Healthy Living in the North

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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