Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: beat the heat! No-cook summer meals

I’m not originally from northern BC, but having grown up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I can relate to long winters, short summers, and the month we’ve renamed “June-uary” back home. Since leaving the fog behind and moving to northeastern BC, I so appreciate seeing the sunshine all year round, especially late into the summer evenings!

One thing remains the same in my two homes: the temperatures eventually climb in those short months of summer and I often hear people say “it’s too hot to cook!” Pair the heat with busy summer schedules, and many of us may turn to fast food, restaurants, and delivery, in a pinch. These choices are usually high in calories, fat, and sodium, and low in nutrients which make them a poor choice on the regular. Their ease and convenience can be appealing, but there are lots of ways to get healthy meals on the table just as quickly – without even pre-heating the oven or turning on the stove! Salads, sandwiches, and “brinner” (breakfast for dinner), have been my go-to’s for no-cook healthy eating over the years, but my favorite is the snack plate!

snack foods on a board.

A snack plate is great for little fingers and can help increase intake for smaller appetites too. It’s also a great opportunity to use up leftovers or stragglers in the fridge.

 

No matter the time of year, I truly enjoy a “snack plate” style meal. It gives me vibes of sharing tapas with friends or noshing at a party, plus the varieties in textures and flavor are so satisfying! A snack plate is also great for little fingers and can help increase intake for smaller appetites too. The snack plate can be a great opportunity to use up leftovers or stragglers in the fridge to reduce waste. To make a healthy and delicious snack plate, here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Fresh chopped veggies and fruit always make an appearance – and should fill most of the plate. Take advantage of what’s local and seasonal right now, or pull some from your freezer and quickly steam in the microwave!
  • Protein like boiled eggs, hummus, pre-cooked shrimp or meats, marinated tofu, and/or reduced fat cheese. A grocery store rotisserie chicken goes a long way as well!
  • Whole grains in the form of crackers, sliced baguette, naan bread, or even air-popped popcorn.
  • In a snack plate it’s the dips and extras that bring it all together! Add in pickles or olives, roasted nuts, spicy mustards, veggie dips, chutneys or salsas, whatever you and your family loves! Try my quick pickle recipe below.

Quick-Pickled Mixed Veggies

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup veggies of choice, sliced thin. I use red onion, radishes, and carrot ribbons (made with a vegetable peeler)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ½ cup boiling water (from the kettle)
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes

Instructions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water and add vinegar, chili flakes, garlic and vegetables. Ensure the veggies are submerged.
  2. Cover and leave to sit at room temperature or in the fridge until the mixture is cool.
  3. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to three days.
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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Foodie Friday: the smells of home

It’s officially summer in the north and the days are long. But where I live, the weather hasn’t exactly been warm, especially in the mornings! So, this calls for something warm for breakfast – like this baked oatmeal, which is a quick, but hearty, morning meal!

Bowl of oatmeal on counter.

Oatmeal in the morning is quick, nutritious, and delicious!

Oatmeal is one of those meals that makes me feel nostalgic. Oatmeal was a staple when I was little, as my mother wanted a breakfast that would ‘stick with me’ and keep me full until lunch.  To this day, I love the smell of cinnamon and apples; to me, it’s the smell of home. Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate and with the milk and eggs in this recipe, it does have some protein. Enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal (makes approximately 30 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 cups quick oats
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 apples, diced

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the oil, sugar, and eggs.
  2. Add in the oats, baking powder, salt, milk, cinnamon, and diced apples. Mix together well.
  3. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.
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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Foodie Friday: Summer hydration – Delicious thirst quenching drinks!

Summer is my season. I often joke that I was born into the wrong climate, since I really come alive in the hot summer months and play indoors during the winter. (I’m learning how to love snow!).  Here in northern BC, we don’t take our precious summer months for granted! As the days get longer and warmer, I prefer to spend most of my time outdoors. Whether it’s going for long bike rides, picnicking with friends, or spending weekends hiking the beautiful trails around Prince George, I’m out enjoying every minute of this weather!

When being active on hot sunny days, it’s important to stay hydrated. In her blog post, dietitian Carly Phinney tells us why staying hydrated is important. She suggests that we listen to our body’s cues for sensing thirst, and she explains that water is the best way to satisfy thirst. I couldn’t agree more!  Water is budget friendly, vital for our bodies, and oh so versatile!

