Healthy Living in the North

Back to school: The connection protection

School bus

Back-to-school time reminds us of our connection to the built environment, school and playground.

This is the second year now where my daughter gears up for school and my son gears up to wait. My 4-year-old son has one more year at home before beginning his school journey in kindergarten in September 2017.

When I watch my 4-year-old wave to his sister as she walks to school, I am reminded of the many connections that exist at back-to-school time and how each of these connections will protect our family. Northern Health’s newly released Child Health Report would go so far as to say connection is one of the building blocks of health.

The first week of school is the perfect time to talk to kids about making new friends, showing kindness to others, and extending tolerance and acceptance. The pencils, patterns, and routines of a new school year help connect and ground our children to each other and the physical world around them in a way that the global community (internet and social media) cannot.

September and back-to-school season is a time to reconnect and connection can be a positive force in a child’s life for the long term. As parents, we can support the wonder, excitement and connection to education:

Back-to-school season also reminds us of our connection to the built environment, school, and playground. Motor vehicle crashes continue to lead the injury-related hospitalizations for children in the North. A community approach to safety develops our “connection protection”:

  • Make eye contact. Learn about pedestrian safety. Talk to kids while crossing the street about making eye contact or a connection with drivers. Look, listen, and be seen.
  • Use the crosswalk. Take the time to hold hands, connect, and walk with children while crossing; kids under age 10 are not ready to judge traffic safely and still rely on parents and drivers to protect them.
  • Slow down. Finally, view school zones as one last chance for an important connection. My 4-year-old thinks a 30 km/hr school zone is the slow zone by which he can wave goodbye to his sister for the day. For now, I will let him think that’s exactly what it is!
Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Foodie Friday: Packing school lunches: Part 2

Apple, plums, cheese slices, muffin, leftover dinner, almonds, vegetables, and yogurt in containers.

Curious as to what a dietitian packs for her own lunch? Lise loves variety in her lunch but may not get through all of this during her workday. She’ll listen to her stomach and see what she needs!

Are you worried that your kid doesn’t eat enough at school? Does most of their lunch come back home at the end of the day? Is your kid so hungry after school that they are ready to have a meltdown? What to do??

In a recent blog post, we were inspired with some school lunch ideas. The Division of Responsibility in Feeding can help us here, too, by outlining parents’ jobs with feeding and kids’ jobs with eating.

Parents are responsible for deciding what foods are offered at meal and snack times, so it is up to you to decide what to include in the daily lunch bag.

As they get older, you can involve your kids in packing their own lunches by giving them some choices, such as: “For your fruit today, do you want an apple or a banana?” or “For your milk product, do you want yogurt or cheese slices?”

Your teen will eventually be able to take over the job of packing lunch, although you can still check in: “Did you pack food from 3 or 4 food groups?” and “Did you pack your water bottle?”

Once the lunch is packed and off to school, your job is done!

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding includes jobs for kids, too. It is up to your kid to decide in what order they will eat their food items or how much of each particular item they will eat. Your kid’s appetite can change from day to day; by listening to their body’s “hungry” and “full” messages, they know how much to eat.

As an aside, many schools have changed their lunch hour so that play time occurs before eating time. This is called “Play First Lunch” and school staff find that kids are more focused on eating their lunch, are better behaved and are more prepared to learn.

If there is no afternoon snack at school, your kid will benefit from a sit-down snack after school. Make this available every day, regardless of how much they have eaten for their lunch. As with packing lunch, you are responsible for deciding what to offer for this snack. As your kids get older, they can start to manage this snack with your guidance, such as “Choose foods from 2 food groups” and “Sit at the table for your snack.”

Curious as to what a dietitian packs for her own lunch? The photo above is one example: leftover spaghetti squash with meat and veggie sauce, an apple, 2 small plums, snap peas & carrots, blueberry yogurt, cheddar cheese slices, a homemade fruit muffin and almonds. I love a lot of variety in my lunch, although I may not get through all of this during my workday – I’ll listen to my tummy and see what I need!

The recipe below is my “master fruit muffin recipe,” but I often modify the ingredients. I might swap the ratio of banana to apples, or use a plum or pear sauce instead of applesauce. In terms of flour, sometimes I use only whole wheat flour or only white flour, while at other times I throw in some oats or bran. Sometimes I add cinnamon, ginger or other spices. It all depends on what I have available in my kitchen at the time and what I am in the mood for.

Lise’s Master Fruit Muffin Recipe

Makes 12 muffins

Dry ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Wet ingredients

  • 1½ cup overripe banana
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare muffin tins.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients together in another bowl.
  4. Mix wet and dry ingredients together until just moist, quickly spoon into muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes.

These fruit muffins are quite moist, and so are best eaten within a day or two. Alternatively, double the batch and freeze the muffins for future lunches and snacks.

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

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Back to school safety!

Young girl with backpack.

Northern Health staff member Bonnie’s daughter is very excited for her first day of school – are you and your kids ready to go back to school safely?

