Healthy Living in the North

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!

Share

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.

Ingredients

  • 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.

Instructions

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!

Share

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!

Share

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.

Share

Mindfulness at work – a positive mental health strategy

I remember the day clearly. It was a snowy Monday morning, and I arrived at work only to learn that the company was being re-structured and the project I was working was cancelled due to budget constraints. Our team was given two weeks’ notice to leave.

As the words fell on my ears, my heart began pounding against my ribcage and my eyes glazed over. As a single immigrant mother of two young boys, things were, shall we say, a bit uncertain.

Fortunately, over the years I had learned some good mindfulness and breathing techniques which I continued to practice daily. I knew that now was a good time to use them to manage my mind and emotions. I went back to my desk, sat down, closed my eyes, and took several deep breaths in and out-my awareness on my breath only.

Those few simple minutes of awareness and slowing down my breath, saved me from a whole range of emotions. Later, it also helped me to see the situation from a more positive perspective.

Mindfulness is a mental state

So what is mindfulness? Very simply, it’s a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, often accepting and acknowledging one’s bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Through mindfulness and breathing techniques, we can actually influence our emotions which often control us.

Breathing can help give an emotional lift.

Emotions and breathing are closely connected

Emma Seppala Ph.D., Science Director at Stanford University, and a workplace wellbeing researcher, explains:

 One of the reasons why breathing can change how we feel is that emotions and breathing are closely connected.”

In her article, Breathing: the little known secret to peace of mind, Seppala discusses a research study by Pierre Phillipot. The study showed, that different emotional states are associated with certain breathing patterns. During the study, when the participants felt anxious or afraid, they breathed more quickly and shallowly, and when they felt happy, they breathed slowly and fully.

Try this simple mindfulness technique

This technique is by far one of the simplest mindfulness practices I know. Try out it the next time you need to manage your mind and emotions.

  • At your desk, sit with your back straight, feet firmly on the ground and your hands on your knees.
  • Close your eyes and bring awareness to your breath. That’s all, just your breath.
  • Notice the pace of your breath.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose, noticing how it fills your lungs and the temperature and texture as it passes through your nostrils.
  • Hold the breath for a second, before slowly breathing out through your nostrils. Again notice the sensations of the out-breath.
  • Continue to repeat this sequence, for 5 minutes initially.
  • When you feel comfortable, you can increase the length of time to 10, 15 or 20 minutes.

More on mindfulness

Jennifer Koh

About Jennifer Koh

Jennifer, an Organizational Development Consultant with Northern Health, is a Certified Professional Coach, yoga and meditation Instructor and an Equine Facilitated Learning & Wellness Coach. For the past 20 years she has been assisting organizations with change management, organizational culture, executive and team coaching, employee engagement, wellness and leadership development in South Africa, Asia and Canada. She has taught yoga, mindfulness, breathing techniques and meditation with the non-profit Art of Living Foundation since 2010. Jennifer immigrated to Canada in 2006 and lived in Calgary for 10 years before moving to Prince George in 2016. She was born in Swaziland and spent most of her childhood and adult life in South Africa.

Share

Mental wellness inside and outside of mental illness

During Mental Illness Awareness Week, we want to explore the message of hope, resiliency, and understanding that there is wellness inside and outside of illness. Whether you live with a physical illness, a developmental illness, an injury, a mental illness or no labelled illness or disorder at all, your mental health can be appreciated and supported to flourish by recognizing the pieces that you can influence.

Living with a diagnosed mental illness or not, the reality is that every person on the planet will have moments, periods, or situations in which their mental health is or was, less than they would like it to be. Here are some examples of things to look out for – and things you can build skills to make changes to:

  • Trouble focusing attention.
  • Finding your thoughts stuck on one track – that just won’t stop running.
  • Struggling to tell what is real or not.
  • Feeling sad or vacant when good things are happening in your life.
  • Finding yourself isolating from friends or avoiding activities that usually bring you joy.
  • Sleep trouble – too much energy to get to sleep, or sleeping all night and not feeling rested.
  • Impulsively making decisions about money or activities that put you at risk.
  • Change in appetite or exercise patterns.
  • Feeling like you can’t make decisions when you usually make them with ease.

