Healthy Living in the North

Nutritious and delicious Easter traditions

Child picking up coloured eggs.

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

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

A meal of ham or turkey, vegetables, buns or stuffing, and dessert has a good chance of having 3-4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, making it a nutritionally balanced meal.

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

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

Adults may worry about how much they eat at these celebrations. Healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day. Rather, it’s about your overall approach to eating. On the day of the celebrations, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack pattern, so that you can listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Buffet style meals can often leave you feeling overfull from wanting to try a little bit of everything. Instead, survey your options, and choose those things you really want to try. You can always come back for more if you are still hungry. Take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly, and enjoy the time with family and friends. Remember that the holidays are about the whole experience – enjoy the meal, the company, and the memories made.

What about the treats and chocolate?

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

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

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.


Easter potlucks and food safety

Potluck items on a table

Do your Easter plans include a potluck? Take steps to make sure that your party is not just fun and delicious, but safe, too!

With Easter just around the corner, many people are preparing to gather family and friends for a feast around the table. Potlucks are a popular idea for get-togethers, helping to take some of the burden off of the host. Take steps to make sure that your potluck isn’t just fun, but healthy and safe, too!

Keeping food safe, particularly food prepared at home and brought to another location, is very important in reducing the risk of foodborne illness outbreaks.

Most cases of foodborne illness start in home kitchens not because of the food but because of how the food is prepared. The familiar symptoms many people attribute to “stomach flu” such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, fever, headache and muscle pain may not be the flu but rather foodborne illness. For some people – the very old, the very young, pregnant women and those who have a chronic illness – a foodborne illness can be life threatening.

Potluck meals bring with them the potential for food handling errors that should be avoided. Some of the more common errors include leaving perishable food at room temperature for too long (longer than 2 hours), cooking large amounts of food ahead of time and cooling it improperly, or failing to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods should be held at 60 C or above (above 140 F) and cold foods at 4 C or below (40 F).

Here’s what you should think about before you decide what to bring to your next potluck:

  1. If the item is perishable, will you be able to keep it cold or hot until it is served?
  2. Will you be able to heat the food or keep it warm once you arrive at the event?
  3. Will there be refrigeration available at the event so foods can be kept cold?

If there are leftovers, or in the event that dishes are prepared in advance of the event, ensure that they are cooled in a timely fashion. Proper cooling requires bringing the food from 60 C to 20 C within two hours and from 20 C to 4 C within four hours. Large dishes can be separated into smaller dishes to expedite the process. When reheating leftovers, ensure they reach an adequate temperature of 74 C.

Here are four simple food safety rules to remember:

  1. Keep hot food hot (above 140 F).
  2. Keep cold food cold (below 40 F).
  3. Keep hands, work surfaces and utensils clean.
  4. Never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
Neelam Hayer

About Neelam Hayer

Neelam works as an Environmental Health Officer in Prince George. She completed her BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UNBC before graduating from BCIT's Environmental Health program in 2009. Neelam grew up in northern B.C., so being back in Prince George was like coming back home for her. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling, hiking, playing soccer, trying out healthy new recipes, and spending time with family and friends.