Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Make small changes to your portion sizes

It’s Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Take a 100 Meal Journey: Make Small Changes, One Meal at a Time”. It’s a great chance to reflect on what small, healthy changes we can all make in our food choices and habits, including portion sizes.

Consider the following:

How many times do we overeat when we are presented with a large, delicious-looking plate of food? Do we know when to stop eating because we are full and not because we’ve eaten every last bite? Just think about how easy it is to sit down with a bag of chips or popcorn and eat more than our share’s worth.

I know I’m guilty of these things at times.

Over the past few decades, larger portions have become normal. The size of dinner plates has increased, packaged goods come in larger quantities, and restaurants serve meals so large that they skew our perceptions of what a “normal” portion size actually looks like. Undoubtedly, larger portions play a role in how much we eat and can contribute to excess weight gain. When larger portions, especially larger portions of less nutritious foods, become part of our daily norm, they can impact our health and well-being in the long run.

If portion sizes are an area you struggle with, now is a great time to start making small changes! Consider the following tips to help you begin:

  • Become familiar with the recommendations for total daily servings for your age and gender and what a serving size looks like, according to Canada’s Food Guide. Take a look at this handout on estimating portion sizes using your hands.
  • Fill half your plate with vegetables at mealtimes. Increasing the amount of vegetables you put on your plate will help moderate the portions of other foods.
  • When eating out, ask for a to-go container with your meal and place some of your meal in it before taking your first bite. Or split the meal with a friend.
  • Instead of taking the whole bag, place a couple handfuls of chips or popcorn into a small bowl to prevent mindless munching.
  • Check out your plate size. Consider choosing a smaller plate to help avoid dishing up too much food.

It’s also important to remember to enjoy the food we eat; paying attention to when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Small, conscious changes to what we eat and how much we eat can lead to long-term benefits.

Bowl of curry over rice

Tamara’s small, nourishing change for Nutrition Month is to switch out some of her portions of meat and poultry for protein alternatives like beans, lentils and chickpeas. Her favourite sweet potato chickpea curry recipe is a great way to get started!

What changes will you make for Nutrition Month?

I’m pledging to switch out some of my portions of meat and poultry for protein alternatives like beans, lentils and chickpeas. I already started by digging out one of my favourite vegetarian recipes, which I’m sharing with you below. I hope you enjoy!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry

From Chef Michael Smith

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • Splash of vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Small knob of frozen ginger (*see tip below)
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) Thai curry paste
  • 2 sweet potatoes (or yams), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 19 oz (540 ml) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz (398 ml) can of coconut milk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) orange juice
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) frozen green peas
  • Several handfuls baby spinach
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) chopped cilantro (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add a splash or two of vegetable oil to a stockpot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion and garlic and sauté them until they’re lightly browned, about 5 minutes or so.
  2. Grate the frozen ginger into the pan and add the Thai curry paste. Continue cooking until the spices are heated through and fragrant, another few minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, orange juice, peanut butter, and salt. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and continue simmering until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the peas, spinach and cilantro.
  4. Serve over rice.

*Tip: I like to store whole, unpeeled ginger in the freezer and grate it as needed. If sealed in a bag or container, it’ll keep for many months so I always have some on hand.

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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Pro tips from Northern Health dietitians

Did you know that today is Dietitians Day in Canada?

Now, I might be a little biased, but I think Registered Dietitians (RDs) are pretty awesome. We get to work in a job where we talk about something that everyone can identify with – food! We love to share our tips on healthy eating, as well as celebrate the social and cultural roles that food plays in all of our lives. We can help people manage chronic conditions and advocate for everyone to have access to nutritious and delicious foods. And you’ll find us working not only in health care, but in the community, with business, and in private practice, too!

Many of our Northern Health dietitians regularly share healthy eating tips and delicious recipes as part of the Foodie Friday feature on the blog. So it was easy to get my fellow RDs (and RDs-to-be) to share their “Dietitian Pro Tips” for Dietitians Day and Nutrition Month. Check them out below, and if you are hungry for more, make sure to check out the #DietitianProTip hashtag on Twitter!

