Healthy Living in the North

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!

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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.

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Foodie Friday: It’s Time to Celebrate!

This Foodie Friday, I want to take the time to celebrate. August is always a time of celebration in my life, since my birthday happens this month – tomorrow in fact!

August is a time of celebration for me-including my birthday!

We won’t talk about how many of those birthdays I’ve had to date – let’s just say there have been more than a few. August is also a great time to celebrate all of the local food in season here in BC. From cherries to Saskatoon berries, corn to zucchini, there is a huge variety of vegetables and fruits to suit everyone’s tastes. But this August, I also want to celebrate something a little different. Today is my  15th Foodie Friday post on the Northern Health blog, and it is also my final post as I move on to a new chapter in my life.

Foodie Friday has been an amazing series to contribute to on the Northern Health Blog. I love sharing my passion for food and cooking, and this has been a great way to reach out and share those recipes and stories. Taking a look back at my previous posts, I’ve definitely shared some of my favourite go-to recipes, including:

Just looking back on all of those makes me a little hungry. Hopefully I’ve been able to inspire you to get creating in your own kitchen, by either making one of the recipes I’ve shared, or recreating a family favourite you had forgotten about.

I did realize one thing looking back on my Foodie Friday posts – I’ve never shared a dessert recipe! Which seems crazy, because my love of cooking all started with baking and making desserts for family holiday meals. So I think it’s only fitting that this celebration post be a dessert recipe – that just so happens to use some seasonal produce that you might not expect. Happy cooking everyone!

brownies on counter

This chocolaty brownie recipe uses some seasonal produce you might not expect!

Fudgy Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

Makes one 8” by 12” baking pan (24 brownies)

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (no need to peel)
  • 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
brownies and knife on counter

Cool. Cut. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8” by 12” baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs until fluffy and pale yellow.
  3. Add in the sugar, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until combined.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add gradually to the wet mixture, using low speed, so you don’t have flour flying everywhere. Once combined, remove from stand mixer.
  5. Stir in zucchini, 1 cup chocolate chips, and walnuts (if using) into the batter until combined. Spread into prepared baking dish, making sure to get the batter into the corners. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The shorter time will give you a more fudgy consistency. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Note: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you could also using a hand mixer or just a good ol’ wooden spoon and elbow grease!

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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Growing breastfeeding-friendly communities: you can help!

breastfeeding mom on picnic bench

Nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their children in a public area.

As a breastfeeding mother, I have received support from friends, family, health professionals, and community members. This was true in the early days, as my baby and I were getting the hang of breastfeeding, and it is still true today as I continue to nurse my toddler. While I have generally felt supported, I also know that mothers can face challenges when breastfeeding.

Promoting, protecting, and supporting breastfeeding is a responsibility shared by families, communities, health regions and policy makers. This means supporting individual mothers, as well as growing breastfeeding-friendly communities.

breastfeeding mom in barber shop

Is your business breastfeeding friendly?

A challenge a woman should not have to face is a lack of knowledge about her right to breastfeed. Did you know that women’s right to breastfeed is protected by law in British Columbia? As per B.C.’s Ministry of Justice:

  • Nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their children in a public area
  • It is discriminatory to ask a mother to cover up or breastfeed somewhere else

Women’s right to breastfeed is not new, but it may not be common knowledge. A little education and respectful conversation can go a long way.

Are you wondering what you or your business can do to make northern communities breastfeeding friendly and safe?

Consider ordering a free breastfeeding decal from Northern Health! The “Growing for Gold” decal can be placed on a glass door or window to show a welcoming attitude and support for breastfeeding moms and babies. The decal also comes with helpful information that you can share with staff or clients/customers, including:

  • “All women have a right to breastfeed. Anytime. Anywhere.”
  • Tips for creating breastfeeding-friendly spaces
  • Responding to a family’s request for a more comfortable or private location
  • Managing customers who may express negative feelings towards public breastfeeding

    Growing for Gold Breastfeeding Friendly decal

    The Growing for Gold decal on your business window shares your support and welcome to breastfeeding moms and babies.

