Healthy Living in the North

Making Christmas food hampers healthier: You can make a difference!

Cans of non-perishable food items

Are you donating food to an organization in your community this season? Choosing healthier food options is very important for households living with food insecurity as they have a greater risk of poorer health and increased chronic conditions.

December is a month we look forward to for all the wonderful holiday celebrations, sharing with our families and friends, and for giving. Sadly, not all families are financially stable enough to have the basic necessities they need, such as food. In communities across northern B.C., hard-working organizations are gearing up for food drives. This year, I want to challenge you to make an even bigger difference in the lives of families across our region by donating healthier foods to these initiatives.

If you, your family or an organization you belong to are donating to food banks this year, I encourage you to focus your donations on healthier foods for families. Food banks really need healthier food donations so they can make healthier Christmas food hampers for the groups they serve.

What do I suggest? Use Canada’s Food Guide! Here’s the shopping list I came up with:

  • Non-perishable and nutritious food suggestions for meat and alternatives (which provide essential protein, vitamins, and minerals) include: canned salmon, tuna, sardines, chicken, beef chillies, ham, corned beef, a variety of beans (brown beans in tomato sauce, kidney, garbanzo, mixed beans), and peanut butter.
  • Non-perishable and nutritious food suggestions for vegetables and fruit (which provide essential vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates as well as fiber) include: canned tomatoes, mixed veggies, peas, green or yellow beans, corn, beets, and fruit such as peaches, pears, mixed fruits (with no added syrup or pear juice) and apple sauce.

Highly processed foods are often high in fat, salt, and sugar so choose the more nutritious items if you can.

Why are healthier food donations so important?

Choosing healthier food options is very important for households living with food insecurity as they have a greater risk of poorer health and increased chronic conditions. This concept – food insecurity – is an important one to think about this holiday season.

For many of us, financial stability is something we enjoy and may even take for granted. This is not the case for many families and they can become food insecure. Food insecurity exists:

Whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain.” (Hamelin, A., et. al., 2002)

This is the case for 1 in 8 households in Canada. This rate is even higher in homes that receive their income from minimum wages, part-time jobs, workers compensation, employment insurance or social assistance; are First Nation, Métis or Inuit; have children (especially with a lone mother); are homeless; are new immigrants; or have chronic health problems. Food insecurity is caused by financial constraints when income is too low or unsteady and there is not enough money left over to pay for enough healthy food after paying for necessities such as housing, utilities, transportation, and health expenses.

Look up your local food bank to find out where and when to drop off your healthy food donations for this season of giving. The Prince George Citizen recently profiled four local Christmas Food Hamper programs in Prince George.

Loraina Stephen

About Loraina Stephen

Loraina is a population health dietitian working in a regional lead role for external food policy, which supports initiatives to develop healthy eating, community food security and food policy for the north. Loraina was born and raised in the north, and has a busy lifestyle. Having grown up enjoying food grown from family gardens, hunting, and gathering, and enjoying northern outdoor activities, she draws on those experiences to keep traditions strong for her family, in her work and at play. (Loraina no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Seniors Falls: A Proactive Approach

Risk of "near falls."

Half of seniors have had “near falls.”

I was pleased to recently get the opportunity to sit and have tea with Lola Dawn Fennell, Manager of the Prince George Council of Seniors (PGCOS) at the Seniors Resource Centre, to chat about a very important topic: seniors’ falls prevention. The Council was formed in 1990 by a group of local seniors who believed in the social benefits of group advocacy. PGCOS is committed to encouraging seniors to becoming more proactive about their own health and wellness and advocates for seniors to consider lifestyle changes before illness or accidents occur.

During our chat, I learned a lot more about the importance of prevention. Lola told me: “From a personal note, I am becoming more and more aware of my feet as I get older – where they are, what they are doing. I can’t take my footing for granted anymore. In the last six years I’ve had a couple of falls with one resulting in a broken arm. I am becoming more aware that falls are a serious issue. Hip fractures are devastating to seniors. Both my parents fell and broke hips when they were in their 80s and they never regained their mobility. I don’t want to fall and break a hip.”

She also emphasized that seniors and their families need to be aware of hazards before a fall happens. Being proactive and changing your actions is key! In the Falls Prevention Workshops PGCOS runs, Lola always asks the group about the number of “near falls” they have had in the last year and the response is always the same: about 50% of the group has had one or more. Also, the older the senior, the more they have had one.

Lola told me, “When you are young, you just walk. The older you get, the more aware you become of your feet. Feet are on my mind lately.”

Lola wants seniors to take the time to consider some facts around falls:

1)      Falls are the leading cause of injuries to seniors – everyone needs to be aware of the seriousness of this.

2)      The majority of falls happen to seniors at home, during normal daily activities. 

3)      50% of residential care admissions are related to falls.

4)      Beware of the hazards:

  • Indoors: rugs, slippery surfaces, pets underfoot.
  • Outdoors: uneven sidewalks, un-shoveled steps and walkways.
  • Our behaviors: being in a hurry and not paying attention, mixing medications with alcohol, not eating well, dehydration.

You can find excellent resources to keep seniors free from slips, trips and broken hips on Northern Health’s Injury Prevention webpage.  

For more information on free Wellness Promotion Workshops, including falls prevention, contact PGCOS at 250-564-5888.

Join us for great prizes and great fun by submitting photos portraying healthy, active living in Northern BC free from falls!  Visit blog.northernhealth.ca for all the challenge details!

