Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: The Mediterranean diet featuring tilapia bowls with avocado crema!

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that we eat at least two servings of fish each week but I know from speaking with clients that a lot of us struggle to do this. Fish is a great lean protein and includes many nutrients such as selenium, vitamin D, magnesium and iron, not to mention heart-healthy omega-3 fats!

Fish is also an important part of the Mediterranean diet, which may help to prevent heart disease and type-2 diabetes. The Mediterranean-style diet emphasizes eating foods like fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fibre breads/whole grains, nuts, and olive oil. As February is Heart Month, it’s a great time to reflect on how we can incorporate more of a Mediterranean diet into our day-to-day meal making.

Tilapia bowl with avocado crema

Fish is an important part of the Mediterranean diet, which may help to prevent heart disease and type-2 diabetes. How can you incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your meal-making?

Need a new take on fish? I really like this recipe because it’s quick to assemble, super tasty, and makes for great lunch leftovers! This is definitely not your typical fish recipe (which let’s be honest, can sometimes get a bit boring!). The blackening spices add a whole new depth of flavour and the star of the show here is definitely the avocado crema. You’ll definitely want more!!

So what’s stopping you from trying out the Mediterranean diet?

Tilapia Bowls with Avocado Crema


Tilapia seasoning

  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Avocado crema

  • 2 avocado
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 limes (juiced)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Other ingredients

  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 3 cups cooked rice or quinoa
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed
  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro (optional)


  1. For avocado crema: combine avocados, Greek yogurt, garlic cloves and juice of 2 limes in a blender or food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Prepare toppings so they are ready to assemble once your fish is cooked: 3 cups cooked rice or quinoa; dice 2 tomatoes; drain & rinse 1 can black beans; reheat corn kernels (I use frozen); prepare cilantro & lime to garnish (optional).
  3. Combine spices for tilapia seasoning on a large plate.
  4. Pat tilapia fillets so they are dry (if they are too wet, the fish will not “blacken”). Coat in seasoning mix. Cook in a non-stick pan over medium heat for ~3 minutes per side until fish is cooked and easily “flakes” apart.
  5. Assemble fish bowls: fill bowls with rice/quinoa. Then top with toppings of your choice and fillet of blackened tilapia. You can dollop the avocado crema on top or fill a Ziploc bag with the crema, cut corner edge and drizzle on top.


Destyni Atchison

About Destyni Atchison

Destyni is a Clinical Dietitian at Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa. She has been working with Northern Health for the past two years and also runs her own nutrition consulting business. In her spare time, she enjoys snowshoeing, hiking and developing new recipes for herself and her clients.


Tales from the Man Cave: The sacred and the evil

Charred pack of cigarettes

Jim’s got a fiery message on the heels of World No Tobacco Day: there is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke. There is more support than ever to quit!

Tobacco is not an evil thing in and of itself. It has been used ceremonially for eons in Aboriginal cultures and even used by some for medicinal purposes. As a sacred gift, it has been given and used as a way of making peace or a contract. Historically, it is a very important plant. It has also been used as a pesticide, but this use has largely stopped because it’s also very poisonous when eaten.

Tobacco smoke it is both a relaxant and a stimulant. It can help with depression but may also cause depression. It can make you calm and it can make you more anxious. It is thought to be the type of drug that opens up the brain to develop other addictions and is therefore called a gateway drug.

Boring it is not. Dangerous it is.

So, on the heels of World No Tobacco Day, the main point of this blog is not to disparage the tobacco plant but rather the misuse of tobacco, outside of its sacred, traditional use.

When misused, tobacco is a killer. Smoke it, chew it, snuff it and it will addict you! It will lead to cancer and it will kill you. It will kill you through many different cancers, such as lung cancer, but also through heart disease and lung disease.

Make no mistake: the misuse of tobacco products in a modern context such as cigarette smoking or chewing is a great evil that may kill 1 billion people on this planet in this century according to the World Health Organization.

The language in this blog is a little strong, but I feel this strongly about it.

It is my wish that not another lung choke, nor another heart fail, nor another living thing die from this addiction. And my wish for you, the smoker and tobacco user, is to know that it can be overcome. There is more support than ever! You can access free counselling by text, phone or email as well as information to help you quit at

If you are a smoker, encourage your children to never start using tobacco.

It is hard, yes. But you can do it! All British Columbians can access free nicotine patches or nicotine gum through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


Heart Month: Get up, get healthy

Northern Health staff at a Canada Winter Games venue

Throughout the 2015 Canada Winter Games, Northern Health has been asking residents and visitors how they are getting their 150 minutes of physical activity each week. For Heart Month, Zack has some great tips for how to become more active, more regularly and why it’s important to get those 150 minutes!

After a hard day of work in the office or wherever your job may be, it can be difficult to have any ambition left to go out and exercise. I think that it’s fair to say that everyone knows that it’s important to include physical activity and exercise in your day, but knowing that and doing it are two very different things. However, February is Heart Month so it’s a good time to think about the health of your heart! Among the many benefits of physical activity, improving the health of your heart is one of the most important ones.