All of these things contribute to the overall experience of mental health, as do many other factors (jobs, finances, social networks, family breakdowns, life events, spirituality, etc.). The great thing about this list is that we can all learn to interrupt thinking patterns, practice better sleep hygiene, or adjust our schedules to promote balance in our days. We can invite new activities and people into our lives, we can change our environments and engage in our community, and we can seek help if we are struggling to make changes that can support growth. In doing these things, we can all see improvements to our mental wellness and in turn, satisfaction with our lives – dealing with challenges productively as they arise.

Have you checked up on your mental health?

Pieces of the puzzle, things to try:

  1. Have a look at your thinking patterns.
  2. Practice sleep hygiene.
  3. Recognize your strengths – try starting your day with writing out 3 things you are good at.
  4. Spend time with loved ones – build a social network.
  5. Volunteer.
  6. Exercise 30 minutes most days.
  7. Learn to manage and reduce stress.

Fast Facts:

  • Mental health, like physical health, has a range whether we live with a diagnosis or not.
  • We all have mental health and have days/periods where our thinking patterns, emotions, and behaviours are not at their best. We can learn skills to enhance our mental and emotional health.
  • Recovery is a journey, and there are many paths to get you there. Choose a route that makes sense for you.
  • Similar to physical health, mental health has elements we can influence to reach our wellness goals.

There is hope! Here are stories of recovery from around the world:

Looking to find some help? Head to your primary care home, local physician, walk in clinic, or check out:

Stacie Weich

About Stacie Weich

Stacie Weich is the Regional Mental Wellness and Prevention of Substance Harms Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. A passion for people and wellness has driven her to pursue a career in mental health and substance use. The first 10 years of her career were spent at a non-profit in Quesnel. Shen then moved to Prince George to join Northern Health in 2008. Stacie has fulfilled many roles under the mental health and substance use umbrella since then (EPI, ED, NYTC, COAST, AADP, YCOS). In her off time Stacie enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs, and other family and friends in beautiful northern BC!

Share

Foodie Friday: fish preservation is good for the soul

woman cutting fish

Sabrina cuts and prepares halibut

Salmon and halibut are important staples in the diet of many people in BC and continues to be a food of significance to coastal First Nations peoples. Sabrina Clifton, the Programs Manager at the Gitmaxmak’ay Prince Rupert and Port Edward Nisga’a Society is actively involved in programming that supports local Nisga’a members in preserving salmon. Sabrina has been smoking salmon and making k’ayukws (smoked & dried salmon strips) for about 25+ years.

“There are different ways that Indigenous people prepare foods for preserving. The best teachers are our Elders. For 3 years classes have been held where our Elders mentor our youth and members. We have two smoke houses at the ‘Rupert Lawn & Garden’ available to our Gitmaxmak’ay Members. I think it is very important to continue to teach how to preserve traditional foods as the seafood is ‘our back yard’. Our Elders have so much to offer us; the knowledge they have is amazing. There are always tricks and different ways of preparing. We always learn something new. There is always a lot of laughter and when preparation is all finished you get a sense of accomplishment which is good for the soul.” -Sabrina Clifton

In addition to providing opportunities for Elders to share their knowledge and skills with youth and community members, Sabrina also works with Elders to organize traditional feasts twice a year for residents of Acropolis Manor-the local long term care facility. The feasts include locally prepared, seasonal foods such as fish chowder, moose soup, and roe on kelp. Local First Nations cultural entertainment is a highlight of the feasts.

salted salmon filets

Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D, which is important in keeping bones strong and protecting from arthritis and cancer.

Salmon and halibut are important sources of nutrition. They are high in protein and B vitamins. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids that help protect against strokes and heart disease. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D, which is important in keeping our bones strong as well as protecting us from arthritis and cancer. Fish heads have been an important source of calcium for keeping one’s bones and teeth strong. Fish head soup is one way of getting these nutrients. Canned salmon is another but be sure to mash up the bones and not take them out, as they are high in calcium!

In addition to nutritional benefits, fishing and processing fish is good for the mind, body, and spirit. These activities have been and continue to be an important part of culture, connecting families, physical activity and mental wellness!

