Healthy Living in the North

Grab the good stuff when eating out for lunch

Wrap and side salad on a plate.

Going out for lunch doesn’t have to mean greasy burgers and salty fries! From tasting the rainbow to nixing the combo, Anita shares some great tips for healthy restaurant and takeout lunches.

Eating out is a treat, so you figure why not go for that juicy burger with extra fries or that cheesy meat-lovers pizza? You’ll eat vegetables later, right? But what if you’re not a brown-bagger and eat out for lunch more often? Added sugar, fat, and salt are abundant in restaurant and takeout offerings, lurking even in the non-greasy food options. Unfortunately, you can’t control what options there are to choose from. You can, however, control what you choose.

So, how do you make health-positive choices when eating out for lunch? Step one: keep reading!

Taste the rainbow!

  • Head for the colourful line of fresh veggies at your favourite wrap, sandwich, or pita place and load up.
  • Pick a side of delightful greens instead of something beige.

Don’t get sauced!

  • Request no sauce, half sauce, or sauce on the side.
  • Try out a tasty vinaigrette dressing instead of a creamy one.

Nix the combo!

  • Fast food can be loaded with added sugar, salt, and fat, so give your metabolism a break and skip the sugary drink and extra side or dessert.
  • If you’re parched, try unsweetened iced tea or refreshing water.

Fibre is your friend!

  • Mix it up a little and choose whole grain options instead of white flour concoctions.
  • Fibre is the hero of any meal – it keeps you fuller for longer, helps lower cholesterol, and keeps your gut healthy.

Meatless Monday Midday Meal

  • Save the meat for dinner and try a vegetarian option for lunch – in addition to tasting the rainbow, you may see improvements to your wallet, too!
  • If your favourite lunch spot is low on vegetarian options, why not suggest they offer more and see what they come up with?

Get the down-low!

  • Find out just how much fat, calories, sodium, sugar, etc. are in your fast food go-to meal. Check out the nutritional information on the restaurant’s website.
  • Learn more about Informed Dining from Healthy Families BC.

It’s really all about choices and it’s all up to you! Don’t let your body down; feed it what it needs to stay happy and healthy until long after your working days are through!

Check out Dietitians of Canada for more tips on healthy choices while eating out.


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Anita Gillespie

About Anita Gillespie

Anita grew up in a little town near Victoria, B.C., and moved to Vancouver to pursue dietetics at the University of British Columbia. Now in her fifth and final year of the dietetics program, she finds herself completing an internship with Northern Health. Although it’s hard being away from friends and family, Anita is enjoying her time in the snowy north meeting the friendly locals. Cooking for one isn't too exciting but she tries to experiment with a new recipe each week. So far, so good!

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Simple and tasty lunches for your workday

A balanced lunch of a salad, a small container of nuts, and two oranges.

Look outside of plastic wrap and disposable sandwich bags! Keep a variety of glass or plastic containers on-hand to fit larger meals like salads, sandwiches and entrees as well as medium-sized items like fruit and cut-up vegetables and smaller items like nuts, dips, and salad dressings. Mason jars and recycled jam or pickle jars are also perfect for storing salads or beverages.

Do you find packing a lunch challenging? Time-consuming? Turns out you aren’t alone!

According to a recent Ipsos-Reid survey conducted for Dietitians of Canada, 45% of Canadians feel that eating healthy meals and snacks at work is challenging. The Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research found that only 37% of Canadians say they prepare lunch at home and over one third (36%) of Canadians skip lunch altogether.

Lunch is an important meal in your workday that shouldn’t be missed! As part of a balanced diet, a healthy lunch helps give your body and mind important nutrition to keep you awake and productive for the rest of your day.

What to put in your lunch bag: simple strategies

Keep variety in mind when you are planning your lunch. Choose foods low in salt, sugar and fat from 3 out of 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide: meat and alternatives, milk and alternatives, grain products, and vegetables or fruit (being sure to strive for at least 1-2 servings of vegetables or fruit). Here are a few ideas to help you build your lunch:

Meat and alternatives: Choose 1 option

  • 2-3 oz lean meat like chicken breast, turkey, pork or extra lean ground beef, fish like tuna, salmon, or tilapia, or seafood.
  • Meat alternatives like 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons nut butter, ¼ cup nuts or seeds, or ¾ cup beans, lentils or tofu.

Milk and alternatives: Choose 1 option

  • Dairy products like 1 cup milk, ¾ cup yogurt, or 1.5 oz hard cheese.
  • Milk alternatives like 1 cup fortified soy milk or non-dairy yogurt or cheese.

Grain products: Choose 2 whole grain options

  • 1 slice whole grain bread, 1 small bun, ½ tortilla, naan or pita, ½ bagel, 1 small homemade muffin, 4-6 crackers, or ½ cup pasta, rice, quinoa, barley, farro, or spelt.

Vegetables and fruit: Choose 1-2 colourful vegetables and fruit, aiming to eat a rainbow!

