Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Summertime patio snacking


Patio season has come early in northern BC this year so it’s time to think about healthy snack options for when you’re out enjoying the sun! Carly’s go-to is strawberry mango guacamole!

The sun is shining, the days are getting longer, and across northern BC, patio furniture and mosquito lanterns are being hauled out of storage. Patios and lounging tend to go hand-in-hand with snacking so this summer, consider including some healthy choices to go alongside your patio snack favourites!

Here are some of my favourite patio snacks:

  • Veggie tray: Consider making your own at home with your favourite veggies, or keep it real simple and pick one up from the produce department of your local grocery store.
  • Fruit skewers: Cool, crisp and refreshing fruit can be artfully arranged on bamboo barbecue sticks for individual serving, no-bowl-needed, patio snacks.
  • Cheese and crackers: With so many interesting varieties to choose from, get creative with this simple platter. Try a new cheese from the deli (or just go with standard cheddar) and stock up on whole grain crackers.
  • Air popped and lightly seasoned popcorn: Popcorn is a whole grain and can be easily flavoured with spices from your own cabinet – try garlic or onion powder, dill, paprika or even nutritional yeast.
  • Hummus and pitas: Hummus is protein-rich and easy to make at home with a blender or food processor and it pairs perfectly with oven-toasted pita triangles.
  • Guacamole and chips: For a variation on the traditional stuff, try this fruity summer guacamole from one of my favourite cookbooks, Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

Strawberry Mango Guacamole

Adapted from Oh She Glows


  • 2 medium avocados, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 fresh mango, pitted, peeled, and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped hulled strawberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • Corn chips, for serving


1. Combine all ingredients except for the corn chips in a bowl.

2. Enjoy!

Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.


Defend against vending machine temptation

Vending machine

This vending machine is double trouble with salty and sugary treats as well as sugar-filled beverages. Do you have a machine like this in your workplace? Use the Healthier Choices in Vending Machines in BC Public Buildings guide to become a vending machine crusader!

Vending machines – they can be pretty tempting things. With their bright colours, blinking lights, and palatable treats, they can be hard to resist even if you aren’t feeling hunger pangs. Just think of the small child at the local hockey arena, begging their mom or dad for a chocolate bar or bag of chips after skating lessons. Clearly, just the sight of salty and sweet treats can be enough to make us want to part with whatever change is in our pockets! And they show up in the most random places! I was at my vet’s office just the other day and they had a vending machine in the corner! No wonder it can be hard to make healthy choices when vending machine temptation is so often staring you in the face.

In a perfect world, we would always have a healthy snack stashed away in our desk or bag to tide us over until our next meal so we wouldn’t have to turn to the vending machine. But our lives aren’t perfect and sometimes we find ourselves without any other options but what is available to purchase. In those situations, how can we navigate the world of vending machines to make healthier choices?

It can be hard to know exactly what you are getting when you put those coins into a vending machine. Unlike at the store, you can’t pick up the package and read the nutrition label. You can only compare products based on the front of the package and what you might already know about that snack or beverage. If you’re lucky, you might have access to machines that stock fresh options like fruit, vegetables, yogurt, or tuna and cracker snack packs. But if you’re faced with a more traditional machine, look for the least processed items like packages of peanuts, trail mix, dried fruit, or granola bars made with these ingredients.

And did you know that B.C. has established guidelines for healthier choices in vending machines that are in buildings owned, leased, or occupied by provincial public bodies? This means that in these places you will find items lower in sugar, salt, and fat, and higher in essential nutrients. Take a peek through the glass at the offerings in your workplace’s vending machines and see if they meet the guidelines. If not, why not see if you can get them implemented? You could become the office vending machine crusader!

For more tips on defending against vending machine temptation, check out this short video from Dietitians of Canada – and remember to keep checking back on the Northern Health Matters blog for more great posts to help you make healthy choices all Nutrition Month long!

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!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.


Foodie Friday: Healthy snacks for work

Two jars filled with granola.

With a bit of planning and Carly’s tips, your late morning and mid-afternoon snacking trips to the convenience store or cafeteria can be replaced by healthy, energy-boosting snacks that make you feel full!

It’s Monday morning, 10 minutes before you need to leave your house to get to work. You’re frantically searching your cupboards for a snack that will stave off the inevitable mid-morning or late afternoon hunger pang. Instead of saying to heck with it and walking out of your door snackless, only to buy something sugary/fatty/salty from the workplace café later on in the day, I’ve got some ideas for healthy, portable snacks!

Listen to your body – when you feel your stomach grumbling, your brain becoming foggy, or a slight headache coming on, these may all be signs that you need to eat! A healthy snack can boost your energy levels during the busy workday, allowing you to maintain productivity and master the desire (or need) to drink another cup of coffee or raid the office candy stash. A well-balanced snack usually contains at least two of the four food groups and has some protein or healthy fats which help you to feel full.

