5 Honest Thoughts on Healthy Cooking as a Beginner

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Cooking as a beginner can seem challenging. Navigating blogs and cookbooks to find recipes that are healthy, tasty, and with all the ingredients you have might feel like a daunting task. Recipes with unfamiliar ingredients that require kitchen tools that you don’t have can make cooking feel intimidating.

You don’t need to be a skilled cook to make healthy, tasty, feel-good meals, but rather, have an open mind and try new things! Here are some honest tips to make healthy cooking feel less overwhelming.

1. You don’t have to follow the recipe.

If you’re a perfectionist like me and always wants to follow the recipe exactly, don’t stress! If you’re missing a minor ingredient, you can skip it as long as it’s not a major component of the recipe (say pasta noodles for a pasta recipe). Don’t let the fact that you’re missing a specific ingredient from a recipe prevent you from making it. As you gain some experience, you can even figure out ways to substitute for ingredients that you don’t have. You can get inspiration from Bon Appetite’s ‘no recipe’ recipes. Depending on the recipe, you can make ingredient substitutions, here are a few examples:

  • Swap dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and swiss chard. You can even substitute parsley for spinach.
  • Don’t have celery? You can substitute it for another crunchy vegetable such as cucumber or carrots.
  • Different types of nuts, such as almonds and cashews can be swapped.
2. Not everything needs to be made from scratch.

Despite what you think, some pre-made foods can be healthy. While cooking your meals is a great way to eat healthier, it’s realistic to recognize that not everything we eat can be made from scratch. Identify and prioritize what you’d like to cook versus what you’d prefer to buy. You can buy some premade ingredients and make additions or substitutions to amp up your meal’s nutritional value. Here are a few examples:

  • If you purchase food or get takeout, such as pasta or chicken, make a side salad to add some vegetables to your meal.
  • You can make canned soup healthier by adding fresh or frozen vegetables such as peas, carrots, or spinach.
  • If you’re eating frozen waffles for breakfast (such as Eggo), make it healthier by adding some peanut butter and banana slices.
  • You can purchase ingredients like pasta sauce and dips such as hummus, to save time so that a portion of your meal is ready to eat.
3. Be mindful of your budget.

There are lots of strategies to ensure that you respect your budget. Seek out sales, coupons, and flyers from your local grocery store. Produce stores tend to have cheaper products than supermarkets and are a great place for fresh fruits and veggies. Flipp is a great smartphone app that lets you look at flyers and coupons from different grocery stores. You can even use it to make a grocery list and easily check out what’s on sale.

4. Plan ahead but also be flexible.

Planning what you’ll eat and when you’ll cook ahead of time can help you save time, money, and reduce food waste. Spend some time doing meal preparation over the weekend, such as cooking a big batch of lunches for the week, cutting up vegetables, or cooking your grains in advance. At the same time, you don’t have to know exactly what you’ll be eating everyday or stick to a rigid meal plan. The reality of life is that plans change and unexpected things come up. A last-minute social gathering might pop up or you might have leftovers from the night before. It’s all about being flexible and adapting to change.

5. Expect that things don’t always turn out.

Despite what the glamour of social media may show us, your meals don’t have to be ‘Insta-perfect’. Sometimes the simplest meals can bring us the greatest pleasures. Don’t be discouraged when a recipe doesn’t turn out or it’s not as tasty as you thought it would be. It’s all part of the process….learning to do anything new takes time, Pinterest fails and all. So get messy and get cooking!

For more cooking inspiration check out Cookspiration, Epicurious, and the UBC Nutrition Blog.

Post written by Naomi Oh

Moving Out? Your Guide to Stocking a Healthy Pantry

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

So you’re moving out…welcome to ‘adult-ing’! It’s a big change and might even feel a bit overwhelming. A lot of things are probably on your mind -such as all the things you need to pack for your new place, including your coveted room décor. But don’t forget about what you’ll need in your kitchen! While eating out might feel like a more convenient option, cooking your own meals at home is a great way to eat a healthier, balanced diet.

Stocking your kitchen with nutritious ingredients can encourage you to cook and eat healthier. If you’re stuck and not sure where to start, this list is a great place for essentials to include in your pantry. Consider including these food staples, which are typically found in many healthy recipes, to your grocery list and you’ll be ready to nourish yourself for the school year!