When you order a decal, your business/facility will be added to the list of Breastfeeding Friendly Places on the Growing for Gold website (join the recently signed up Telkwa General Store & Café and other northern B.C. businesses who have shown their support by requesting a decal!).

A decal is a small thing, but it sends an important message and supports a valuable conversation. Help us to grow breastfeeding-friendly communities across the north!

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.

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Foodie Friday: Brighten up your plate with local fruits and veggies!

I’m always amazed at the selection of local fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and gardens throughout the summer months!

Enjoying BC-grown produce is a great way to add variety and brighten up your plate with vibrant colours and fresh flavours. It can also be fun to explore some not-so-familiar (yet equally delicious) local produce. To learn more about the benefits of eating local, check out Marianne’s fantastic post: Enjoy BC’s bounty this summer.

lambs quarter wild spinach

Have you tried lamb’s quarters or wild spinach before?

One way that I’ve been able to put more local foods on my plate is by joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)  program in Terrace. This program allows community members to purchase a “share” of local produce from farmers before they plant their crops. Despite having a shorter growing season in northern BC, last week’s share included potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, mint tea, homemade pear jam, and a bag of lamb’s quarters* (*keep reading!).

I had quite the chuckle when I discovered that “lamb’s quarters” was in fact a vegetable – it’s a bag of mysterious dark leafy greens! According to my online search, lamb’s quarters is also known as goosefoot or wild spinach. It tastes similar to spinach, and can be enjoyed raw, steamed, or sautéed.

One of my favourite ways to eat spinach is as a creamy dip, so I decided to substitute lamb’s quarters in my signature spinach dip recipe. If you don’t have lamb’s quarters, no worries!  You can simply use fresh, frozen, or canned spinach.

spinach dip

Wild spinach puts the wild in this classic dip!

 (Wild) Spinach Dip

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of spinach or lamb’s quarters, washed
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup of yogurt, plain
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder or 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup parmesan or mozzarella cheese, grated (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the washed lamb’s quarters or spinach and cook until completely wilted.
  2. Let cool slightly and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Finely chop the lamb’s quarters or spinach.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the lamb’s quarters or spinach with the rest of the ingredients.

Serving suggestions:

  • Enjoy right away, or chill for 1 hour before serving to let the flavours combine.
  • I like to serve this dip with crackers, corn chips or bread, and veggies of my choice.

If you are looking to take advantage of more local produce this summer, here are a few of my favourite Foodie Friday recipes featuring local ingredients:

Do you have a favourite locally inspired 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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Food: a foundation for building relationships

Mother and daughter picking peas

Picking peas with mom? Cooking dinner with grandpa? An annual Canada Day family picnic? Food is a foundation for building relationships!

Take a moment to recall some of your favourite childhood memories. Do they have a theme? My fondest memories seem to have two things in common: they’re all associated with a sense of being loved, accepted, and cared for, and they all involve food!

Many of my childhood memories are of time spent at my grandmother’s house, which was always warm, inviting, and filled with the distinct aromas of freshly baked bread and sauerkraut. We raided the garden and gorged ourselves on raspberries, rhubarb, and garden peas – still among my favourite fruits and vegetables today. My grandmother constantly prodded us to “eat, eat!” more of her homemade perogies or honey cake and it was clear that was how she expressed her love for us.

I also have a great memory of peeling fresh peaches with my Mom to prepare them for canning. We had soaked the peaches in hot water and were using paring knives to remove the skin. This was my first attempt at wielding a paring knife, and I remember how my confidence grew as my Mom gently coached me. I also remember how special I felt to have been chosen to help her with that task.

Food-related activities provide many opportunities for personal connection, and research has shown that there are several benefits to eating and cooking with your family. Children and adolescents who have more frequent family meals tend to eat more nutritious foods, perform better at school, and have higher self-esteem. Getting your kids involved with meal preparation is helpful, too: teens who participate in food preparation tend to have healthier eating patterns.

