Reduce Food Waste and Save

A 2019 United Nations report on food waste concluded that 58% of the food produced in Canada is wasted and 61% of that waste happens at home. The average Canadian wastes 79 kilograms or 174 pounds of food a year! 

Not only is wasted food costing you money, it’s also placing a burden on the planet. About 8-10% of methane emissions – a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere – come from food that is not consumed.

Bottomline – Make an effort to buy only what you’ll eat and eat what you buy.

Here are a few tips to reduce food waste and save:

  • Meal plan and shop with a list to ensure you eat what you buy! 
  • Grow your own food. Herbs are easy to grow in the smallest of spaces. Or, try container-friendly veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers or varieties of cucumbers. Many herbs freeze well to be used later in sauces, soups and stews. Share any excess produce from your garden with neighbours, family, and friends.
  • Turn supper leftovers into lunch the next day. Pack food into reusable containers made from glass or stainless steel. Mason jars and beeswax wraps are perfect!
  • Store fresh vegetables and fruits properly to retain their nutritional value and freshness. E.g., never store an apple with a head of lettuce! Check the Resources Section on food storage tips and how to arrange your crisper drawers.
  • Create an “Eat Me First” bin or basket for the fridge. Choose produce approaching the “use before” date. Find recipes that incorporate over-ripe or “tired-looking” veggies and fruits instead of putting them into the compost bin. Turn over-ripe fruit into smoothies or fruit compotes, or use in quick breads and muffins such as banana muffins. Steam or blanch and freeze wilting veggies to use later in soups and stews. No need to waste the tops from fresh carrots, beets, radishes and turnips – add them to the stock pot.
  • Break up with your garburator. Because food waste contains a lot of nitrogen, this leads to environmental problems when food waste ends up in lakes and streams. Garburators also use energy and perfectly good drinking water to get rid of organic waste. Composting— whether in the backyard or in the city green bin– is better because it creates soil!

Want to learn more? Check out these resources! 

Video – Creating a Vegetable Garden

Five Ways to Recycle Less 

Help End Food Waste

Don’t Confuse Best Before with Expiry Dates

5 Suggestions to Keep Food Costs Under Control

It’s been a challenging couple of years with COVID-19, floods, and now a war impacting food prices. If you are struggling with ways to contain rising food costs, you are not alone – many families are worried about providing a variety of healthy foods for their families. It is getting more and more challenging and you’re likely already doing lots to curtail your food costs – making a shopping list, using coupons, taking advantage of sales, etc. These are our top five suggestions:

1. Plan and shop once a week. This is tough to do, but it works! Every time you shop you pick up something you likely don’t need. Make a plan and stick to it as much as possible. Forget something? Make do without it or substitute with another ingredient.

2. Cook once – eat twice (or three times!). Do you ever feel discouraged after making a delicious meal and in 10 minutes it is all gone? Double up the recipe and serve the same meal twice in one week or use the leftovers for lunches the next day. You can change out the veggie and it can feel like a different meal. For example, make a double or triple batch of pasta sauce and freeze some for another meal or have pasta two nights that week. Another idea is to roast two chickens instead of one and use one for sandwiches for lunch that week. Keep the bones and make a flavourful stock. Add lots of pot barley and vegetables and you have another lunch or dinner meal.

3. Eat more plant-based meals. Meat can be expensive, but just about everything you can think of can be done meatless – chile con carne with a variety of beans and vegetables, tacos with beans, meatless pasta sauce,  stir-fry with tofu, veggie burgers (make your own).  Eating less meat is good for your health, the planet and your budget!

4. Eat local and in season. It’s tempting to pick up those beautiful raspberries and tomatoes off season. Try to stick with root vegetables during the winter months – carrots, turnip, beets, parsnips. Roast up two large baking pans of root vegetables and make them last for two meals. Add grated carrot, beets, zucchini and apple to your salads instead of tomatoes and avocado. You don’t need to buy an expensive vegetable slicer either – a handheld julienne vegetable peeler works great. Divide up the vegetable preparation amongst family members to make meal prep faster and easier.

5. Eat out and order-in infrequently. This is the hardest to stick to. After a long week at work, ordering in pizza for the family is so tempting. How about a compromise? Buy ready-made pizza dough or crusts and a variety of healthy ingredients and gather the family around to create your own pizzas. It makes for a fun Friday night! Here’s an idea: When you make the grocery list this week, ask each family member to add a healthy pizza topping to the list. It’s best to avoid deli meats – they are expensive and loaded with salt and nitrites/nitrates. Use leftover roast chicken, ground turkey, or lean ground beef and consider making at least one pizza without meat.  In the summertime and if you have a BBQ,  try cooking the pizzas on the BBQ to help keep the house cool.  

