Healthy Living in the North

Serving up healthy school lunches, salad bar style

Evelyn Meehan with two students and the school's salad bar.

Evelyn Meehan, special education assistant and school meal coordinator at Silverthorne Elementary in Houston, with two of her students and the school’s salad bar.

For Houston’s Silverthorne Elementary, setting students up for success begins with a meal made with love. Until recently, many residents in this small community travelled 120km round trip to purchase groceries, so providing students a healthy lunch at school has been a top priority. Even with the distance, Evelyn Meehan, special education assistant and school meal coordinator, is up for the challenge. She is the driving force behind the school’s daily salad bar and hot meal program.

“Many of our families struggle with accessing healthy foods,” says Evelyn. “Parents, staff and the whole community believe in this program. They see the difference it’s making for all of our students to have access to healthy meals, prepared with love.”

The salad bar spread at Silverthorne Elementary.

Quite the salad bar spread at Silverthorne Elementary.

What’s on the menu at Silverthorne?

Students choose from a selection of fruits, vegetables, green-leafy salad, and salad dressing. Foods from other food groups are also offered, such as whole wheat buns, turkey wraps, pasta salad, boiled eggs, cheese, and milk. The menu is nutritionally balanced, yet simple. This helps keep costs down and meal preparation manageable.

Hands-on learning

The school also has a garden, but it may not be what you’d expect. Due to a short growing season and challenges with maintaining a garden during the summer months, they’ve had to get creative. Students learn to plant and grow seeds in vertical growing systems that use only water and nutrients, rather than dirt.

“We have indoor gardens, which allows us to grow our own food right in the classroom, year-round,” says Evelyn. “We grow a few varieties of lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, tomatoes, herbs, and peas, and use the produce in our salad bar.”

Programs like this provide students with fun hands-on learning experiences, which, overtime, set the stage for life-long healthy relationships with food.

“Not only are we feeding hungry bellies with good food, kids get to see, grow, and taste a variety of healthy foods. You can see the excitement in their faces!”

A wonderful partnership

Two years ago, Evelyn and the school’s principal started looking for ways to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables to students, many of whom did not regularly get access to these foods at home. That’s when they learned about the Northern Health Salad Bar Kit Loan program.

“Borrowing salad bar equipment from Northern Health was a really valuable stepping-stone for our program,” says Evelyn. “It allowed us to try out the salad bar program and decide whether it was a good fit.”

The salad bar kits are valued at $2,600 and include a plastic table top salad bar, plexiglass sneeze guard, stainless steel inserts, serving utensils and salad dressing bottles. Schools can borrow a kit for up to 12 months, for free. After that, they are encouraged to apply for a grant to purchase their own equipment. A number of grants may be available to help cover start-up costs including Northern Health IMAGINE Grants, Farm to School BC grants, and Farm to School Canada grants.

Sustaining success

Last fall, Silverthorne Elementary received a grant from Farm to School BC. With the grant money they purchased their own salad bar kit, as well as new dishware, a toaster oven, and an electric grill for their hot breakfast program. This has allowed them to continue offering the salad bar, as part of their long-term plan for promoting healthy eating.

What advice does Evelyn have for schools interested in trying a salad bar program?

“Go for it! Try different things. Don’t make big amounts at first.”

She also encourages schools to connect with a Northern Health Population Health Dietitian.

“A Northern Health Population Health Dietitian is a great resource that can support you with anything from borrowing salad bar equipment, to connecting with environmental health officers, and helping with grant applications.”

Do you have a salad bar program in your school? We’d love to hear from you! (email below) What advice or message do you have to share with other schools interested in trying the program?

More Information

Have a great idea for a school food program? Farm to School BC is offering grants of up to $3,500 to help bring your idea to life! For more information, or to access to application form, visit the Farm to School BC website. Applications are due November 19.

To borrow a salad bar kit, or for more resources and information about starting a salad bar program, contact a Northern Health Population Health Dietitian at 250-631-4236 or PopHthNutrition@northernhealth.ca.

Granting resources

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!

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Wellness at Work: Tips from your Recreation Therapist

jaymee webster on a bridge in the woods with her dog.In the world of recreation therapy, we often think of wellness as not the absence of disease, but rather on a spectrum. As such, there are many factors – physical, social and psychological – that have an impact on someone’s ability to reach optimal wellness. Optimal wellness is personal and it changes throughout the lifespan; it looks different for everyone.

As a recreation therapist in the rehabilitation setting, I work with those whose well-being or independence has been compromised due to multiple health or social problems. I provide leisure education opportunities for individuals to learn the benefits of leisure involvement, how it can have an impact on well-being, and what opportunities are available to them in their home community.

My work has an obvious link to wellness and I am passionate about leisure and recreation. In my spare time, I love exploring the many trails in the Prince George area with my dog, Juno. However, focusing on your well-being doesn’t have to stop when you get to work. We spend a lot of time at our work place.

