By Melissa Lafrance on May 3, 2018
Nutrition plays an important role in our overall health, so it’s no surprise that what we eat can be key for our sexual and reproductive health. Read on to learn how to support your reproductive health and explore recipes that will bring fun and togetherness in the kitchen.
Week 1: Foods for Reproductive Health
Some of the key micronutrients for reproductive health include iron, folate, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B121, antioxidants, zinc, and selenium2.
Here are some tips and recipes to support overall reproductive health:
- General guidelines for female nutrition by the Dietitians of Canada
- Mixed bean and quinoa salad by Pulses
- Fast fish and veggie packets by Cookspiration
- Find out which foods are rich in zinc and rich in selenium by the Dietitians of Canada
- Wild rice and pumpkin seed pilaf by Berkeley Wellness
Week 2: Eating for Energy
For optimal sexual and reproductive function, we need to get enough energy from what we eat and how much we rest. When it comes to food, maintaining energy is all about avoiding drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Let’s look at ways to fuel your body with nutrients that sustain energy.
- Seven eating for energy tips by Workhealthlife (Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization)
- Eating to boost energy by Harvard Health Publishing
- Four ways to boost your energy with breakfast ideas by Harvard Health Publishing
- This energy ball recipe by Cookspiration contains nuts, dried fruits, cinnamon, and a hint of Canadian sweetness. They’re perfect as a snack any time you could use a burst of energy.
Week 3: Celebrating Food and Lightening the Mood
Cooking doesn’t have to feel like just another chore around the house. Take a look at some suggestions to enjoy cooking with a partner, and not worry too much about the end product being perfect. As long as it tastes good, right?
- Huffington Post’s five tips for having fun in the kitchen
- Check out Thug Kitchen recipes to lighten up the mood in the kitchen
Week 4: Cooking and Togetherness
- Try cooking with a significant other with one of these romantic recipes by Kitchn
- These romantic dinner recipes by EatingWell are sure to impress! Or try out vegetarian dinner recipes by Gourmandelle.
- What’s for dessert? I hope you like chocolate! Try blueberry and dark chocolate bread pudding by Cookspiration and avocado chocolate mousse by Cook for your Life.
Looking for more ideas?
Each week in May, we will be sharing tips, tricks and information that support sexual and reproductive health. Become a UBC Health Contact to receive weekly updates.
By Melissa Lafrance on April 3, 2018
Food accounts for a significant portion of our incomes and budgets, which is why it can be challenging to find a healthy balance between finances and optimal nutrition. This month, let’s look at ways we can stretch our food dollars, reduce food waste and still have the nourishing food that is essential for good health.
Week 1: Meal Planning & Batch Cooking
Generally, the more preparation or processing that goes into making a food product, the more expensive it is. If you reach for canned/packaged goods or produce that’s out of season, you’ll also pay more. To save money at the grocery store, avoid pre-made foods, dips, dressings and sauces.
Here are other tricks and recipes to try:
- Consider your weekly schedule and plan your meals and leftovers accordingly. Try a free meal planning app like Yummly.
- Batch cooking is a great way to avoid relying on more expensive restaurant meals or pre-made foods. You’ll have leftovers for lunch or even healthy weekday breakfasts and snacks. Check out Nutrition Stripped’s Batch Cooking 101 or the Food Network’s 50 Batch Cooking Recipes.
Week 2: Eat Well on a Budget
It’s helpful to have a solid food budget, but so is looking at other aspects of your spending. If you feel you can’t stretch your food dollar, but end up buying lunch or spending $5/day on a latte, you may need to evaluate your budget.
- Eating on a budget by Workhealthlife*
- 12 ways to save on groceries and shop on a budget by myMoneyCoach
- How much should you spend on groceries? by Global News
* Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.