Here’s a recipe submitted by Sabrina for Fish Hash, a traditional way of preserving salmon:

Fish Hash

  1. Layer fresh or thawed frozen salmon with coarse salt in tightly covered air tight container and store for one month in a cool (below 20 degrees) dry place to cure. Both sides of the fish should be salted. Remove skin or place skin face down.
  2. To use it, soak salmon in water over night to remove most of the salt & salty taste; by this time it is firm in texture.
  3. Crumble and mix with mashed potatoes, diced onions and oolichan grease (optional)
  4. Bake in the oven until the top is toasted.
  5. Serve fish hash with toasted seaweed (hlak’askw) on top

Note: you can also use jarred salmon, smoked black cod, or jarred smoked salmon. Salt in appropriate concentrations inhibits the growth of bacteria. Use about a quarter the weight of seafood by weight.

Resources:

First Nations Traditional Food Fact Sheets

How to preserve seafood by dry and wet salting

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.

Share

Foodie Friday: flexible recipes make cooking easier

If I asked you the following questions, what would your answers be?

  • Do you value being able to cook meals for you and your family?
  • Do you try to buy and cook the best possible food for your family?
  • Do you struggle sometimes to match your expectations of a family meal with what ends up getting served at your table?
trifle ingredients on the table

One way I make cooking easier is that I use “ish” recipes. “Ish” recipes are basic recipes that can handle a lot of playing around with ingredients and still turn out tasty!

There’s a pretty good chance you replied “yes” to all. As a dietitian I have chatted with many families over the years and consistently through their stories and questions, I have heard them express both their enthusiasm for and challenges with getting food on the table. As the main cook in my family, I too would answer “yes”.

Many things can get in the way of getting home-cooked food on the table. One way I make cooking easier is that I use “ish” recipes. What do I mean by this? “Ish” recipes are basic recipes that can handle a lot of playing around with ingredients and still turn out tasty! These recipes let me use what I have on hand, substitute foods that my family likes, and simplify the process of following a recipe. Some of my favourite “ish” recipes include:

In this blog post, I’d like to share a recipe I’ve made so many times and in so many ways that I know it by heart: trifle! What is trifle? Trifle is a dessert I grew up with and has its roots in England. My family’s trifle was served at all holidays and special events, and consisted of a glass bowl lined with slices of jelly roll cake and filled with layers of Jell-O, Bird’s Custard, and canned fruit cocktail. I’ve made a few adaptations to the recipe but trifle is still my go-to dessert. I love that it is so easy to make, flexible in terms of what and how much of the various ingredients you use, and can be made ahead. My trifle typically changes throughout the year:

  • Summer: angel food or lemon pound cake, custard and berries and/or peaches
  • Fall: gingerbread or carrot cake, custard and pears
  • Winter: chocolate cake, chocolate custard and home canned cherries
  • Spring: white cake, custard or lemon curd, canned mandarin oranges and frozen berries

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

trifle on a table with spoon

I hope you enjoy this Trifle recipe as much as I do!

Flo’s Flexible Trifle

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups cubed cake
  • 3-4 cups fruit (cut in small pieces if large berries, peaches, bananas, etc. and you can used canned fruit like mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, etc.)
  • 1 can evaporated milk (original recipe used 1 ¼ cups of cream)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt (I use full-fat yogurt >5% as the original recipe called for whipped cream)
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

Instructions:

  1. Cube cake and set aside.
  2. Heat, but do not boil, the evaporated milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. While the milk is heating, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and smooth. Pour the hot milk into the egg yolks and beat vigorously. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, over low heat, stirring until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Prepare fruit so that it is in bite-sized pieces.
  4. Placed almonds on a baking sheet and toast in a 400 F oven for about 10 minutes until golden.
  5. Assemble ingredients: layer cake cubes, fruit, custard in a glass bowl, ending with a custard layer. Smooth the vanilla yogurt over the entire top. Add toasted almonds. Chill for 2 hours before serving. Makes 8 generous servings.
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!

Share

Feeding our babies: at what age can we start offering solid foods?

The question

As a mom, I know it can be hard to get straight answers to parenting questions. Websites and discussion boards offer so many conflicting opinions (right?). Even professional recommendations sometime vary. This can be confusing… and frustrating!

baby eating solid foods in high chair

At six months, my daughter let us know she was ready for solids. Here she is eating little bits of soft stew meat as her first food!