Not convinced? Some of the ways that physical activity can improve the health of your heart include:

  • Preventing high blood pressure
  • Improving cholesterol levels
  • Reducing stress
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving circulation (which is especially important for older adults)
  • Reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes

For those of you who don’t regularly engage in physical activity, there is good news! Research has shown that the greatest improvements in cardiovascular health can be seen in those who change from sedentary to more active lifestyles. This means that it is never too late to get up and start moving, and that your heart will thank you for doing so!

Some people may find the thought of exercising or working out to be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Studies have shown that many different forms of physical activity can improve your cardiovascular health; it’s about meeting yourself where you’re at and going forward from there. One study showed that exercise in the form of regular physical activity incorporated into everyday living was equally effective at improving cardiovascular health when compared to structured exercise regimens.

Speaking from my experience, I know that regular exercise can be an extremely difficult thing to do and that ambitious intentions can often lead to big disappointments. As a person who has tried very hard to exercise regularly for the past several years and has encountered both challenges and successes, here are my tips to help you become active more regularly and to become a healthier, happier version of yourself:

  • Don’t like it? Don’t do it! Many people I know think that jogging, running, or going on the treadmill or elliptical machine is the ultimate form of exercise for your heart. I disagree! Any activity that increases your heart rate and makes you breathe harder is a cardiovascular workout with the same benefits for your heart! If you’re like me and aren’t a fan of running or elliptical machines, some great forms of cardiovascular exercise that I would suggest are brisk walking, hiking, paddling, bike riding, swimming, snowshoeing, and weight lifting with weights that are light enough for you to do a high number of repetitions. Make sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re enjoying it!
  • Don’t use the scale to measure your success. Your weight is not the best way to measure your health. Healthy bodies exist in a diversity of shapes and sizes! Although physical activity can help you to achieve a healthy weight, there are many other, more important benefits of physical activity for your body.
  • Set realistic, SMART goals. Realize that a small amount of physical activity done regularly is much more beneficial to your health in the long run than short-lived fads of intense exercise.
  • Environmental changes. Once you have the desire to become more active, the next step should be to implement a few small environmental changes to help ensure that you get active by being more organized and making physical activity more convenient. Examples of this would be throwing your running shoes in the car so that you can go for a walk on lunch break, signing up for a gym that is close to your home or on the way from your home to work, or packing your bag with whatever you will need for your activity the next day and putting it right by the door.
  • Find an exercise buddy. Exercising with a friend can not only make your activity more social and enjoyable, but they can often help you get out and be active on those days when you’re not feeling motivated to do so (and you’ll have the same impact on them!). I have often found that when my workout buddy drags me out for exercise on those days when I’m experiencing low energy and low motivation, I come home feeling much better than I ever did before exercising.

Visit the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology for information on Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines or visit the Heart & Stroke Foundation for more information about Heart Month and cardiovascular health.

Zachary Kohlen

About Zachary Kohlen

Zachary Kohlen is a fourth year nursing student at UNBC in Prince George. He is currently completing a practicum for Community Health & Nursing with the Population Health team. Prince George is home to Zack, as he has lived here for the past 14 years. Other than homework and studying, he enjoys snowboarding, swimming, golfing, weight training, hiking and camping. Zack has had the opportunity to take part in a number of health promotion activities with the Northern Health team for the 2015 Canada Winter Games.


Tales from the Man Cave: Heart Advice for Men’s Health Week

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

In honour of Men’s Health Week, I want to talk about things men (and everyone, really) can do to help reduce the risk of heart disease. To do the subject justice would require a book but for today I will mention only the briefest of actions that can be carried out.

Here is my list of factors you may be able to change which will help the health of your heart:

  1.  Smoking. Just quit. This is beyond doubt the number one thing you can (and should) do. It is the number one modifiable factor under your control which can help you have a longer life. About 30% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking.
  2. High blood pressure. Cigarette smoking injures the lining of the blood vessels and increases the risk of developing blood clots, which contributes to hardening of the arteries. Even inhaling others’ cigarette smoke has been shown to lower good cholesterol. Studies have shown that HDL levels often go up soon after a person quits smoking.
  3. High blood cholesterol. Fatty foods are a contribution to poor heart health. Check out Canada’s Food Guide for advice on eating well.
  4. Diabetes. I’m talking about type 2 diabetes which can come under your control somewhat by monitoring what you eat and engaging in physical activity.
  5. Physical inactivity. Plan to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a week. If you work in an office make a plan to stand up many times during your working day. Remember our mantra “every move counts.” Decrease screen time and get outside as much as possible. Walk the dog or just walk.
  6. Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    From Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke, among other things. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines can help you.

  7. Stress. The direct relationship between stress and heart disease perhaps lies in all of the above. If people have stressful lives, suffer anxiety and depressed mood, these can contribute to all of the other negative behaviours and at the same time make changing behaviour much more difficult. Increased alcohol consumption, comfort eating and watching more movies on TV, may provide short-term stress relief through self-medication, but in the long run will not work well for you. It’s better to go for short walks in nature and learn some relaxation strategy such as meditation. Decrease alcohol consumption and increase physical activity to release those feel good hormones and engage with the family and community. In addition to this guys need to talk about their stressors.

No one can guarantee the health of your heart in the future but by following some simple steps you can decrease your risk and feel less stressed.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.