It’s that time of year when the hustle and bustle starts as we get our children off to school and back into routines! The moment the school doors open, the traffic increases, more pedestrians and cyclists hit the roads, children are excited, parents are adjusting to the new routine, and life just seems to quicken. With this increase in pace it is important to slow down and stay safe!

Here are some things to consider:

Traffic Safety

Does your child …

  • Cross at crosswalks or corners?
  • Look before crossing the street?
  • Know and follow traffic signals and rules?
  • Walk to and from school with a responsible person (until they are at least 8 years old)?
  • Make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of a stopped car?
  • Know to stop and check for cars before crossing driveways, alleys and areas without curbs?
Young girl on school bus.

Does your child arrive at the bus stop early and stand back from the road while waiting? Shellie offers some great questions to ask yourself and your children as they get ready to go back to school!

Bus Safety

Does your child …

  • Arrive at the bus stop early and stand back from the road while waiting?
  • Make eye contact with the bus driver, take three giant steps ahead of the bus, and check for cars in all directions before crossing in front of the bus?
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing if they are walking to and from the bus in the dark?
  • Know what to do if they miss the bus (e.g., go back home, report to a teacher, etc. – but never accept a ride from a stranger)?

Car Safety

Does your child always …

  • Sit in a booster seat appropriate for their height and age?
  • Sit in the back seat until they are 12 years old?
  • Wear their seat belt low across their hips, not their stomach?
  • Wear a shoulder belt (when available) in the middle of their chest, not touching their neck?

Personal Safety

Does your child know …

  • Their full name, address and phone number in case of emergency?
  • The name and number of an emergency contact?
  • The numbers for fire, police and ambulance, or 911?
  • Not to accept rides or gifts from strangers?
  • To tell an adult if they or someone else was approached by a stranger?
  • That it is safer to play or walk with other children than to play or walk alone?
Child wearing backpack at school.

With all of the back-to-school excitement for students, teachers, and parents, it’s important to slow down and stay safe!

Bike Safety

Does your child …

  • Wear a helmet correctly every time they ride their bike?
  • Ride their bike in safe areas like biking trails or roads where the speed limit is lower and traffic is less busy?
  • Know how to check their brakes, make sure the seat is secured at the right height, and that the tires have enough air?

Bullying

Does your child know …

  • About bullying, both physical (hitting, kicking, shoving, tripping) and verbal (mean words, threats, gossiping, name-calling, leaving someone out)?
  • Not to fight back but to be assertive, look the bully in the eye, and tell him or her “I don’t like that, stop doing that,” and to walk away?
  • To tell a parent or adult if they or someone else is being bullied?

You are probably not expecting your child to be injured today. In the words of preventable.ca, “Have a word with yourself.”

Injuries are predictable and preventable. When your child leaves for school, the number one priority is to make sure they get home safe!


A version of this article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

 

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

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Foodie Friday: Keeping lunches fun for back to school

Two kids and two adults packing lunch in the kitchen

If your kids help to pack their own lunch or help with the grocery shopping, they’re much more likely to eat it! Mix and match protein, fruit and vegetables, a carbohydrate, and some fat for a great, nutritious lunch.

Whether you love having your kids home for summer or are looking forward to the start of school, most parents find making lunches a bit of a chore. Without fresh ideas, lunches can get a bit repetitive and pretty soon your child is bringing home the majority of what you sent with them.

So what can you do?

First, involve your child in making their lunch! You are likely to get more buy-in and your kids are more likely to eat their lunch if they help with making it or with the grocery shopping for the ingredients.

Making sure you have everything on hand saves a lot of time, too. You may need ice packs to keep items cold, enough reusable containers for the foods you want to send, and a water bottle for sending water to drink. If you have extra food at supper, packing it up into lunch-sized portions right after supper saves time and makes lunch prep easy!

Lunch kit with tomatos, egg, water bottle, plum, granola bar, and yogurt.

Rebecca’s lunch includes cheese, yogurt, tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg, plum, granola bar, and more! What about yours? Don’t forget your water bottle, ice pack, and containers!

Need some inspiration for ideas? Here are some tried and true ideas to mix and match.

  • Sandwich, wrap, roti or pita stuffed with meat, cheese, egg, tuna, peanut butter*, jam, vegetables and/or hummus.
  • Chili, stew, perogies, soup, samosas, pasta salad
  • Dinner leftovers (look for a meat (chicken, fish, pork) or alternative; vegetable; and grain, potato, or pasta)
  • Waffles/pancakes or muffin
  • Cereal and milk
  • Quiche; scrambled or hard-boiled eggs
  • Cracker and cheese; tortilla
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Kebabs (meat, cheese, vegetable)

If you base a lunch around including a source of protein, a fruit and/or vegetable, a carbohydrate, and some fat, you will have made a great, nutritious lunch!

For school snack ideas visit Nutrition 411.

*Due to allergies, some schools do not allow peanut butter. Alternatives such as Wowbutter® may be allowed.

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Make school lunches nutritious, delicious, and fun!

Mother and daughter making scrambled eggs.

Make school lunches a family affair! Even young kids can take on tasks like washing fruit, filling water bottles, and packing lunch bags!

