Healthy Living in the North

What’s for lunch?

Cutting vegetables for lunch.

Including vegetables in your child’s lunch is important to their overall health!

When I think back to my elementary school days, lunches were certainly a highlight. The entire school would file down to the lunchroom/gymnasium with our lunch pails for 30 minutes of socializing, and of course, eating. The food was brought from home (no hot lunch programs in our town) and consisted of the usual lunch pail fare of the eighties: squashed peanut butter and jam sandwiches, tetra pack fruit punches, a bruised apple (that would end up coming back home usually) and leftover Halloween candy (which would not).

I packed my own lunches and distinctly remember being jealous of the kids whose parents took the time and creativity to make their lunches special. Thermoses of warm leftover soup and spaghetti, veggies and dip, homemade banana bread and salads were uncommon sights in my lunches and enviable! My single dad who worked shift work would take us grocery shopping, buy us the convenience foods we saw on TV, and then the rest was up to us. In fact, I wonder if my dad has any idea what we really ate back then?

What made me reminisce about this was hearing about 9 year- old Martha Payne from Scotland, who started her own blog about lunch, called Never Seconds. In order to bring attention to the quality of food served in Scottish school cafeterias, she started taking a picture of her lunch daily and then critiquing it. She has caught the attention of the international media, created a platform for discussion about food in schools and receives an influx of photos daily from around the world of what people (and kids in particular) are eating for lunch.

Luckily in B.C., we have guidelines around what types of healthy food and beverages can be sold to children in schools. We have wonderful programs like the Farm to School Salad Bar and the School Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Program, where kids are exposed to new foods and encouraged to eat more produce. However, not all schools have cafeterias or hot lunch programs. Not all schools have salad bars. Some kids are still packing their lunches from home (albeit without the pb&j), or in the case of secondary schools, heading off campus to local fast food establishments.

The times have changed, and our understanding of the importance of feeding children well has grown. We lead busy lives and convenience is key, but are we sacrificing quality and health for a little more time? I’ll take a page from Martha Payne then and ask, what are you (and more importantly, your children) eating for lunch today?

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is the school nutrition lead for Northern Health’s population health department. Her passion for food and health promotion drew her to the nutrition field and she relocated to northern B.C. from the east coast. Although she has fully embraced northern living, she enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She stays active by training for triathlons, and is looking forward to this year’s community garden harvest – a personal experiment that is so far succeeding!

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Naturally flavoured water: Cheers to your hydration

Fruit and herbs

Combinations of fruit and herbs can add great flavours to your water!

Drink 8 cups of water a day. That’s been drilled into our heads since we were young, right? While that guideline is actually a myth, making sure you drink enough fluid to stay properly hydrated is a definite must for living healthy. Even so, it wasn’t until a major health scare occurred in my family that I turned a leaf with a pretty significant health kick and started paying closer attention to the hydration aspect of my health.

“Every cell in your body needs water,” says Holly Christian from NH Population Health Nutrition. “It keeps you hydrated, is calorie-free and has no added sugar or sodium. Choose water regularly throughout the day.”

Sliced strawberries, orange slices and basil

Sliced strawberries, orange slices and basil

Excess sugar is a problem in many drinks and can lead to other problems, such as weight gain or cavities, so it’s always better to choose water. Healthy Families BC says that water is the best option to satisfy thirst and stay hydrated.

With all this in mind, I started filling a one litre bottle with good old-fashioned tap water and aiming to drink at least two of them every day (more when I exercised, and when it’s particularly hot outside, like now; Healthy Families BC also has some great info on why drinking water when it’s hot is important).

In order to keep me interested in water, I started flavouring it using simple fruit and herb combinations. Now, I can sip through my water consistently during the day without getting bored of the taste, I’m always properly hydrated (giving me much more energy!), I’m not taking in an excess of sugar, and I get a tasty fruit snack at the end of each bottle.

Sliced cucumbers, lemon slices and mint

Sliced cucumbers, lemon slices and mint

Here are some of my favourite flavoured water mixes:

  • A handful of raspberries and a slice of lemon.
  • Two sage leaves and a handful of blackberries.
  • Two mint leaves, a few cucumber slices and a slice of lemon.
  • A couple of large strawberries, sliced, and a handful of blueberries.
  • Two basil leaves, a couple of sliced strawberries, and an orange slice.

Next up on my list is watermelon chunks with fresh rosemary!

Have you ever tried to flavour your own water? Have any great flavours to add to our list?

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is regional manager, health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) and moderates all comments for the NH blog. When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.

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