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!

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Foodie Friday: Sports drinks: To drink or not to drink?

Pitcher of homemade sports drink.

Sports drinks are only recommended for very specific purposes. When you are being active this year, go with water! If your situation requires a sports drink, try making your own with Rebecca’s recipe!

As the days warm and the trees turn green, more and more of us are starting our summer activities. For some of us, that includes things like running, cycling, soccer, football, and other sports. I also see more people drinking sports drinks at this time of year. When should we drink these? When should we not?

The primary purpose of sports drinks is to replace water and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) that are lost when we exercise vigorously for a prolonged length of time. You don’t need a sports drink unless you are a heavy sweater or you are working out for a long time in the heat. Think marathon runner or construction worker on a hot roof all day!

So what should you drink after being active this spring or summer? Water is the best choice!

What’s wrong with sports drinks? They contain a lot of sugar and salt! Powerade® and Gatorade® contain approximately 14 tsp of sugar in their regular 946 ml containers and approximately 400 mg of salt. That’s a lot of extra calories and salt that you don’t need.

So what should we do when engaging in sports? First, drink water before you start! Afterwards, have a snack with some carbs and protein to refuel and repair your muscles. Try some chocolate milk, peanut butter and a banana, or some tuna and crackers.

If you’re going to use sports drinks for vigorous exercise or during periods when you are feeling unwell, try making your own sports drinks!

Nancy Clark’s Homemade Sports Drink

Recipe courtesy of Nancy Clark, RD

Yield: 1 quart (approximately 1 litre)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • ¼ cup orange juice (not concentrate) plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 ½ cups cold water

Instructions:

  1. In the bottom of a pitcher, dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water.
  2. Add the juice and the remaining water; chill.
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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Be “reel” safe! Here fishy, fishy, fishy!

Boy holding two large fish

Make great family memories this weekend with a safe and fun trip to the lake!

Winter feels like a distant memory! Lakes are open, bulbs are blooming, and everything looks so green! For those who love the outdoors, there are an abundance of aquatic activities available to enjoy, from boating to swimming and kayaking to fishing!

Northern British Columbia, with its rugged landscape and pristine wilderness, provides exceptional fishing ground! There are thousands of lakes, streams and tidal waters to fish – whether for fun or for fresh food!

With all the excitement of warmer temperatures and the thrill that comes with a weekend of outdoor fun, it is important to remember to stay safe so that you can get back out there and continue to enjoy the beautiful weather, lakes and streams.

Did you know?

  • Drownings are most likely to occur in natural bodies of water such as rivers and lakes.
  • The majority of these drownings occur on weekends from May to August. 
  • The highest proportion of incidents occur during recreational activity, most commonly swimming, fishing or boating.
  • In B.C., water-related fatality rates are highest among men and young adults.
  • 90% of boating drownings can be prevented by wearing a life-jacket or personal flotation device (PFD).
Young girl fishing off of a boat

Don’t forget to pack your life-jackets and remember to “have a word with yourself” before heading to the lake. Following a few safety tips can keep you and your family smiling and safe!

Getting out to the lake makes for great summer memories! Make sure to have a safe and fun time on and near the water by following these safety tips:

  • Boat and swim sober.
  • Ensure everyone wears a life-jacket or PFD.
  • Ensure all children under age six wear life-jackets when in, on, or around water.
  • Learn how to swim and take a first aid and CPR course.

For all you fishermen, women, and children out there, and for everyone enjoying your time on or near the water, have a safe and fun time! In the words of preventable.ca, remember to “have a word with yourself” and don’t forget to pack your life-jackets.


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s 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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Tips for private water systems

If you’re not on a municipal water system, private water sampling is important in ensuring your drinking water is safe to drink. Unfortunately, not all homeowners are aware that this is an important step in maintaining a safe private drinking water system. Please enjoy this short video created by Northern Health’s environmental health team for some information and tips on private water sampling!

 

Daisy Tam

About Daisy Tam

Daisy Tam is an Environmental Health Officer for Northern Health. She also has a background in nutritional science from UBC. Migrating up from southern B.C., Daisy has found the vast north to be full of fun and new winter and summer activities to stay busy. In her spare time, Daisy enjoys playing badminton, hiking, cross-country skiing, skating, baking, and reading as weather permits.