Frittata

The versatile frittata hits a few of our dietitians’ pro tips: Cook extra supper for a quick lunch; eat breakfast every day; and use eggs for a quick protein when you’re short on time.

What’s your #DietitianProTip to stay on track?

  • Shelly (Haida Gwaii): Eat breakfast every day!
  • Karli (Dietetic Intern): Keep your fruit bowl stocked for quick out-the-door snacks!
  • Courtenay (Prince George): Cook extra for supper for a quick lunch the next day.
  • Erin (Prince George) offered two tips: (1) Menu plan on the weekend to avoid stressful workday evenings. (2) Keep trail mix at your desk to get over the mid-afternoon slump.
  • Tamara (Dietetic Intern) had three great tips: (1) Get your greens! Add spinach to your smoothies. (2) Eat two different coloured vegetables today! (3) Busy day? Choose fish or eggs for quick cooking protein options.
  • Elaine (Dawson Creek) also had two tips: (1) Skip sugary drinks! Choose water to quench your thirst. (2) Want a healthy heart? Eat more beans, lentils, and legumes.
  • Carly (Prince George): Turn off the technology & tune in to your meal! Listen to your fullness cues.
  • Lindsay (Prince George): Challenged by large portions? Try eating from small bowls, plates and cups.
  • Marianne (Prince George): Plan for success! Make a weekly meal plan and grocery shopping list.
  • Amy (Prince George): Save time in the morning! Pack your lunch the night before.

Celebrate Nutrition Month and Dietitians Day by sharing your favourite healthy eating tip in the comments!

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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Manage your munchies & fuel up: 5 tips for Nutrition Month!

March is Nutrition Month in Canada. For the last two weeks, dietitians Marianne and Rebecca have been sharing their tips for small, nourishing changes that we can all make to boost our health.

This week, they’re offering five more tips to help you on your 100 Meal Journey. Don’t miss the tips for week one and week two.

Bowl of nuts.

Try to keep treat-type snacks out of sight so you’ll be less likely to nibble. Nourishing snacks like nuts can be kept within reach!

Manage munchies! Keep treat-type snack foods out of sight so you’ll be less likely to nibble.

Studies show you are more likely to choose available, easily reached foods, so try these tips to make the healthy choice, the easy choice:

  1. Keep nourishing snacks (e.g., hardboiled eggs, cut-up veggies, yogurt, nuts, whole grain crackers) on an eye-level shelf in the fridge or cupboards so that something healthy is the first thing you see.
  2. Put high-fat, high-sugar treats like cookies into non-transparent containers at the back of the fridge or cupboard so they’re out of sight.
  3. Clear kitchen counters of all food except for a bowl of fresh fruit for crunchy snacking.

Healthy Families BC has tools and tips to check if your home and work are set up to make healthy choices easy.

Fuel up! Eat fibre- and protein-rich foods for long-lasting satisfaction.

Finding yourself hungry too soon after eating meals or snacks? You might need to add more fibre- and protein-rich foods to your meals. Fibre helps fill you up and protein helps your energy last longer. Together, they deliver meal and snack satisfaction!

  1. Fibre up. Choose more vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains (e.g., barley or oatmeal), ground flax, nuts and seeds, and pulses (e.g., lentils, black beans, chickpeas).
  2. Put protein on your plate. Enjoy small portions of meat, fish, poultry or alternatives (e.g., eggs, pulses, tofu) and milk products.

Want to try these tips? Try this fibre- and protein-rich recipe.

What small, nourishing changes have you made this month?


These tips are adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month and join other Canadians on a 100 Meal Journey at nutritionmonth2016.ca.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Foodie Friday: Ready, set, menu plan!

Grocery list

A little bit of meal planning – including making a grocery list – can go a long way to help support healthy eating habits and make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone.

It’s been a hectic day, and now you need to get dinner on the table. All too often, we are faced with the “What should we have for dinner tonight?” dilemma. This can make dinner time a very stressful and daunting experience, especially when you’re already tired and hungry! For me, I’ve learned firsthand that “hangry”, the term used for anger or irritability due to lack of food, is definitely a real thing!

