Healthy Living in the North

Helping your child embrace the open cup

Caribou mascot in front of oral health poster

For a lifetime of healthy smiles, let your child drink from a lidless, regular cup.

Sippy cups are popular with parents and preschoolers alike. Many parents find comfort in knowing that there will be less mess with these spill-proof cups. They sure are handy for families on the go!

But did you know that drinking from an open cup, rather than a sippy cup, helps kids develop good tongue movements needed for speech? It may also encourage more communication and interaction, helping kids learn new sounds and words! There are also worries about dental health and nutrition if kids have regular access to sippy cups with drinks other than water. When kids carry around their sippy cups (as they often do) they tend to sip their drink over long periods of time, leading to cavities and ruined appetites.

So, how do families balance this information with the realities of everyday life? Adults play an important role in deciding what drinks to offer kids and the manner in which they are offered. Many parents find it helpful to try limiting the use of sippy cups for times when mess is an issue, like on your neighbour’s new white carpet! Or, try filling sippy cups with plain water rather than juice or milk to help prevent cavities. Whether it’s an open cup or a sippy cup, children do best with regular, sit-down meal and snacks and water in-between to satisfy thirst.

Here are some tips to help encourage the use of open cups:

  • Remove the valve on the sippy cup to help children learn to drink without sucking.
  • Use small cups that are easier for children to hold.
  • Bring home a new, special cup or let your child pick one out from the store.
  • Sit and eat with your child so they can see you drink from an open cup.
  • Avoid distractions such as toys, TV, or computers when eating or drinking to help your child focus on the task at hand.

With your example, and lots of chances to learn, children will master and enjoy drinking from an open cup in no time!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

Share

“Sip Cup” – Friend or Foe?

Running water from a tap filling a glass

Ditch the sip cup! Beginning at age one, start to introduce your child to a regular lidless cup.

These days, families with young children are on the go! With this comes the challenge of keeping children healthy and happy. One of the more common conveniences that we see for young children between the ages of 1-3 is the “sip cup”.

Sip cups have been around for several years. With a spouted lid, they are often preferred as a drink container by parents for several reasons. Parents can choose what beverage they put in the sip cups, lids are spill-resistant and the cups are break-resistant and reusable.

But, depending on how they are used, did you know that they could be putting your child at a higher risk of tooth decay?

If your child has teeth, they are at risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay can happen as the tooth is erupting too! To minimize the risk of tooth decay, have your child drink water for thirst. Other beverages contain sugars which coat the teeth over and over again, every time your child takes a sip. Even fruit juice contains natural sugars. Water is the safest drink between meals and for thirst. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends introducing your child to a regular lidless cup around the age of one. So you can skip the sip cup! Remember to wash cups in hot soapy water between uses.

To help protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay, use a “pea sized amount or less” of children’s fluoride toothpaste, morning and night. Help your child brush until at least 8 years of age and continue to check how they did with brushing after that. Avoid soft sticky foods such as dried fruit, raisins or candy that will stick on your child’s teeth for long periods of time. Choose fresh fruit instead of juice or dried fruit. Drink water for thirst and visit your dental team regularly.

The Canadian Dental Association encourages the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.

For more information and some great dental games for kids, please visit:

Brenda Matsen

About Brenda Matsen

Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.

Share

“How much, how often, and when?” A drinker asks some questions

Bottle of wine, wine glass, calendar, and clock on a counter

How much, how often, and when are all important questions to ask when considering alcohol use.

The holiday season is fast approaching. In November and December, many people tend to drink alcohol more often, culminating in what is possibly the biggest potential drinking event of all for many people: New Year’s Eve. Often, at some point during this season, people ask themselves, “Do I drink too much?” It’s a good question and it is one that all people who drink should ask from time to time. There are problems with this question, though: How much is too much? Is it only the amount we drink that matters? Let’s consider three questions that I think might be good to ask ourselves:

  • How much?
  • How often?
  • When?

These three questions can help us to recognize the issues and problems related to drinking. Asking them can also help us to gain insight into ourselves and into the culture of our communities. They may lead to other important questions as well.

How much?

How much alcohol a person uses is important. People are different and what may be safe or low-risk use for one person may not be safe or low-risk for another. There is no fixed amount that is safe for everyone so it’s good to know how much you drink. It is also useful to reflect on changes in how much you have had to drink over time. Are you drinking more than you used to? What accounts for that change?

How often?

How often a person drinks is important as well. A person may not drink a lot but if they drink often, then the effects of their use may become a problem. Do you drink more often than you used to? What effect is that having on you? What effect is that having on your relationships and on those around you?

When?

When a person drinks is another important consideration. Asking this question can give some insight into the role that alcohol has in a person’s life. Asking “when?” can highlight what drives a person to drink and can be an indicator of potential problems. Do you drink in social situations? Do you drink when you are stressed? Do you drink to cope?

