Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: sharing a meal with others – a true holiday gift

Season’s Eatings! With the holidays just around the corner, I start to grow homesick for my home on the East Coast. I often catch myself daydreaming about my family’s long dining room table with the bright red tablecloth and the people I love gathered around it. More than just a big Christmas dinner and devouring turkey with all the fixings takes place there – a lot of important family traditions happen around that dining room table. It’s those traditions that mean the most to me. I’m grateful for my family and that I’m able to spend the holiday season with them. Not every family or every year will be the same. Sometimes people celebrate with chosen family, with friends or coworkers, or choose to take time alone and reflect on the passing year.

The benefits of preparing and sharing a meal with others are a true holiday gift.

When we think about eating during the holidays, it’s easy to dwell on the large portions, decadent options, and seemingly endless buffets. I encourage you to take holiday eats off the “naughty list,” listen to your body, and take the time to enjoy each morsel. The benefits of preparing and sharing a meal with others are a true holiday gift. For all the years I worried about the contents of the holiday meals or spent my time anxiously trying to make the perfect dish, I barely remember a single meal I ate in great detail. What does last, for me, are the memories, traditions, and the sense of family around that long red table.

One thing that’s always on the table is my mom’s homemade cranberry sauce. She makes it every year to share with family and neighbours and I want to share the recipe with you!

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 12-ounce pack fresh cranberries

Instructions:

  1. Combine juice and sugar to a saucepan and heat until dissolved.
  2. Add cranberries and zest, simmer for 10 minutes, until all berries burst. Stir occasionally.
  3. Cover and cool completely.
Amelia Gallant

About Amelia Gallant

Amelia is a Primary Care Dietitian living and working in Fort St. John. Born and raised near St. John's, Newfoundland, she made her cross-country journey to northern BC in 2017 and is delighted to see comforts of home in the kindness of the people she meets and their love of the outdoors - even in the long and snowy winters. Forever a foodie, Amelia's the one at your dinner table trying to snap the perfect picture, or trying to replicate the latest food trends in her kitchen. As a dietitian, she hopes to simplify the mixed nutrition messaging and help people re-learn to enjoy their eating experience while supporting their healthy living goals.

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Nutritious and delicious Easter traditions

Child picking up coloured eggs.

Include non-food items in your Easter baskets and egg hunts to add variety this year! Items like stickers, colouring books, or stuffed animals can make great gifts, or include items that will get you and your family physically active like skipping ropes, hula hoops, or passes to the local pool or skating rink.

As a registered dietitian, I get asked questions on a daily basis about food and nutrition. Easter – filled with celebrations, Easter egg hunts, family, and friends – is often a time of sharing traditions, which often involves food. Holiday meals have great potential to be both nutritious and delicious!

A meal of ham or turkey, vegetables, buns or stuffing, and dessert has a good chance of having 3-4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, making it a nutritionally balanced meal.

There many ways to make your Easter meal even more nutritious, such as:

  • offering sweet potatoes or yams, as well as potatoes;
  • including colourful veggies, like carrots, brussel sprouts, and beets;
  • serving up something green like asparagus or a simple green leafy salad;
  • choosing whole wheat bread for your stuffing, and adding cranberries or chopped apples, walnuts, and finely chopped carrots and celery; and
  • considering a dessert that includes fruit and/or dairy, such as a fruit crumble or a milk-based pudding.

Adults may worry about how much they eat at these celebrations. Healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day. Rather, it’s about your overall approach to eating. On the day of the celebrations, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack pattern, so that you can listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Buffet style meals can often leave you feeling overfull from wanting to try a little bit of everything. Instead, survey your options, and choose those things you really want to try. You can always come back for more if you are still hungry. Take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly, and enjoy the time with family and friends. Remember that the holidays are about the whole experience – enjoy the meal, the company, and the memories made.

What about the treats and chocolate?

Easter egg hunts for the kids often involve searching for chocolate and candy treats. And while treats are definitely a part of traditions and a healthy approach to eating, sometimes it can be easy for everyone to overindulge in those treats. Include non-food items in your Easter baskets and egg hunts to add variety – they are just as fun as the chocolates and candy. Things like stickers, colouring books, or stuffed animals can make great gifts, or include items that will get you and your family physically active like skipping ropes, hula hoops, or passes to the local pool or skating rink.

What are your nutritious, delicious, and healthy Easter traditions? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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A splendid – and safe! – holiday meal: Tips for safe turkey cooking

Cooked turkey

When it comes to turkey and meat, keep in mind two safety tips – temperature control and eliminating cross-contamination – and you and your guests will enjoy a splendid and safe meal this holiday season!

