Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Ready, set, menu plan!

Grocery list

A little bit of meal planning – including making a grocery list – can go a long way to help support healthy eating habits and make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone.

It’s been a hectic day, and now you need to get dinner on the table. All too often, we are faced with the “What should we have for dinner tonight?” dilemma. This can make dinner time a very stressful and daunting experience, especially when you’re already tired and hungry! For me, I’ve learned firsthand that “hangry”, the term used for anger or irritability due to lack of food, is definitely a real thing!

In honour of Nutrition Month this March, my small nourishing change is to make a weekly meal plan. Why do a meal plan? Meals planned and prepared at home tend to be healthier than restaurant meals or eating on the go. Plus, a little bit of meal planning can go a long way to help support healthy eating habits and make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone. It’s a win-win!

Meal planning can be a fairly simple task, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Try these simple meal planning steps:

  1. Make a menu plan. Write down your meal ideas for the week using a piece of paper, calendar or this handy menu planner from BetterTogetherBC. Post it on the fridge and get the whole family involved.
  2. Make a grocery list. Check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what food items you need.
  3. Go grocery shopping. Buy the foods on your grocery list.
  4. Get stocked. Keep ingredients for healthy meals and snacks on hand such as frozen or canned vegetables and fruit, plain yogurt, canned fish, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, canned beans and whole grains such oats and brown rice.

Looking for a quick, easy, and delicious dinner meal idea? This Mexican Chicken Casserole recipe is definitely one of my go-tos for those hectic weekday nights and is also great for “planned extra” leftovers.

Chicken and rice on a plate with carrots and salad.

Emilia’s Mexican Chicken Casserole is a great option for a hectic weekday night and makes great “planned extras” for lunch tomorrow!

Mexican Chicken Casserole


  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice or rice of choice
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 x 15 oz can black beans or beans of choice
  • 1 x 15 oz can of finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup low- sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2-3 large chicken breast or 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add the dry rice, drained and rinsed black beans, corn, tomatoes, chili powder, oregano and chicken broth or water to a 8″ x 8″ casserole pan.
  2. If using chicken breast, cut into 3 pieces. Push the chicken into the liquid.
  3. Cover the casserole dish tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake uncovered for a few minutes, until cheese has melted.

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

Enjoy served with a side salad and a glass of milk or a dollop of plain yogurt. Possible recipe modifications include substituting the chicken with heart-healthy fish or doubling the portion of beans for a fibre-packed vegetarian alternative.

Do you have a favorite go-to dinner meal? Please 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!


Changing your mindset – live well, eat well!

Kailey at the farmer's market

Do you visit your local farmer’s market for fresh, healthy food?

I think we have all used excuses like “I just don’t have the time,” or “It’s not possible” at one point in our lives when it comes to exercising or eating healthy. It’s a way of dodging the guilt when unhealthy behaviors kick our healthy living goals to the curb. We all know the routine: If we don’t have enough time to prepare a healthy meal, it’s easier to dial up dinner for delivery; if we don’t have healthy food at our fingertips, it’s easier to grab convenient processed foods at the grocery store; and if we don’t have time to work out, it’s easier to postpone it for now.

Although some days it may seem impossible to live well and eat well, it may simply be a matter of changing your mindset and challenging yourself to make healthier choices.

I challenge all readers to insert “it’s not a priority” whenever the pesky thought “I don’t have time” pops up. For example, the statement “I would like to have a healthy dinner, but there is just no time” then turns into “eating healthy isn’t my priority.” Now this excuse doesn’t seem so compelling, does it? Making health a priority may change where you are allocating those valuable 24 hours of your day. It’s time to make room for the important things in life, and health is definitely on that list.

I continually challenge myself to make healthy eating and exercise a top priority, and with a baby on the way (that’s me, 24 weeks along, in the picture), this has sky rocketed to the top of my list. As the saying goes, everything I do, I now do for two.

Below are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to help me make time for living and eating healthy:

  • Track your time. (Where is it REALLY all going?)
  • Drink plenty of water. (Instinct to grab a soda? Hit the water cooler instead.)
  • Seek out natural food. Plant a garden OR if, like me, you don’t have a green thumb, visit the farmer’s market downtown – an excellent place for fresh fruit, veggies, and much much more!
  • Avoid the grocery aisles where most processed food is stocked. Stick to shopping the ‘outskirts’ of stores instead (produce, dairy, etc). Plus all the time saved from not perusing the grocery aisles will open up more time to prepare a healthy feast at home!
  • Search the internet for short workout routines. Google and Youtube are amazing resources, and remember, 20 minutes of activity is better than none! Every move counts!

For more guidelines on living a healthier life, including physical activity and healthy eating, visit our guidelines on healthy living (position papers).

Kailey Miller

About Kailey Miller

As a disability management advisor for workplace health and safety, Kailey works with NH employees across the northeast region and Prince George. She has worked with Northern Health for about one year, and holds a master’s degree in disability management and a bachelor’s degree in psychology (BSc.). To stay active, Kailey enjoys running with her 4-year-old chocolate lab, yoga, and almost any activities outdoors.