Here are some things that I try to make a priority for keeping well at work:

  1. Pack a lunch and eat it too.
    Bringing food from home tends to be the healthier and the most cost-effective option. And don’t forget to eat it! The only way to give yourself the energy to perform your job effectively is to actually eat the food.
  2. Take the stairs.
    Take any opportunity to get yourself moving during the day.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep.
    I know this one’s easier said than done, but try to make it a priority. When Netflix asks if you want to continue watching… click “No.” It will set you up for a much better work day. Your body will thank you!
  4. Make a list.
    Managing your time and prioritizing tasks helps reduce workload stress. Take a deep breath while you’re at it!
  5. Have a laugh.
    Professional boundaries are important, but so is being yourself. Get to know those around you. If you’re in a helping profession, get to know the individuals you’re working with. Sharing an inside joke does wonderful things for the therapeutic relationship! Smiling and laughing can be contagious but that’s okay, it’s good for you!
  6. Balance.
    Leisure is defined as time free from obligation, an activity that is freely chosen and as a state of mind. Engaging in meaningful recreation and leisure activities in your personal life has the ability to improve overall well-being, which will spill over into your work life as well.

Wellness is a dynamic process that encompasses body, mind, and spirit. I challenge all of you to set an achievable wellness at work goal this spring, because a healthier you leads to a healthier work environment!

You can also view this article in Northern Health Spring 2018 edition of the Healthier You Magazine, Wellness by Professionals.

About Jaymee Webster

Jaymee Webster is a Activity Worker Recreational Therapist at Northern Health.

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Food Security, Part 1: What is household food insecurity?

Today is World Food Day, a day to promote awareness of food security around the globe. In northern BC, almost 1 in 5 households struggle to afford a basic, nutritious diet. When I first read this statistic, I was shocked. In a country as resource-rich as Canada, how is it that 17% of northerners either don’t have enough food, or worry about running out?

Defining food security

Let’s start by defining food security. Simply put, it is the ability to access enough safe and healthy food, at all times. It includes many things such as:

  • Access to food stores and markets
  • Access to land to produce food
  • Getting enough food to support a healthy life
  • Maintaining a healthy food system

But walking through food stores in many northern communities, we don’t usually see empty shelves. If there is so much food available in our stores and markets, how is it that some households worry about running out?

Food security and income

The main reason is that some households do not have enough income to buy food. This is called “household food insecurity” (HFI): when a household worries about, or does not have enough money to purchase healthy food. Since starting my role as food security lead for Northern Health, this has been one of my biggest learnings: household income is the biggest predictor of HFI.

But it’s not just that food can be expensive. Rather, it’s that some household incomes are not enough to support a healthy diet. In fact, households on a fixed income (e.g. social assistance), or who work minimum wage jobs, are at the highest risk of being food insecure. For those on a fixed income, almost half – about 44% – of their income goes to food, compared to 15% of the household income of higher wage earners. This 44% doesn’t include other costs associated with food (e.g. travel to food stores), nor does it include housing and childcare. It’s a tough situation for many households.

Food security is a determinant of health

Given that many households struggle to buy food, it’s no wonder that HFI is a serious public health issue in BC. But why, exactly? To answer this, let’s take a step back and look at what impacts health. There are many things that we don’t often think about, things that go beyond food or lifestyle “choices.” These are social factors, such as where we are born or how much money we make, and they can impact health long before we’re sick. They are often conditions over which we don’t have much control.

Food security’s impact on health may seem obvious: eating nutritious foods can help keep you healthy. But, while this can be true, having enough money to buy food in the first place can have more of an impact on health than food choices alone. In fact, there are many chronic health conditions that are connected to HFI, including mental health.

Addressing household food insecurity

Fortunately, there are many determinants of health that can be addressed through policies and programs. Advocacy initiatives can also inspire change; for example, today is World Food Day, and tomorrow is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Here in BC, one tool we use is monitoring food costs over time, to help determine the household income required to purchase a basic, healthy diet. The Food Costing in BC 2015 report showed that food costs are on the rise. The 2017 data will be available soon; how will the results compare? Stay tuned for the next blog posts in this series:

  • Food Security, Part 2: Food costing in BC
  • Food Security, Part 3: A call to action

To learn more about HFI in northern BC, check out this helpful infographic.

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!

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Healthy School Fundraisers: A win-win for schools and families!

With the new school year beginning, back-to-school fundraising season will soon be underway. Whether it’s to purchase new equipment or pay for a trip, fundraisers are a reality of school life.

How do you feel about school fundraisers? Based on my conversations with parents and teachers, responses run the gamut from enthusiasm and pride to disapproval and dread. While fundraisers can be a great way to enrich students’ learning experiences, there are also some concerns. Many fundraisers rely on the sales of highly processed, less nutritious foods such as chocolate bars and cookies. This sends confusing messages to kids and is at odds with many individuals’ and schools’ goals around healthy eating.

