March can be Healthy and Nutritious!

We are in March and loving it.  March Break with the kids is creeping up and the fun of St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner. It is a wonderful time of year to check in and see how your year is going, seems early? Not really if you made any of those resolutions for many they have not continued and so the thought of spring and summer around the corner might be closer than you think.

When you plan on eating healthy it can be a bumpy road. Getting rid of all those tempting foods in your fridge and cupboards that may lead you astray from your goal of enjoying healthy foods. March is also nutrition month so for many, it’s the perfect time to get healthy and get you ready for spring. 

It’s a story you hear often, about people wanting to enjoy healthy foods. When we think of healthy foods, vegetables, fruits and whole grains come to mind as well as lean proteins. Do we know what all those are? They are terms that get thrown around all the time but how can we enjoy more of them in a healthy way?
Fruits and vegetables seems like an obvious one, picking up an apple and eating it or noshing on some carrots works too. During your work day it might be a bit tricky to do that so packing some extra to take with you is a good start. I usually throw some carrots and celery in a small container and take it in the car with me, so I have a crunchy healthy snack on the go. 

You can also add more vegetables to your meals so you can increase your overall health by enjoying the vitamins and minerals that are present in the vegetables as well as fibre they bring. So not only enjoying a salad will work, try bulking up your main dishes with more veggies, the colour and flavour of the dish will come out on top. 

Whole grains can be used to make healthy breads and cereals but don’t forget to use the grain itself. Look at cooking with barley, quinoa or wheat berries for a different twist on salads and soups and enjoy their benefits. Combined with beans you are well on your way to enjoying healthier and filling meals.

Lean proteins like beef, turkey and fish for example can offer up energy to help sustain our hunger so having your day start with some protein can help you during those busy morning hours. You can also look to dairy products like Greek yogurt, milk and cheese to bump up your protein intake. 

So how do we enjoy all of these while eating healthfully? Just planning a little, I know you may have heard me say it before but planning and having these foods in your refrigerator is the way to stay on track and enjoy healthy eating. Having recipes you like to cook and of course eat will make it easier. If you feel like experimenting this is also a good time to try out some new tastes and recipes to introduce yourself to some ingredients and healthy foods you haven’t tried yet. Sometimes the combination may seem different but it could be a winning combination in flavour and for your health. 

Here are a couple of recipes that a bit different but have health benefits that could fit your lifestyle. Enjoy the start of March and your nutritious journey for the month as well. And next month we can look forward to Easter which brings a slightly different twist to health, perhaps the benefits of chocolate? 

Greek Yogurt and Poached Fig Parfait

This refreshing flavour brightens up yogurt enough to enjoy not only for breakfast but as an after dinner dessert as well. Look for white or black dried figs in the produce aisle of the grocery store for an assortment. Try them chopped in your favourite baked goods like muffins and loaves for added texture and sweetness.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 1 1/3 cups (325 mL) of yogurt or 4-1/3 cup (75 mL) servings

1 pkg (8 oz/227 g) dried figs (about 8 figs)
3/4 cup (175 mL) orange juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/3 cups (325 mL) plain non fat Greek yogurt
2 tbsp (30 mL) pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated orange rind
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (125 mL) low fat granola cereal (optional)

In a small saucepan, bring figs, orange juice and cinnamon stick to boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer; cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until figs are very soft. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, maple syrup, orange rind and cinnamon. 

Divide yogurt into 4 bowls. Sprinkle with granola, if using and top with figs and any remaining juices from figs.

Tip: Trim the tough stem end off the figs before cooking. It is a bit touch to chew and doesn’t really soften. It is edible so not to worry if you forget.

For another presentation, you can half or quarter the figs before cooking and reduce the cooking time to about 10 minutes. 

Salmon Pesto Orzo

This delicious meal is perfect to use up leftover roast salmon or any of your favourite fish. Using a few pantry staples you can create a delicious one pot meal that your whole family will enjoy that is healthy and tasty.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 8 cups (2 L) 

4 skinless salmon fillets (about 500 g total)
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp (2 mL) fresh ground pepper
1 tsp (5 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh parsley
1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat orzo pasta
2 1/4 cups (550 mL) sodium reduced chicken or vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) frozen peas, thawed
2 tbsp (30 mL) homemade or store bought basil pesto

In a large bowl, coat salmon with mustard and pepper. Place fillets on small parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in 425 F (220 C) oven for about 10 minutes or until fish flakes when tested; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion, garlic and parsley for 3 minutes or until softened. Stir in orzo and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 12 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and orzo is tender. 

Uncover and stir in pepper, peas and pesto. Break salmon into large chunks and stir in to warm through. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Tip: If using leftover cooked fish or chicken, omit roasting salmon step and simply stir in leftovers with pepper, peas and pesto.


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