Demystifying Healthy Eating

March is Nutrition Month! This year’s theme is “good for you” and emphasizes that healthy eating looks different for everyone. 

What does healthy eating mean to you? You might think that healthy eating means having to eat certain foods or having to restrict foods you enjoy. Rather, it is about finding a pattern of eating that works for you and your family. Healthy eating looks different for each family and can depend on grocery budgets, busy schedules, cooking skills, food preferences, culture and food traditions, health conditions, and many other factors. 

Here are 3 tips to demystify healthy eating:

  • It can be affordable. There are many ways you can save money and shop on a budget at the grocery store while still eating nutritious and filling foods. 
  • It can be simple. You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen making a meal. Meal planning and prepping can help save you time getting meals on the table. 
  • It starts in the kitchen. Knowing how to cook and navigate your kitchen is a great way to develop healthy eating habits and be able to customize your food to your liking. If you would like to brush up on your skills, you might consider taking a cooking class or watching a tutorial video. 

Culture and Food Traditions 

Food and culture often go hand in hand. Traditions may impact what foods are enjoyed, how they’re prepared, and where or when it’s eaten. Expressing culture through food choices is also a great way to enjoy a variety of foods and pass on meaningful traditions to kids. If you’re unsure how to involve kids in the kitchen, learn about cooking skills by age level.

Foods that are enjoyed often can be adapted to make them healthier while maintaining the traditions behind them. Some ideas to boost the nutrition-profile of traditional dishes are: 

  • Substituting animal fats with vegetable oils, such as olive oil 
  • Adding more fruits or veggies 
  • Swapping refined grains with whole grains
  • Replacing excess salt with natural flavours from herbs or spices 

It may seem new, but making food more healthy is often easier than we think! Some examples of saving traditional aspects while giving them a nutrition boost include: 

  • Incorporating the tips above to add a twist to special occasions such as Thanksgiving
  • If baked goods rich in added sugar and refined flour are a staple at family gatherings, consider a reduced sugar or whole grain substitute such as whole grain banana bread
  • Trying a chocolate avocado mousse if your family is used to a rich and creamy dessert during special holidays 

It is important to know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating. If you require additional help or if you are concerned about a family member with an allergy or health condition, it is best to work with a dietitian to discuss you and your family’s unique nutrition needs. To access a dietitian call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm for free from anywhere in the province. You can also visit for reliable and accurate nutrition information. For more Nutrition Month tips and ideas check out

Kids Can Cook!

By Nicole Fetterly, RD

As a campus dietitian and nutrition instructor, I have encountered thousands of students in the first-time-living-away-from-home stage of their life. Although they come from so many different places and backgrounds, one thing that is all too common among them is they do not know how to eat well. Most have never selected or shopped for their groceries and they lack cooking skills, and this leads to ultra-processed, convenient food choices that cannot support their health or academic goals.

Setting children up for a lifetime of success in the realm of nutrition and health is all about building food literacy from the youngest age. The more they learn about growing, selecting and cooking their food, the better eaters they will be. Get them involved in grocery shopping, gardening and cooking as soon as possible. Although it takes some effort at the start, in terms of giving them learning opportunities rather than doing it more quickly by yourself, the pay off is exponential! At age 11, my daughter can now make our family a day’s worth of meals, with very little support, and my son, at age 8, is constantly inspired by new recipes like his latest foray into Brazilian cheese buns. Yes, their mom is a dietitian and food writer so good food is a big focus in our family, but anybody can help build food literacy.

Here are some of the kitchen skills children are capable of by age or in terms of learning sequence:

Two and three year olds are learning to use the large muscles in their arms and can help with these activities:

  • Wiping table & counter tops
  • Moving pre-measured ingredients from one place to another
  • Rinsing and tearing leafy greens
  • Mixing ingredients (use an extra-large bowl to contain mess)
  • Kneading dough and simple shaping
  • Putting scraps in the compost and trash in the garbage can

Four and five year olds are learning to control smaller muscles in their fingers.  Offer experiences such as:

  • Setting the table
  • Mashing soft fruits (bananas) and cooked vegetables with a fork
  • Forming rounds shapes with hands and arranging platters
  • Measuring ingredients
  • Peeling loose-skinned oranges and hard-cooked eggs
  • Beating eggs with a whisk

Six to eight year olds are learning more responsibility, literacy and dexterity and can get involved in:

  • Making grocery lists
  • Learning to use small knives with supervision (start with softer items to cut)
  • Clearing the table and loading the dishwasher
  • Making simple dishes like sandwiches, quesadillas, nachos, scrambled eggs
  • Filling muffin cups

Eight to twelve year olds should be gaining the skills to cook relatively independently, with supervision for use of the stove and large, sharp knives. Encourage them to select recipes to try and get them packing their own lunches. Have them help create the meal plan and grocery list for the week and eventually they might take responsibility for a family meal, even if it’s just a smoothie to start.