In honour of Nutrition Month this March, my small nourishing change is to make a weekly meal plan. Why do a meal plan? Meals planned and prepared at home tend to be healthier than restaurant meals or eating on the go. Plus, a little bit of meal planning can go a long way to help support healthy eating habits and make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone. It’s a win-win!

Meal planning can be a fairly simple task, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Try these simple meal planning steps:

  1. Make a menu plan. Write down your meal ideas for the week using a piece of paper, calendar or this handy menu planner from BetterTogetherBC. Post it on the fridge and get the whole family involved.
  2. Make a grocery list. Check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what food items you need.
  3. Go grocery shopping. Buy the foods on your grocery list.
  4. Get stocked. Keep ingredients for healthy meals and snacks on hand such as frozen or canned vegetables and fruit, plain yogurt, canned fish, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, canned beans and whole grains such oats and brown rice.

Looking for a quick, easy, and delicious dinner meal idea? This Mexican Chicken Casserole recipe is definitely one of my go-tos for those hectic weekday nights and is also great for “planned extra” leftovers.

Chicken and rice on a plate with carrots and salad.

Emilia’s Mexican Chicken Casserole is a great option for a hectic weekday night and makes great “planned extras” for lunch tomorrow!

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice or rice of choice
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 x 15 oz can black beans or beans of choice
  • 1 x 15 oz can of finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup low- sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2-3 large chicken breast or 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add the dry rice, drained and rinsed black beans, corn, tomatoes, chili powder, oregano and chicken broth or water to a 8″ x 8″ casserole pan.
  2. If using chicken breast, cut into 3 pieces. Push the chicken into the liquid.
  3. Cover the casserole dish tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake uncovered for a few minutes, until cheese has melted.

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

Enjoy served with a side salad and a glass of milk or a dollop of plain yogurt. Possible recipe modifications include substituting the chicken with heart-healthy fish or doubling the portion of beans for a fibre-packed vegetarian alternative.

Do you have a favorite go-to dinner meal? Please 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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Quality counts! 3 tips for Nutrition Month

Last week, dietitians Marianne & Rebecca provided some tips to get you ready for a 100 meal journey.

Did you have the chance to think about what your small, nourishing changes could be?

If you’re still looking for positive, easy changes to make to your eating habits, for Week 2 of Nutrition Month, we suggest looking at quality! Get clever with your cooking, swap in nutrient-rich choices to stay energized, and more!

Here are Rebecca & Marianne’s favourite tips for this week.

Berry smoothie

What small steps can you take to bump up the quality of your meals and snacks? How about a super smoothie for breakfast?

Tip #1: Jump-start your day! Power through your morning by eating a good breakfast.

A nourishing breakfast gives you a fuel boost plus protein and fibre to help you stay alert and avoid mid-morning munchies.

In a hurry?

  • Blend frozen berries, yogurt and milk for a super smoothie. Make it even better with baby spinach and ground flax.
  • Wrap peanut butter, a banana and trail mix in a whole-grain tortilla for a portable, crunchy breakfast.

Have time?

  • Make a burrito with scrambled egg, lentils or soft tofu, sautéed red pepper, avocado and salsa wrapped in a warm tortilla.
  • Top French toast with yogurt, sunflower seeds and warm sautéed apple slices.

For more breakfast inspiration, visit Cookspiration.

Plate of roasted sweet potatoes

Don’t think of them as leftovers – think of them as “planned extras”! Are you roasting sweet potatoes for dinner? Add a few more and layer them on whole-grain bread for a delicious and nutritious lunch!

Tip #2: Forget the food court! Pack good food fast with “planned extra” leftovers for lunch.

Packing lunch is a healthy, budget-friendly habit. Keep it simple: reinvent “planned extra” leftovers for a lunch that’s way better than the food court. Try these tasty ideas:

  • Cook extra chicken for dinner. For lunch, wrap chicken in soft tacos, with crunchy cabbage and shredded carrots, a sprinkle of feta and big squeeze of juicy lime.
  • Roast extra root veggies. Layer them on crusty whole grain bread with hummus and baby spinach for a scrumptious sandwich.
  • Toss extra cooked whole wheat pasta, couscous or barley with pesto, cherry tomatoes, lentils and small cheese chunks for a protein-packed salad.