I recently went on a hike with some friends who brought along an interesting drink that was very refreshing. It was water, but with a twist! (Stay tuned for Vash and Nick’s great summer drink recipe below). This got me thinking, what are some healthy ways to stay cool and hydrated this summer?

  • Add fruits and vegetables to your water; it’s a great way to add some excitement to a classic beverage (think: strawberries, cucumber, berries or citrus).
  • Freeze your favourite fruits and eat them as frozen snacks throughout the day. Depending on the season, I like eating frozen grapes, cherries, and berries. (For the little ones, be sure to cut those grapes in half before freezing).
  • Make your own frozen snacks and fruit pops for a refreshing munch.
  • Mash up your favourite fruits, freeze them into ice cubes, and add to cold water.

I’d like to share two recipes that I’m going to be using a lot this summer:

One of my favourite summer drinks is a classic: homemade lemonade! This lemonade recipe is lower in sugar compared to store bought varieties, and is made extra tasty by using freshly squeezed lemons!

Three people drinking a refreshing twisted water.

Enjoying Vash and Nick’s refreshing water after a sizzling hike!

Classic homemade lemonade:

  • 2 tbsp. of honey
  • 1 litre of water (regular or fizzy)
  • 4 fresh lemons, juiced (you can use a lemon juicer or your hands)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • A few handfuls of ice cubes (either regular ice cubes, or ones that have frozen fruit in them!)
  • Mint leaves as a garnish (optional)

Optional additions:

  • Mashed blueberries and strawberries (fresh or frozen!)
  • Sliced oranges and limes (creates a citrus medley!)

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir honey and ½ litre of water until completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. In a pitcher, combine the rest of the water and lemon juice. Add in the honey mixture once cooled. Stir. Add sliced lemons, ice cubes, mint and fruits (if using). Enjoy!

The second recipe, as promised, is Vash and Nick’s delicious thirst quencher!

Man enjoying drink with a Hawaiian shirt.

There are many ways to add refreshing tastes to water. A variety of homemade lemonades can be enjoyed as part of a summer potluck.

Vash and Nick’s famous water recipe:

  • 1 cup of water (can be regular or fizzy)
  • A handful of frozen or fresh berries (whole or mashed)
  • A squeeze of lime juice (to taste)
  • A squeeze of lemon juice (to taste)
  • Vash adds chia seeds for a refreshing crunch, but this is completely optional!

Let the water sit for a minute or two (bring it with you on a walk or hike), or store in the fridge for a few hours to let it really cool down. Enjoy!

Different takes on Vash and Nick’s water:

  • Mash up strawberries and mint
  • Cut up cubes of watermelon and add basil
  • Slice lemons, limes and oranges (for a citrus twist!)
  • Add some fruit-filled ice cubes

Looking for more information on healthy drinks?

Creating some fun recipes at home can help support healthy options, and get family and friends involved. What are some ways that you stay hydrated and cool during the summer?

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. Laurel is a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience working with groups across the lifecycle within BC and internationally to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking and travelling. She is looking forward to exploring more of the North!

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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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Foodie Friday: Beat the heat with homemade fruit pops!

Families in a park.

Looking to stay cool during your next summer picnic, event, or festival? Try making your own popsicles!

Much of northern B.C. has been enjoying some beautiful weather these past few weeks. I have been loving relaxing in the sun, reading a book or listening to music.

I recently attended the Edge of the World Music Festival on Haida Gwaii. It was a beautiful hot and sunny day with not a cloud in sight; a perfect day to lay out a blanket and chill out while listening to some great music.

I was overjoyed by the nice weather, but I quickly realized I would not be able to enjoy the music without something to keep me cool. Ice pops to the rescue!

When I was a kid, I remember my mom making homemade ice pops in plastic molds. At the festival, I was delighted to find someone selling homemade ice pops like the ones my mom used to make. It was just what I needed.

Since then, I purchased my own ice pop moulds and have started experimenting with different flavours. One of my favourites so far is this recipe for watermelon mint popsicles. They taste delicious and fresh and are a smart alternative to many store-bought ice pops that are high in sugar. A quick scan online shows that many popular ice pop brands have two to four teaspoons of added sugar per serving!

