FOOD WISE – By Terry Daley: A New Year starring your favourite recipes

Published on January 4, 2017

Hearty Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

TRURO, N.S. – For many, a new year is the kick-start needed to change bad habits and lead a healthier lifestyle. But when it comes to eating, healthy food choices are not always easy to identify.

If eating healthier is one of your goals for 2017, the first step is to plan ahead. By preparing your own meals with wholesome ingredients, you will know exactly what is going into the dish. Instead of giving up your favourite recipes, use your creative power to trade-up some ingredients by opting for healthier substitutions.

One simple nutrition navigation tool that can help you make healthier choices in the grocery store is a program called Guiding Stars, an independent food rating system available at your local Atlantic Superstore.  Individual foods are awarded points for fibre, whole grains, omega-3 fats, vitamins and minerals; and lose points for saturated and trans fats, added sugar and added sodium. Based on this credit and debit system, virtually all food products in the store (including produce, dairy, meats and seafood as well as packaged grocery products) are assigned between zero and three stars based on their total points – three being the best rating. Products with one or two stars are also good choices. Look for the star rating for each product on the product’s shelf tag, alongside its price.

When it comes to sodium, a good rule of thumb is to aim for products that have less than 200mg sodium per serving and no more than 400mg per serving. Many canned products are high in sodium, so if you are looking for a low sodium alternative, it is beneficial to look for claims such as “no added salt.” For example, if you are using canned diced tomatoes in a recipe, choose a three-star no added salt product over a regular can with zero stars. This kind of simple switch as you shop for your groceries can make a big difference in the overall level of nutrition in your cart!

Baked goods such as cookies, cakes and muffins are often high in fat and sugar (even homemade ones). When baking at home, you can replace up to half the fat in a recipe with pureed fruits and veggies that will add stars to your recipe, such as unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana or pumpkin. If a recipe calls for cream, try substituting with one- or two-per-cent milk, as permitted. When it comes to sugars (white, brown and icing sugar), you can often simply reduce the amount called for. To add some extra flavour, try using natural extracts including vanilla, almond or mint, or spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. Note that extracts and spices are not rated in the Guiding Stars program, but are still healthy options to add flavour and variety to your dishes.

It is also easy to add ingredients to increase the nutrient density of a dish. For example, you can add ground flax seed and/or hemp hearts, which are both three-star products, to increase the fibre and omega-3 content of a muffin recipe or a topping for a fruit crisp. Another way to increase the fibre in your recipe is to experiment with substituting half to all of the white flour (one star) with whole wheat flour (two or three stars, depending on the brand you choose).

To help you get started with trading-up some of the ingredients in your favourite recipes, try the following healthier winter classic chili recipe. This vegetarian chili is sure to satisfy thanks to the three-star quinoa and bean medley. These ingredients help to decrease the fat content and increase the amount of fibre in the dish. One more tip: choose diced tomatoes that have no salt added to increase the overall star rating of the recipe.

Hearty Vegetarian Quinoa Chili


4 tsp (20 mL) olive oil

2 cups (500 mL) roughly chopped cremini mushrooms (6 oz/ 180g)

2 onions, diced

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

2 tbsp (25 mL) chili powder

1 can (796) PC Blue Menu Diced Tomatoes

1 can (540 mL) PC Blue Menu 6 Bean Medley, drained and rinsed

½ cup (125 mL) PC Organics Quinoa



1.     In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook mushrooms and onions for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring often, or until golden. Stir in jalapeno and chili powder; cook 1 minute longer, stirring frequently. Stir in diced tomatoes and juices, beans, quinoa and 1 cup (250 mL) water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender.

2.     Serve garnished with PC Blue Menu Yogurt Spread and chopped fresh coriander, if desired.

Makes 8 servings

Per serving: 200 calories, fat 4 g, sodium 40 mg, carbohydrate 32 g, fibre 6 g, protein 8 g

Low in saturated fat, low in sodium and high in fibre.


Recipe source:


Upcoming Event

Do you have healthy living New Year’s resolutions? Do you have nutrition or healthy lifestyle related questions? Drop in to the Truro Superstore to get all your questions answered, Thursday, Jan. 5, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Contact Terry for information on this event.

Terry Daley is a Registered Dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in Truro, Nova Scotia. Have a nutrition question? Want to book a complimentary appointment or educational store tour for yourself or your group? Contact me by phone at 902-921-0700 or by email at