So how do we fundraise for our schools while honouring our commitment to creating healthy school environments? Fundraisers can be a great opportunity to promote healthy eating while raising money at the same time! Many BC schools have found that healthy food and non-food fundraisers can be just as (if not more) profitable.

students sorting produce

The Fresh to You Fundraiser is offered by the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Program. Students sell bundles of seasonal local produce and make a guaranteed 40% profit. Win-win!

Here are a few creative fundraising ideas that have worked well in other schools:

  • Healthier bake sales
  • School-made cookbooks or calendars
  • Art walks featuring student or other local artwork
  • Healthy community dinners
  • Seedling sales – try growing them in your own classroom!
  • Christmas family portraits

Here’s another great idea: students selling bundles of seasonal and local fruits and vegetables to friends and family, while making a guaranteed 40% profit. I’m talking about the Fresh to You Fundraiser offered by the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Program! Last year I bought a bundle from a friend’s daughter who was doing the fundraiser in Terrace. I got a variety of local produce, all while supporting students and BC farmers. It’s a win-win!

Does this sound like something your school might be interested in trying? For more information, as well as recipes featuring products from the bundles, visit the Fresh to You Fundraiser website. Online applications for this year’s Fresh to You Fundraiser will be accepted until September 22, 2018.

Show your commitment to creating healthy school spaces by being the next school fundraiser champion! For healthier fundraiser ideas, tips and recipes, consider checking out the following resources:

Has your school planned a healthy school fundraiser? How did it go? Get others inspired and share your success stories 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!

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Wellness outside of the meal

As I dietitian, I hear the word “wellness” used so often in an extreme way, I fear the meaning is lost in translation. I define wellness by doing an activity that brings a sense of joy – like sitting down to enjoy a fresh cinnamon bun out of the oven. I see wellness in two contexts: First, how it applies to my work as a long term care dietitian, and second, how it applies to my life at home.little girl in blue dress holding a big leaf

As a long term care dietitian, I often get referrals to see residents regarding their diet (diet simply meaning the food we eat – nothing more). Referrals come in all shapes and sizes; it could be due to “Mrs. Jones’” diabetes, or “Mr. Smith’s” dementia. Whatever the reason for seeing a resident, I always approach the visit from a place of wellness.

This means I might liberalize Mrs. Jones diet so that she can have the monthly birthday cake with her tablemates. Why – doesn’t she has diabetes? Yes she does, however Mrs. Jones finds joy in eating cake and this activity makes her feel included in the festivities of her new home. This is wellness!

For Mr. Smith, I might change his diet to finger foods and speak with the staff about the opportunity to offer him a quarter sandwich and walk with him for a while when he’s walking the halls. Why? Mr. Smith likes to eat, but finds sitting down for a meal confusing and overwhelming. A sandwich while walking is easier, and it makes him feel good while providing him the nourishment his body needs. Nothing fancy, but when he lived alone, he loved eating sandwiches!

It’s incredible to think that even without focusing on what’s being eaten, the very act of eating can have a wellness effect on someone. Which brings me to how this sort of wellness applies to my family!

Our family lives outside of town on a larger lot, but by no means an acreage. In the last five years we’ve welcomed two children, built six raised garden beds, learned how to bee keep with one hive, and as I write this article, my husband – who’s no handyman – is building a coop for the six chicks chirping in our dining room.two kids sitting on a deck enjoying Popsicles

We don’t garden because home grown veggies are healthier; we do it because the act of gardening brings us all joy. We don’t have bees (which I’m terrified of) because the honey is better for you, we do it so we can enjoy it with our friends. We’re raising chickens not for their eggs, but because we want to have animals around our young kids. Our hopes are that this can help teach them empathy – and yes, to be frank, my almost two year old eats three eggs for breakfast. That one is a win-win for everyone!

Whatever it is that you do, or eat, I hope that you can spot the benefits in both the food and the act, and both of these important parts bring you as much joy and wellness as possible!

About Dena Ferretti

Photo & bio coming soon!

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Down at the farm: Community Supported Agriculture

Summer is here! Amongst the many things to look forward to at this time of year is… Wednesday. Why Wednesday, you might ask? Well, this is when we take a weekly trip down to the farm and pick up our allotment of locally grown foods from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. This is the fourth year that my family and I have enthusiastically participated in the Skeena Valley CSA.

What is a CSA?

A CSA is a partnership between farmers and community members, which reduces risk to farmers and thereby supports local agriculture. Participants pay the farmer(s) in advance, providing them with the financial capital needed to plant, grow and harvest food for the season. In turn, participants enjoy local foods harvested throughout the growing sechopped rhubarb sitting on a table.ason. In our case, we receive weekly food allotments for about 20 weeks, from late May through to early October.