The Dietitians of Canada have lots of creative ways to cook with leftovers.

Tip #3: Clever cooking! Flavour food with tangy citrus, fresh herbs and fragrant spices.

There are lots of simple ways to cook healthy without sacrificing taste. Try these tips to add flavour to meals:

  • Add pizzazz to plain grains and pulses by cooking barley, brown rice or lentils in low-sodium broth.
  • Stir ½ to 1 cup of canned pumpkin or mashed sweet potato into muffin batter for a veggie boost.
  • Make a luscious mashed potato with roasted garlic, a little olive oil and warm milk.
  • Purée vegetable soups, such as potato, sweet potato or broccoli, with low-sodium broth for deliciously creamy texture and taste.

For delicious recipes with a healthy twist, visit Healthy Families BC.

What small steps can you take to bump up the quality of your meals and snacks?


These tips are adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month and join other Canadians on a 100 Meal Journey at nutritionmonth2016.ca.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Foodie Friday: Make small changes each meal to nourish your body and mind

Bowl of soup with bread and salad.

Erin’s small, nourishing change for this meal was to include beans in her soup. What changes will you make on your 100 meal journey this month?

As the season changes, are you looking to eat better? When the snow starts melting and the sun starts shining, I get inspired to make fresh and nourishing meals to recharge my body and brain.

Getting excited about eating well is what this year’s Nutrition Month is all about. This year’s theme – take a 100 meal journey – is focused on making small and lasting changes that will stick. There are about 100 meals in a month, and you can make small, nourishing changes in each meal to help you eat and feel better all year long.

Sometimes, I get too excited and want to take on the world! But too many changes at once can be overwhelming and hard to keep up. Choosing one change at a time and sticking with it will lead to lifelong positive changes.

One change that I made for a recent meal was to include more beans on my plate (or, rather, in my bowl!). Beans are packed full of plant-based protein and fibre, which are both great for keeping my heart healthy and nourishing my active body. 2016 is the International Year of Pulses, so the recipe I’m sharing this week features hearty Great Northern beans, but any other bean would work just as well.

Green Great Northern Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Great Northern Beans, dried (4 cups low sodium canned beans would work too)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 L chicken stock, low sodium
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (1 tsp dried thyme would work, too)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Note: If using canned beans, skip to #3.

  1. In a large bowl, cover the beans with 2 inches of cold water. Soak at room temperature overnight.
  2. Rinse the beans and place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and cook for 45 minutes or until the beans are soft inside, but not falling apart.
  3. In a separate pot, on medium heat, sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken stock, the whole chorizo sausage, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer, covered, for as long as the beans take to cook to develop a rich flavour.
  5. Once the beans are cooked, take out the chorizo, sprigs of thyme and bay leaf. Slice the chorizo. Add the beans to the soup pot along with sliced chorizo, Parmesan cheese, and kale.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve this soup with fresh crusty bread and your favourite salad to round out your meal.

My small change this meal was to include protein and nutrient-rich beans in my soup to feed my body and mind. What will your next small, nourishing change be?

To make your pledge to a take a 100 meal journey, visit the Dietitians of Canada website to receive tips and strategies to stay on track.

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian with Northern Health's clinical nutrition team at UHNBC. Erin has a passion for growing and cooking food as well as teaching patients, clients and families about incorporating a balanced, wholesome diet into a healthy lifestyle. In her spare time, you can find her cooking up a storm, writing about food and nutrition, and growing vegetables at her community garden. During her dietetics internship, Erin explored the north from Fort St. John to Haida Gwaii, learning about clinical and public health dietetics with many adventures along the way.

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Nutrition Month is here: Get ready!

Pledge to make a small, nourishing change and stick with it, one meal at a time.  What's your change?  How about drinking water instead of sugary beverages?

Pledge to make a small, nourishing change and stick with it, one meal at a time. What’s your change? How about drinking water instead of sugary beverages?