The more opportunities children are given to develop food literacy and these foundational skills, the better their relationship with food for their entire lives.

Quicken Your Cooking

When school starts back in September, the glory days of summer fade in an instant. We’re stocking up on school supplies and new shoes and packing healthy lunches becomes another item on the daily to-do list. By the time dinner hour arrives it can be overwhelming to think up and prepare a family meal, so we often fall victim to the drive-thru or picking up a pre-made meal like a frozen pizza. Although these treats are fun now and again, if they are a regular part of the routine, we could easily be overconsuming unhealthy nutrients like sodium, sugar and saturated fat and falling short on key foods like veggies and whole grains.
We all need quick meal ideas that can be on the table in 15 or 20 minutes but making it healthy doesn’t mean it has to be completely from scratch. Using a few simple starters can add convenience to your cooking without depriving your family of important nutrients.
Take packaged soup for example, whether a can or a tetra-pak. On its own, it is incredibly high in sodium, but if we just use it as a base, we can skip some of the work of chopping aromatic ingredients like onion and garlic. Soup up these soups by adding protein from legumes like canned chickpeas or white beans. Add ½ cup of quinoa or buckwheat for a quick-cooking whole grain to fill the family up. Finally toss in any favourite veggies or what you have to use up from the fridge. Kale is easy to freeze and crumble into any soup, sauce, curry or pasta dish.
Canned fish, especially salmon, is a pantry staple that can turn into a quick meal, whether made into tuna melts or patties or added into whole grain pasta. Canned or frozen legumes are another quick protein source that can be used for nachos, quesadillas or try out our Med Spread idea and make a simple chickpea salad or buy pre-made hummus. Just try to always include vegetables for essential nutrients, like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as fibre that fills us up longer.
If you have to stop at the grocery store to get dinner on the table, consider a rotisserie chicken. At many stores the only thing added is a spice rub so they are often as simple and affordable as if you’d made it yourself. Serve immediately with a big salad and then pull off leftover chicken for sandwiches or wraps for lunch the next day or for another dinner the next night, like a simple stir-fry. Smoked tofu works well too.
Eggs are also a fast meal—think breakfast for dinner! A simple veggie scramble with whole grain avocado toast is well-balanced and takes no time to prepare. Or keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge and pop them onto a quick buddha bowl with quinoa and veggies.
Of course, one of the best strategies for a quick meal is to double-up on your cooking endeavours on another occasion, like the weekend, and freeze a batch. You could even do it as a fun family activity!

Eat to beat the heat!

Eating in the summer looks so different than in any other season. For one, there is so much fresh, local produce available and nothing beats a juicy peach, plum or handful of berries as a snack. Secondly, many of our staple family meals, like soups, stews, curries, stir-fries and hot pasta dishes, just don’t appeal in warm weather, especially if they involve turning on the oven or standing over a hot stove. Finally, summer is a time of camping, celebration and get-togethers (hopefully small this year!), when we tend to eat more treats like chips, sweets, grilled meats and refined grains that can leave us feeling less than ideal from a digestive standpoint.

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer and the bounty of food BC has to offer so that you start September feeling energized and ready to get back to routine, whatever that may look like this year! Here are a few suggestions for foods to include and some new meal ideas for your family:

Breakfast—skip the hot porridge and the ‘treat’ cereals and make some Overnight Oats, Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits or a Smoothie. Starting the day with a fibre and protein-rich breakfast will give you lasting energy for when you’re hitting the lake or trail. Adding chia or ground flax seeds also gives you a boost of omega 3 fatty acids. These are key for combatting inflammation that may result from different activities you may be trying out (e.g. paddling, yard work, hiking, etc) or from health conditions like arthritis or digestive disorders.

Lunch—during the hottest time of day, be sure to eat lots of thirst-quenching foods like fresh veggies and consume lots of fluid without sugar, alcohol or caffeine. Our Agua Fresca recipe can be a nice change from straight water! Adequate hydration is key to keeping energy levels up, replacing losses from sweat and ensuring all your body systems, especially your skin, are working optimally. Try a meal-salad with plant-based proteins from beans, tofu or nuts, topped with a healthy, flavourful dressing like our Miso Tahini sauce.

