Healthy Living in the North

Sharing of cultural practices in health care transitions

“I can’t emphasize how important it is for health care professionals to take the lead in asking these questions (about cultural practices), in peeling back the layers of assumptions, and finding out specifically how we can assist and make any transition smoother. Things will go better if those questions are asked right away and then I’ve always found when that happens, those questions are met with relief almost and answers are immediate” -Coco Miller, Kitselas, Tsimshian Nation

Young boy carrying drum

A young drummer at a video launch event in Kitselas.

The Terrace/Kitimat and Area Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is pleased to launch two videos that share information for health care providers about the Tsimshian, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitxsan, and Nisga’a peoples’ cultural practices and how they impact their health care needs.

In 2014-2016, Aboriginal Health provided financial support for each of the eight AHICs in the north to develop local cultural resources. Development of these resources was guided by the question: “If I were a new health care provider in Northern Health, what you would want me to know?”

The Terrace/Kitimat and Area AHIC produced the following videos which focus on cultural practices for important life transitions:

These videos cover important topics relevant for life events that often take place in the health system including:

  • the importance of families gathering and being together,
  • the cultural roles of the family,
  • the diversity of practices among families and Nations,
  • how Northern Health staff can support families and their cultural practices, and
  • the importance of communication between the patient/family and care providers.

“I think it’s very important to have family there and friends to be around us to support us, pray for us. They are there to feed us. Especially for the young ones to be there to witness what we have to go through during the time of a death. It’s very important for them to know how we feel and see the experience.” -Roberta Grant, Haisla Nation

Group of six adults with gift bags.

Celebrating the launch of the AHIC videos in Kitselas.

“The Grandmother comes to visit and is in the delivery room also. She will take the baby and examine the baby to look for any recognizable birth marks on the baby because, in our belief, our family comes back through reincarnation. An aunt of the father also needs to be in the delivery room because we have her role to be to cut the umbilical cord because this signifies their role as the father clan. The child is no longer just belonging to the mother’s family (the maternal family) but the child also belongs to the paternal family.” -Verna Howard, Gitxsan/Wet’suwet’en Nation

I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch these videos and share them with others. The information contained in these videos is an amazing gift from the Tsimshian, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitxsan and Nisǥa’a peoples.

I hope the videos inspire all of us to continue collaborating and learning and that you find them helpful in your life and your work.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, I encourage you to contact Lloyd McDames, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Terrace.

Another way to develop your understanding of First Nations and Aboriginal peoples is the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, an online course by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Find more work done by the AHICs from across the north in this booklet of local cultural resources.

 

Cultural practices around birth

Cultural practices around illness and death

Jonathan Cooper

About Jonathan Cooper

Jonathan Cooper is the Health Service Administrator for Kitimat. His role includes many aspects of health care responsibilities for acute, complex care and community services in Kitimat. Jonathan has been in this role approaching 8 years, during which time he has been actively participating in many health committees, including the Terrace, Kitimat & Region Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee. Jonathan immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom where he worked for the National Health Service. Jonathan enjoys outdoor pursuits, cooking, reading, and spending time with his family and children.

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Foodie Friday: Thanksgiving thoughts

Turkey, vegetables, and potatoes on a plate.

What does your family’s Thanksgiving dinner look like?

With the hustle and bustle of September behind us, it’s October and Thanksgiving has come and gone. The long weekend really got me thinking!

I have always loved this holiday because it is a time when my family is all together and it is the first break since the busy-ness of summer and back to school.

I also love this holiday because it is all about the food. Depending on your traditions, there may be roasted turkey or ham (both, for some), veggies from the garden including brussels sprouts sautéed with butter and chili peppers, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, my mother-in-law’s out of this world sweet potato dish, pumpkins and apples for pies, homemade breads, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy.

Handwritten recipe cards

Family recipes are a big part of holiday meals!

For many of my clients, this menu provokes feelings of deprivation or angst as many of these foods are “not allowed” on whatever diet they may be following – Paleo diet followers load their plates with turkey and a side of lard (oh, and if there is bacon, load up); Ketogenic followers head for the ham, the cheese platter, a tossed green salad, and skip the rest.

Diets like these cause people unnecessary anxiety when they are faced with prohibited foods – do they forget about their diet and eat these foods and feel guilty later? Or do they sit sadly with their list of “allowed” foods and feel deprived? And who wouldn’t feel deprived at the table with everyone else loving my mother-in-law’s sweet potato dish and, later, my mother’s homemade apple pie? No one, that’s who!

