Healthy Living in the North

Presence: the most prized gift of all

December can be a wonderful time of the year. Getting together with family, friends, and coworkers; celebrating with music, food, decorations, and traditions. It seems as though we look forward to it all year.

Standing beside a huge snowbank.

I’m not sure if I could have shoveled all of this on my own!

About nine years ago, in the middle of December, my husband and I first arrived in northern BC. It was an exciting time (-35 degree temperatures aside): moving across the country and starting a new journey, but also one of the more lonely times in my life. I had left behind all family, friends, and familiarity, at quite possibly the worst time of year to do so. What I remember most about those first couple of months is the people who reached out to us, welcomed us into their homes and celebrations, shared meals and laughs with us, and helped us shovel our driveway when the snow was too deep to drive through. I did not yet know that those people would become some of our cherished friends – our chosen family.

However joyful and pleasant the holidays are, they can also be exhausting, stressful, lonely, and financially draining. Strained relationships, distant family, and absent support systems are even more impactful at this time of year.

No matter our perspective, we all have opportunity to be mindful and respectful of our own (and others’) thoughts and feelings about the holidays, and to honour what truly brings us peace and joy.

It’s too easy to get caught up in the fast pace and expectations of the season, when what should matter most is spending time with each other and recognizing those who make our days brighter.

The best memories are not of physical gifts received, but of time spent together with others. Instead of presents, this year give PRESENCE. Here are some ideas:

  • Reach out to that new face in town or at work and introduce yourself.

    Snowman standing beside woman

    Unplugging and heading outside can have some amazing results!

  • Take the time to reconnect with family/friends – call, write a letter, or make plans to meet and take a walk.
  • Volunteer your time – there are endless opportunities in every community to give back with your time, share your skills and your wisdom with an organization and help brighten someone’s day.
  • Unplug: spend quality time with your children/spouse/friends away from screens. Read a book, play board games, visit the library, play outside, or plan an evening walk to look at the festive lights on display.
  • Take time for self-care. Spend quality time doing things you enjoy, things that make you feel good, and tending to your own mental health.
  • Make and share a meal with someone.

What are some ways that you’ve given presence over presents during the holidays? Need some more ideas? Check out this Kindness

Calendar from actionforhappiness.org.

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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IMAGINE grant: Masset Rollergirls

When you picture Masset, BC, you might imagine a small, seaside community located in some of BC’s most untamed and beautiful coastline. Can you feel the sun peeking through the clouds, and the wind whipping up that salty ocean air? Well, that may be most people’s vision, but thanks to Laura Bishop and her team, there’s a wild, wheelin’ world below the surface of the Haida Gwaii village!

Instructor and students roller skating

Vancouver instructor Chris Neima teaching the fundamentals!

Masset is home to the Masset Rollergirls (MRG), who applied for and were awarded one of Northern Health’s IMAGINE grant funding packages this past year. With the funding, the MRG hosted an Open Skate Program, bringing in Vancouver instructor Chris Neima to teach the fundamentals of rollerdance in two parts; Introduction to Roller Dance and Park Skating. The program paired active living with her team’s passion for rollerdance.

In addition to the four roller dance sessions held in Masset, the MRG amplified their reach by including two sessions in Skidegate and Queen Charlotte, expanding the sport on Haida Gwaii and opening up this fitness opportunity to over 30 youth and adult participants.

To truly appreciate the gravity of this program, one has to understand the challenges that Masset faces. The climate doesn’t allow for an outdoor ice rink, which means the opportunity to ice skate is limited to indoor facilities, which are both costly and require more maintenance. Masset’s remoteness also limits its access to qualified instructors, which is why bringing instructor Chris out was even more special!

Children rollerskating outside

Roller dance gives all kinds of people a chance to grow and improve together!

Roller skating has awesome health benefits. It utilizes multiple large and small muscle groups, reinforces balance and coordination, and can be pursued as either an individual or group fitness activity. Plus, and maybe most importantly, it gives all kinds of people a chance to grow and improve together. People of all shapes, sizes, and abilities participated in this weekend full of inclusion, fun, recreation, physical activity, and learning in a non-competitive setting.

Jam Skating Workshops poster

Lace up and get dancing!

This project didn’t only bring skaters together, the Open Skate gave many community partners a chance to put their heads together as well. The Village of Masset provided the rink space free of charge in the interest of employing the township’s pre-existing infrastructure and giving new life to its community buildings. Other project contributors included George M. Dawson High School, Haida Gwaii Society for Community Peace, Haida Gwaii Regional Recreation Commission, the Village of Queen Charlotte, and the Skidegate Volunteer Fire Department.

