Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday goes camping! Eating well & tantalizing taste buds in the backcountry

Campfire

Camping season is here! Which delicious and healthy campfire meals will you try this year?

Camping season is here! With thousands of lakes in our own northern backyard, it’s a quick trek out to the wilderness to get away from the daily grind. Pack your tent, sleeping bags, bug spray, and … hot dogs? No way!

Meals like mac and cheese, hot dogs, or pork and beans are “classic” camping foods, but there are a ton of other tantalizing meals you can make in the backcountry using a camping stove, BBQ, or fire that will nourish you while you relax your body and mind in nature.

For most campers, camping activities typically revolve around food. For my husband and I, it’s important to make healthy choices throughout the trip but still enjoy nostalgic camping foods. Here is a typical camping day for us, filled with food that keeps us energized to enjoy the wilderness:

View of forest from a tent

What does your typical camping day look like?

  • Wake up bright and early to a hot cup of percolated coffee made by my husband. Then, off we go on the boat to fish for a few hours.
  • Come back to camp for a big breakfast complete with eggs, hash browns, my hubby’s homemade bacon, wholegrain toast, and fruit.
  • Head out for a hike or go back on the lake with some homemade trail mix, fruit, and veggie sticks.
  • Relax in the sunshine with a quick tuna sandwich and maybe a soup if it’s chilly.
  • Enjoy dinner, which is always the star of the show! One night is almost always a steak, grilled potato pouches, homemade fresh focaccia, and veggie skewers or grilled Caesar salad.
  • Wind down around the fire with a campfire dessert like bannock, banana boats, or everyone’s favourite: s’mores.

Because camping truly revolves around meals and snacks, one of my favourite parts about camping is meal planning and finding creative ways to enjoy vegetables so we can continue to eat well while away from home. I try to prep the meals as much as possible at home so cooking a meal in nature is still stress-free, so I always make sure to cut-up vegetables for skewers and snacking and make any sauces ahead of time.

Here is one of my favourite veggie sides that doesn’t require a knife and fork to eat – perfect for camping! I served it with spicy beer can chicken and roasted potatoes, which makes a great camping meal.

Grilled Caesar salad with chicken and potatoes on a plate.

After a few minutes to make the dressing at home, a grilled Caesar salad can be a great veggie side dish for your camping culinary adventures!

Grilled Caesar Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 romaine hearts, cut in half length-wise with the core intact
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
  • A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 6-10 capers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients except lettuce until smooth. When camping, do this part at home and keep it in a small container in the cooler.
  2. On medium heat or on the campfire grill, place romaine hearts cut-side down onto the grill. Grill until there are char marks and the lettuce is slightly wilting.
  3. Brush the dressing onto the cut side of the grilled romaine heart and enjoy!

What’s your favourite camping meal or favourite way to make veggies for the outdoors?

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: The full-meal-deal salad

Salad in a bowl.

Four steps and twenty minutes is all it took for Carly to create a filling and nutritious salad. It’s a great choice for a summer meal!

When it’s hot outside, I rarely feel like cooking a meal in my cramped and stifling kitchen. I want the job of feeding myself taken care of so I can get outside in the sun! This is when I employ the “full-meal-deal salad” – it’s quick, there’s little to no cooking involved and it’s nutritious so it keeps you fuelled for your summertime activities!

It’s as simple as four steps:

Step 1: Start with a base like torn-up lettuce or, for the ultimate of ease, use bagged or boxed mixed salad greens.

Step 2: Next, add the veggies – some good ideas are red/yellow/orange/green bell peppers, tomato, carrot, mushrooms, celery, alfalfa sprouts, green onions/chives, avocado, cucumber, radishes, and snap/snow peas. Even some fruits work well on savoury salads. Try thinly sliced strawberries or apple or simply toss on some blueberries, blackberries or dried cranberries.

Step 3: Time for the protein! There are so many excellent options to add protein to salad. Definitely don’t leave this step out because the protein is what’s going to make sure your salad keeps you feeling full. Some ideas include:

  • Leftover meat from last night’s supper: Try slicing up chicken breast into thin strips or use a scoop of ground beef or moose.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: You can boil up several and store them in the fridge to save time.
  • Nuts: Many varieties of nuts can be bought pre-chopped from the bulk section. Try almonds, walnuts, pecans or cashews. Look for the unsalted variety.
  • Cheese: Chop up your own block of cheddar or simply buy pre-shredded cheese mixes. Cheeses that crumble like feta are delicious and easy, too!
  • Canned flaked salmon or tuna: Simply drain and pile on top.
  • Lentils and beans: You can buy pre-cooked and seasoned beans and lentils in cans at the grocery store or you can cook them at home and season with your own flavours.