Unfortunately, our busy lives can make it hard to find time to prepare and share regular family meals. But take heart – family meals don’t always have to be formal dinners around the dining table! The most important thing is to create opportunities to connect and to share your stories and attention.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with what works for your family – even if it’s just one or two family meals per week – and build from there.
  • Plan ahead to make things easier on hectic weekday nights.
  • Host a make-your-own pizza or burrito night.
  • If gathering everyone together for dinner just isn’t possible, join each other for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  • If after-school practices are scheduled around dinnertime, pack a picnic for the family to enjoy at the soccer field or baseball diamond.
  • Eating out? Ask everyone to put away their smartphones and tablets so you can focus on the meal and each other.
  • Start a new family tradition – maybe a brunch on Family Day or an annual chili cook-off on a summer long weekend?

For more inspiration, check out Better Together BC or the Family Kitchen.

Kelly Bogh

About Kelly Bogh

After spending many years in Ottawa and B.C.'s Lower Mainland, Kelly returned to her hometown of Prince George to complete her dietetic internship with Northern Health. One of the things she loves about Prince George is living in the "Bowl" and being able to get most places on foot! When she's not sifting through the research underlying dietary recommendations, she enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time with family and friends (including four-legged furry ones).

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Foodie Friday: Build your own quick and tasty wraps (and enjoy more time outdoors!)

The sun is shining, the temperatures are rising, and it finally feels like summer is just around the corner! The longer days mean that there is plenty of time to enjoy an outdoor adventure after work, or a BBQ with friends and family.

For me, a new puppy at home has made life that much more exciting (and busy)! Many of my evenings are spent romping in our backyard. In true puppy form, our little Arlo adores ripping up moss, jumping in our strawberry patch, and digging in the dirt. Our poor little strawberry plants!

Dog in strawberry patch with person watching while eating a wrap.

Arlo the puppy enjoys digging up strawberries while dietitian Emilia gets to enjoy her wrap.

I’ve also noticed that more time playing outside means less time spent in the kitchen. Luckily, I know that eating well does not need to be fancy or complicated. Takes wraps, for example! They are one of my favourite on-the-go meals and I’ve been enjoying them a lot lately. With so many combinations to choose from, this super quick and easy meal is sure to be a family favourite.

To get started, try building your own wrap by mixing and matching items from the following categories:

  • Wrap: tortilla, pita, or roti (a type of flatbread popular in India). Choose whole wheat wraps for added fibre and nutrition.
  • Protein: canned or cooked fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, pork, or beef (I like using leftover hamburger patties or roast chicken), shrimp, hummus, beans, or tofu.
  • Toppings: lettuce, spinach (I often buy the ready-to-eat bags), shredded carrots, avocado, sliced red peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, apple, or pineapple.
  • Cheese (optional): cheddar, mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese, or another favourite.
  • Condiments: mayo, mustard, pesto, salsa, hot sauce, etc.

Here are just a few of my favourite wrap/pita combos:

  • Jarred or smoked fish, lettuce, cucumber, and mayo
  • Hardboiled egg, chopped green onion, tomato, and mayo
  • Black beans or leftover ground meat, cheddar cheese, and red pepper with salsa and Greek yogurt
  • Chicken or turkey, sliced apples, cheese, spinach, and honey mustard
Wraps

Dilly salmon wraps are one of hundreds of wrap combinations that you can try! Just mix and match from Emilia’s list!

Dilly Salmon Wraps

Ingredients

Wraps

  • 1 cup salmon (jarred, canned, or leftover salmon fillet)
  • 4 large whole wheat tortilla wraps
  • Veggies of your choice (I used lettuce and red peppers)
  • Cheese of your choice (optional)

Dilly Sauce

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp dry or 1 tsp fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Mix the Greek yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, and dill.
  2. Combine salmon with dilly sauce and mix well (you will probably have leftover sauce — it makes a great veggie dip, too!)
  3. Spoon salmon mixture onto each wrap and top with veggies and cheese of your choice.
  4. Fold in sides and roll tortilla up tightly.

You can serve this meal family-style: just prepare all the toppings and let kids (and adults) choose their own veggies and condiments. What fun!