What food do we get from the CSA?

Every week, we are supplied with a variety of food items. In Terrace, it’s still early in the growing season, and at this time of year we tend to receive a combination of fresh produce, preserved items from the previous year, and other unique offerings. For example, a recent allotment included potatoes, jam, fresh lettuce, field flowers, lovage, lamb’s quarters, dried mint tea, eggs, raw honey and a bag of miso paste (produced by a local chef). Later in the season we will see dozens of other foods items, likely including cucumbers, tomatoes, berries, zucchini, cabbage, corn, apples and squashes.

What do we like about participating in the CSA?

There is so much I appreciate about being part of the CSA. For one, I am always impressed with the diversity of food items that we receive, and it is great exposure to what can be grown and harvested locally. Sometimes we receive foods that are unfamiliar to us: What, for example, do we do with “lamb’s quarters”? (Curious? Check out Emilia’s post about these leafy greens!)

I also like being able to dabble in seasonal food preparation. We can certainly preserve some of our CSA foods for later use, such as the rhubarb that I chopped up and fired into the freezer for future reincarnations into rhubarb muffins, rhubarb crumbles, or rhubarb iced tea (yes, it’s a thing). On the other hand, some of these items won’t keep well, so we have to be quite intentional and creative in incorporating these fresh and sometimes unfamiliar foods into our meals. Last week, I made a colourful salad with fresh lettuce, field flowers (totally edible!), and lamb’s quarters, mixed with chopped green cabbage and a miso dressing. It was crunchy and delicious!festive summer veggies and leaves in a wood bowl.

The CSA is also great for kids!

I love bringing my toddler to the farm. There are a few chickens, rabbits, and lambs on site, which is a curiosity for those of us who don’t have animals at home. More than that, however, on the farm we also get exposure to local agriculture, more than we do at the grocery store, or local farmers’ market. It’s rewarding to hear my daughter say, in relation to something we are eating, “Did this come from the farm?”

How about you? What opportunities do you and your family have to engage with the local food system? What are some of your favourite locally harvested foods?

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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A study in self-care: what’s on the menu?

Imagine your “happy place.” Where are you? What is it about this place that allows you to let go of stress? Now, come back to this reality. What can you do to gain that same feeling of relief?

As a university student, I’ve had ups and downs with stress. The first few years of my degree, I found I was feeling more overwhelmed that I’d ever felt before; I was having difficulty balancing school with life. When I did let myself break away from the books – to skate, hike, share dinner with friends, watch a movie, etc.,  I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I found that I would return to my assignments feeling energized and ready to go. All this is to say: I wasn’t very good at self-care.

Self-care is time we take to intentionally look after the many aspects of our health: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. It’s time to reflect and refresh, and it looks different for everyone. Now, in the final months of my dietetic internship with Northern Health and getting set to launch into the “real world,” I’ve learned what self-care means to me: connecting with food!

three girls eating outside at a picnic table together.

For me, self-care means connecting with food!

I’ve found I feel the most refreshed when I take the time to make and eat a meal or snack I’m excited about. I don’t consider myself a gourmet cook by any means, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment when I create something from scratch. I choose the dish, I get the ingredients together, I decide which steps to follow and which to skip… it’s a creative outlet that gives my food added value. A successful stint in the kitchen also gives me the chance to share something I’m proud of with friends and family. Heck, even if it wasn’t successful, past triumphs give me the confidence to at least share a laugh!

Socializing around food is something I’ve come to value quite a bit. There are many great benefits to eating together, but what I like most is the opportunity to enjoy the company of others. Gathering around food allows us to come together, catch up, and share stories; it can be a means of self-care in itself. The best part is, it doesn’t need to be complicated! There are lots of ways to socialize around food:

  • Host a potluck
  • Make snacks for the hiking trail
  • Pack a picnic basket for the beach or park
  • Make a snack to share in a blanket fort
  • Share baking with coworkers or your community group
  • Join a local community kitchen or cooking club
  • Berry pick in your favourite berry patch
  • Explore a local farmers’ market
  • Volunteer to cook or serve food at a community dinner

…the possibilities are endless!

March is Nutrition Month, and Northern Health dietitians are encouraging you to share how you gather around food. What food-related activities will give you a break and let you breathe that sigh of relief?

Allie Stephen

About Allie Stephen

Allie is currently a dietetic intern with Northern Health, working with dietitians in a variety of different areas. Allie grew up in Ottawa and came out west to study to be a dietitian at UBC. She loves all that BC has to offer and her experiences in the North are no exception - she is continuously inspired by the beautiful scenery and the wonderful people she has met. In in her spare time, Allie enjoys hiking, canoeing, dancing, biking, eating with friends and family, reading, as well as exploring more of beautiful BC!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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