Step 4: Salad dressing adds the final boost of flavour and can add some healthy fats to your salad. The healthiest dressings are usually made at home, but you can certainly find some healthy options in grocery stores, too. Look for dressings made with healthy oils like canola and olive that feature herbs and spices as the main flavouring. Compare nutrition labels for sodium (salt) content and choose to buy dressings that have less sodium.

Here’s the salad that I just made for dinner tonight. It took me 20 minutes to put together and I made a second salad to bring to work for lunch tomorrow. Simple as that. Now I’m off to play in the evening sun!

Chopped vegetables on a cutting board

Carly shows off some fine knife skills as she preps her full-meal-deal salad! Combine these ingredients with a protein source and a dressing and you’ll be back out in the summer sun in no time!

Carly’s full-meal-deal salad

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 2 cups green lettuce leaves, hand-torn (I had these pre-torn and in my fridge)
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula (store-bought box)
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Protein

  • 1 cup French lentils (green canned lentils work well, too – just make sure to give them a wash)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf

Lemon-Dijon dressing

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

If you are using canned, cooked lentils, you can skip step 1 but remember to wash the lentils!

  1. In a medium pot, add lentils, bay leaf, garlic powder and water. Bring to a boil. Once the lentils have boiled, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. When they are cooked, the lentils will have absorbed most, if not all, of the cooking water and they will be tender but still holding their shape.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, make your dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and lemon juice.
  3. Prepare your salad greens and veggies. Use whatever types of veggies you have on hand and add as little or as much of them as you like!
  4. When everything is ready, add it to a bowl – you don’t need to put the ingredients in the bowl in any particular order! In my salads, I always put down the leafy greens first then I cover those with my veggies, followed by a mound of lentils. I then sprinkle the top with the green onions and feta cheese. Lastly, I drizzle the salad dressing over the whole thing.
  5. Enjoy!
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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Foodie Friday: Refresh your winter eating with vegetables and fruit

Bag of frozen cherry tomatoes

Meeting the daily vegetable and fruit requirements of Canada’s Food Guide in northern B.C.’s long winters can be a challenge, but frozen, canned, and dried produce can help!

I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t know that eating vegetables and fruit is good for you. However, it may not seem possible to meet the daily vegetable and fruit requirements of Canada’s Food Guide during our cold northern winters when nothing grows and most produce is shipped from far away and is quite costly.

But don’t despair! Just remember that vegetables and fruit come in many forms, including frozen, dried and canned, and these, too, have benefits:

  • Convenience: Since the washing, peeling and chopping is already done, food and meal preparation time is shortened by using canned, dried or frozen produce.
  • Freshness: If you are lucky enough to grow your own food or support a local farmer, you can preserve food at the height of its freshness and quality. I’ve also been known to buy seasonal produce and preserve it. Last year, I transformed blueberries from the grocery store into a home canned blueberry sauce to use on my waffles instead of maple syrup.
  • Nutritious: Especially in the winter when growing and shipping conditions can increase the time it takes for fresh produce to reach you, preserved produce will have less nutrient loss.
Tomato plant

When you are picking your tomatoes this year (or buying seasonal produce), consider freezing a few batches for healthy options in the winter months!

The larger nutrition goal is to eat more fruits and vegetables – and using canned, dried and frozen versions makes that easier! Here are a few ways to include these products in your diet:

  • Make fruit salad or smoothies using frozen or canned fruit.
  • Top cereal with dried fruit like raisins, diced apricots or dates.
  • Mix dried fruit with cereal and/or nuts for an on-the-go snack.
  • Add canned or frozen fruit to plain yogurt to add sweetness and nutrition.
  • Top wholegrain pancakes or waffles with canned fruit like peach slices, frozen fruit or fruit sauce like applesauce or pear sauce.
  • Add frozen, canned or dried fruit or vegetables to wholegrain muffin and quick bread recipes — I like grating all that summer zucchini into 1 cup batches that I freeze and add to my muffins later in the year.
  • Add frozen vegetables to rice, soup or pasta sauce.
  • Mix chopped frozen spinach or kale into yogurt-based dips.
  • Add canned or frozen applesauce or pear sauce or frozen ground cherries into your meatball or meatloaf recipe to add sweetness and fibre and lower the fat slightly.
  • Make homemade milk-based soups using frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes or asparagus.
Tomato soup on a stove

Healthy soups are a breeze with frozen vegetables! Flo’s simple winter soup involves roasting some tomatoes, blending them up, adding a couple extras based on your preference, and then enjoying!