With all this forward momentum, it’s very exciting to think about what plans the Masset Rollergirls have for the future. There’s no doubt with the partnerships and people involved, Masset rollerdance will continue to produce more skaters and dancers. Now that’s something to roll with!

IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We look for applicants that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. 

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Holiday donations: how can you best support your local food bank?

On Friday, December 1st, CBC BC is hosting Food Bank Day. As a dietitian, this has me thinking about food charity and what it means for our communities. If you’re donating non-perishable food items this year, Loraina’s helpful blog on healthy food hampers reminds us to consider healthy food options.

In speaking with various food bank employees, I have come to notice a theme: donating money to your local food bank is the most effective way to be sure that nutritious foods are available for families. Here’s why:

  • Food bank staff know exactly which foods are in need.
  • They purchase in bulk and can buy 3-4x more food with each dollar.
  • Food banks are costly to run, so monetary donations also help with operational costs (e.g. building costs such as rent, hydro and heat).
  • Both perishable and non-perishable items can be purchased by staff, which helps to ensure that food bank users have consistent access to a variety of nutritious foods.

Monetary donations help us to buy foods when needed, so that we can have a consistent supply of food throughout the year. Purchasing food ourselves allows us to provide both perishable items (such as eggs, meat and cheese) and non-perishables. That said, we can use, and are happy to receive, any form of donation, whether it be food, money or physical (volunteering).”

(Salvation Army staff member)

How can you help your local food bank?

  • Food Bank BC has an online donation system:
    • Donations above $20 are eligible for a tax receipt.
    • They help food banks across BC, including those in rural and northern communities.
  • If you know your local food bank, you can drop by with a monetary donation.
  • You can visit Food Bank BC to find a food bank near you.

Why are food banks in need?

Northern BC has the highest cost of food in the province, as well as the highest rates of food insecurity:

 Food insecurity exists when an individual or family lacks the financial means to obtain food that is safe, nutritious, and personally acceptable, via socially acceptable means.”

(Provincial Health Services Authority, 2016)

Statistics on food insecurity

  • In northern BC approximately 16% of households (1 in 6) experience some level of food insecurity.
  • Those most deeply affected are single parent households with children, those on social assistance, and many people in the work force.
donations, food drive, charity

Donating money to your local food bank is the most effective way to be sure that nutritious foods are available for families.

How can food banks help?

In Canada, household food insecurity is primarily due to a lack of adequate income to buy food.  While food banks are not a solution to food insecurity, they can help provide short term, immediate access to nutritious food.

This holiday season, if you are thinking about donating to the food bank, consider a monetary donation. This will help support food bank staff in purchasing high quality, nutritious foods to lend immediate support to families during the holidays, and beyond.

On Friday, December 1st, tune in to CBC Food Bank Day and listen to live programs and guest performers, and learn about the issue of food insecurity in our province.

 

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. Laurel is a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience working with groups across the lifecycle within BC and internationally to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking and travelling. She is looking forward to exploring more of the North!

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Foodie Friday: Discovering BC Apples

This September, my partner and I visited an apple orchard in the Okanagan. From Honeycrips to Ambrosia, Granny Smith to Gala, we had so much fun sampling, comparing, and discovering all the different local apple varieties!

Fast forward two months, and winter is just arriving in northern BC. It’s the perfect time to enjoy fresh, crisp BC-grown apples from this year’s harvest, which wrapped up not too long ago!

apples BC apples explore BC

So many awesome kinds of apples to try!

Maybe you are searching for that perfectly sweet, crisp apple, or simply looking for a fun activity to do with the kids. Either way, have you considered doing your own apple taste test from the comforts of your own home?  All you need to do is pick out a few different varieties of apples from your local grocery store, and let your taste buds guide you. If you plan on trying this with kids, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Ask kids to describe how the apple looks, feels, smells, sounds, and taste. What colour is the apple? Is it sweet or sour? Soft or crunchy?
  • Encourage them to explore further. Where do apples grow? What are your favourite ways to eat them?
  • Invite kids to taste each apple, if they like, without any pressure. Remember, seeing, touching, exploring, and sharing a snack together are all good learning – even if kids don’t eat a particular food!
  • Consider serving some slices with a peanut butter or yogurt based dip (or try Marianne’s maple peanut butter fruit dip) to amp up the nutrition. Bonus: kids will love dunking their fruit in a yummy dip!

If you’d like to try an apple taste test as part of a classroom-based activity, be sure to check out this “Taste the Difference” lesson plan.

Whether fresh or baked, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy apples this season. I love this cheddar-apple quesadilla recipe because it’s simple enough to make on a busy weeknight, yet fancy enough to impress guests. Kids can help too, by washing apples, grating cheese, and assembling the quesadillas.