To these folks, I suggest approaching Thanksgiving dinner and other holidays as an opportunity to practice trusting their body’s own internal cues of hunger, appetite, and fullness and let these cues guide them when it comes to choosing what and how much to eat. Then, they will leave the meal feeling comfortable and nourished rather than guilty and deprived.

Here is the famous sweet potato dish!

Sweet potato casserole

Beth’s mother-in-law’s “out of this world sweet potato dish.”

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes or yams
  • 2 tbsp cream or milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1 beaten egg

Topping:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup (approx.) pecan halves

Instructions

  1. Mix sweet potatoes, milk, melted butter, paprika, and beaten egg together and spread into greased baking dish.
  2. Make the topping by mixing butter and brown sugar in a pot over low heat until butter is just melted. Spread topping over sweet potato mixture and cover with pecan halves.
  3. Heat in oven at 350 F for 35 minutes.
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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Foodie Friday: Cooking with Mom

Loaf of strawberry bread

What does cooking a special meal mean to you? For dietitian Beth and her son, it includes cooking together on Mother’s Day. On the menu this year? Strawberry Bread!

This past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day and I bet that a lot of you showed mom how much you love and appreciate her by sharing a meal with her. Or maybe you cooked up something special for her?

Many family traditions start with cooking a special meal for a celebration of some sort, whether it’s a holiday, birthday, wedding, or reunion. The foods in these meals conjure up memories of nurturing, love, and connection. A fond memory from my childhood is the aroma of apple pie baking in the oven. When I smelled the sweetness of the apples and cinnamon combined with the mouth-watering fragrance of the buttery pie crust, I knew we were having a celebration! The whole atmosphere of the house changed during this time. My mom would be a flurry of action in the kitchen while my siblings and I looked forward to the excitement of all the visitors and the tasty food. I learned to cook from my mom and she and I both are recipe collectors and cookbook hoarders. I love the time I spend preparing meals for special occasions. For me, cooking means nurturing loved ones, making happy memories and sharing delicious food.

What does cooking a special meal mean to you?

My son and I cook together on Mother’s Day, which is one of my favourite family traditions. This year, we made Strawberry Bread as part of Mother’s Day brunch for his Nana.

Here is the recipe, adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks: Simply in Season: Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of more-with-less, by Mary Beth Linda and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.

Slices of strawberry breadStrawberry Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cup mashed strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup oil (we used ½ cup unsweetened applesauce and topped up with oil)
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix strawberries, sugar, oil and eggs together.
  3. Stir dry ingredients into strawberry mixture until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into a greased bread pan.
  5. Bake for about an hour in the oven at 350 degrees.
  6. Enjoy!
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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Healthy aging with Dzi’is

Woman walking on pipeline.

Walking the water pipeline with Gramma to pick berries. (Photo by Ann King)

How do you age well? I could tell you about research on the importance of active engagement and participating in productive activities that promote societal values (if you’re interested, I recommend checking out work by Verena H. Menec), but research has never been my best teacher.

My Dzi’is (Gramma*) taught me, among many other things, how to live and age well. She went to be with her sisters and brothers last July 14th but her lessons and memories remain.

I remember being 10 years old and harvesting eeyaans** (black chiton – a type of mollusk) with Gramma and my mom at Ridley Island near Prince Rupert. Gramma had her hair done and was dressed impeccably with her black ballet-style flats. We carried with us ice cream buckets and butter knives to pry the eeyaans off the rocks so that we could collect them. Gramma led the way and at one point she asked us to help her down a jagged six to seven foot rock face to reach a prime harvesting spot while the tide was out.

My mother climbed down first, leaving me at the top to lower my 60-year-old Gramma down to her. I remember thinking, as I held her forearms and hands, “This is way too much responsibility for me! I’m dangling Gramma off a tiny cliff for food!” My mom guided Gramma’s ballet flats into good footholds and she made it down in one piece! We went home, exhausted, with full buckets and Gramma went to work cooking up what we had harvested.

Young girl with bucket

Jessie picking berries and flowers with Gramma and mom.
(Photo by Ann King)

All of my memories of my Dzi’is involve food gathering (eeyaans and berries) or hunting in local markets and second-hand stores for treasures; all of which exhausted me and energized her. She taught me to stay active and social and to keep your family busy. She never spoke directly about how she felt about aging, but she definitely did it well!

Through her example, I learned the importance of activities that promote not only societal values, but cultural and traditional ones, too. Aging well for her was being Tsimshian and everything that identity encompasses.