Nutrition Month is here! This month, the Dietitians of Canada are challenging you to take a 100 meal journey (we eat about 100 meals in a month!)

Join us on Facebook, Twitter, and the blog this month for five weeks of tips on your 100 meal journey!

Week 1 is all about getting ready! Here are two key tips that dietitians Rebecca Larson and Marianne Bloudoff shared with me. These are adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month and join other Canadians on a 100 Meal Journey at nutritionmonth2016.ca.

Tip #1: Pledge to make a small, nourishing change and stick with it, one meal at a time.

  • Too many changes at once can be overwhelming and hard to keep up. It’s better to make one nourishing change that sticks. First, choose your change. Think about your eating habits. Where can you make a positive, easy change? Here are some ideas that can make a big difference:
  • Fill more of your plate with vegetables.
  • Choose whole grain instead of white bread.
  • Enjoy fruit for snacks instead of sweet or salty treats.
  • Drink water in place of sugary beverages, like pop.

Then, set small goals, get ready for action and join other Canadians on a 100 Meal Journey. Pledge on the Nutrition Month website.

Tip #2: Make goals SMART. Set yourself up for success on your 100 Meal Journey.

To make small changes stick, set achievable, SMART goals.

  • S: Be specific. What are you changing? How will you do this?
  • M: Make your goal measurable. For example, say “I will eat a vegetable at lunch every day” not “I will eat more vegetables.”
  • A: Set small, achievable, action-oriented goals. Change a small eating behaviour.
  • R: Be realistic. Choose a goal you can achieve.
  • T: Make your goal time-bound. On a 100 Meal Journey, give yourself a month to achieve your goal.

Check out Michael’s post from 2014 to learn more about SMART goals.

What small changes will you try during your 100 Meal Journey?

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Foodie Friday: Workplace potlucks

Various dishes on a table.

How do you ensure that your potlucks are healthy potlucks?

Northern Health promotes teamwork and a sense of community in the workplace. In keeping with this vision, weeks can sometimes get busy with team meetings, events or gatherings. Often, these occur over the lunch hour – a time that tends to fit best into everyone’s busy schedules.

Because this means that we are often eating lunch with our coworkers, workplace potlucks are a popular choice for meetings and gatherings. These situations can, however, sometimes make healthy eating a challenge!

Here are some tips to ensure your next workplace potluck is a healthy workplace potluck!

  • Skip the sweets and desserts at events. Enjoy fresh fruit instead!
  • Follow the plate method and aim to fill half your plate with vegetables.
  • Have a sign-up sheet for potlucks with spots to fill under the four food groups. This makes sure there will always be balanced options!
  • Make sure to bring something healthy and tasty that you know you like – that way you can be sure of at least one healthy choice!

Try preparing some Mexican Quinoa Bites for a quick and easy potluck item!

Mexican Quinoa Bites

Recipe from The Lean Green Bean

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 cup black beans, cooked
  • ¼ cup avocado, smashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • ½ cup corn kernels, cooked
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ⅓ cup ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup low-fat Mexican shredded cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Rinse quinoa and cook according to package directions. Let cool slightly.
  3. Combine beans, avocado, peppers, corn and onion in a small bowl and mix well.
  4. Add spices and stir to combine.
  5. Add cooked quinoa, egg, ground pepitas, and cheese. Mix well.
  6. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray and spoon in quinoa mixture.
  7. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes.
  9. Gently remove from pan. Serve with salsa.
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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Food safety in the workplace

Soup being ladled into a bowl.

Clean and sanitize surfaces, use serving utensils, cook food thoroughly, and be mindful of time and temperatures to ensure that your next workplace potluck or celebration is a safe one!

I love office potlucks and catered lunches. It’s a time for everyone to break their routine and potentially try something new!

These celebrations do bring up some unique issues and concerns, though, as we think about how to prepare food safely and how to keep it safe throughout the function or meeting.

Here are a few tips that will help with food safety at your next workplace potluck, meeting, or celebration.

Don’t contaminate.

Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and use a serving utensil (e.g., tongs or spoons) to dish food onto your own plate. This will limit the amount of germs spreading from person to person.

Clean and sanitize.