1)    Whole Grains
  • Whole grains are a great source of dietary fiber and phytonutrients. Use them for pasta, oatmeal, or toast. Add grains, such as quinoa or barley, to your salad.
  • When choosing a cereal, look for one with a higher fibre content (at least 4 g/serving) and is lower in sugar (no more than 8 g/serving)
  • Ideas: Brown rice, barley, quinoa, rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, crackers, cereal, whole wheat bread
2)    Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
  • Did you know that frozen fruits and vegetables are actually just as nutritious as fresh? Frozen fruits and vegetables are often picked at their peak quality, which means that their nutrient content is comparable to the fresh variety.
  • Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies, overnight oats, yogurt parfaits, muffins, or as a topping for pancakes. Use frozen vegetables to increase the vegetable content of your pastas, soups, and stir-fry.
  • Ideas: Frozen berries, mangos, pineapples, peas, carrots, spinach, broccoli, edamame, corn
3)    Canned Foods
  • While canned foods often get a bad rep, some can be included in a balanced diet and tend to be more convenient and cheap. When purchasing canned goods, choose ones that are lower in sodium and packed in water (versus oil).
  • Canned tomatoes or tomato paste are great to use in salsa, chili, soup, and pasta sauces.
  • Use canned fish, such as tuna or salmon, as a source of protein for patties, sandwiches, salads, or with crackers.
  • Ideas: Diced/whole/crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, artichoke, tuna, salmon, mackerel
4)    Beans and Lentils
  • Many people don’t realize that beans and lentils are a great source of plant-based protein and fibre. Add to chili, stews, salads, or use them to make a vegetarian patty. If you are using canned beans, be sure to rinse and drain them before use.
  • Ideas: Chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, french lentils, red lentils
5)    Spices and Herbs (fresh/dry)
  • We eat for taste as much as we eat for our health. Spices and herbs add flavor to any dish and make your food taste great!  
  • Ideas: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, chili powder, dill, thyme, parsley, cilantro, oregano, basil
6)    Cooking Oils
  • Choose healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil, as a source of healthy fat for sautéing, baking, roasting, and use for home-made salad dressings.
  • Ideas: Olive oil, sesame seed oil, canola oil
7)    Nuts/Nut Butter and Seeds/Seed Butter
  • Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fat (unless you have a nut allergy). A handful of nuts can make a great healthy snack to pack for school, for adding some crunch to a salad, and in a trail mix with dried fruit.
  • Nut butters, such as peanut butter, make a great dip for fruit (such as apples –yum!), are great for toast, and a creamy addition to your oatmeal. You can also use nut butter as a base for sauces, like a peanut dressing, for your salads.
  • Sprinkle seeds onto your yogurt or oatmeal, on salads, and baked goods such as muffins!
  • Ideas: Peanuts, almonds, cashews, tahini (sesame seed paste)

Seeds such as chia, ground flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, and sesame

8)  Sauces, Vinegars, and Mustards
  • These flavorful ingredients can be used to make tasty dressings and sauces. Make your own salad dressing, such as a vinaigrette, for your salad.
  • Ideas: Dijon mustard, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar
9)    Fresh Produce
  • And finally, the fresh stuff! Stock your fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables for a plant-centered plate with lots of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. I always like having a variety of dark, leafy greens on hand as a base for a salad. Lemon, limes, garlic, and onions are typically used in many recipes to add flavour, so be sure to have those around as well.
  • Include dairy or non-dairy milk, yogurt, and cheese for calcium, vitamin D, and protein (check the label for these products as the amount may vary depending on whether the product is dairy or non-dairy).
  • Animal products such as eggs, chicken, and fish can also be great sources of protein (unless you are vegetarian, vegan, or have a dietary restriction).

Juggling all the different aspects of your life while making time to cook and eat healthy, might feel like a balancing act, so stocking your kitchen with healthy ingredients is a great start! Find foods that fit with your lifestyle and budget that you truly enjoy eating. If you’re still feeling stuck, you can sign up for a free Grocery Store Tour led by UBC dietetics students, which start in September. Most importantly, get creative and have some fun in the kitchen!