When selecting canned, dried or frozen produce, choose fruit processed in water or juice rather than syrup and choose vegetables processed with little or no salt.

One of my favourite winter meals is tomato-based soups. I grow and pick tomatoes in the summer and store them in the freezer. In the winter, I pull these tomatoes out and roast them in the oven with a little bit of vegetable oil and seasoning. Once cooked, I blend them until they’re smooth and either mix with milk to make a “creamy” tomato soup or add to a pot of chick peas and other vegetables to make a vegetarian soup. After a day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, a bowl of hot soup hits the spot!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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Seedy Saturday in Prince George

Seedy Saturday in Prince GeorgeA star is born and we named it kale. It’s funny how food trends come and go, then cycle back around in a different disguise. We must recognize that the media plays a big role in how we live and what we eat. Journal articles, newspapers and T.V. stations pooled together to target kale as their latest victim. The media has cloaked this green leaf veggie in a sequined shawl and thrown it on the run way for the world to see in a new light. But how “new” is it?

Kale has been grown and eaten around the world since 2000 B.C.  It likes to bath in bright sunlight and grows best in moist soils. It flourishes in colder climates and can withstand light frost. When grown in northern BC, it can be harvested from August into November – depending on when the snow sticks. For these reasons, it’s easy to understand why so many northerners grow and enjoy eating this hardy vegetable.

What makes it good for me?
Kale is a ‘dark green’ leafy vegetable high in vitamins, minerals. Vegetables are highly promoted in Canada’s Food Guide and bring bright color and delicious tastes to our plates. Kale can taste bitter to some people so zest it up by stir-frying it with garlic, lemon juice and pepper or add it to your winter soups! Explore the internet to find recipes that tempt your taste buds!

Now that you know what all the fuss is about, what’s the next step?
Seedy Saturdays of course! If you haven’t heard about these community events before, let me bring you up to speed. Seedy Saturday in Prince George (other communities across BC also have them in the winter) provides you with lots of great information you need to get growing a healthy garden. This is a great opportunity to possibly pick up some kale (and other) seeds and plant them for the summer. You can bring a friend along to listen to enthusiastic workshops outlining effective ways to grow your own food. By attending this event you are supporting local farmers and contributing to the local eating initiatives in BC. If you are living in an apartment and don’t have access to a garden … don’t sweat! There are often options available to rent out garden spaces. Connect with your local community gardens networks.

Seedy Saturday is organized by Community Gardens Prince George and supported by the Exploration Place as a Heritage Week event: Saturday February 22, 2014 from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at Exploration Place, Prince George.

Celebrate local food, build community, learn new skills, and taste the difference!

Laura Ledas

About Laura Ledas

Laura is UBC Dietetic Intern completing her 10 month internship with Northern Health. Even during the Prince George winter, Laura dreams about her summer garden. She loves spending time being active outdoors and is looking forward to enjoying more seasonal vegetables as the weather begins to warm!

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Challenge #4 winner!

Week 4 winner

Congrats to Neil Walton, who submitted this photo of his wife Regeena in the Week 4 September Healthy Living Challenge! Regeena caught this fish, her first freshwater fish, at Tacheeda Lake.

With the arrival of October, we’re sad to see our September Healthy Living Challenge come to an end. But we’ve had a ton of fantastic posts go live (and you can find them all here under the ‘healthy living challenge’ tag), and we’ve seen such a variety of great challenge entries come to us, from folks from all across the region who really care about their health. Thanks to everyone who followed the posts all month and took on the challenges – we hope you’ve gotten some good ideas on how to work towards living a healthier life!

Now, what you’ve been waiting for… the random winner for our fourth and final challenge (and the grand prize of a mini freezer) is Neil Walton, from Prince George, BC! In answer to the question of “how do you source your local food,” Neil said that he and his wife hunt, fish, visit the farmers’ market and shop at local stores. They have certainly caught a nice looking fish in the photo! Congratulations Neil!