As a dietitian, I also know people have a LOT of questions about feeding their babies. Here’s an important one: “When is the ‘right’ time to start offering solid food?”

The recommendation

Northern Health supports the following recommendations from World Health Organization, Health Canada, Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, and Perinatal Services BC:

  • Infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life
  • With continued breastfeeding, complementary solid foods and other fluids are introduced around the age of six months of life
  • Continued breastfeeding is recommended for up to two years and beyond

Well, now that’s a mouthful! Let’s simplify that:

“Breastmilk is the only food a baby needs for the first six months. After that, keep breastfeeding and offer nutritious foods, too.”

The details

Since there are some variations in when babies are ready to eat food, we see the language of starting foods at about six months of age. Some babies will be ready for food a few weeks earlier than six months, some a few weeks later. Your baby will give you signs, not just that they are interested in food, but also that they are developmentally ready. Your baby may be ready for solids if they can:

  • Sit up, unsupported
  • Open their mouth for food
  • Turn their head when they are full

Our daughter let us know when she was ready, which, for her, was just before six months (I have proud mama pictures of her eating little bits of soft stew meat as her first food. So cute!).

More questions

“Don’t some people say, ‘Food before one is just for fun’?”

Red flag! This phrase is concerning because we know how important food is for babies, starting at about six months. One big reason is the increased need for iron at this age. Other reasons include involving babies in family meals and supporting the development of their eating and food acceptance skills.

“What about children at risk for food allergies?”

You may have seen some media stories about the prevention of peanut allergy, where “four-to-six months” is sometimes mentioned. To clarify, the majority of families (98-99%) can introduce peanuts, at home, when baby is about six months old (for more information about safely introducing peanuts and other common food allergens, see Reducing Risk of Food Allergy in your Baby). For a baby with egg allergy or severe eczema (this is not common), their doctor can help make an individualized plan that may involve testing for peanut allergy before introducing peanut-containing foods.

Want up-to-date information on first foods for babies? Check out the following 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.

Share

Foodie Friday: garden harvest time

We’re a week into September which means fall is around the corner! I love the changing of one season to another, but I enjoy fall the most of all the four seasons. I love the fresh, crisp air that comes with the cooler temperatures, and watching the foliage change from green to yellow to orange. I love browsing the craft/artisan fairs on weekends while sipping on hot lattes or apple cider. I look forward to pulling out all my scarves and getting to wear cozy layers once again. I’m excited already… can you tell??

Another perk to fall is getting to harvest (and eat!) the produce from the garden. I don’t have a greenhouse, so I only plant after the last frost each year and often can’t enjoy a lot of my vegetables until late August/early September. And despite having a degree in agriculture, I’m actually kind of terrible at growing plants. This year, I was more diligent with watering, fertilizing, and weeding and it’s paid off. We’ve ended up with some beautiful vegetables like rainbow carrots, zucchini, cabbage, beans, tomatoes, and beets (that are nearly half the size of my 3-year old’s head!).

Garden harvest time this year meant lots of cabbage thanks to this early varietal!

This year, I planted an early variety of cabbage that I bought at my local greenhouse, Hunniford Gardens, and we had huge heads of cabbage ready in July. Needless to say, we’ve been eating a lot of cabbage around here for the past six weeks, making my Ukrainian ancestors very happy. I’ve also found myself coming back to the recipe I’m sharing today: refrigerator coleslaw- my go-to recipe for cabbage. I don’t know the original source, as it’s a hand written recipe from my Great Aunt, but I think many versions exist out there. It’s great for feeding a crowd and keeps for at least a week in the fridge. Whether you’ve grown your own cabbage or not this year, I encourage you to give it a try!

Refrigerator coleslaw (Source: My Great Aunt via my Mother)

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg shredded cabbage (about 1 small head)
  • 5-6 large carrots, shredded
  • 1 ½ cups of celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ cup white sugar

Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds

Instructions:

  1. Mix together in bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Let stand while making the dressing.
  2. Bring dressing ingredients to a boil. Pour over vegetable mixture. Mix well. Store in refrigerator.
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

Share