Summer is coming to an end, which means it’s back-to-school time for families across northern B.C. Getting back into school routines often means busy schedules! Fuelling those busy days can be challenging, but there are some easy things you can do to make back-to-school lunches nutritious, delicious, and fun this year.

Follow these five simple steps for stress-free mornings and happy tummies throughout the day.

  1. Be prepared. The Boy Scouts knew what they were talking about! Taking some time during your evenings or weekends to get prepared makes busy weekday mornings a breeze. Plan meals, chop vegetables, bake muffins, or batch-cook something tasty (like soup or chili) to eat throughout the week. Check out Holly’s post for some great lunch prep ideas!
  2. Get the tools. Make sure you have a variety of reusable containers, including cutlery and drink containers, so that no matter what you pack for lunch, you’ll have something to put it in. An insulated lunch bag and a food Thermos are both great investments, too.
  3. Make it a family affair. Get the kids involved in prep! Even young kids can wash fruit, fill water bottles, and pack their lunch bags. And make sure to involve your kids in planning their lunch, like asking whether they want carrot sticks or celery. Offering them a choice means they are more likely to eat those healthy foods. There’s lots of inspiration for preparing food as a family on the Northern Health Matters blog, like Emilia’s tips for age-appropriate ways to include kids in cooking.
  4. Seek out healthy helpers. Save time with some pre-prepared nutritious items like washed and bagged salad greens, baby carrots, unsweetened applesauce cups, individual cheese portions, and yogurt cups.
  5. Think beyond the sandwich bread. While sandwiches are definitely a lunchtime favourite for many, it can be fun to switch it up. Instead of bread, try wraps or pita pockets. Or skip the sandwich and try a pasta salad, soup, crackers and cheese, or even last night’s leftovers.

Looking for a little lunch inspiration? Try this easy pasta salad recipe! You can get the kids involved, prep it the night before, and break out of the sandwich rut. Sounds like a win for healthy school lunches!

Chicken Pasta Salad

Adapted from cookspiration.com

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups cooked whole wheat pasta (such as rotini, penne, or macaroni)
  • 1 ½ cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup of your favourite salad dressing (such as Italian, caesar, or balsamic)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, chicken, carrot, cucumber.
  2. Drizzle with salad dressing and mix to combine.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for up to two days.

To switch things up, try replacing the chicken with shrimp, ham, chickpeas, or tofu. Try out different vegetables, too, like broccoli, peppers, peas, or corn.

For more inspiration, check out our Foodie Friday posts!


A version of this article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Attention parents! Do you have your back-to-school routines planned out?

Collage of kids going back to school.

Many thanks to the Northern Health nurses who sent in their family back-to-school photos! How can you make back-to-school healthy?

As summer holidays wind down, excitement of the new school year is on the horizon. Getting ready for back-to-school season can be a stressful and challenging time for parents and families. Establishing (or re-establishing) healthy routines is an important step to making the transition back to school happy and successful for the entire family.

Consistent routines help children to feel safe and secure and teach them to know what is expected of them. To establish routines, begin practicing them a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. Remember to be positive role models for your children. Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence their attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically.

Try to ensure that you incorporate healthy eating, physical activity, and adequate rest and sleep into your family routines as you gear up for school. Start each morning off with a nutritious breakfast for everyone. Evidence shows that kids who eat a healthy breakfast do better in school, have increased concentration and have more energy. Also remember that snacks and lunches can be just as healthy as breakfast! Involving children in planning and preparing their lunch provides a chance for them to learn about healthy eating.

Collage of kids going back to school

Many thanks to the Northern Health nurses who sent in their family back-to-school photos! How can you make back-to-school healthy?

Along with healthy eating, be sure to encourage your young ones to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. Spend time together being active as this will contribute to reducing screen time for yourself and your children. It also avoids unnecessary sedentary behaviour.

Ensuring that children get enough sleep (9-10 hours/night) is also important throughout the school year. Adequate sleep is essential to healthy growth and development. Sleep helps to promote alertness, memory and performance. This is why it is so important to establish consistent bedtime routines that will make it easier for your child to relax, fall asleep, and sleep through the night.

Remember that families are unique and there is no one-size-fits-all back-to-school routine. Choosing routines that will work for your family and sticking to them is what’s most important.

What does your back-to-school routine look like?

  • Make bedtime the same every night.
  • Plan for healthy meals.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Talk with your child every day.
  • Teach your child about safety.
  • Encourage independence.
  • Make homework a routine.
  • Prepare the night before.

This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Karen Wonders

About Karen Wonders

Karen was born and raised in Ottawa and over the last 30 years has lived in various cities and communities in Alberta and B.C. She has a nursing degree from the University of Victoria and currently lives and works in Prince George as a Public Health Nursing Program Manager. Karen is a strong advocate for the health of children and youth with her primary focus being in the area of "healthy schools". She is a director on the board of the Directorate of Agencies for School Health, which adds great value and is complementary to her. In her spare time, Karen enjoys travelling, spending time with her family and friends, and taking long walks with her dog Theodore.

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