More tasty and nutritious grab-and-go meal and snack ideas:

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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What can you do to support safe and inclusive school environments for children with food allergies?

The lunch bell rings and Johnny enthusiastically starts to eat his tuna salad sandwich, apple, cookie, and milk. As he is chatting with his friends, he suddenly starts to feel sick. His mouth feels itchy and his tummy starts to hurt. Johnny finds his teacher and tells her he is not feeling well. His teacher is aware that Johnny has a food allergy and recognizes the signs of a serious allergic reaction. She gives him life-saving medication and calls 9-1-1.

Students in classroom

Creating allergy-aware schools is everyone’s job! Students, parents, and schools all have a role to play!

May is Allergy Awareness Month: it’s a great time to talk about how we can create safe and inclusive environments for children with food allergies so they may safely eat, learn, and play.

In Canada, approximately 300,000 children have food allergies. The most common food allergens are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, sesame, seafood, wheat, and sulphites. Anaphylaxis is the most serious type of allergic reaction and can be deadly if untreated.

As a dietitian who has supported families with an allergic child, I understand that keeping your child safe at school can seem like a daunting task. I have also come to understand that prevention is not enough. While some schools will ask parents not to send foods with certain allergens like peanuts to classrooms, it is important that students and schools have the knowledge and skills to respond to allergic emergencies appropriately. Creating allergy-aware schools is everyone’s job!

What can schools do?

All school boards are required to develop an allergy-aware policy as well as an individual anaphylaxis emergency plan for each student with a serious allergy. In addition, schools can:

  • Work with parents to develop realistic prevention strategies. For example, some schools have “allergy-aware” eating areas while other schools have specific rules about allergens in the classroom.
  • Support ongoing training for all staff including teachers, bus drivers, and food service staff.
  • Consider non-food items for some class and school celebrations.
  • Take steps to ensure students with allergies are not bullied or left out.
  • Raise awareness about food allergies in the classroom, at school assemblies, or consider running a school-wide allergy awareness challenge.

What can parents and caregivers of children with allergies do?

  • Inform your school about your child’s allergy.
  • Provide your school with epinephrine auto-injectors, if needed.
  • Plan ahead for field trips and special events.
  • Teach your child how to protect themselves and reduce risk of exposure.
  • Read food labels carefully every time you shop and be aware of cross-contamination.
  • Guide your child as they learn to take on more responsibility for managing their allergy.

What can children with allergies do?

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after eating.
  • Do not share food, utensils, or containers.
  • Be careful with food prepared by others.
  • Carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times (by age 6 or 7 children are usually mature enough to do so).
  • Tell your friends about your allergies and what they should do in an allergic emergency.
  • Tell an adult as soon as you suspect an accidental exposure to an allergen.

Looking for more information about food allergies at school?

Here are a few of my top picks for resources and tools for parents, caregivers, or anyone working in and with schools:

Looking for personalized support? HealthLink BC’s Allergy Nutrition Service provides support to families who have concerns and question around food allergies. Just dial 8-1-1 and ask to speak with a registered dietitian.

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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Foodie Friday: Fiddleheads, a springtime treat

little boy picking fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a (delicious!) young fern

Besides the singing birds and the extra vitamin D from the sunshine, my favourite part of spring is the increased variety of locally produced fruit and vegetables that start to pop up in the grocery stores and farmers markets. By this time of year, I am aching for variety and freshness that can often only be found by buying local. To my excitement, the outdoor farmers market season has started in my community with the Prince George Farmers’ Market expanding outdoors at its downtown location as of late April. I love spending my Saturday mornings grabbing a coffee to-go and browsing the market for delicious produce, meat, eggs, and bread – yum. When does your local market open for the season?

When I was at the market in Prince George last Saturday, I noticed vendors selling bags of fiddleheads. Have you come across these where you live? A friend of mine from Vancouver first introduced me to fiddleheads several years ago and I’ve never looked back. I promptly bought two bags on Saturday and ate them later that day for dinner.

So, what is a fiddlehead?

Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a young fern. The safest and most delicious fiddleheads come from the ostrich fern. They grow in moist, shaded areas and are only available for a few weeks in the spring. To identify the ostrich fern fiddleheads, look for ones that are growing in a crown (or cluster) low to the ground, have a deep U-shaped groove on the inside of the stem, and brown, papery scales, which should be removed before eating. Check out this video for more information on identifying and harvesting fiddleheads safely.

Using Internet Explorer? Open the video in YouTube.

What do I do with fiddleheads?

wild filddlehead

Have you come across fiddleheads in your community?

Eat them! Fiddleheads are delicious and taste a lot like asparagus. They are a good source of vitamins A and C as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

They need to be properly washed and cooked before consuming as raw fiddleheads can make you ill. To prepare fiddleheads, wash them well in several rounds of cold water and ensure the brown scales are removed (the ones I got from the market were already cleaned). Then, either boil for 15 minutes or steam for 10-12 minutes before sautéing them for an easy side dish.

Easy sautéed fiddleheads

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 454 g-1 lb fiddleheads
  • 2-3 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare fiddleheads: Rinse several times with cold water and remove any brown scales that remain. Cover with plenty of water and boil for 15 minutes (or steam for 10-12 minutes).
  2. Heat butter or olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir.
  3. Sautee fiddleheads for 4-5 minutes until heated through.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
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

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Babies, solid foods, and allergies: What do you need to know?

Are you worried that your baby might develop a food allergy? I was. A baby is at higher risk of developing an allergy if they have a parent or sibling with a food allergy, eczema, asthma or hay fever, or if the baby has severe eczema. My husband had various nut allergies when he was young, many of which he outgrew, but he still has a strong reaction to Brazil nuts. Given my husband’s history, my daughter is at higher risk of developing a food allergy.

baby eating solids

Early introduction to common food allergens may help reduce the risk of children developing allergies.

You might be a bit nervous about introducing certain foods to your baby – I was! The foods most likely to be involved in food allergies are called “common food allergens.” They are:

  • Eggs
  • Milk and milk products
  • Peanuts
  • Seafood (fish, crustaceans, and shellfish)
  • Sesame
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts (almond, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.)
  • Wheat

As a dietitian, I have seen the advice on introducing common food allergens change – a lot! Years ago, it was thought best to wait to offer these foods until baby was a year old, or two years old, or even older. However, research over the past 10 years has shown us that there is no benefit to waiting that long. In fact, new research, especially research on peanuts, shows that earlier introduction may actually help to reduce risk of allergies. Wow!

What does this mean for feeding your baby? The most current research supports these guidelines:

  • Start offering solid foods when your baby is about six months old.
  • Offer foods high in iron twice per day; iron is very important for babies. Examples include well-cooked meat, poultry, and fish; cooked eggs, lentils, beans, chickpeas and tofu; and peanut, tree nut, and seed butters. For more ideas, see “Pumping iron: First foods for building strong babies”.
  • Don’t wait. You can offer common food allergens when baby is ready for solids, at around six months of age.
  • Worried about allergy risk? Introduce common food allergens one at a time (other foods do not need to be introduced one at a time). In the event of an allergic reaction, symptoms often appear within minutes of eating the food, but they can also occur hours later.
  • Worried that a food caused an allergic reaction? Stop offering that food and connect with your child’s doctor for a diagnosis. You can continue to offer other new foods to your baby, including other common food allergens.

When it was time to start our baby on solid foods, I was a little nervous about things like peanut butter. I made sure to offer these foods when my husband and I were both around, and I watched my daughter for signs of a reaction. Luckily, we have not yet seen any signs of allergy, and she has now been introduced a wide variety of common food allergens.

It was helpful to know where to go for help in case we had questions. Did you know that there is a Registered Dietitian at HealthLink BC who can support families who have concerns about food allergies? They are only a phone call away – just dial 8-1-1.

Looking for more information and support? HealthLink BC’s resource “Reducing Risk of Food Allergy in Your Baby” provides additional information on introducing common food allergens to infants.

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.

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