Watermelon slice

Sarah is a fan of watermelon-mint popsicles. What combinations will you try?

Watermelon mint popsicles

Recipe adapted from Zoku.

Don’t have moulds? Ice cube trays and cut pieces of firm straws can do the trick!

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (about 3½ cups) seeded, cubed fresh watermelon
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • Sweetener of choice (optional – if your watermelon is sweet, you won’t need to add sweetener. If you want a sweeter base, simply add a little sweetener to taste.)

Instructions

  1. Make the watermelon base: In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth.
  2. Assemble popsicles: Insert sticks and pour the watermelon base until almost full. Let freeze completely, then remove the pops and enjoy.

If you enjoy these, start experimenting with different fruit combinations or try using various types of milk as the liquid base. One of my favourite flavour combinations is coconut milk and pineapple. Last year, Amy showed us her strawberry-coconut variety! What combinations will you try?

Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Make zoodles with your summer harvest!

It is the peak of summer! Now is the time when you have the best selection of fresh and vibrant fruit and vegetables in the grocery store, farmers market, or in your own gardens.

One vegetable that you likely have more of than you know what to do with is the almighty zucchini. Gardeners, like I aspire to be, who grow zucchini learn to become very creative with their bounty, or try to pawn off the squash on their friends and family. When I lived in Vancouver, I had a small garden plot as part of a community garden and I loved growing and cooking with zucchini. Just check out these beauties!

Zucchini and tomato

Zucchini plant
Zucchini is a good source of fibre which helps lower blood cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, and keeps you regular. Like all vegetables, zucchini is also a good source of vitamins and antioxidants. Specifically, zucchini contains carotenoids: lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, which may reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, and eye disease through their protective effect in the body. In the recipe below, adding avocado to the pesto sauce adds an extra boost of antioxidants and fibre and also replaces some of the olive oil.

If you grow or buy zucchini, or are one of the lucky recipients of this delicious vegetable, below is a great way to use them and get at least two servings of vegetable in. Round out the meal with a grilled chicken breast and some crusty garlic bread.

Zucchini noodles with chicken breast

I’d love to get some new ideas of what to do with all the zucchini that is in its prime, so please leave a comment to share how you use it!

Creamy avocado basil pesto with zoodles (zucchini noodles)

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 5 zucchini, large
  • 1 avocado, pit removed
  • 15 basil leaves, fresh
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper, ground
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese

Instructions

1. Julienne zucchini lengthwise by hand or with a mandolin. You can also use a vegetable noodle-making gadget to make long spiral noodles- or ZOODLES!

Zucchini noodles in a bowl

2. Place zucchini noodles in a colander with 3/4 tsp salt. Let sit for 30 minutes and drain liquid.

Bowl of zucchini noodles

3. In a blender or food processor, mix together avocado, basil, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, and lemon until smooth.

4. In a sauté pan on medium heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add zucchini noodles. Cook for 2 minutes. (You can also leave them cold for more crunch). Note: I chose not to cook the zucchini this time, which made life a lot easier in this heat wave we are having!

5. Add sauce and parmesan cheese to the pan and coat the zucchini noodles. Heat through.

Zucchini noodles with parmesan cheese

6. Serve and enjoy!

Zucchini noodles with pesto

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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Foodie Friday: Prep your meals in bulk so you can get back outside!

Quinoa salad

Lindsay’s Mexican Quinoa Salad is a great option when you want to cook just once and enjoy over and over! Prep once and get back to your summer outdoor adventures!

Oh summer in the north!

I don’t know about you, but as soon as summer hits, it feels like all my weekends and evenings become jam-packed with plans. Plans to bike, hike, and go on adventures somewhere new.

The longer days of summer mean more daylight hours to be doing activities and this definitely reduces the time to prepare dinners and lunches. When life gets busy, bulk meal prep is a must! Not only does meal prep at home save you money, it also encourages greater fruit and vegetable consumption and a higher intake of fibre.

One of my favorite “go-to” meals for summer is a Mexican Quinoa Salad. Anyone who knows me will tell you: I love Mexican spices. Actually, I’m almost obsessed with Mexican spices. I have a standard blend of chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika that I throw into the majority of my meal repertoire. If you’re used to buying taco or fajita seasoning, I am here to tell you that this is no longer needed! You can make your own Mexican spice mix with common spices found right in your own spice cupboard. Check out this taco seasoning recipe.