Notes

* There are many variants of some Sm’algyax (Tsimshian) words such as Gramma or Grandma – Dzi’is or Tsi’i’is are common versions.

** Eeyaan, commonly known as the black leather chiton, is a type of mollusk harvested from the bottom or sides of rocks in heavy surf areas.


This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Healthier You magazine. All past issues of the magazine are available online.

 

 

Jessie King

About Jessie King

Jessie, Hadiksm Gaax, was born in raised in Prince Rupert and came to Prince George in 2005 to attend UNBC. Her role at Northern Health is within the Aboriginal Health department as the Lead of Research and Community Engagement. When she isn’t working on her PhD in Health Science, she is out and about exploring, swimming, and playing with her little family. She is a member of the Tsimshian Nation and belongs to the Ganhada (Raven Clan).

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Healthy holiday eating

Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet.

Make your holiday meal even more nutritious this year! Include lots of colourful veggies like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and beets!

Christmas is an exciting time, often filled with celebrations, parties, family, and friends. It’s also a time to share traditions, which often involve food. Holiday meals offer the opportunity for family members and friends to prepare and share a special meal together, and to learn from each other in the process. Even young children can help by doing things like washing vegetables, making paper place mats, setting the table, pouring water, and helping to clean up.

Looking at most holiday movies or commercials these days, we are made to think of holiday meals as always being rich and heavy. Think again! They actually have great potential to be nutritious and delicious! A meal of ham or turkey, vegetables, buns or stuffing, and dessert has a good chance of having 3-4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide, making it a balanced meal.

Here are a few suggestions to make your holiday meal even more nutritious:

  • Offer sweet potatoes instead of, or alongside, white potatoes.
  • Include other colourful veggies like carrots, Brussels sprouts, and beets.
  • Boost up the stuffing by using whole wheat bread and adding cranberries or chopped apple, walnuts, and finely chopped carrots and celery.
  • Consider a dessert that includes fruit or dairy, such as a fruit crumble or milk-based pudding.

Some people worry about how much they eat at these special meals. Remember, healthy eating is not just about one meal or one day – it’s about your overall approach to eating. Give yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy!

On the day of the holiday celebration, it can be helpful to continue with your regular meal and snack patterns that incorporate healthy choices so that you can listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Buffet-style meals can often leave you feeling overfull from wanting to try a little bit of everything. Instead, survey your options and choose those things you really want to try. You can always come back for more if you are still hungry.

Remember to take your time during holiday meals – eat slowly and enjoy the time with family and friends. The holidays are about the whole experience – building a snowman, admiring light displays with your family, playing a favourite board game – not just what’s on your plate!

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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Foodie Friday: Tried and true family recipes

Recipe card for salmon loaf

Marianne’s mom’s well-used recipe card is a copy of her own mother’s recipe. What tried and true recipes have your family passed down?

I am an avid cookbook collector. It all started when I was 12 and my parents gave me a cream cheese cookbook for Christmas and it just kept growing from there! My culinary library has expanded to include pretty much any cuisine, cooking technique, or food you can think of. And while I love to experiment with these recipes, I still have a special place in my heart for those tried and true family recipes handed down to me from my parents and grandparents.

I have many fond memories that involve food and family. Memories like spending afternoons stuffing and folding perogies with Grandma and Grandpa Bloudoff in their little East Vancouver kitchen, enjoying them for lunch along with my grandpa’s Doukhobor borscht, then taking home bags of those perogies and jars full of soup. Or all the canning and preserves that my mom, my uncle, and my grandpa would make – peaches, apricots, and cherries from the Okanagan, green beans grown in my uncle’s garden, and the best sweet pickle mix you have ever tasted. And I can’t forget all of the side dishes that make it into every family holiday meal!

I’m grateful for all of the recipes and cooking skills that were passed on to me. Sharing food traditions is a huge part of forming connections with family, friends, and culture. It’s also an important part of healthy eating and having a healthy relationship with food. It’s something that I draw from not only in my own personal life, but also as a dietitian.

One of my favourite family recipes comes from my mom’s mom – salmon loaf. When my mom was a kid, they would make salmon loaf from salmon that my grandpa had caught and canned himself. I now make it with canned salmon from the store because I am no fisherwoman. It makes a great, easy weeknight meal paired with some steamed rice and your favourite vegetables. Try it out instead of meatloaf one night – it might just become a new family tradition for you, too.