‘Tis the holiday season – such an exciting time! Many of us will have family and friends over, often to dine. But if someone gets sick from a meal that we made, well now that holiday spirit just won’t be the same, will it?

That’s why I want to share safe food handling tips so that you and your good company can continue having a happy holiday. Since winter holidays mean turkey dinner for many, I’ll focus on that.

A 2006 study in Quebec found that a third of raw turkeys tested were positive for Salmonella and Campylobacter. Salmonella and Campylobacter are bacteria that are commonly found on poultry that can make you sick if the food is not prepared properly. Consuming undercooked turkey is of particular concern for children, the elderly, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals as they are more likely to experience illness and experience it in more severe forms.

So it’s really the luck of the draw when you purchase that raw turkey. You cannot tell if it has bacteria like Salmonella or Campylobacter. Rather than play against the odds, it’s important to play it safe by preparing it safely! The following food safe practices boil down to two subjects: temperature control and eliminating cross-contamination.

If you purchase a fresh turkey, make sure it is kept in the fridge at 4 degrees Celsius or colder and cooked within 2-3 days after purchasing. If the turkey is frozen, it can be thawed safely in the refrigerator or under cold running water. In both instances, it’s good practice to keep the turkey stored in its original plastic wrapper to prevent any potential cross-contamination. Thawing time is approximately an hour per pound so plan accordingly.

Washing hands, utensils and cutting boards before and after contact with the turkey (or any other raw meat for that matter!) are also key to preventing contamination of the bird and other foods. At the same time, recent research says “don’t wash the bird” as splash from the washing process can travel 3 feet or more and contaminate the counter, utensils and any food dishes within that zone. You don’t want to have raw turkey juices on the salad fixings! We want to deliver the turkey into the oven with as little cross contamination, splashing and dripping as possible.

How can you tell your food is done? Visual cues are unreliable. The only sure way to check is to use a probe thermometer and check the internal temperature of the turkey. Your entire turkey and the stuffing must reach at least 75 degrees Celsius (167 F) to be safe to eat. If your turkey is done but your stuffing isn’t, remove the stuffing and cook it separately.

The goal of these tips is to leave as few opportunities as possible for the bacteria to grow and to minimize cross-contamination to other foods. In that way, you and your merry company can enjoy both a splendid meal and holiday!

Happy holidays!

Alicia Parayno

About Alicia Parayno

Alicia is an Environmental Health Officer at the Vanderhoof Public Health Unit. Born and raised in Metro Vancouver, Alicia wanted to experience more of B.C. so, after finishing her education at BCIT, she completed a practicum in Prince George in 2014. Since she enjoyed her northern B.C. experience, she was ready to jump at the opportunity to return to Northern Health the following summer. During her spare time, Alicia likes to walk, hike, cycle, occasionally run and ski when she can. She also enjoys baking, attempting to crochet and having teatime – more than once a day. (Alicia no longer works at Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Healthy holiday eating

Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet.

Make your holiday meal even more nutritious this year! Include lots of colourful veggies like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and beets!

Christmas is an exciting time, often filled with celebrations, parties, family, and friends. It’s also a time to share traditions, which often involve food. Holiday meals offer the opportunity for family members and friends to prepare and share a special meal together, and to learn from each other in the process. Even young children can help by doing things like washing vegetables, making paper place mats, setting the table, pouring water, and helping to clean up.

Looking at most holiday movies or commercials these days, we are made to think of holiday meals as always being rich and heavy. Think again! They actually have great potential to be nutritious and delicious! A meal of ham or turkey, vegetables, buns or stuffing, and dessert has a good chance of having 3-4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, making it a balanced meal.

Here are a few suggestions to make your holiday meal even more nutritious:

  • Offer sweet potatoes instead of, or alongside, white potatoes.
  • Include other colourful veggies like carrots, Brussels sprouts, and beets.
  • Boost up the stuffing by using whole wheat bread and adding cranberries or chopped apple, walnuts, and finely chopped carrots and celery.
  • Consider a dessert that includes fruit or dairy, such as a fruit crumble or milk-based pudding.

Some people worry about how much they eat at these special meals. Remember, healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day – it’s about your overall approach to eating. Give yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy!

On the day of the holiday celebration, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack patterns that incorporate healthy choices so that you can listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Buffet-style meals can often leave you feeling overfull from wanting to try a little bit of everything. Instead, survey your options and choose those things you really want to try. You can always come back for more if you are still hungry.

Remember to take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly and enjoy the time with family and friends. The holidays are about the whole experience – building a snowman, admiring light displays with your family, playing a favourite board game – not just what’s on your plate!

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.

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