There’s no guarantee that any surface is cleaned before your food, utensils, and hands touch it so along with washing your hands, make sure to clean and sanitize all surfaces that will come into contact with food. Make a sanitizing solution by mixing a half teaspoon of bleach with 1 litre of water.

Cook the food well.

Cook food completely to an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius and try to minimize the time between cooking and serving. Don’t cook food partway through for finishing later since this increases the risk of bacterial growth.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Try to keep food out of the danger zone temperature of between 4 degrees Celsius (refrigerator temperature) and 60 degrees Celsius (hot holding temperature). Bacteria love growing at room temperature so it’s important to keep perishable foods either colder or hotter than the danger zone. Seafood chowder? Keep it hot in the crock pot. Strawberry spinach feta salad? Keep it cold with a bowl of ice water. If this is not possible, consume the food within 2 hours and throw out the leftovers.

Time is a factor.

If there is the possibility of someone taking leftover food home for dinner or to eat the next day, make sure you put a 2 hour rule on covering food and returning it to the fridge. This minimizes the time when most bacteria prefer to grow.

Still have questions? Feel free to contact Northern Health’s Public Health Protection staff for more advice or tips!


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!

Daisy Tam

About Daisy Tam

Daisy Tam is an Environmental Health Officer for Northern Health. She also has a background in nutritional science from UBC. Migrating up from southern B.C., Daisy has found the vast north to be full of fun and new winter and summer activities to stay busy. In her spare time, Daisy enjoys playing badminton, hiking, cross-country skiing, skating, baking, and reading as weather permits.

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Workplace celebrations: More than just food

Tea, mugs, and teapot on a table.

Next time your coworker has a birthday or your team completes a major project, celebrate with a tea party instead of the typical treats! When it comes to workplace celebrations, get healthy by getting creative!

From holidays to birthdays, milestones, and achievements, there are plenty of reasons to get together with your coworkers for celebration. It’s great to take those moments to celebrate together. They often provide an opportunity to become a more closely knit team and forget about the stresses of everyday tasks. Often, workplace celebrations are centred on food: birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and other less nutritious treats. And while occasional treats are definitely a part of healthy eating, when they happen too frequently, they can impact our health and productivity in the workplace.

Many of us spend at least ⅓ of our day at work so having a work environment where making the healthy choice the easy choice is important. Since celebrations are social events and great opportunities for team building, it can be hard to decline when offered a cookie or other treat. Some people may feel pressure to take the item in order not to offend anyone or to fit in with the group. Having alternate ways of celebrating and including everyone takes the stress out of the situation for many.

Next time you and your workmates are planning a celebration, why not consider mixing it up with some fun non-food activities or trying some strategies to encourage healthy food celebrations? Here are 10 creative ideas to get you started:

  1. Keep cake a treat. Instead of celebrating with a cake for everyone’s birthday, why not have monthly or seasonal birthday celebrations?
  2. Consider alternative birthday celebrations. Give cards signed by coworkers or have a fun birthday object that the birthday staff member keeps for the day. It could be a pin, sash, hat, or other unique object!
  3. Have a pumpkin carving contest for Halloween.
  4. Hold a decorating contest. Decorate office doors or windows individually or in teams.
  5. Choose to sponsor a local charity.
  6. Plan a group activity. Rent the ice rink, have a bowling tournament, or try rock climbing.
  7. Choose restaurants that offer healthier menu choices. Check out Informed Dining for locations that provide nutritional information.
  8. Ask your caterer to make 80% of the choices healthier options, with 20% being treat food.
  9. Try a healthy theme for office potlucks. Choose a theme that encourages vegetable, fruit, and whole grain options, such as red and green vegetables for Christmas, or a soup and salad bar. Remember to create a sign-up list to ensure variety. List categories of foods and don’t forget extras like cutlery, napkins, or beverages.
  10. Instead of a meal, host an afternoon tea party. Coworkers can bring in their favourite teas to share. Don’t forget to bring your favourite mug, too!

For more information on creating healthy eating environments in the workplace, check out the Eat Smart Meet Smart guide and the Healthier Choices in Vending Machines policy page.


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.

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