Loraina Stephen

About Loraina Stephen

Loraina is a population health dietitian working in a regional lead role for external food policy, which supports initiatives to develop healthy eating, community food security and food policy for the north. Loraina was born and raised in the north, and has a busy lifestyle. Having grown up enjoying food grown from family gardens, hunting, and gathering, and enjoying northern outdoor activities, she draws on those experiences to keep traditions strong for her family, in her work and at play. (Loraina no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Healthy eating advice at your fingertips

HealthlLinkBC

Visit HealthLink BC online at www.healthlinkbc.ca

We all eat…so we are all nutrition experts, right? I’m not so sure… I do a lot of cooking as we are a family of six, but when it comes to getting the healthy and nutritious choices into the fridge, cupboards and onto the table more often it’s not as easy as it might sound. It’s much the same when supporting healthy eating and building healthy food environments in our workplaces. It doesn’t JUST happen. It takes more effort and thought that one might think. So where can we start?

In BC we have excellent resources from HealthLink BC. To learn more about them I called and chatted with Lori Smart, a Registered Dietitian and Manager of Resource Coordination at HealthLink BC. Did you know that in BC HealthLink BC provides access to non-emergency health information and advice 24/7 and 365 days a year? Information and advice is available free to all of us by telephone, website, mobile app and/or a collection of downloadable print resources.

Information junkie heaven! It’s a convenient place to find BC’s most trusted and recognized health information services, including:

  • BC Health Guide
  • HealthLink BC Files
  • Nursing Services
  • Pharmacist Services
  • Dietitian Services (formerly Dial-a-Dietitian)

Not only are all of these resources brought together in one place, the service is also supported with an online and phone navigation system to help you find the health resources and facilities you need – close to home.

I asked Lori, “What will we find at HealthLink BC?” She said you’ll find medically-approved information on thousands of heath topics, symptoms, medication, and tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if you live on an island or in a remote community because anyone at any time can call 8-1-1 from anywhere in BC and chat with a nurse or speak to a registered dietitian about nutrition and healthy eating.

To check it out and look for resources I started my search — Healthy Eating at Work — and of the 407 hits that came up, 92 were specific to healthy eating, 37 were HealthLink Files. I love HealthLink Files! They are snapshots jam-packed full of great information on key topics of health information. The volume of resources I got from this quick search was really helpful. What a great place to start exploring for resources and for my question around information about healthy eating and links between fiber and vegetable consumption.

So my question was about fiber and vegetables …what’s your question? Go ask it at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 or visiting www.healthlinkbc.ca.

Loraina Stephen

About Loraina Stephen

Loraina is a population health dietitian working in a regional lead role for external food policy, which supports initiatives to develop healthy eating, community food security and food policy for the north. Loraina was born and raised in the north, and has a busy lifestyle. Having grown up enjoying food grown from family gardens, hunting, and gathering, and enjoying northern outdoor activities, she draws on those experiences to keep traditions strong for her family, in her work and at play. (Loraina no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Finding your own balance of health

Loraina with her horses

Loraina, shown here with her horses, offers eight points to help find healthy balance in your daily life.

To me, being healthy is a process and a goal to work towards and maintain. It’s about finding a balance that works for me and my family. As a mom of four kids, a wife, a Northern Health employee and a business owner, life is hectic. Today, it seems it’s harder to balance.  I’m always wondering, “How do we fit everything we need to do in a day, a week or a month anyway?”

I have listed eight points below that run through my head in my journey towards a better health balance. Being healthy, making healthy food choices and doing activities I like make it easier for me to make the healthy choice the easy choice!

  • Acknowledge – Yes, there is such a thing as work-life balance and procrastination.
  • Assess – I take time to sort out where I’m at with healthy eating and active living goals, thinking broader to physical, social, mental, and spiritual health. How does that compare with other family members?
  • Recognize – Each family member is at very different levels of success with healthy eating versus active living activities, and each of us has our own priorities. What’s key is to celebrate successes at all levels! Small changes can really help begin to balance the scale towards health.
  • Identify strengths – This helps me to focus on what I may need to work on more. If I’m good at one area, it doesn’t mean I’ll be as good in another area. I am amazing at packing healthy lunches for work and my colleagues will testify to that. However, I’m not doing as well at getting to my morning swim or the lunch-hour walk I really want to do. My strength is healthy eating but I need to focus on my physical activity levels and getting more movement every day.
  • Identify barriers – Figuring out what is supportive or what is not is pretty important.  Learning about why you’re not easily able to make the changes you want may help identify some solutions.
  • Try, learn and try again – Understand what motivates you (internally and externally) and don’t give up. Find ways to chuckle when you’re not doing as well as you want but also recognize that the goal is balance, not perfection.
  • Keep track – Moving plans into action and tracking them really helps me with healthy living goals – this is important for long-term behavior change. So I track my actions, challenges and try to celebrate successes. I often use my calendar for this and I find it helps me to check in on how I’m doing. I invite you to do the same and to share your ideas to connect, support and inspire others to understand that their health matters!
  • Take a peek into my world – These new guidelines around healthy living (the NH position papers) are something northerners can be really proud of. I must say, as an NH population health dietitian I have a bit of a bias towards the third one: eating, activity and weight.

How do you find a healthy balance?

[Editor’s note: Don’t forget to enter the Week 3 Challenge for your chance to win a selection of cookbooks!]

Loraina Stephen

About Loraina Stephen

Loraina is a population health dietitian working in a regional lead role for external food policy, which supports initiatives to develop healthy eating, community food security and food policy for the north. Loraina was born and raised in the north, and has a busy lifestyle. Having grown up enjoying food grown from family gardens, hunting, and gathering, and enjoying northern outdoor activities, she draws on those experiences to keep traditions strong for her family, in her work and at play. (Loraina no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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