  • 1 cup raw leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale or bok choy, ½ cup raw or cooked vegetables like cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, squash, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes or yams on their own or in soups, stews, or stir-fry.
  • ½ cup fresh, frozen, or unsweetened canned fruits like grapes, melon, oranges, apples, bananas, kiwi, or berries, or ¼ cup dried fruit like apricots, raisins, or apples.
  • ½ cup 100% fruit juice, but choosing the whole fruit and vegetable options above more often.

Putting it together: Mix & match for simple and tasty lunch ideas

  1. Dinner leftovers are a quick go-to that don’t require extra prep.
  2. Pack hard-boiled eggs, cheese, fresh vegetables, a few olives and whole grain crackers for a snack-like lunch.
  3. Layer black bean dip, sliced chicken, avocado and arugula on a whole grain baguette for a simple sandwich with big flavour.
  4. Toss light tuna, snow peas and grape tomatoes with leftover whole grain pasta, basil pesto and a pinch of chili flakes – this dish is great cold or heated.
  5. Mix lentils, roasted red peppers, sweet potato, quinoa and a drizzle of lemony dressing for a delicious salad bowl.

Looking for more tasty lunch ideas? Check out this Foodie Friday post about freezer-friendly meals for food preparation tips that fit with your busy schedule!


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian with Northern Health's clinical nutrition team at UHNBC. Erin has a passion for growing and cooking food as well as teaching patients, clients and families about incorporating a balanced, wholesome diet into a healthy lifestyle. In her spare time, you can find her cooking up a storm, writing about food and nutrition, and growing vegetables at her community garden. During her dietetics internship, Erin explored the north from Fort St. John to Haida Gwaii, learning about clinical and public health dietetics with many adventures along the way.

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Breakfast > snooze button

Oats in a bowl, yogurt, apple, and almonds

A little bit of prep work the night before can make a healthy, balanced breakfast a breeze, even on those rushed mornings! With a bit of chopping and mixing in the evening, bircher muesli (or overnight oats) are a great way to enjoy a balanced breakfast without any morning preparations other than grabbing a spoon!

Breakfast is one of my favourite things! On weekends, I enjoy getting up to put on some coffee and then trying out one of the many recipes I have yet to enjoy, like Tomato and Feta Baked Eggs.

Another favourite thing of mine? Sleep! So during the weekdays when I’d rather stay in bed a few more minutes, I have to push my dreams of homemade hollandaise out the window. But waking up to a rushed morning (how many times did I push snooze again?) does not mean I have to miss my favourite meal or settle for a bowl of cereal.

Here’s what I do to enjoy a healthy, balanced breakfast even if I’ve hit snooze once or twice:

  • Prepare or cook the night before. There are so many ideas for breakfasts that can be made the night before (many without a stove!) so that all you have to do in the morning is plate and enjoy. Some of my favourites are: hardboiled eggs, smoothies, baked oatmeal, bircher muesli and what I consider to be its modern cousin, overnight oats.
  • Prepare or cook more the night before. It’s important to me to pack a lunch each day. However, I know if I feel rushed in the morning, this won’t be happening. So I pack my lunch the night before. That way, all I have to do in the morning is throw it in my lunch box on the way out the door! Be sure to check the Northern Health Matters blog next week for lunch tips as part of Nutrition Month!

    Bircher muesli in a bowl beside lunch box.

    Lunch box packed and bircher muesli ready to be eaten, rushed mornings don’t have to mean missing breakfast or settling for unhealthy options!

  • Do anything you can the night before! I think my mom realized at a young age that I wasn’t a morning person and so she taught me some great skills to get to places on time. Thanks, Mom! During the evening, I’ll write a to-do list for the next day, pack all of the stuff that I can, and sometimes when I’m extra motivated, I’ll even sort out which clothes I’ll wear. This not only saves me time in the morning to enjoy my breakfast, but it eases my mind before I fall asleep.
  • Don’t hit snooze for the third time. I know, I know – probably not what you want to hear! But sometimes I find that my day is that much better if instead of sleeping, I just get up and get going. I use this extra time to just enjoy my cup of coffee and breakfast and breathe, instead of rushing around getting organized.

From experience, I think the most important thing when I’m trying to change my routine is to start small. It took time for me to accept that I may not be up at the crack of dawn. But since I’ve started to do what I can the night before, I can enjoy those few minutes in the morning dedicated to breakfast before my workday begins.


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Chloë Curtis

About Chloë Curtis

Chloë is a health promotion intern doing a 3.5 month internship to complete her BSc in Health Promotion from Dalhousie University. Her areas of interest include food security, early childhood development, the social determinants of health, community development, and the impacts of resource development on health. Chloë grew up in Terrace and her love of the north has brought her home. She loves being active outside: skiing in the winter, hiking and running in the summer, and fly-fishing all year round!

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Think outside of the cereal box

Frittata in a skillet

Frittatas are a great make-ahead breakfast that can be eaten for any meal!

This blog post is one in a series of posts giving you the tools you need to complete the month-long Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page for your chance to win great weekly prizes and the grand prize of a Vitamix blender!