Post written by Naomi Oh

The Modern Day Taco: Butternut Squash & Black Beans

All copyrights reserved by Dietitians of Canada. Photo retrieved from Cookspiration.

March is Nutrition Month and this year there are 12 featured recipes for you to try! As a lover of butternut squash and avocados, this is my favourite recipe – it’s both delicious and nutritious. Sweet butternut squash combined with creamy avocados is a match made in heaven! This recipe also contains at least one ingredient from each food group, making it a balanced meal that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner.

Two great ingredients in this recipe are black beans and butternut squash. Read on to learn more about the nutritional benefits of butternut squash and black beans, and find helpful purchasing and preparation tips for your next meal.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is a type of winter squash and is available almost year-round in many grocery stores. It has orange flesh and a beige peel and it is probably best known in the form of a creamy butternut squash soup (which you can make without cream).

Butternut squash is:

  • An excellent source of beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin C, higher than other squashes like acorn and spaghetti squash1.
  • Often larger than a summer squash, which means you can make more portions. There are many ways to prepare butternut squash from roasting, steaming or microwaving.

Not sure how to peel and cut a butternut squash? Check out this video.

Want to learn more about the benefits of winter squash? Click here for more information.

Student Tips:

  • Choose a butternut squash without green spots (this shows that the squash is ripe and ready to eat)
  • If winter squash (e.g. butternut, acorn, spaghetti, or kabocha squash), is on sale, don’t be afraid stock up on an extra one of two. Squash can be stored in a cool and dry place for up to 2 to 4 months!
  • Dice your squash into smaller pieces if you want it to cook quicker
  • To make butternut squash ahead of time, cook your diced butternut squash until it’s just softened. Cool and freeze in a Ziploc bag. For a quick meal, take out the frozen squash and steam or roast on a baking sheet with olive oil. You can even use half your squash now, and freeze the rest for later.

Black Beans

You may have grown up learning to fear beans because it’s believed to cause bloating and gassiness. Oligosaccharides, a short-chain sugar and type of carbohydrate found in beans, are not easily digested and can lead to stomach discomfort2. However, you can reduce the levels of these hard-to-digest sugars by soaking and rinsing dried beans before cooking or rinsing canned beans. From burger patties to tacos and fudgy brownies, black beans have re-gained their popularity and made their way back to many people’s kitchens.

Black beans are:

  • Versatile, inexpensive and quick to prepare  
  • A very good source of fibre, which can keep you full longer. A ½ cup serving provides 8g of fibre (Canada recommends 25-38g of fibre for women and men respectively)3
  • Low in fat
  • A plant protein (perfect for vegetarian dishes)

Student Tips:

  • Canned black beans can make meal prep a lot easier because they are pre-cooked. Rinse before using to lower the sodium content
  • Packaged or bulk black beans are a great option for students on a budget
  • Speed up the cooking process by soaking your beans overnight
  • Add to soups or wraps for a quick and easy source of protein
  • If you don’t like the taste of black beans, try chickpeas, red kidney beans, navy beans or lentils, or try preparing the beans in different ways for different flavours

Poster by Dietitians of Canada

Check out other Nutrition Month recipes here and challenge yourself to prepare a new recipe! Bon Appetit!


1 Leslie Beck. ‘I love to eat squash this time of year, is one healthier than the others?’ Globe and Mail. 28 Oct 2014. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/i-love-to-eat-squash-this-time-of-year-is-one-healthier-than-the-others/article21352343/

2 Pulse Canada. ‘Beans and flatulence: fact or fiction?’. April 2014. http://www.pulsecanada.com/pnn/nutrition/2012/april/beans-flatulence-full

3 Dietitians of Canada. ‘Food sources of fibre’. 26 Oct 2016. https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Fibre/Food-Sources-of-Fibre.aspx

Post Written by: Mei Ho

Embarking On Your Own Mindful Eating Journey

Spending time to enjoy every bite of our meal can often be a challenge for us. Sometimes we are guilty of scrolling down our Facebook Feed or speeding through meals to get to our next destination. 

Eating too quickly can be a problem because our brain takes about 20 minutes to signal feelings of satiety (fullness). By eating quickly, it can leave us unsatisfied and result in eating more food than we need. Mindful Eating is about becoming more aware of what you’re eating and how it nourishes your body. Additionally, you learn to understand your body’s signals of fullness or hunger. (Today’s Dietitian).