Salmon loaf on a plate

Try Marianne’s family’s tried and true salmon loaf recipe with some rice and veggies for an easy and delicious weeknight meal!

Salmon Loaf

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (213 g) salmon (sockeye, pink, or other)
  • 6 – 7 soda crackers, crumbled
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix all ingredients, except eggs.
  3. Beat eggs until fluffy, then fold into mixture.
  4. Spread mixture into small loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and crispy on top.

Tip: Canned sockeye salmon is great in this recipe, but can be expensive. Choose canned pink salmon for a more budget-friendly – but equally delicious – version.

Tip: Add fresh or dried herbs like dill, parsley, or basil, or some chopped green onion to change up the flavour.

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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Halloween: Candy, costumes and quality time

This is the third in a series of posts about social connections and healthy aging. Over the next two weeks, we want to see how you, your family, and your community stay connected. Enter our photo contest for your chance at great weekly prizes and a grand prize valued at $250!

Collage including a carved pumpkin, inflatable pumpkin decoration, and people watching fireworks.

In Vanderhoof, the annual Pumpkin Walk brings out people of all ages for a walk through thousands of carved pumpkins followed by a fireworks display. What are your friends’, family’s or community’s Halloween traditions? How do they connect people across generations?

October is one of my favourite months because of my favourite holiday, Halloween! I’m especially fond of it, but not just because of the candy (although the occasional candy treat never hurts!). Growing up, Halloween was a big thing in my family. To this day, I still love dressing up and jump at every opportunity to do so. I think that it’s because of the skills that my mother and my grandmother, Nanny, passed down to me.

My sister and I never had store-bought costumes; my mother always made our costumes — the same way Nanny did for my mother and her sister. She and Nanny would take us to the fabric store and together we would flip through the pattern books until we found the costumes we wanted. Then, we would select our fabrics (and then reselect our fabrics, because we had Vogue taste but definitely not a Vogue budget!) and prepare for numerous fittings, alterations and what seemed like hours of standing still — and being stabbed by pins because we weren’t very good at standing still! But it was always worth it because our costumes were always one-of-a-kind and looked phenomenal, which set the standard pretty high each year!

Now, as an adult — and for every Halloween since my adolescence — I sew and create my own Halloween costumes (and often those of my friends and pets), because I feel like it would dishonour my mother and Nanny’s legacy if I were to wear a store-bought costume. All through adolescence, I honed my sewing skills under the tutelage of Nanny and my mother. Those skills will remain with me for life. The time spent fostering the relationships with Nanny and my mother also benefited them as they were positive experiences where they were able to share their craft and provided us with a common hobby to talk about.

Each Halloween since adolescence, Nanny has called me to ask, “What are you going to be this year, Danielle? What masterpiece will you create?” It has become a part of our Halloween ritual: Nanny asking what I’m going to be and make, and me asking her and my mother for advice on how I can modify the costume to make it even more elaborate and unique. I truly value the time I spend chatting with my mother and Nanny about my costumes and, often, it leads to us chatting about other things and just socializing and enjoying our time together.

These relationships and rituals are a part of what keep us happy and healthy. Humans are social creatures, and staying socially connected is an important part of staying healthy. It is important to remember to stay connected with friends and family from multiple generations, too, not just your own. This helps to keep you engaged, balanced and well-rounded as an individual, at any age.

As Halloween once again draws near, I want to ask: what traditions do you and your friends and family have? Send us your photos that show your friends’ and family’s traditions that span the generations! We want to see how you spend time passing down your Halloween legacy to future generations to promote active and healthy living! Send us your photos as a part of our contest that supports healthy aging and you will be entered into a weekly draw to win a great prize and also have the chance to win the grand prize!

Photo Contest

From Oct. 12 – Nov. 8, send in a photo showing how you stay connected and healthy for your chance to win great prizes (including a $250 grand prize) and help your community!

The challenge for Week 3 is: “Show us how you spend quality time across the generations!” Maybe you’ll want to share your Halloween traditions? Submit your photo at http://blog.northernhealth.ca/connect.

Danielle Munnion

About Danielle Munnion

Danielle is a Public Health Nurse who works out of Fort St. John, where she enjoys working with families and children, helping them to make decisions that lead to a healthy lifestyle. When not at work, Danielle enjoys spending time outdoors exploring the north and taking full advantage of what the Peace Region has to offer. When not outdoors, Danielle can often be found either doing some form of arts and crafts or playing games with friends (both tabletop and video).

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