? One initiative that supports making Halloween safe and fun for all children is the Teal Pumpkin Project. This initiative encourages families to place a teal pumpkin in front of their home, which indicates that non-food treats are available for those who either have food allergies or other kids that cannot have candy for some reason.

Learn the details about participating in this initiative at: Teal Pumpkin Project.

Can you see yourself participating in the teal pumpkin project this Halloween? Even if you don’t have a teal pumpkin to display, definitely feel free to give out non-food treats on Halloween – you never know what the little ghosts and goblins will choose.  To make it clear that your house is giving out non-food treats, you can display a poster like this one:

teal pumpkin project poster

The Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative that encourages families to place a teal pumpkin in front of their home to indicate non-food treats are available for those with food allergies.

If you feel like following my family tradition and possibly having a hot dog before going trick-or-treating with your little ones, check out the Prince George Farmer’s market cookbook called “Cooking with the Market” for a very unique hot dog recipe. The recipe uses zucchini as a bun and is a great way to use up those zucchini’s that you may have leftover from the harvest. The recipe is definitely unique, but it might make getting a few vegetables in before the candy a bit easier.

Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn't at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.


Making kid-friendly meals

The reality:

In restaurants, “kids’ menus” typically offer a short list of popular foods, items like grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese pizza, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers with fries, and simple pasta dishes. At home, meal time might feature one meal for the kids, and a different one for the adults. This extra effort stems from parental concerns that their kids won’t eat the same foods their grown-ups enjoy.

The challenge:

The idea of “kid-friendly meals” reinforces the notion that kids will only accept a limited range of foods. But it’s a catch-22, because if we only offer kids a short list of easy-to-like foods, we’re limiting their chances to learn to like a greater variety of foods.

A different perspective:

Trying new foods can be a treat to watch!

Kids are “eaters in training”, and with time and opportunity, they can learn to like the wide range of foods their families enjoy. They’re capable of so much! I think about what I have seen kids eat in other regions: spicy tamales in Mexico, liver pate in Belgium, and whale blubber (muktuk) in Canada’s Arctic region. Wow, right?

Given that kids can learn to like wide range of foods, I’d like to propose a new definition for a “kid-friendly meal”:

  • It is a meal that kids share with their family or other role models.
  • It’s a positive experience.
  • It fits into a routine of regular meal and snack times.
  • It provides an opportunity for good nutrition.

Here are some practical tips for making kid-friendly meals:

  • Make one meal for the whole family. Where possible, eat together, and help kids to serve themselves from the foods you’ve prepared.
  • Include foods from 3 or 4 different food groups, but know that it’s normal (and okay) for young children to only eat 1 or 2 items from a meal.
  • Be considerate, without letting the kids dictate the menu. Offer new or less popular foods alongside familiar favourites, so everyone can find something to eat (e.g. introduce a new vegetable alongside your standby pasta dish, or offer bread, butter, and cheese together with that chili recipe you want to try).
  • Consider occasional build-your-own meals, such as salads, pizza, tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, or rice bowls, where each person assembles their own unique version of the dish.
  • Cut ingredients into large enough pieces so kids can recognize and pick out anything they are not yet comfortable with (e.g. when preparing a stew, cut the meat and vegetables into bite-size pieces).
  • Be honest about what you are serving; hiding vegetables or other foods into mixed dishes won’t help kids learn to like those foods. Worse, kids could become suspicious about the foods you offer!
  • Keep the conversation pleasant, and focus on connecting with the people with whom you are sharing the meal. If you are talking about the food, be matter-of-fact (e.g. “This is asparagus. It tastes a bit like broccoli.”).
  • Avoid pressuring kids to eat, such as “take one bite” rules or “try it, you’ll like it”. Let your child’s appetite be their guide for how much to eat, and let them learn to like new foods at their own pace.
  • “You don’t have to eat it” is always a great way to respond to resistance.

For more information, see related posts and resources:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.


Eating well at work: what Northern Health staff have to say

Have you ever tried to make a lifestyle change, say tweaking your eating habits, and it didn’t quite work out? My past efforts have taught me that success is more likely to happen when you consider what is needed to make “the healthy choice the easy choice”. I find that different strategies are needed for home, work, and fun.

In recognition of October’s Healthy Workplace Month, I asked a few work colleagues throughout the region to share with me what makes it possible to eat well at work. Here’s what I learned:

 Planning at home can support easy access to your preferred food

I have a morning routine that includes packing a lunch. I also try eat away from my desk. It’s important for me to take a break.”

“I typically bring a week of snacks with me on Monday to save time and take the guess work out of snack planning. Some of my favourites are whole fruit, cut up veggies, homemade muffins or cookies, oatmeal packs, yogurt, cheese cubes, and boiled eggs.”

Supportive work colleagues and spaces make a difference

We plan potlucks a few times a year, with a focus on balancing out dishes to include all four food groups – and we always leave room for dessert!”

“I appreciate that we have a space at work where we can eat together. I really enjoy spending social time with work colleagues catching up, sharing food and recipes, laughing and relaxing.”

“It’s great that we have access to a kitchen to safely store and prepare lunches. It means I am not stuck eating sandwiches every day!”

“We’ve changed the culture at our worksite so that our staff room isn’t the “dumping ground” for people’s unwanted sweets. Years ago, there would be bags and bags of leftover Halloween candy, boxes of Christmas chocolates, or Valentine and Easter treats on the communal table – it was hard to not eat it when it was sitting there. Some days I’d feel sick from eating so much candy. It’s better now because if I want a seasonal treat, I can bring my own or accept one if it’s offered.”

Tasty, healthy, options that anyone will love!

 Management support, whether through policy, resources, or events, really shows that my workplace values my health

Twice a year, our managers host social events for all staff — one is a bbq and the other is a luncheon. There is always a great variety of food.”

“It’s great that we have approachable dietitians at our workplace. I like that they have a flexible approach to what healthy eating is, and they make me feel good about my food choices.”

“My team lead tries to follow the Eat Smart, Meet Smart guidelines when planning our team meetings. This means we have more healthy options to choose from, and we’re more likely to have a fruit bowl instead of a box of doughnuts at meetings these days!”

As you can see, there is a variety of strategies that people feel make healthy eating easier at work. For some additional thinking, check out Marianne’s blog about Workplace celebrations:  More than just food and Beth’s blog about Eating smart at work.

I’d love to hear how your workplace makes it easier for you to eat well!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!