Below is a Mindful Eating Cycle with questions we can ask ourselves to help us understand our eating behaviours. 

Photo retrieved from Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 15 No. 3 P. 42. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml
Questions to Consider
Why? Why do I eat? Am I eating to build energy and strength in my body to help me through day-to-day activities?
When? When I want to eat? Am I eating just because it is noon? Am I eating because I am bored? Is it a craving, hunger or a sign of thirst?
What? What do I eat? Am I choosing a balance of foods that nourish our body and make us feel good? Am I making sustainable food choices?
How? How do I eat? Am I eating our meals on the go? With friends?
How much? How much do I eat? Am I eating more portions because I’m still hungry? Am I checking in with our satiety (fullness)  cues halfway through my meals?
Where? Where do I invest my energy? Am I eating in a space that is comfortable, has minimal distractions and allows me to enjoy my food?


Choosing one or two of the questions above can be the first step to eating mindfully. These questions can give us more information about our eating patterns and help us make healthier food choices.

As a nutrition/dietetic student, I must admit that mindful eating can be challenging. I am used to eating my meals quickly, which may be why I am always eager for seconds. It’s not until my last couple of bites where I start questioning myself if I was actually eating mindfully. There have been many times where I felt guilty because of this. However, I realize that mindful eating doesn’t happen overnight. We need to be patient with ourselves and trust our body’s signals.

Everyone’s journey to mindful eating is unique and set at a pace that we feel most comfortable with.

March is Nutrition Month and this year’s slogan about improving our relationship with food: ‘Take the Fight out of Food. Spot the Problem. Get the Facts. Seek Support”. How will you take the fight out of food and practice more mindful eating?

To take the pledge and read more about this year’s campaign, visit here

Post written by: Mei Ho. 

Week 5 of Live Well Challenges: Eating a Nutritious Breakfast Every Morning

I challenge you (and myself) to include eating a hearty and healthy breakfast as part of your daily routine.” 

No matter how hard I try, I am not a morning person. While I do enjoy getting an early start to the day and savouring a few quiet moments, my mornings do not reflect this and are instead quite chaotic.

In an ideal world I would wake up on time, calmly get ready and prepare myself a nice, healthy breakfast. If I was feeling really ambitious, I would even enjoy a cup of tea and indulge in a good book. I would calmly leave my house, without any fear of missing the bus. This is what I aim for every morning but unfortunately, it’s not my reality; it’s not even close.

On a typical weekday morning I would sleep through 5 alarms, ending up with only 25 minutes to leave my house. There’s a lot to do in this time so I’m a little frantic. I quickly get ready, make myself coffee or tea for the commute and then leave the house with only a few minutes to make the bus. I would run to the bus stop, arriving mere seconds before the bus and face the silent judgment of the other more organized commuters who didn’t have to run for the bus and are not slightly out of breath. Okay, the last part may be a little dramatic but that’s what it feels like and this is often how I start the day. Nowhere in my mad morning scramble is there any mention of breakfast or me consuming anything more than tea or coffee. With only 25 minutes something needs to be dropped from my ideal morning list and that is often breakfast.

I’m sure most of us have heard the phrase that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, and in fact there are several benefits to eating a nutritious meal to start the day. Eating breakfast has been linked to increases in your alertness, concentration, and mood. It also helps maintain a healthy diet and metabolism. Being a busy graduate student, I could definitely benefit from being more focused and alert. With this in mind, I challenge you (and myself) to include eating a hearty and healthy breakfast as part of your daily routine. My breakfasts may not be as perfect as the ones I have pictured in my ideal morning routine scenario but they will be nutritious and that’s a start!  

During the week feel free to share your experience with this challenge on social media using the #ubcpeerperspective hashtag. On Friday, the Wellness Peers and myself will reflect back on this challenge and share some of the highs and the lows, so I encourage you to revisit the Healthy Minds blog then to see how it went.

Let’s do this!

Post Written by Ashley Arnold

Wondering who Ashley is? Here is a little introduction!

img_0179Hi there! My name is Ashley and I’m one of the Graduate Wellness Peers. I’m currently in the Masters program in the department of Microbiology & Immunology studying the microbial ecology of subsurface terrestrial environments. When I’m not working away in the lab you can probably find me passionately talking about musicals, making science jokes or planning my next brunch adventure.