Snacks—beating the heat often involves getting out of the house for a swim, a hike or a bike ride. Remember to pack lots of water and rather than a bag of chips or ultra-processed bars, consider a small cooler of simpler snacks like hard-boiled eggs, cut-up veggies and hummus, bocconcini tomato skewers and some watermelon slices.

Dinner—on a hot day, using the barbecue is a great solution! Check out our post on Healthy Grilling for ideas. The salmon season is now open in many parts of the province and consuming fatty fish at least twice a week is key for optimal heart and brain health and another dose of those anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.

Ayurvedic approaches to health (the millennia-old tradition in India) involve the belief in cooling foods like cucumber, mint, green leafy veggies, celery, melon and other water-rich fruits. Eat these locally grown BC vegetables and fruit in abundance—half your plate at each meal and snack—to truly beat the heat!

Protein Pontifications

We hear a lot in the media about eating protein and are faced with numerous choices of packaged foods with added protein at the grocery store. Is that because we are at risk of not getting enough? Are there better proteins to consume than others? Should you get your family a protein powder? Let’s work through all of these questions.

According to Health Canada, most Canadians meet their protein needs. This means it is not a nutrient of concern from a population deficiency perspective. If you focus on including some at most meals and snacks, you will get enough to meet your body’s needs of muscle maintenance and building of other protein-based molecules in the body, like hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters. To understand this basic need, figure out your weight in kilograms and multiply it by 0.8 grams of protein. For an 80 kg (~175 lb) person, that means 64 grams of protein. What would this look like in a day of food intake? Choose 5 or 6 of the following: 

  • ¼ cup nuts/seeds –~6 grams protein
  • ¾ c plain yogurt & fruit– ~8 grams protein
  • 2 eggs– ~12 grams protein
  • 2 sprouted grain toast — ~10 grams protein
  • 1 cup each cooked black beans and quinoa (plus veggies!) — ~25 grams protein
  • 1 piece cooked fish or chicken, ~4 oz (6 oz raw)– ~25 grams protein
  • 1 cup edamame (soybeans in their pods), steamed– ~11 grams protein

For most of us, including protein at 3-4 meals and snacks means we can easily achieve our protein needs each day, from food first. There are times or situations where protein-enriched foods or supplements may be convenient, if you need a portable, convenient post-workout snack or if you have higher needs like those fighting infection, healing wounds or body building. Choose protein supplements and processed foods from varied sources with minimal added sugar and ingredients you know and can pronounce.

According to Canada’s Food Guide, we should eat protein foods as part of our balanced plate but also prioritize plant-based sources more often. Beans, peas and lentils, including soy foods like tofu, tempeh and edamame are affordable, nutritious sources of protein that benefit our health and also that of our planet. Include them daily or if newer to your table, at least a few times a week in place of red and processed meats. Those animal proteins, due to health reasons like increased heart disease and cancer risk, not to mention greenhouse gas emissions, should be limited to once every week or two. That is quite a shift from those who enjoy pepperoni on their pizza, ham on their sandwich, bacon and sausage at breakfast and burgers or steaks on the grill. Choosing wild game and grass-fed meats more often means you can eat them more frequently.

It’s also recommended to include fatty fish at least twice per week, but those consuming more seafood, even 5 times per week, reduced their heart disease risk even further. The omega 3 content of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, herring and mackerel is also very important for our skin, immune, eye and brain health and decreasing inflammation in our bodies.

So forget the hype about maximizing your protein intake. Include it at most meals and snacks and prioritize natural plant sources and seafood and your family will easily meet their needs.

Fermented Food

We’ve all heard about fermented food but what is it, why is it good for us and should it be something to prioritize? Let’s answer all of those questions!

Fermentation is a process where healthy microbes are added to a food ingredient to transform it into a new food. We do this for reasons of food preservation, enhanced nutrient absorption or digestibility or simply taste! Some of the ones you may have heard of and maybe you already eat or drink include:

  • Yogurt and kefir
  • Kombucha tea, beer & wine
  • Sourdough bread
  • Injera, dosa (Ethiopian, South Indian fermented breads)
  • Tempeh and miso (fermented soy cakes or paste)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi (spicy Korean cabbage or other fermented veggies)
  • Pickles (fermented, not just vinegar pickles)
  • Apple cider vinegar

These healthy microbes, like yeast or bacteria, can include Saccharomyces, used in breads, beer and wine or Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which is often used in yogurt or kefir, or Acetobacter which is used in apple cider vinegar. They are called probiotics and when they reach our large intestine, they can convey numerous health benefits, like immune support by fighting off unhealthy pathogens. Some of these bacteria help us digest our food and even produce nutrients for us like short chain fatty acids and some vitamins. We are continually learning how else we may benefit from these bacteria, like studies showing asthma reduction in kimchi eaters, anxiety reduction and lower risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease with healthy microbiomes. The process of fermentation can also make a food more digestible to us like yogurt for those with lactose intolerance or sourdough for those with gluten sensitivity.