Here are some ideas for energy-boosting snacks:

  • An apple cut into wedges with several slices of cheddar cheese
  • Peanut butter spread onto a slice of toasted whole grain bread
  • An individual portion cup of yogurt with a handful of granola
  • Carrot and celery sticks with herb and garlic cream cheese
  • A homemade banana chocolate chip muffin
  • Cucumber slices with tzatziki
  • A handful of unsalted mixed nuts

Keep in mind that store-bought snacks like granola bars may be convenient, but they are often loaded with added sugar, fat, and salt, so be sure to read the label to avoid these additives.

The key to healthy and portable snacks may be a little preparation done on a Sunday as well as keeping plenty of packing supplies on hand like reusable containers, plastic food wrap, and re-sealable baggies.

This recipe is a delicious and protein packed granola that I love to add to plain or lightly sweetened yogurt or even to simply eat on its own! I’ve adapted the recipe from Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

Bowl of yogurt topped with granola.

Try to aim for at least two of the four food groups along with some protein and healthy fats for a snack that gives you energy and fills you up! Yogurt and granola are a great option – and making your own granola is easy!



  • 1 cup whole or slivered raw almonds, divided
  • ½ cup raw walnut pieces
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup dried fruit (such as cranberries, apricots, cherries)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil (or other light-flavoured vegetable oil)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 275 F (140 C). Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Put ½ cup of the almonds into a food processor and process for about 10 seconds to create a ground meal (similar in texture to sand). Transfer the ground almond meal to a large bowl.
  3. Put the rest of the almonds and the walnuts into the food processor, process until finely chopped. Transfer to the large bowl.
  4. Add the oats, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt to the nut mixture in the large bowl. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until all the dry ingredients are wet.
  6. Spread the granola onto the large baking pan in a 1 cm layer and gently press down on the top to compact the granola slightly. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the granola is lightly browned.
  7. Cool the granola completely and then break into clusters.
  8. Store the granola in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks in the fridge or 4-5 weeks in the freezer.

What’s your favourite workplace snack?

Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.


Super Bowl Sunday: If you bring it, they will eat

Cupcakes topped with chocolate footballs

The Super Bowl tends to be all about excess so this Sunday, try something new! Instead of football-themed cupcakes and chicken wings, try a football-themed fruit tray and chicken skewers! And remember to plan ahead for a safe ride home!

I have to admit that when it comes to the Super Bowl, I can’t help but watch with mixed emotions. The thing is that as someone who listens to off-season podcasts and follows the draft; someone who reads pre-season reports and monitors every game, every Sunday; and someone who is as serious about his fantasy team as Jerry Jones is about his Cowboys, I can’t help but have respect for the Super Bowl’s history within the game while, at the same time, hating the spectacle that revolves around the big game.

Unlike a regular season game, or even a pre-Super Bowl playoff game, Super Bowl Sunday is an exaggeration of the NFL experience – it is to a regular game what Vegas is to a regular city. There are more viewers – last year’s Broncos/Seahawks matchup garnered 111.5 million viewers in 185 countries in 30 different languages; there’s more media coverage – basically two weeks leading up to the game; and, of course, there’s the star-studded halftime show (this year featuring Katy Perry… roar). Unfortunately, the theme of exaggeration isn’t limited to the game itself, extending to our food and alcohol consumption.

In fact, viewers who watched last year’s Super Bowl consumed more calories during the Super Bowl weekend than they did during “any other time of the year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.” Let’s stop to think about that for a sec. Consider what you ate this holiday season – the treats that started pouring into your office in early December, the baking at friends’ houses when you were out visiting, the mountain of food you called your turkey dinner. Now pack that into one weekend! Ron Burgundy might say he “isn’t even mad, that’s amazing”, but your arteries are definitely singing a different tune! If you’re thinking that can’t add up, chew on this: it’s estimated that Americans ate 1.23 billion wings, 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, and ordered over four million pizzas from Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s during the 2013 game!

Because the Super Bowl is a social event, there’s also a party aspect to it and that comes with increased alcohol consumption for many viewers. In America, 51.7 million cases of beer will be consumed this Sunday, which means even more calories and an increase in drunk drivers on the road. Make sure you aren’t one of them and plan for safe ride if you are having some drinks.

Yes, most of these stats are based on American viewers and they’d be significantly lower for Canadians, but the point remains: if you are going to a Super Bowl party, you’re probably eating poorly and your chances of drinking are higher, resulting in a ton of calories over the course of one football game. So, what can you do to make Super Bowl Sunday a healthier one? All you have to do is replace one thing that you love with a different thing that you love that happens to be healthier. For instance, instead of chicken wings, make chicken skewers; instead of nachos and cheese, make taco chips and hummus; and instead of bringing a meat and cheese tray to your friend’s place, bring a veggie tray.

If you’re worried about being that person who doesn’t bring something delicious, consider the Field of Dreams theory of food thought: if you bring it, they will eat it! Plus, making something is almost always cheaper, healthier, and far more appreciated. With all of that in mind, I’ll leave you with two predictions for the game:

  1. You’ll have a healthier Super Bowl if you try to, and
  2. The Seahawks repeat with a 24-20 victory over the stinkin’ Patriots.

Have a healthy game-day recipe you want to share? What about your own scoreboard prediction? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a safe and healthy Super Bowl!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.