When I found out about the graduate wellness peer position I was really excited to be part of a team who cares deeply about promoting wellness to all individuals on campus and creating an open environment to talk about it. In this role I hope to include more grad students in these conversations and find ways to address some of our specific wellness needs. I’m excited to contribute to the Healthy Minds blog this year and share some of my grad student experiences and personal wellness journey!

Happy reading!


#LiveWellChallenge Recap: Nutrition Week

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The Live Well Challenge is a weekly series in which students set a daily wellness goal centred around a particular theme. Week 1 was all about nutrition, and Wellness Peer Katie decided to give up eating out on campus. Read on to see how she did!

Over the past week, I decided to challenge myself to give up eating out. Running around campus between classes and meetings for ten hours every day makes me work up an appetite, and oftentimes, the most convenient option is grabbing sushi from the village or a slice of banana bread from Uppercase. Unfortunately, eating out multiple times a day isn’t always the healthiest option, especially for a vegan.

To prepare for the week, I stocked up on groceries and made a huge quinoa salad that I could easily pack for lunch. My mornings became a little longer because I had to wash apples and carrots to bring as snacks, brew coffee to get my caffeine fix, get my lunch together, and still make breakfast for myself. However, the time I spent in the morning made the rest of the day a lot easier. I could eat my snacks and lunch in class and in the library without worrying about where my next meal was coming from.

For the most part, avoiding eating out just takes a lot of preparation. When I had a backpack full of food I was rarely tempted to buy anything else on campus, and I also saved myself a lot of money this week. I struggled the most when my plans for the day changed and I was on campus for a longer period of time – staying around after class to study was a lot harder when I knew I had to go home to make dinner!

I’m happy to say I made it through the week without eating out at all! Now I’m more than ready to go out with my friends and indulge in a giant veggie burger and fries. Looking forward, I’ll definitely try to keep bringing my lunch for the day. However when it comes to getting hungry while studying late or socializing with my friends, I won’t mind occasionally grabbing a bite to eat on campus. Everything in moderation!

How did your nutrition challenge go? Let us know in the comments below, or on social media using #livewellchallenge. Our theme for the second week of the Live Well Challenge is active lifestyles, so it’s time to get brainstorming on how you will get moving!

Nutrition Month Week 2: Commuter Cravings

As part of Nutrition Month here is the recipe for week 2:

No-Bake Trail Mix

  • 4 cups Shreddies-type cereal
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups chopped mixed dried fruit
  • ½ cup whole almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional)
Flickr via Creative Commons

In a large bowl, combine cereal and cinnamon; mix in remaining ingredients. This recipe was from Cookspiration.

Did you know?

  • Dieticians everywhere agree: kick-start your day with a balanced breakfast. Try this: http://ow.ly/BzcE9
  • Craving a snack for the commute? In a pinch, make better vending machine choices: nuts, fruit or yogurt.
  • Avoid pre-dinner munchies. Pack healthy snacks, like fruit, veggies or trail mix, for the commute home.
  • Scrambling for supper at the end of a busy school day? Recruit your family/roommates to help. Go team!
  • Rushing home? Manage mealtime mayhem with simple ideas from #cookspiration! http://cookspiration.com/

Nutrition Month

The month of March opens with the Nutrition Month 2015 public campaign across Canada, brought to us by Dietitians of Canada. This year’s slogan, Eating 9 to 5!, is dedicated to eating well at work. This theme is also readily applicable to us as university students as well. As we work hard on our essays, projects and midterm preparations, it is important not to forget to eat healthy.

Flickr via Creative Commons
Flickr via Creative Commons

There are many resources out there to help you develop and keep a balanced diet every day, both at UBC and elsewhere. Canada’s Food Guide is a handy go-to resource, while Harvard University’s Health Eating Plate and Pyramid are visual depictions of a healthy diet. If you have any specific questions about nutrition and food, you can also call 8-1-1 where registered dietitians can help you (operating hours 9am-5pm M-F).

The Wellness Centre will be promoting Nutrition Month in various ways. Each week, healthy budget-friendly recipes would be made available both online as well as in print at the Wellness Centre according to different themes. You can also learn a new tip or two on healthy eating and nutrition.