Week 3: Waste Not to Save a Lot
Wasting food is like dumping your money in the trash, yet many of us are guilty of doing this. Here are a few waste-reducing tips and recipes:
- How to become a financially wise food shopper by Workhealthlife*
- SuperCook instantly finds matching recipes for ingredients you have and want to use up
- Expiration date vs. best-before date by Spud
* Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.
Week 4: Be Friends with Your Freezer
Freezing baked goods, snacks, fruits, vegetables and even full meals not only prolongs food freshness, but also makes it easy to eat home-cooked food when you need a quick fix.
Here are some freezer-friendly recipes and tips from Jamie Oliver:
Looking for more ideas?
Each week in April, we will be sharing tips, tricks and information to extend your food dollar and waste less. Become a UBC Health Contact to receive weekly reminders.
By Miranda Massie on March 7, 2018
I love breakfast. Besides being one of those people who MUST eat something within an hour of waking up, I also just love breakfast food. Sweet, savoury, hot, cold, liquid, solid – it’s one of the most versatile meals around.
How many of you have heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? Particularly in North America, this common social understanding dates back to childhood, and despite evidence to support it, many people still don’t eat breakfast. 
Now, I’m not here to get all parental and tell you what to do. Instead, in honour of National Nutrition Month, I’d like to share my love of breakfast. Here are my four reasons to feed your brain the most delicious meal of the day!
If you’re someone who needs variety, eating the same breakfast day after day may not sound very appetizing. Below is a go-to recipe that uses seasonally available ingredients and can be customized to your tastes. You can also find more oatmeal-topping ideas here.
Miranda’s Custom Make-ahead Oatmeal:
|5 cups||Quick oats|
|1 cup||Nut of your choice
(almond slices, toasted pecans, walnuts
|1 cup||Seed of your choice
(sunflower, pumpkin, chia, hemp)
|1 cup||Dried fruit of your choice
(cranberries, apricots, pineapple, banana)
|1 cup||Dried shredded coconut|
|Optional||Sliced fresh fruit (apples, banana, berries)|
- Prep ingredients in advance.
- Scoop 1/4 to 1/3 cup of your oatmeal into a bowl or Tupperware container. Add water.
- Microwave for 2 minutes. Enjoy!
Time can be a big barrier, but it doesn’t have to take ages to prepare breakfast. Here is a list of time-tested meal ideas to keep you moving in the morning:
- Miranda’s Custom Make-ahead Oatmeal (see above)
- Total time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds (30 seconds to scoop + 2 minutes to microwave)
- Toasted English muffin with melted cheese
- Total time: 1 minute, 30 seconds (1 minute in toaster + 30 seconds to melt cheese)
- Night-before yogurt parfait
- Total time: 2 minutes night before, no time in the morning (45 seconds to scoop yogurt + 45 seconds to add frozen fruit + 30 seconds to pack granola)
- Nut butter Eggo
- Total time: 1 minute, 30 seconds (1 minute to toast frozen Eggo waffle + 30 seconds to spread nut butter of choice)
- Make-ahead breakfast egg cups 
- Total time: 31 minutes (30 minutes to make head of time + 45 seconds to microwave on the go)
It makes you smarter
Food fuels our bodies. The same way that wood fuels a fire, we can’t function optimally or survive without it. When we sleep, we fast for six to eight hours, which means the longer we put off eating, the longer our bodies have to try and function without fuel. Breakfast can help support our brains to do great things and be productive. It also prevents us from being distracted by rumbling tummies. Read more about the effects of nutrients on brain function. 
Another barrier to breakfast is cost. We often assume that it’s easier to make a quick stop at a coffee shop, but this routine can end up being more expensive over time. For example, a yogurt parfait and a banana loaf from Starbucks costs $6.63 including tax, but you can get the equivalent items — all homemade by UBC nutrition students – at the Agora Café for $4. It also pays (pun intended) to be prepared. Prepping your meals in advance (as per the time saving tips above) is another way to cut costs.
