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: Healthy grilling

Skewers

A bit of char from the grill makes for a delicious veggie skewer!

Summer is the time to enjoy leisurely meals outside, and BBQing is one of our favourite ways to justify stepping out of the hot kitchen. With a little creativity and planning, barbecue favourites can be just as healthy as meals made indoors!

Give these healthier options a try at your next barbecue:

Sausages: Instead of traditional beef or pork wieners that tend to be greasy and salty, try leaner chicken or turkey sausages.

Fresh meats: Avoid the extra salt, sugar, and preservatives in pre-marinated meats or store-bought barbecue sauce – make your own marinade in only a few minutes! Just mix together a liquid base or two (lemon juice, balsamic or apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce) with some fresh or dried spices (garlic, onion, basil, parsley, pepper) and a little oil. Remember that fattier cuts of meat like marbled steak and chicken thighs tend to grill better than very lean beef or chicken breast because they stay juicy when cooked over an open flame. Don’t worry, these meats can fit into a healthy meal, too – just remember to trim any excess fat.

Tin foil: This kitchen essential makes cooking vegetables on a barbecue a snap! Simply cut up whatever you like (potatoes, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and bell peppers all work really well) into bite-sized pieces. Get fancy with seasonings or just leave them plain and let the delicious flavours shine through. Make sure to seal the tin foil package with a folded seam and then place it on the grill with the seam side up (so the vegetables don’t fall out!).

Food on sticks: Vegetables also taste delicious with a bit of char from the grill. Get your kids involved in the food prep by asking them to assemble the skewers. Give the recipe below a whirl this weekend!

Marinated vegetable skewers

Ingredients

Skewers

  • 1 red & 1 green bell pepper, chopped into largish pieces
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1 cm thick rounds
  • 10 (or so) mushrooms, whole or halved depending on their size
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 1 red onion, chopped into largish pieces
  • 8-10 bamboo skewer sticks, pre-soaked in water

Marinade

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ – ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (dried basil works, too!)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

Instructions

  1. Soak the skewer sticks in water for at least 20 minutes – this helps to prevent the sticks from burning when placed on the barbecue.
  2. While the skewers are soaking, chop the vegetables – make sure that the pieces are large enough to be properly skewered so they don’t fall off.
  3. Mix up your marinade in a large bowl and place all of the chopped vegetables into the bowl. Let the vegetables marinate for at least half an hour (just enough time to heat the grill and have a cool drink on the patio!).
  4. Now comes the fun part: skewer a piece of each type of vegetable, alternating to make a nice pattern. Once the skewers are ready to go, you can cook them right away over low-medium flame on the barbecue or store them in the fridge for several hours until meal time.
Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

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