We will also be putting on a nutrition booth later this month with more details coming soon!

In the mean time, come find us on the first floor of IKBLC (room 183) to talk to a Wellness Peer and learn more!



Week 1: Morning Rush

Overnight Oats

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 – ½ cup milk (depending on how thick you like it)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • ½ banana
  • ½ tbsp chia seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon


Stir everything together in a bowl. Place in fridge overnight. In the morning top with something crunchy and something with healthy fats – like nut butter or nuts, or some delicious fruits for a colourful meal – like blueberries or strawberries.

Did you know?

Eating Healthy on a Budget

While trying to balance one’s academic and social lives in university, not to mention squeezing in some shut-eye in there as well, healthy eating seems not to be at the top of the priorities list. I mean, it’s so tempting to simply grab that Blue Chips cookie in between breaks. Healthy eating just takes too much…effort. Right? It’s actually not that hard. Here are a few tips on how to eat healthy, while keeping to a student budget as well.

  • Substitute unhealthy snacks with veggies and fruits. Instead of grabbing that cookie, chocolate muffin or bag of chips, pack a box of carrot sticks, a banana or an apple. Fruits and veggies offer nutrients that are easy and quick to absorb, leaving you more energetic for the next class or study session. For a more filling snack, pack a salad where you get to be creative and throw in all sorts of nuts and dried fruits too
From PublicDomainPictures via pixabay
From: PublicDomainPictures via pixabay
  • Subs, sandwiches, and wraps. Subs, sandwiches, and wraps are the healthiest (and easiest) lunches to pack. Fill yours with lots of vegetables (spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.) and any sort of meat you like (chicken breast and turkey slices are always good choices, as well as slices of beef and even smoked salmon). To be extra healthy, go for multigrain or sourdough. You can even throw in some not so typical ingredients (my favourite is cranberries and fried eggs in a wrap).
  • Drink lots of water. While coffee, tea or energy drinks seem like logical choices during exam season, and a bottle of pop or juice looks more preferable during other times, water can never be substituted by any other drink. Always bring with you a large water bottle that can be filled up anywhere around campus. For a tint of flavour (and a splash of color), add slices of lemon or lime, a handful of mint, slices of cucumber or even mashed raspberries or strawberries.
  • Make your own pastries. Baking can be a great way to relax after a long day at school or during exam season. Further more, by making your own cookies, muffins or bread, you get to decide what ingredients to and not to put in there. Switch out whole wheat with multi grain flour, cut the amount of sugar and butter needed, and replace chocolate chips with nuts or dried fruits. On top of that, buying pastries from campus cafes can add up, while making your own saves a lot.

Get Thirsty, Get Quenched

Now that it’s getting closer to summer, the weather is getting warmer and without even knowing it, you start to replace your hot teas or latte’s for the go-to summer Starbucks iced frappuccino’s, or those famous slushies from your local 7/11.

While surfing the web, I found a cold citrus mint tea drink recipe that seemed simple enough to try out, and I am so glad I did. I made a couple of my own changes to this recipe and I thought I would share! Replace that unhealthy go-to drink for this healthier option that will quench your thirst, is simple and easy to make at home, and tastes great!

Continue reading “Get Thirsty, Get Quenched”

No Time to Make Breakfast or Pack a Lunch?

Nowadays, I find that one of the biggest challenges I face due to me busy schedule is finding the time to make myself a quick and healthy breakfast in the morning and packing a lunch-to-go.  I am currently working full time on my co-op term; this means that I typically leave my house on campus around 7:30AM to transit downtown, and I get home late in the evening.  And once I do finally get home, a lot of my time goes towards housework such as catching up on my laundry or washing the dishes.  I’m sure those of you that live on your own with a full course-load or full-time work can relate to this!  Although it took me awhile to adapt to my busy schedule, I found an effective routine to stay on top of my healthy eating.

A typical lunch I would pack the night before — Chicken wraps, granola bar, banana, yogurt, cheese string, and a peeled orange.