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Spring into activity – injury-free!

Young boy wearing a life-jacket and fishing off of dock.

Make sure that your favourite spring and summer activities are enjoyed safely so that you can have fun all season long!

Spring is in the air! Lakes are thawing, bulbs are blooming, and leaves are sprouting! After a long but mild winter, it’s a perfect time to get outside and enjoy your favourite spring activity!

While physical activity is an important part of our health, as well as our growth and development, we recognize that there are risks involved – as there are in all parts of life. While not all risks can be eliminated, most can be managed.

Everybody has thoughts and ideas about risk and protective factors and what they believe is the right balance to keep their activity both fun and safe. For example, when you leave the house to go for a walk and cross the road, you are taking a risk. But, if you look both ways, make eye contact with drivers, and wear bright clothing, you minimize that risk while still enjoying your walk!

What are your thoughts around risk taking? Do you manage risks in your daily activities in a way that keeps those activities fun while including the appropriate safety measures? What precautions do you take to ensure you can get back to the same activity with the same ability again and again? Remember to aim for a healthy balance, avoid the bubble wrap and when you take risks, take smart ones!

Did you know that we sustain more injuries during the spring and summer months? Why might that be?

  • There are more vulnerable road users out and about such as bicyclists and motorcyclists, dog walkers, runners, and skateboarders.
  • Off-road vehicle use increases with warmer weather. In northern B.C., we actually have the highest rates of ATV injuries in the province.
  • There is more access to open water for swimming, fishing, and boating – all of which come with a drowning risk.
  • There is an increase in outdoor sports where we see more musculoskeletal injuries and concussion.
Young boy wearing helmet on BMX bike.

Shellie’s tips for safe spring and summer activities are simple but effective: look first, wear the gear, get trained, buckle up, and drive sober. Whether you’re on a boat, a bike, a car, a dock, a street, a hill, or enjoying any other Northern activity, these tips will help you stay active and injury-free!

Here are some simple but effective tips to stay fit and injury-free so you can enjoy the activities you love all spring and summer long – and for many seasons to come!

  • Look first: Stop, think and check out the situation before you act. Watch for vulnerable road users. Stop, think, and assess before crossing the street, before skiing down a hill, before climbing a ladder. Understand the risks of an activity and make a plan to manage them.
  • Wear the gear: When there is protective gear for an activity, wear it. It will save a life. Your seatbelt, your helmet, your life-jacket – wear the gear!
  • Get trained: Learn how to assess the risks of an activity, decide which ones are worth taking, and develop skills to manage those risks. ATV safety training, swimming lessons and driver education are all examples of getting trained.
  • Buckle up: Have the rule that everyone buckles up properly every time, no matter how short the trip. Remember to buckle up life-jackets and helmets, too!
  • Drive sober: Be fully in control of your mind and body when behind the wheel of any kind of vehicle, whether car, ATV, boat or bicycle. Operate these vehicles without the impairment of alcohol, drugs, fatigue or distractions of any kind.
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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Rethink your drink: Choosing healthy beverages

Cutting board with sliced cucumber, cut strawberries, and a glass of water.

The gold standard for hydration is water! If the crisp, clean taste of water just isn’t to your liking, try adding a few fruit or vegetable slices to your glass or water bottle!

Does this scenario sound familiar? You return home after a long day at work, you have a headache, and your mouth feels like the Sahara. It’s only then that you realize that you haven’t had a drop to drink all day!

You’ve probably heard that the human body has a lot of water – and you’d be right! On average, water makes up about 60% of your body weight. This means that the average man contains roughly 42 litres of water! During our busy workday, we are constantly losing water to the environment (think sweat, breath, and pee). Since so many body functions rely on water, it’s very important to replace water lost during daily activities.

Keeping hydrated during your busy workday will help you to feel on top of your game. Listen to your body’s cues. You may need a drink when you feel:

  • a headache,
  • hungry despite having just eaten (sometimes thirst masquerades as hunger),
  • dry, cracked lips, or
  • thirsty!

But what should you choose to drink? There are many beverage options these days and some drinks are better than others for keeping hydrated.

The gold standard for hydration? Water!