But the key to keeping your microbiome (the balance of bacteria in your body) well-stocked with good microbes in your gut is to feed them well and that should include prebiotics. These come from fibrous foods like legumes, vegetables and whole grains and they provide good food to the microbes. Research shows that diets high in ultra-processed or fast foods can deplete the microbiome.

For more information about fermented foods, probiotics and health, check out:

Knowing your ingredients

We’ve all heard about the need to read labels to help make the best choices at the grocery store, but what exactly are we looking for and how do we interpret that information? The first thing to note is that not all foods require a label and these include single ingredient items like fruit, vegetables, meat and bulk foods, like grains and legumes, as well as foods prepared and served in the same establishment, like your grocery store bakery or deli and restaurants. 

For all other food products, there are many sources of information on a food product label that we need to understand as consumers and they have varying levels of importance depending on your needs.

The first information we usually see on a label are the marketing claims on the front of the package that are designed to catch your eye and get you to pick up that food product. Although health claims are regulated here in Canada, the goal of most food companies is to maintain their bottom line, not keep you healthy. This means we have to use caution when looking at these claims, like “no added sugar” which does not necessarily mean that it’s a food that is low in sugar. Or “lower in sodium”, which does not mean it is a food that is low in salt, just that it’s a certain degree lower than its traditional counterpart.

 If a health or marketing claim is attractive to you for a certain reason, always be sure to flip that package over to dig deeper into the claim. This may mean checking the Nutrition Facts Table which will tell you exactly how much sugar or sodium is in that food. Be sure to remember to check the key piece of information on a Nutrition Facts Table though, which is the serving size (e.g. 1 slice of bread or ½ cup of soup). If you do not know how much of the food they are referring to, then the amount of nutrients has no reference. Food manufacturers are supposed to choose a serving size that accurately reflects a realistic portion size (e.g. the whole bottle of soda pop or candy bar) but this is sometimes up for interpretation.

The most accurate information, that a food manufacturer cannot tweak or spin, is the ingredients list. All of the ingredients in the food product, except a few items like spices, are required to be listed by order of weight. That means the first ingredient listed is what the product contains the most of. If a claim on the front said “no added sugar”, be sure to scour that list for other sources of sugary ingredients like fruit juice concentrates, barley malts and refined grains which could negatively impact blood sugar in the same way.

The other general rule of thumb is to choose products with shorter ingredient lists of foods that you know and can pronounce. If you could not have those ingredients in your home kitchen, consider limiting the quantity and frequency of consuming this potentially ultra-processed food product. Which goes alongside the recommendation to choose most often those single-ingredient foods that do not require labels, like vegetables and fruit, which are the foundation of optimal health.

Sugary Drink Alternatives

As the weather warms up, cracking a cold canned or bottled beverage always seems like a perfect way to quench your thirst! But so many options can be laden with sugar, which can be fine as an occasional treat, but are not recommended as a daily occurrence, especially for children. 

Instead of soda pop, store-bought iced tea, lemonade or juice, try the following hydration options:

  • Infused water—add mint or other herbs, cucumber or fresh fruit—keep a pitcher in the fridge (or make ice cubes with these ingredients frozen inside)
  • Bubbly water—plain or flavoured soda water, but unsweetened (including artificial sweeteners) options are the better choice
  • Homemade lemonade can contain a fraction of the sugar of store-bought–if you are used to the taste of traditional store-bought lemonade, start by diluting it with regular or carbonated water by ¾ and working down to ¼ when your taste buds adjust.
  • Chilled herbal tea, like mint, lemon or fruit-based—use a touch of honey to sweeten as needed
  • A colourful, fresh fruit platter or frozen watermelon cubes
  • Lower fat milk and fortified soy beverage can also contribute to hydration needs—consider blending with fresh or frozen fruit into a refreshing smoothie
  • Make a savoury or sweet chilled soup like avocado/cucumber, gazpacho or melon

It is most important to keep hydrated with water, especially when it’s hotter out and while doing physical activity. The usual water recommendations per age, sex, size and health condition get bumped up when it’s hot and you’re more active, but the amount you need depends on your body and what’s right for it. The colour of your urine can be a good indicator of your hydration level—you don’t want it to be too dark a yellow colour. Generally, boys and girls age 9-13 need about 7 cups per day, women need 9 cups and men 12 cups per day.

For more information about your hydration needs, call or visit HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or