Healthy Living in the North

Avoiding the sweets temptation at work

Cutting vegetables for lunch.

Planning healthy lunches at home can help you avoid the temptations of sweets at work.

I have no self-control. None! Sweets are my particular weakness and I can’t pass a candy dish without indulging. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go well with my very sedentary desk job.

This past January, I was feeling more and more sluggish and my self-esteem was shrinking, so I decided to do something about it. I enlisted the help of some friends for support and we set up a plan to move more and eat healthier. We took all the things out of my house that did not support our plan. After the initial withdrawals, it has been surprisingly easy to eat healthier and delicious foods.  Even my 8 and 9 year old kids are on board and happy to have made the change (most days).

I’ve been doing very well at home where I am not tempted by sweets at every turn but work is a whole other issue. When did dessert squares become a staple at catered lunches? Worse yet, there are usually leftovers that make their rounds just begging me to have a second. Then there’s the steady stream of birthday cakes, Christmas buffets, ice-cream days, retirement cakes, bake sales, etc. A girl can only withstand so much temptation before she caves! And I do. Every. Single. Time.

While I can’t remove all refined sugars from my workplace, I can refuse to compound the problem. Now when there’s a birthday in my team, I bring in a healthier treat. So far, I’ve brought homemade muffins, a fruit tray, and fruit and yogurt cups. And you know what – it seems to have caught on!  When it was my birthday, someone else brought in the most delicious homemade carrot pineapple muffins that didn’t leave me feeling guilty or depressed.

It seems like such a small change but it has made a big difference for me. I enjoy celebrating with others and I’m happy I can do that without compromising my personal goal of improved health and fitness.

Ana Paterson

About Ana Paterson

Ana Paterson is the Business Support Manager for the Northern Interior. She really enjoys being part of the Northern Health team and watching her work inform decisions that ultimately improve patient care. When she’s not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family, camping, biking, and playing board games.


Eat real food

Eat a variety of food!

Eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groups!

Eat real food. Sounds simple. Right? But is it? Where’s the “real food?” Diet crazes, demands for convenience foods, and industrial/agricultural innovations have left grocery stores packed with anything but. Our great grandparents probably wouldn’t recognize most of what’s on the shelves these days as food! There seems to be a low fat, baked or “healthier” version of everything but, are they really healthier? Or, are they just a more processed, chemically laden version of the original?

Food labels and packages can be very misleading. Many fruit snacks are really just repackaged sugar. An average 14 gram serving contains 11 grams of sugar and pretty much nothing else. Parents may end up buying them for kid’s lunches thinking they are doing something good for their kids. Or what about a product like Sunny D that contains almost no real juice and the second ingredient is corn syrup! The commercial implies it will help our children grow up “happy, healthy and successful” when it’s really just sugar water full of emulsifiers, dies, gums and even oil….yuch!!! What kind of juice contains oil?

So what are my thoughts?

  • Eat real food. Or, as Michael Pollan would say “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
  • Become a “qualitarian” make every bite a quality bite!
  • Get a variety of foods from all four food groups and don’t limit any particular group – they are all important for a balanced diet.
  • Share food with friends and family. Multiple studies have shown that this has huge social benefits and fosters healthy relationships with food, especially for children.
  • Check out those ingredient labels – they should be short and pronounceable. Or better yet, try incorporating more foods without ingredient labels into your meals, as these are usually minimally processed, real foods!
  • Focus on eating food, not nutrients.
  • Buy food from farmers’ markets when possible.

Stick to the basics, and enjoy good food and traditions with friends and family, and eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groups!

Do you have real food experiences you would like to share? Leave a comment below!

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “Eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groups!means to Melissa. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Melissa Baker

About Melissa Baker

Melissa is a UBC Dietetic Intern currently completing her 10 month internship with Northern Health. Melissa has an immense passion for food and all it has to offer – from nutrition, joy, community, traditions and culture to social outings and family ties. This career allows her to mesh her love for teaching and helping others with her interest in the components of healthy eating and all the complex issues involved. She also enjoys blogging and being involved in social media.