Since we’re largely made of water, doesn’t it make sense to drink it? Bring a reusable water bottle to work and keep it filled. If you just can’t get into the taste of plain water, try adding a wedge of lemon or lime. Get even more creative by adding a combo of sliced cucumbers and strawberries to flavour your water!

Other good hydrating choices:

Milk

Milk has nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamin D.

Tea and coffee

Contrary to popular myth, tea and coffee are not dehydrating. If you enjoy caffeinated coffee or tea, limit yourself to four 250 ml cups per day or choose decaf coffee and herbal teas instead. Remember that most medium-sized coffees are actually closer to two cups! Also, if you tend to add cream and/or sugar to your coffee or tea, keep in mind the extra calories you are drinking.

Drinks to rethink (choose less often):

Juice

While most juices are marketed as healthy because they have some vitamins and minerals, they also contain a lot of sugar! You’re better off eating your fruits whole and skipping the juice.

Fancy coffee

Think ooey-gooey caramel macchiatos, syrupy-sweet french vanillas, and everything in between! These coffee drinks have so much added sugar and fat that they could pass for dessert in a mug! Consider them to be desserts and save them for occasional treats instead.

Pop

Pop or soda is completely devoid of nutrients and full of added sugar (and often caffeine, too). Remember that viral video of cola dissolving a penny? That’s because pop has added acid and just like the penny, acid in pop will also damage your teeth! Diet pop may be missing the sugars, but will still damage your teeth, so give it a pass as well.

Vitamin water

These types of drinks are marketed as “healthy” by using the word water in their names, but they often contain more sugar than you’d think and may have vitamins in excess of safe limits.

Energy drinks

These beverages may claim to give you a boost, but they usually contain large amounts of caffeine and sugar. Some energy drinks may also contain unsafe and untested additives. You may feel a short-term gain in energy, but later on, you’re almost sure to crash.

When it comes to staying hydrated at work remember: Follow your thirst! H2O is the way to go!


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

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Valuing our Tap Water

water, drinking water awareness week, drinking water

Why pay for bottled water when fresh, clean water is at your fingertips?

May 4-10, 2014 is Drinking Water Awareness Week, a chance to raise awareness of the value of our water, the need to protect and conserve it, and those who are involved in delivering it to us.

Water plays a critical role in our daily lives and quality of life. When you turn on your tap and clean water flows, do you know how it got there? People use water every day to meet daily needs from cooking to bathing and drinking. Access to public water that is safe and reliable is crucial to a community’s health and prosperity.

Most of us don’t think about how drinking water systems work. We count on water to flow uninterrupted, whenever we want it for as long as we want. We expect it is safe to drink and never give a second thought about its quality.

Did you know? It takes natural, human and financial resources, as well as physical, chemical and biological processes, to bring safe water to your home.

Those who operate our water systems work hard to ensure that our water is safe to drink and the equipment and pipes used to deliver it are clean and in top shape. They commit themselves to current training to stay on top of changing technology.

Safe drinking water at every tap defines Canada and from developing nations. Many developing countries do not have tap water that is safe to drink or to wash or prepare food. Their supply can be interrupted for long periods and without warning. Amounts and pressure may not maintain public sanitation and there may not be enough for fire protection. In some places, water must be hauled by jug from a central pipe or well. In fact, others may need to haul water from polluted rivers and streams.

When we remember examples like this, we realize how much we take this valuable resource for granted. We use large amounts, up to 350 litres per person per day, and we tend to be wasteful. We wash our cars and leave the water running, spray our driveways, water our lawns and, in spring, even melt old snow. Yet, safe drinking water from the tap is one of the primary reasons our country enjoys good health overall.

Have you taken time to think about the water coming from your taps?

Learn more about our drinking water supply by visiting eh.northernhealth.ca

Bruce Gaunt

About Bruce Gaunt

As an environmental health officer (EHO) in northern B.C. since the fall of 1977, Bruce has worked or visited many communities across the north, from Haida Gwaii to Valemount and from Quesnel to Fort Nelson and Dease Lake. Starting in Terrace as a field EHO, Bruce moved to Prince George in 1987 to continue to grow his expertise in this field. Bruce is now a specialist in drinking water issues as a health planner. When not at work, Bruce enjoys bird watching, hiking, travel, photography and singing in local community choirs. (Bruce no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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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 the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). 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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