Ready to get those Mexican spices into a meal that lasts? The salad recipe below will make about 8-10 servings, so feel free to decrease it as needed. It makes a great potluck item, can definitely feed you and your friends for a few meals, is convenient to pack, and will keep well for about three days, refrigerated.

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

Salad

  • 2 cups quinoa (uncooked)
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • ½ large red onion, or 1 small, diced
  • 2 x 540 ml cans black beans
  • 1 x 341 ml can corn
  • 1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese

Dressing

  • 3 limes, juice and zest OR 1/3 cup lime juice
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chili powder (domestic, not international chili powder), or to taste
  • ½ tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder

Instructions

  1. Combine 2 cups quinoa and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Set aside and/or refrigerate and allow to cool.
  2. Combine all salad ingredients together in an extra-large bowl.
  3. Combine all dressing ingredients in jar or blender, as desired. Pour over salad ingredients and mix well.
  4. Enjoy!
Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn't at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.

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Foodie Friday: Keep cool this summer with homemade frozen treats

Strawberry ice pop on a plate with strawberries

Foods you make in your kitchen are going to be more nutritious (and delicious!) than the store-bought alternative. This summer, try making your own ice pops with your favourite fruit!

What a wonderful summer it has been in northern B.C.! How are you keeping cool this summer? Heading to the beach? Jumping in the pool? Enjoying a refreshing treat?

Kids love ice pops and frozen treats. They sure do hit the spot on a hot day! Have you ever tried making your own? They take only a few minutes to make and are guaranteed to be a hit! Ice pops are a fun and creative way for kids to get more fluids in the hot summer months.

Foods you make in your kitchen are going to be more nutritious (and delicious!) than the store-bought alternative. This rule applies for Popsicles and icy treats as well. The cost savings can be significant and you know exactly what ingredients are in there! It’s even better if you are able to use locally grown ingredients such as fresh B.C. fruit.

All you need are some ice pop moulds and a freezer! These moulds can be found among all the festive summer plates and glasses for under $5 at your local dollar store or larger grocery store. If you can’t find any, you can also use ice cube trays and cut pieces of firm drinking straws to use as handles.

When you have your own ice pop moulds, you can freeze whatever you like! Here are just a few ideas:

  • Blend up juicy watermelon with a squeeze of lime juice
  • Purée ripe peaches, nectarines or strawberries with a splash of water
  • Freeze your favourite smoothie. Try berries, milk, and Greek yogurt!
  • Throw some crushed raspberries or other berries into the moulds with diluted pineapple or orange juice

Here is a super easy strawberry ice cream inspired treat that is made with coconut milk, instead. The coconut milk makes this really rich, creamy and delicious.

The recipe below makes enough for twelve ¼ cup-sized ice pops (as seen in the picture) or six ½ cup ice pops.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup strawberries, washed, core removed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 can of regular coconut milk
  • 2-4 tbsp maple syrup or honey

Instructions:

  1. Wash and prepare the strawberries. Place in blender.
  2. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over strawberries, careful not to add any seeds.
  3. Add the coconut milk and maple syrup or honey to the blender.
  4. Blend together until smooth.
  5. Pour smooth mixture into ice pop moulds, snap on the lids. Remember that if you don’t have ice pop moulds, you can use ice cube trays and firm straws.
  6. Freeze for at least 3-4 hours, until solid.
  7. When ready to eat, run under hot water for 10 seconds to easily remove the ice pop from the mould.
Amy Horrock

About Amy Horrock

Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Amy Horrock is a registered dietitian and member of the Regional Dysphagia Management Team. She loves cooking, blogging, and spreading the joy of healthy eating to others! Outside of the kitchen, this prairie girl can be found crocheting, reading, or exploring the natural splendor and soaring heights of British Columbia with her husband!

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Tales from the Man Cave: Sun is fun but you need to take precautions

Airplane in a sunny sky

If you’re out in the sun – maybe taking in Quesnel’s SkyFest this weekend – be sure to take precautions like wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

I just heard about a new skin disease. Well, it’s as new to me as this lump on my head. Funny, that! Here’s what happened:

Bald guy shaves head, notices a lump about size of sixpence (bigger than a penny, smaller than a nickel for you Canadians!) that feels like sandpaper and is real itchy.