Here are some quick and healthy breakfast ideas:

  • Oatmeal (add brown sugar, nuts, fresh fruit or milk for added flavor)
  •  Whole-grain cereals (Cheerios, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Fiber One, Raisin Bran)
  • Bagel with light cream cheese
  • Greek yogurt with honey, fresh fruit, and granola
  • Fruit and Cheese (Sliced apples with cheddar cheese is my favourite)
  • Fruit or Vegetable smoothie (Great smoothie ideas here)
  • Toast with eggs and ham, or make a simple breakfast wrap


Continue reading “No Time to Make Breakfast or Pack a Lunch?”

Arts Wellness Fair

See how living well can help you have an even better university experience.

Drop by for the Wellness Centre’s Caffeine Challenge or UBC Recreation’s Bike Blender to create your own smoothie. Take this opportunity to learn more about a range of wellness concepts and have your questions answered. Free refreshments and raffle gifts await.


Wednesday, January 15, 11am–2pm
Buchanan D, 1866 Main Mall | Room D140 (Meekison Arts Student Space) Continue reading “Arts Wellness Fair”

That’s a Wrap!

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As students and busy professionals it is often hard to stay healthy. However, if you are prepared and know how to make a few easy, nutritional dishes it can help you to stay on track and avoid eating too many unhealthy things.

One of my favourite meals to make when I am in a rush is a wrap or sandwich.

Check out this video on how to make healthy wraps brought to you by the UBC Wellness Centre’s Nutrition Team (2012).

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Continue reading “That’s a Wrap!”

Creative Ways to use Summer Fruit!

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One of my favorite things about summer is all the fruit that becomes abundant! There is so many different things that you can do with it and there are so many options for fruits to try.

Check out this video on how to make healthy blueberry muffins brought to you by the UBC Wellness Centre’s Nutrition Team (2012).

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Continue reading “Creative Ways to use Summer Fruit!”

Cook a lot and save for later!

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I find that if I cook a lot at once it saves me time and it is an easy way to deal with my cravings. When I am craving something sweet I often end up eating something unhealthy, unless I have left overs from a big cooking session. For example, I will make healthy muffins and freeze the extras for later (perfect way to satisfy my sweet tooth cravings). All I have to do is pop one in the microwave and they are good to go.

Another one of my favorite things to do it make a lot of granola at once and continue to use it for the rest of the month. This is really great because it makes a healthy breakfast (have it with yogurt and/or fresh fruit) or it can be a healthy snack option. I think granola is really fun to make and continues to be a great healthy option for a long time. You can also easily change up the granola recipe to play with the flavors. It is really easy to add different dried fruits, nuts etc.

Check out this video on how to make great granola brought to you by the UBC Wellness Centre’s Nutrition Team (2012).

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Continue reading “Cook a lot and save for later!”

Fun, Easy, and Healthy Recipes Series- Post 1

Do find that you don’t have time to eat healthy?

I felt the same way for a long time when I was a student and living on my own. This was when I really started to appreciate how nice it was living at home with my mom preparing most of my meals.

However, I decided that not having enough time wasn’t an excuse to not eat healthy.

Flickr Image: Fruit Salad by Jennifer from SweetOnVeg

Tips that I have used to stay healthy and manage my time: 

  • Menu planning for the week: Decide what you want to make each day (for at least one meal) so that you can be prepared and make sure you have all the items on hand. Creating a menu also helps you commit to making certain items each day of the week and staying healthy and not giving into pesky cravings.
  • Strategic grocery shopping: Make sure you create a list of things that you need before going to the store so that you get everything that you need and you don’t end up picking up extra items that aren’t healthy.  This will prevent you from having to make multiple trips to the store each week, which will save time.
  • Walk the perimeter of the grocery store: When shopping for food start by walking the perimeter of the store before entering the isles. All the fresh and less processed food can be found here i.e. produce, milk, fresh baked goods/breads etc. This will hopefully prevent you from buying unnecessary processed snack items, such as chips and candy.
  • Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry: Shopping when you are hungry will make you impulse buy. You will see something unhealthy and want to get it. So try to go shopping after you have eaten to make sure that you don’t end up buying items that you don’t need and that aren’t good for you.
  • Try and set up weekly dinners with friends: Get a couple of friends together and make a pact to make dinner for each other or together once a week, you can take turns hosting. This is a fun way to try new recipes and to hang out with friends and have a healthy home cooked meal.