This month, I invite you to rise and shine with breakfast, and if that’s not for you, find a way to incorporate an early morning snack into your routine a few days a week. Turning meals into social events (a potluck brunch perhaps?) is a great way to start.
All my best,
Photo credit: UBC Communications & Marketing
By Melissa Lafrance on March 7, 2018
Guest contribution by Dr. Thara Vayali
We’ve all had those moments: midday, computer in front of us, gobbling lunch, not even noticing what we’re eating — let alone how much. We become used to feeling uncomfortable, stuffed or still hungry or experiencing bloating and discomfort in the abdomen. In this way, our meals don’t seem to be doing us any good.
Too easily, instead of eating for enjoyment, we eat for fuel and nutrients. Luckily, nourishing ourselves offers endless opportunities to change our relationship with food. A plate of spaghetti Bolognese could be fuel today, but tomorrow an experience of love.
For a variety of reasons, it would do us all well to value our food and separate eating from other activities. On a physiological level, mindfulness while eating improves health and wellness.
The Mind-Gut Connection
There is a super highway of nerves and hormones that communicates hunger, digestion and satisfaction. The state of our minds reflects the state of our stomachs and impacts how well we digest, how nourished we feel and how well we eliminate. The less aware we are of our eating process, the less benefit we get from our meals.
The digestive process takes approximately 20 minutes to register the food we’ve eaten; only then does it signal to us that we’ve had enough. If we front-load our mealtime by eating quickly, we can regularly overeat or feel digestive distress. Instead of benefitting from our meals, we can end up inadvertently harming our health. Being aware of what we are eating, the smell and taste of our food and noticing how we feel while are eating can markedly improve our digestive experience.
Our meals don’t need to achieve 20-minute marks to experience a change in digestion. If we know our physiology, so we can think differently about how we eat. Your body will notice incremental changes in timing and awareness.
It’s not easy to change our eating habits. The context in which we learned to eat began at a very young age. Mix personal history with career expectations, work/life/family time constraints, sedentary shifts in the nature of work, smartphones that fill down time, and our mind-gut connection becomes fraught. Outside of daily activities, food is part of our socializing world: we talk, laugh, argue and cry while we dine. The community connection to food is enriching and satiating to our lives, and if we can experience our eating with awareness, then the socializing becomes an enhancement, not a distraction to our digestion.
Let Simon & Garfunkel’s song, “The 59th Street Bridge (Feelin’ Groovy)” remind us of how to approach our meal times:
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Eating mindfully for an entire meal at every meal may take time to achieve. What’s more immediately possible is to choose to eat ONE spoonful with structured awareness. At any point in any day, as you pick up your fork or spoon, try the following:
- Look at your spoon and what’s on it. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
- Next, bring the spoonful to your nose. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
- Next, put the spoonful and its contents in your mouth. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
- Chew. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
- Swallow. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
That’s how simple it is.
You cannot do this wrong. You are practicing. Whether you stop halfway with boredom, or fall into the zone with the smell of the strawberry, you are practicing awareness.
You cannot “forget” to do this. Since it’s an action you choose when it comes to mind, you are always remembering. The goal is to have it come to mind more often.
Thara Vayali is a Vancouver-based naturopathic doctor and yoga teacher, UBC alumnus and popular guest contributor to our Healthy UBC newsletter who specializes in intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. For more information about Thara, visit www.tharavayali.ca
By Melissa Lafrance on March 7, 2018
It’s March and we’re celebrating nutrition month! Let’s get cooking by focusing on the little things you can do to improve your nutritional health that will result in big-picture gains. Read on to learn the basics to a healthy diet, as well as healthier ingredient swaps and easy sheet pan meals.