Ingredients

  • 1 apple of your choice, thinly sliced
  • 4 whole-wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, or other cheese of your choice
  • 1/2 tsp of dried thyme

    apple quesadilla

    These quesadillas are sure to impress.

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).

  1. Sprinkle half the cheese over one half of tortilla.
  2. Place several apple slices on top of cheese, and sprinkle remaining cheese and dried thyme.
  3. Fold tortilla in half and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Looking for more recipes featuring apples? Here are two of my favourites from the Northern Health Matters blog:

“As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

Lindsay`s Morning Glory Muffins 

Do you have a favourite apple recipe? Share in the comments below!

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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IMAGINE Community Grants: An opportunity to connect with your community

With the launch of the final cycle of 2017 IMAGINE Community Grants, this time of year has me waiting in anticipation to see what exciting ideas will be submitted, and reflecting on some of my favorites from past cycles.

Don’t get me wrong- all projects selected for grant support are excellent ideas, and we love the work the groups and organizations do to promote healthier communities. The things they can accomplish with just a bit of seed money is truly amazing! However, there are a few that just stick with you because they’re a bit different from the rest.

One such project that comes to my mind when thinking about IMAGINE came to us from Kispiox last fall. In this application, a local youth basketball team asked for supplies to provide weekly visits to Elders in their own homes throughout the winter, where they would chop and stack wood, and shovel their driveways and walkways for them. The youth and their chaperones engaged in physical activity to support the Elders, but the main focus of the project was creating those inter-generational linkages that promote and support social connectedness and positive mental wellness. A true benefit for everyone in the community!

IMAGINE grants believing in our project gave us the confidence to start connecting with our community. It gave our children self-esteem and filled their hearts with how good it feels to give back to the community without expecting anything in return. The feedback and support we received from our community members was unreal. It was the perfect time to share with a boys under 12 basketball team, (it’s) such an important and tender age to have such an experience.” – Serita Pottinger, IMAGINE Grant Applicant

elders, imagine granting

The Elders were very appreciative.

The original application request was to purchase gloves, axes, and snow shovels for the project. To incorporate an injury prevention lens, we proposed that they also purchase safety glasses to protect the youth and the group agreed with the recommendation. Now that they have the supplies, the group plans to continue this work for years to come.

imagine granting, helping elders

These kids sure know how to help!

For me, this project is a great example of prevention in action, and shows how a small amount of grant funding can improve and impact the health of an entire community. The IMAGINE Community Grants is just one of many ways that Northern Health demonstrates how we care for communities and can support others with the same goal.

IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is November 30, 2017.

 

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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Falling is not a “right of passage”; Falls Prevention Awareness Week

I’m approaching my 40th birthday. From where I stand now it seems impossible to me, that as kids we celebrated my parents 40th birthdays with black balloons, a cane, candy jellybean “pill” bottles, and a larger than life sign signifying “Over the Hill”.

Like these 40th birthday traditions, our culture embraces some aspects of aging that don’t make any sense. Take senior’s falls as an example, somehow as a society we accept that the majority of people experience a fall at some point as they age. Did you know that, for all age ranges, falling is a lead cause for injuries requiring hospitalization? No matter what age, we must all remember, falls are preventable!

November 6-12, 2017, marks the Finding Balance BC Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Falling, tripping, or slipping happens now and then to all of us, but falling with risk of serious injury does not have to be a normal part of aging.

seniors, falls prevention

Keeping active now helps prevent future falls.

What can you do?

  • Get up and go.
    • Keep your body moving and active. Focus on strong muscles and good balance. Strength and balance exercises are key to reducing the risk of falling.
  • Have your eyes checked.
    • Visiting an optometrist once a year can reduce your risk of falling.
  • Review your medications.
    • Bring everything you take (both prescription and non-prescription) to your pharmacy or doctor for a review.
  • Make small changes to your home.
    • Simple hazards are sometimes overlooked and often, easily fixed.
    • Install handrails and guardrails where needed.
    • Add lighting in hallways and nightlights in bathrooms and bedrooms.
    • Secure or remove area rugs so they don’t become tripping hazard in your home.
    • Salt and sand walkways in winter months.

With November and my birthday approaching, let’s challenge the social norms -I refuse to blow up a single black balloon! Falling is not a “right of passage”, and making small changes to our lifestyle and surroundings is a smart investment to our health and well-being, no matter what age.

Join Northern Health and participate in the BC Finding Balance Falls Prevention Week. Visit the Finding Balance BC website and talk to your doctor if you have had a slip, trip, or fall in the last year.