If you need more tips or advice on how to stay healthy call 8-1-1 on weekdays (9am – 5pm) from anywhere in British Columbia to speak with a dietitian about nutrition and healthy eating.

Health Canada Website 

Stayed tuned for more nutrition related posts that feature videos on how to make cheap, easy, and healthy meals!


Fat, sugar and salt leads us to eat more fat, sugar and salt

ZooFari, Wikimedia


Evan-Amos, Wikimedia








Food scientists and marketers have cracked the code on how to make food irresistible. They have learnt how to manipulate any food by layering on as much of the 3 key ingredients as possible. As you may already have guessed, the 3 star players in creating irresistible food are fat, sugar and salt [1].

After reading this post you may start to notice the clever techniques that restaurants use to load on these three addictive food factors. Next time you are dining out, go through a couple menu items and you will undoubtedly find the culprits (though cleverly hidden) behind overeating. Certain salads, for example, are prime models of meals that have been designed by food developers to deliver appealing visual cues and stimulate our appetite. A standard restaurant salad contains lettuce covered in a creamy, sweet dressing, paired with some protein which itself is usually fried or battered and then topped with honey roasted nuts. If you break it down, that’s basically sugar and fat paired with more fat and salt and then topped with sugar. You don’t realize this when you’re eating it because in your mind a salad means vegetables, which means healthy and low-calorie.

It’s no wonder that the weight of the average Canadian and American is on the rise [1].

Eating fat, sugar and salt leads us to crave more fat, sugar and salt [1]. These ingredients activate our reward centers, and upon constant stimulation, we develop an insatiable appetite. Rewarding foods are reinforcing. Hours in the lab are spent figuring out the perfect amounts of fat sugar and salt to keep us hooked [2].

Eating has become more than just sustenance, people eat for experience too. Food can be linked with so many emotions depending on the setting it is served in and how you were feeling when you ate it. This is exactly what restaurants play on when designing their space, creating slogans and engineering the menu. They take advantage of your emotions to deliver an unforgettable meal.

Food addictions, compulsive or emotional eating and overeating are not unique behaviours [2]. They apply to people of all sizes and backgrounds. I can admit that I have a slight food addiction. I love food so much that I think about it constantly. Before I sleep, I think about what I will eat for breakfast when I wake up. When I’m eating one meal, I’m constantly thinking about what I want to eat later.

Luckily there are ways to curb cravings and keep food consumption in check:

1. Be aware of hunger levels. Learn to differentiate between actual hunger and cravings.

2. Avoid processed foods that you cannot stop eating. Eating just one often leads to another and another, and before you realize it you will have eaten the entire package.

3. Stay hydrated. Taking fluids (ex. water, tea, juice) with meals increases satiety. Also, when your body is thirsty it doesn’t care whether it gets water from water or a hamburger, which may lead some people to think that they’re hungry.


1. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A. Kessler

2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/03/05/f-vp-crowe-food-addiction.html

Healthy Minds Breakfast!

Healthy Minds is hosting a breakfast as a part of Stress Less for Exam Success.

Nutrition is very important for academic success so come join us  for food and information about the important link between health and academic success.

Date: Wednesday April 3rd, 2013

Time: 9-11am (or until food runs out)

Location: Centre for Student Involvement in Brock Hall

Oatmeal Blueberry Banana Bread: The friend-maker

The finished product: Oatmeal Blueberry Banana Bread

Post by the Wellness Centre Nutrition and Physical Health team

If you’re looking for a healthy baked treat that you can eat as a study snack or even grab on the way out for breakfast, look no further! This week we’re featuring low-fat Oatmeal Blueberry Banana Bread!

This recipe is almost fat-free, uses minimal added sugar, and has no butter! How often is something so delicious butter-free? If you’ve never tried the sweet tangy combination of bananas and blueberries, prepare to fall in love with this simple recipe. It’s also a great recipe to share (your friends will adore you).

This recipe has a variety of health benefits:

  • Oats have tons of fibre to help keep you full longer.
  • Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all fresh fruit, which can boost your immune system and help prevent infection.
  • Bananas are high in potassium, which helps the body’s circulatory system deliver oxygen to the brain.

In short, this recipe can help you feel refreshed, full, and focused between meals or when you’re starting a long day of classes. Continue reading “Oatmeal Blueberry Banana Bread: The friend-maker”