Week 1: Back to Basics
Instead of focusing on calorie-counting, restrictive diets or “superfoods”, let’s think about the foundations of a healthy diet. Eating within your caloric needs and consuming nutrient-dense foods are beneficial to your health, but focusing on the small details can be confusing, stressful and frustrating. How about nourishing your body, heart and mind instead? Renowned American author, journalist and activist Michael Pollan said it best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Check out these resources to get you back to the basics of healthy eating:
- Healthy eating basics by the Heart and Stroke Foundation
- Healthy plate and healthy bowl guidelines by Vancouver Coastal Health
- Food Rules book and Cooked documentary series (on Netflix) by Michael Pollan
Week 2: Basic Recipes
Take out the guess work and try these plant-astic, wholesome and satisfying meals:
- One-pot everyday lentil soup by Minimalist Baker
- Veggie and tofu stir fry by My Recipes
- Sweet potato and white bean chilli by Jamie Oliver
Week 3: Healthier Ingredient Swaps
One of the greatest things about home cooking is that you can make almost any dish healthier with simple substitutions. Don’t be scared to swap ingredients, modify recipes to make them healthier or use ingredients you have on hand.
- 67 healthy recipe substitutions by Greatist
- Blueberry muffin breakfast cookies by Minimalist Baker
- Lentil and sweet potato shepherd’s pie by Minimalist Baker
Week 4: Speedy Sheet Pan Meals
Sheet pan meals are great and here’s why: fewer dirty dishes, roasting produces more flavour, huge batches = leftovers (yay!), simple to prepare as most of the work is in the prep, and once it’s in the oven you can forget about it for a while.
Try these easy tips and healthy sheet pan recipes:
By Melissa Lafrance on February 5, 2018
This February, we are focusing on nutrition for heart health and cardiovascular disease prevention. A healthy diet is a major preventative measure as it affects blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body weight and blood sugar control. For this month, try taking the following recipes and articles to heart.
Week 1: Mediterranean Diet and Healthy Fats
- Easy ways to protect your heart by Alive@Work
- Avocado, mango, black bean and kale salad by Cookspiration
- Wild rice and lentils with salmon by Cookspiration
- Dietary fats, oils and cholesterol by Heart and Stroke Foundation
Week 2: Fibre
- Increasing your fibre intake by Dietitians of Canada
- Cooking with whole grains and other recipes by Oldways Whole Grains Council
- Apple pie oatmeal by Cookspiration
Week 3: Heart-healthy Treats
- Baking that’s better for your heart by Alive@Work
- Pineapple nice cream by EatingWell
- Peachy buckwheat muffins with hazelnut crunch by Cookspiration
Week 4: Sodium
By Melissa Lafrance on January 11, 2018
EFAP Support Services for You and Your Eligible Dependents:
Free Health Coaching
Looking for information and tools to better understand health issues? UBC’s EFAP provider, Shepell, offers health coaching that includes teaching you how to make changes to be well and stay well, as well as motivating you to reach your lifestyle goals.
Registered nurses and occupational health nurses provide personalized and interactive support for a wide range of health matters, including weight management, exercise, nutrition, responsible alcohol use, smoking cessation, and information about preventing and managing health conditions.
Free Expert Advice from Naturopathic Doctors
Naturopathic services through EFAP provide a natural and holistic approach to the maintenance of good health. By accessing these services, you can have your health examined and learn how to make lifestyle changes that will benefit your health.
Naturopathic doctors offer customized support in a variety of health areas, including physiology, diet, lifestyle, sleep, aging, boosting immunity and energy levels, and illness prevention strategies.
Free Nutrition Support Services
Shepell’s Nutrition Support Services can help you make positive changes in your diet and address issues such as weight loss or weight gain, eating routines and lifestyle changes. You can also connect with a registered dietitian who can assess your eating habits, identify dietary concerns and answer nutrition-related questions.
If you need support or immediate help, call the Shepell Care Access Centre at 1-800-387-4765.
Extended Health Benefits: Coverage for a Range of Health Services
The UBC Extended Health Benefits plan aims to promote the continued health and wellbeing of staff and faculty. Benefits include coverage for a wide range of services, including paramedical practitioners such as physiotherapists, registered massage therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, podiatrists and more.