Canada has endorsed a set of Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. These guidelines are a good start when considering your answers to the questions I asked above. Getting to know yourself and understanding your relationship with alcohol are further steps toward building a better, healthier life.

For more information about low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines, I suggest the following resources:

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

Share

Practising Safe Boating

Canoe fishing on a lakeOkay I’ll admit it. I like to have a beer now and again. Drinking is a part of a lot of our lives, but sometimes it’s just not a good idea.

Awhile back, my wife and I went canoeing on a popular lake north of town. It was a good day, clear and sunny. During our paddle around the lake we were almost capsized by a couple of guys in a power boat. We made it back to the beach safely but it was a close call.

When we got back on land we encountered the guys from the power boat. They were not “bad people.” They apologized for almost overturning us and offered us each a beer from a cooler between the seats. There were empties rattling around in the bottom of the boat and both looked to be a little bit drunk. Now these guys would probably not drive a car after drinking but they thought of going out in a boat as something different. It didn’t occur to them that impaired is impaired or that a boat is a motor vehicle.

Because of the work I do, I know that according to the Canadian Red Cross, about 200 people will die in boating accidents in Canada this year and that 25% of those will have alcohol in their blood. About 40% of all boating mishaps involve alcohol. Operating a vessel while under the influence is a Criminal Code offence. Drinking on a boat that does not have onboard living accommodations is an offence as well.

We all want to have a good time. Part of having a good time is getting home safe.

How are you and your family staying safe on the water this summer?

Resources:

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

Share

Tales from the Man Cave: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and male responsibility

20130912talesfromthemancaveThis is a difficult subject to broach as a man – not from the point of view that men don’t carry babies in their wombs, but from the point of view presented in the literature, which is, of course, almost exclusively aimed at women. This may overlook the fact that men suffer as much from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) as females do…so in that sense, it really is a male problem too.

So what is the role of the male partner in this equation? How can we help?

Let’s start by looking at some existing information on the subject. The Public Health Agency of Canada offers some solid broad info on FASD in this article. From reading this link, we can see that there no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy and I quote from the link page:

Canada’s new Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines advise that there is no safe amount, and no safe time, to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

It seems like common sense that if a family is being planned that the man take full responsibility to ensure not only that he has the healthiest sperm possible but also to support his partner in reducing alcohol intake during that time by doing so himself. Having a family is a partnership which requires major commitment from both male and female and if a successful pregnancy ensues, also a continued commitment by the male partner to support and role model healthy eating and living which includes reducing alcohol intake in support.

The presence of a child in one’s life is a great blessing as well as a major responsibility. Parenting is both very challenging and rewarding and requires from us men a commitment for life.

That support starts best before conception, as two people make their plans to ensure a healthy relationship, secure a financial environment, and in the case of FASD, have the commitment to ensure as safe a pregnancy as possible by adhering to the advice that there is “no safe amount, and no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.”

More information
Alcohol and Pregnancy Planning from Healthy Families BC

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

Share

Tales from the Man Cave: Low-risk drinking and a healthy body

Aspiring to be perfectly healthy is a great idea, but as we age, there may be many reasons to visit a doctor, even if good health is our “typical” natural state.

Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

An excerpt of Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. See the whole guidelines document here: http://www.ccsa.ca/eng/priorities/alcohol/canada-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines/Pages/default.aspx.

We live in a fast-paced world with a fast food and “quick to throw away” economy. When something is broken we simply replace it as it’s usually cheaper to do so. Unfortunately, the body we inhabit is not so easily replaced. To keep going, we are required to maintain it as best as we can. Through my years, I’ve noticed that when we’re young, we tend to take this beautiful body for granted and seldom consider it until something goes wrong.

So how can we give our body the attention it needs without unnecessarily becoming a hypochondriac?

I would like to suggest three areas that we can improve upon at any age: heart care, nutrition care and psychological care. And for my topic of discussion today, all three are involved in substance use and abuse.

It always surprises me when I look at recommended alcohol consumption levels, such as Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. Men should not drink more than 15 drinks a week, with no more than three drinks a day. So, more than three drinks is considered binge drinking.

What about occasionally having four drinks and singing at the top of your lungs with a bunch of terrific friends? Or better still, what about that same session with three low alcohol drinks alternated with large glasses of water?

Does the singing and social gathering part mitigate the binge session?  Well I suspect not! Certainly the singing part can help with psychological health and community spirit but having too many drinks… well, I’m afraid that negates the healthy heart and healthy nutrition part. (And of course I must add a reminder about all the other regular safety features such as ensuring you have a designated driver.)

Even in the absence of a problem, empty calories from alcohol, will put inches on that waist which can make you a candidate for obesity or type two diabetes, which can lead to heart disease, if done too often. At the same time, small amounts of alcohol may be beneficial – but stick to the recommended limits most of the time – and keep in mind the risks and suggestions from health professionals.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

Share