Bald guy’s inside voice thinks, “What is that? Don’t know, but it’s OK.”

Eventually, I visit my doc for something else.

Lo and behold, the doctor he sees the lump and pronounces: actinic keratosis!

“What’s that about my hairy toes?” I think.

Actinic keratosis. The sun has damaged my skin. I mention this because as we age, it is so easy to discount certain things as occurring “just because” we are getting older. Some of them are linked to simply getting older and some are not, so it really is best to get thoroughly checked out if you’re suspicious of anything. It can do no harm. I messed up this time and should’ve connected with my doctor after that first itch. But I’m getting ahead of myself!

I had had this lump for about 4 months and thought, “it’s OK, it will heal next week.” And then when it did not heal, I would say to myself, “it does not look like a melanoma to me, so I will wait and see.” And so I waited 4 months and finally asked my doctor as an aside after much prompting from wife.

So, looking back and given the fact that I am always telling others to get checkups, why did I just ignore the lump and my own advice and chalk it up to “getting older”? I think that I did so for the same reason as a lot of other guys do: I just thought that this was no big deal. That I would be OK. Luckily for me, I was – but what if I was not?

Actinic keratosis is a skin disorder that can be pre-cancerous but, luckily, is very easily treated with nitrous oxide. It can, however, develop into squamous cell cancer, which, although also easily removed, can get into the lymphatic system and spread. This, of course, is not such a good outcome but is mostly avoidable by paying attention to the skin around the areas exposed to the sun, like the top of your head, ears, face, shoulders and chest.

So, sun is fun, but make sure you cover up and take precautions! HealthLink BC has some information about that.

I am a pink flamingo, never tanned in my life, but I do like the sun. Even today, I caught myself out in the yard without a hat.

Doing the right thing is not so easy sometimes, but my summertime resolution is to cover up and wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen and shades when I am outdoors. Even if I add long sleeves and pants to the mix, there is no reason why I should not be still enjoying the good weather.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Tales from the Man Cave: There’s no smoke without fire

Stuart Lake

Keep an eye on air quality before planning your days this summer! With wildfires raging and dry conditions so far this year, not all days will be as clear as this beautiful afternoon at Stuart Lake!

With B.C. wildfires – including plenty in northern B.C. – dominating the headlines recently, I’m worried.

I’m worried that soon – and for some of you this may already be the case – I will be stuck indoors as outside there will be two enemies of my personal health which will keep me imprisoned:

  1. The smell of smoke in the air from a forest fire, which makes me cough.
  2. That lovely sun, which recently hit 32 degrees for me, even in the shade. I took my wall thermometer off the wall to see what the temperature would be if I placed it in the sun. Within minutes it went to 42 degrees! Standing still for any length of time will do that to your skin, too! 42 degrees. Holy smokes! It was not quite a scientific experiment, but all the same, it was very hot!

The recent headlines and my past experiences during this time of year got me thinking about wellness and all the other issues related to these two conditions, like air quality advisories and sunscreen.

At one point last year, my local air quality health index was at 7, which is high risk. Given the current fire situation, I suspect that I’ll see that number again this year – some of you may have already. You can check your local air quality at bcairquality.ca.

So, what’s the advice given to those of us with respiratory ailments, children and the elderly at these levels?

Take it easy, stay indoors if you can (well, yes, it may also be plus 30!), and try and avoid strenuous activities during the period of the warning. This, I should say, also applies to the general population. If you are working outside and it’s causing you to cough, maybe you should take it easy, too. Catch up with the yard work another time.

And did I mention sun? I don’t think I have to tell folks these days that as beautiful as it is, it also harbours some dangers in the form of skin cancer from too much exposure. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and spend as little time in the sun as possible. Higher SPF doesn’t mean you can stay out longer! Also, try to cover up as much skin as possible, especially if you are as fair as I am, and especially on top of your head.

Lastly, keep an eye on local air quality advisories, especially if there are forest fires out in your area as exposure to smoke and particulates can trigger asthma and worsen other respiratory ailments.

Happy holidays!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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