The following two articles by Shepell, UBC’s EFAP provider, can support you with tools to improve and maintain your physical health:
Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization to access these articles.
Posted in Benefits Spotlight, EFAP | Tagged Benefits, coaching, EFAP, Employee and Family Assistance program, extended health, health, naturopathic medicine, Nutrition, Shepell, Support | Leave a response
By Melissa Lafrance on January 11, 2018
This month, we’re focusing on recipes and nutrition tips to fuel your physical activity.
Food provides energy for body function and physical activity. Your energy and food intake needs can change in relation to your activity levels. Balance and variety of protein, carbohydrates, fat and water will provide you with the nutrients required for optimal performance and nutrient replenishment.
Weeks 1 and 2: Hydration
To keep your body hydrated, aim for a daily fluid intake of about 2-3 litres (9-12 cups); your intake will vary depending on your body size and activity level. When you are more active or if the weather is hot, you will need to increase your intake. Water is one of the best fluid choices and you should also use your thirst as a guide to help you determine fluid requirements.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) as “any liquids that are sweetened with various forms of added sugars”. Some examples include fruit, sports and energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars. SSBs provide no additional nutritional benefit and contain “hidden” calories . If you choose to have SSBs once in a while, that is okay. But water is a better choice of hydration.
Here are some tips and recipes to help you stay hydrated:
- Check out the Dietitians of Canada’s recommendations on sports hydration, including steps to stay hydrated during and after exercise.
- See Eating Well’s seven refreshing foods to help you stay hydrated.
- If you need to boost your water intake, here are 12 easy ways to drink more water from Self magazine.
- Find out what’s in your drink with this rethink your drink article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Read this news release from the Canadian Paediatric Society and Dietitians of Canada, which advises against kids and adolescents consuming sports and energy drinks.
Week 3: Snacks
Having a small meal or snack about one to two hours before you exercise can help stabilize blood glucose levels and keep you hydrated and energized. It can also help you perform for longer and with more intensity . You’ll likely focus less on a rumbling tummy and more on your activity or workout!
If you are exercising for more than a couple of hours, make sure to fuel up halfway with fluids, a carbohydrate and protein-rich snack or small meal.
Here are some tips and recipes to help you fuel up before exercising:
- The Dietitians of Canada encourage learning how to plan pre-exercise meals and snacks.
- Try these simple snack combinations and adjust the amount based on the length of your activity: whole fruit with nuts or nut butter, vegetables and hummus or other bean/veggie dip, cheese and crackers, or plain yogurt with berries and granola.
- Simple Banana Berry Smoothie from Cookspiration
- Breakfast Burrito from Cookspiration
- Colourful Quinoa Salad from Cookspiration
Week 4: Recovery
Post-exercise healthy eating is important because it replaces the energy, fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates that were used up during your workout. Protein is essential in building and maintaining muscle and supporting muscle recovery after exercise. It’s best to get these nutrients from foods rather than sports drinks, sports foods, and supplementation (i.e. protein supplements) — unless you are an athlete, in which case it’s best to seek advice from a registered dietitian.
Here are some tips and recipes to help you satisfy your hunger and nutritional needs after exercise:
- The Dietitians of Canada offer steps you can take to recover after exercise.
- Ginger Granola & Pineapple Cottage Cheese from Cookspiration
- Greek-style Chicken Sandwiches from Cookspiration
- Green Lentil Power Smoothie from Cookspiration
- Check out the Dietitians of Canada’s facts on sport supplements.
By Melissa Lafrance on December 7, 2017
In December, we are highlighting winter produce, feeding yourself when you’ve caught a bug, and rethinking holiday eating. You won’t find your typical guide to healthy holiday eating here. We are all unique and some of us celebrate in different ways, so it’s important to savour those special moments, especially if your festivities revolve around food.