We received so many great entries this week that I had a really hard time choosing a variety of honourable mentions, so here’s more than usual for you to enjoy:

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Let’s get cooking: Man Cave Chowder and challenge #1

All of us involved in the September Healthy Living Challenge are very excited to share a cooking demonstration with you! Loraina Stephen, population health dietitian, and Fraser Bell, vice president of planning and quality, cook up a healthy batch of Man Cave Chowder in the video below. Cooking food with lots of healthy ingredients, including a wide variety of colourful vegetables and local fish, is not only delicious, but a great way to encourage good health at all stages of life.

Our challenge to you for the first week of the September Healthy Living Challenge is for YOU to try out your cooking skills by making a Man Cave Chowder! Take a photo of you making the chowder or of the final product (or both!) and visit our contest page for details on how to enter. We might post your picture on the blog and you’ll have a chance to win a great prize.

Watch the video below as Loraina and Fraser demonstrate how to cook this recipe and see the bottom of this post for the full Man Cave Chowder recipe.

As always, we encourage everyone to go to visit NH’s position statement site for guidelines for healthy living.

Good luck and have fun cooking!

Man Cave Chowder (serves 6)
(Adapted from Cook Great Food by Dietitians of Canada (Fish and Vegetable Chowder pg. 104))

What you need:

Man Cave Chowder

Man Cave Chowder

  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped potato (medium)
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 2½ tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (398 ml) 2% evaporated milk
  • 3 cups (500 g) fish, cut into chunks (Pollock, Sole, Trout, Ling Cod, Salmon, Cod, Shrimp etc.)
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

What you do:

  • Wash, peel and chop the onion, celery, red bell pepper, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, potatoes and garlic.
  • Spread vegetables (except broccoli) onto 13×9 roasting pan or shallow baking dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp canola oil and toss to mix. Roast in preheated oven at 350°F (160°C) for 30-40 minutes, or until fork-tender, stirring occasionally.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, heat ½ tbsp canola oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add brown rice and sauté for about five minutes or until lightly toasted. Add chicken broth and let soup simmer on low for about 40 minutes.
  • When the roasted vegetables are soft, add them to the simmering rice and broth. When the rice is soft, add the fish, chopped tomato, seasoning, broccoli and evaporated milk; cover and cook for 6-8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Enjoy!
Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling. (Brandon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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What’s for lunch?

Cutting vegetables for lunch.

Including vegetables in your child’s lunch is important to their overall health!

When I think back to my elementary school days, lunches were certainly a highlight. The entire school would file down to the lunchroom/gymnasium with our lunch pails for 30 minutes of socializing, and of course, eating. The food was brought from home (no hot lunch programs in our town) and consisted of the usual lunch pail fare of the eighties: squashed peanut butter and jam sandwiches, tetra pack fruit punches, a bruised apple (that would end up coming back home usually) and leftover Halloween candy (which would not).

I packed my own lunches and distinctly remember being jealous of the kids whose parents took the time and creativity to make their lunches special. Thermoses of warm leftover soup and spaghetti, veggies and dip, homemade banana bread and salads were uncommon sights in my lunches and enviable! My single dad who worked shift work would take us grocery shopping, buy us the convenience foods we saw on TV, and then the rest was up to us. In fact, I wonder if my dad has any idea what we really ate back then?

What made me reminisce about this was hearing about 9 year- old Martha Payne from Scotland, who started her own blog about lunch, called Never Seconds. In order to bring attention to the quality of food served in Scottish school cafeterias, she started taking a picture of her lunch daily and then critiquing it. She has caught the attention of the international media, created a platform for discussion about food in schools and receives an influx of photos daily from around the world of what people (and kids in particular) are eating for lunch.

Luckily in B.C., we have guidelines around what types of healthy food and beverages can be sold to children in schools. We have wonderful programs like the Farm to School Salad Bar and the School Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Program, where kids are exposed to new foods and encouraged to eat more produce. However, not all schools have cafeterias or hot lunch programs. Not all schools have salad bars. Some kids are still packing their lunches from home (albeit without the pb&j), or in the case of secondary schools, heading off campus to local fast food establishments.

The times have changed, and our understanding of the importance of feeding children well has grown. We lead busy lives and convenience is key, but are we sacrificing quality and health for a little more time? I’ll take a page from Martha Payne then and ask, what are you (and more importantly, your children) eating for lunch today?

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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