We’ve all heard it before: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you’re anything like me, you think that this is a cruel joke because you find mornings the most challenging time of the day! On these cold winter mornings in particular, I find it hard to leave myself enough time to make something substantial for breakfast. Thankfully, I’ve come up with a way to work around this!

What comes to mind when you think of “breakfast” foods?

If you’re an average Canadian, you’re probably thinking of one of the four most common breakfast foods:

  • Ready-to-eat cereals
  • Toast
  • Fruit
  • Hot cereal

Around 80% of breakfasts are thrown together in five minutes or less, so it isn’t surprising that the food items above are the most common as they take very little time to prepare. But let it be known: these items don’t have to be your default for a quick breakfast (unless you want them to be)!

The trick to having healthy, delicious breakfasts in a snap is preparing on your days off or the night before. I am a huge fan of versatile meals and will often cook something for supper that I can easily eat for breakfast or lunch. Cook once and eat 3, 4, or more times!

Here are some meals that you can make for supper that can easily be turned into breakfast

  • Frittatas: You can dress them up and take them to breakfast, lunch, or supper! Serve them with toast and you have breakfast. Serve them with quinoa and some greens and you have lunch or supper. This is my favorite versatile meal! It can be disguised into whatever you need it for. Try this easy recipe to get you started!
  • Baked beans: Throw these onto an English muffin or corn tortilla with salsa and avocado. Add an egg and you could have your own version of huevos rancheros!
  • Whole grain pancakes or french toast: Top with peanut butter and banana! These are traditionally breakfast foods but they can be made for supper and saved for breakfast! Make extras, freeze them, and pop them in the toaster!
  • Roasted potatoes and veggies: Toss on a soft or hardboiled egg or onto a small amount of cheese, throw it all into a container and hit the road. You’ve made yourself a breakfast skillet!
  • Burritos and enchiladas: Switch out the bean or meat filling for fried eggs, add some peppers, mushrooms, and a small amount of cheese, and there you have it: a breakfast burrito! Make it the night before, wrap it in tinfoil, and pack it with you.

If you make these meals in advance, it only takes about 2 minutes to heat up and enjoy!

Your challenge for this week: think about how you might turn some of your common suppers into breakfast the next day! If you’re looking for other ways to jazz up your breakfast (or just need a laugh) check out the video below about breakfasts from around the world!


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

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.

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Don’t be a sumo wrestler – eat breakfast!

French toast with maple syrup

Your body needs fuel to run properly! A balanced breakfast is key to having a productive day!

This blog post is one in a series of posts giving you the tools you need to complete the month-long Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page for your chance to win great weekly prizes and the grand prize of a Vitamix blender! 


Have you ever wondered how sumo wrestlers gain all that weight? They do something that isn’t common in that culture: they skip breakfast!

Yes, that’s right. Sumo wrestlers get up at 5:00 a.m. and train all morning without eating. This purposely keeps their metabolism running slowly. By the afternoon, they are ravenously hungry and then spend the remainder of the day eating and napping.

Sound familiar?

Some people think that skipping breakfast can help them eat fewer calories and lose weight but the opposite is usually true! People who skip breakfast often find their appetite returns with a vengeance later in the day and they overeat as a result. Eating breakfast is one of the best habits for a healthy lifestyle!

Did you know that almost 40% of Canadians skip breakfast?

That’s a lot of people missing out on some important benefits! Eating breakfast is linked to better intake of calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fibre! This is because foods typically eaten in the morning are usually high in these important nutrients.

How do you feel when you skip your morning meal?

Your body needs gas to run properly! By skipping breakfast, your body and brain will be running off of fumes. What does this look like at work? A foggy brain in your morning meeting, being irritable with your co-workers because you are “hangry”, making mistakes due to poor concentration, or even trying to stimulate your brain with multiple cups of coffee when it’s actually craving nourishment!

Stayed tuned to the Northern Health Matters blog for more great breakfast tips all week!

In the meantime, check out this two ingredient recipe for french toast!

Quick and easy french toast

Serves one

Did you know that traditionally, french toast is made with day old, slightly stale bread? The eggs and heat help fluff it back up and make it palatable again. This method also lends itself well to gluten-free bread which tends to taste stale or dry when it is not toasted or warmed.

Serve your french toast with some fresh, frozen or canned fruit and a glass of milk for a balanced and brain-boosting breakfast!

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of whole grain bread (gluten-free or regular)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Dash of vanilla (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Beat egg in a wide dish like a casserole dish or a pasta bowl. Add a dash of vanilla.
  2. Place slices of bread in the egg. Turn to coat until all the egg is absorbed.
  3. Heat a little oil or margarine in a pan over medium heat. Add bread and cook on each side until browned.

Serve with two teaspoons of maple syrup!


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Amy Horrock

About Amy Horrock

Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Amy Horrock is a registered dietitian and member of the Regional Dysphagia Management Team. She loves cooking, blogging, and spreading the joy of healthy eating to others! Outside of the kitchen, this prairie girl can be found crocheting, reading, or exploring the natural splendor and soaring heights of British Columbia with her husband!

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