Each week in December, we will be sharing tips, recipes and ideas on how to nourish ourselves this winter and mindfully and positively enjoy holiday eating.
We are lucky enough to be able to enjoy great foods and flavourful ingredients – even through the chilly winter season.
Recipes and tips for using in-season produce:
- Check out EatingWell’s five healthy foods you can enjoy this winter.
- To find local foods grown in December, check out FarmFolk CityFolk’s seasonal food chart.
- Try Ina Garten’s simple roasted vegetable recipe. If you want, sprinkle some goat cheese on your finished dish.
- Buy what might be an odd-looking squash and inspire yourself to do something with it. “Ugly vegetables” are not just ornamental; you can actually eat them. Check out The Spruce’s website to see all the many winter squash and pumpkin varieties You’ll also find great recipes if you scroll all the way down the page.
If you’ve caught a cold or flu virus, it’s important to hydrate and get proper nutrition – even with a reduced appetite. Passing over food or skipping meals isn’t a recommended treatment for any illness. When you’re fighting infection, whether it be a cold or flu virus, you need extra calories to support a higher metabolic rate.
Here are some tips and recipes to help you combat the bug:
- Hydrate! Learn about WebMD’s best (and worst) drinks to have when battling a cold.
- Check out this classic chicken soup from EatingWell.
- Try making CookingLight’s flavourful quick chicken pho recipe.
- For when you have more energy to cook, consider Jamie Oliver’s collection of winter soup recipes.
Let’s reframe the way we view holiday eating: it’s not what you eat on a few special occasions; it’s about the healthy food choices you make between occasions. Therefore, if you are going to be miserable about not eating your grandma’s special cookie, eat the darn cookie and savour every bite!
- Read Psychology Today’s take on enjoying holiday eating. You might gain a few tips in the process.
This holiday season, leave the guilt aside and mindfully enjoy meals that not only nourish your body, but also feed your soul. It is perfectly okay to eat foods that are sweeter and richer (oilier or creamier).
If you choose to indulge a little, here are some tips on how to do it well and mindfully:
- Have a strategy to help with self-control. Check out Self’s 13 holiday healthy-eating tips from a registered dietitian.
- Check out Harvard Health’s blog post on 10 mindful eating tips.
Melissa Lafrance’s Tips of the Month & Favourite Potluck Recipes
When I have an upcoming event involving food, my strategy is to make healthy food choices on the day of so that I can have balance and fully enjoy occasional indulgences. If I arrive hungry, I can’t even focus on pre-dinner socializing because I’m so famished. So, I don’t skip meals and I eat a snack beforehand. If I’m bringing a prepared dish, I tend to focus on simple sides, salads or appetizers that include fresh fruits and veggies. I’m not saying this is the “right” way, but it works for me and maybe it will for you too!
Check out some of my favourite go-to recipes, including a classic one from my grandma:
- Spinach dip is a great go-to potluck dish. Try Cookspiration’s version with pumpernickel bread and a variety of veggies.
- Another winner is Smitten Kitchen’s broccoli slaw. (I usually omit the buttermilk and mayo, and use Vegenaise instead.)
- Check out Vegetarian Times’ rosemary whole-wheat stuffing with figs and hazelnuts. (I usually add finely chopped carrots and celery, a bit of allspice, and replace the port with extra broth.)
My Mémère’s (grandma’s) classic coleslaw recipe:
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ½ cup vinegar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp celery seeds
- 1 small green cabbage, thinly sliced
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 1-2 celery stalks, chopped
- In a saucepan, bring the sugar, vinegar, oil, salt and celery seeds just to a boil to dissolve the sugar.
- Slice the cabbage, green onion and celery, and transfer to a large bowl.
- Carefully pour the hot liquid over the cabbage.
- Refrigerate until cooled and serve. The coleslaw is best when it has time to mellow. Enjoy!