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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A dietitian’s take on the sticky topic of Halloween candy

Whether you are carving pumpkins, dressing up in costumes, or taking the kids trick-or-treating, there is fun to be had by all this Halloween season!

As a dietitian, a question I get asked a lot this time of year is, “What do I do with all the Halloween candy my kids brings home?”

Friends, family members, and online sources offer up many strategies for parents to try. However, the emphasis is often on getting kids to eat less candy, so what is supposed to be a fun and positive experience can quickly turn into a battle.

Beth’s blog about Handling Halloween reminds us that Halloween is a great time to practice the Division of Responsibly in Feeding. You as the parent are responsible for offering a variety of foods at regular meal and snack times, while kids decide what and how much they want to eat from the foods you provided.

To build on this, registered dietitian Ellyn Satter suggests using Halloween as a learning opportunity and letting kids manage their own stash. You will need to set few ground rules first, of course!  It could look something like this:

Trick or treat!

  • On Halloween and the next day, let kids eat as much of their candy as they want.
  • Then, put the candy away until meal and snack times.
  • At meal and snack times, let them choose a few pieces of candy.
  • If they follow the rules, they get to manage their own stash. If not, you manage if for them using the same principles.

Hold on. Did a dietitian just say it’s okay to let kids eat as much candy as they want on Halloween?  Yes!  Allow me to explain:

Of course it is likely that kids eat more candy than usual on Halloween, and that’s totally normal. After that, the key is offering candy as part of regular sit-down meals and snacks, while you continue to choose the rest of the food served. This helps kids become competent eaters by helping them learn to:

  • Feel more relaxed about all kinds of foods, including candy.
  • Enjoy candy as part of a normal, healthy eating pattern.
  • Listen to their tummies when deciding how much to eat (studies show that when foods are restricted, kids may eat more of those foods when they get a chance, even when they are not hungry).

So there you have it – a dietitians take on Halloween candy. To learn about ways that you can support a more safe and inclusive Halloween for children with food allergies check out Lindsay’s blog, Foodie Friday: Halloween celebrations – more than just food.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone!

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: Halloween celebrations – more than just food

One of the many beauties of living in Canada is the dramatic change in seasons, each one bringing something to look forward to. What do you look forward to in the fall?

For many, one of the most exciting days is Halloween, especially for the kids (or perhaps the inner child in all of us adults!). While it might seem odd for some cultures in the world to think about kids going door-to-door asking strangers for candy, Halloween is a huge part of our culture in North America. Do you know how Halloween originated? An ancient Celtic festival called Samhain gave birth to what we now know as Halloween. The Celts celebrated the harvest and the start of the long winter. The festival was celebrated on October 31st, when the boundary between the living and the dead was believed to be at its weakest.

Nowadays many children look forward to dressing up, trick-or-treating around the neighbourhood, and coming home with a huge loot of candy. This means eating foods that may not be the most nutritious. In my family growing up, our Halloween tradition was always having hot dogs before we went out trick-or-treating.  During this time of celebrating, it is important to recognize that food provides more than just nourishment.  Food is a huge part of our culture and celebrations, and Halloween can be used as an excellent teaching opportunity for moderating enjoyable treats.

While trick-or-treating is exciting for the children that can enjoy candy, there are many children that live with severe food allergies who are unable to take part in all of the treats that are handed out. Around 2.5 million Canadians self-report having at least one food allergy. The highest incidence is found in young children, less than three years of age. How do you ensure a fun Halloween for all the kids in your neighbourhood? One initiative that supports making Halloween safe and fun for all children is the Teal Pumpkin Project. This initiative encourages families to place a teal pumpkin in front of their home, which indicates that non-food treats are available for those who either have food allergies or other kids that cannot have candy for some reason.

Learn the details about participating in this initiative at: Teal Pumpkin Project.

Can you see yourself participating in the teal pumpkin project this Halloween? Even if you don’t have a teal pumpkin to display, definitely feel free to give out non-food treats on Halloween – you never know what the little ghosts and goblins will choose.  To make it clear that your house is giving out non-food treats, you can display a poster like this one:

teal pumpkin project poster

The Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative that encourages families to place a teal pumpkin in front of their home to indicate non-food treats are available for those with food allergies.

If you feel like following my family tradition and possibly having a hot dog before going trick-or-treating with your little ones, check out the Prince George Farmer’s market cookbook called “Cooking with the Market” for a very unique hot dog recipe. The recipe uses zucchini as a bun and is a great way to use up those zucchini’s that you may have leftover from the harvest. The recipe is definitely unique, but it might make getting a few vegetables in before the candy a bit easier.

Lindsay Kraitberg

About Lindsay Kraitberg

Lindsay is a registered dietitian working regionally with the CBORD (a food and nutrition database used in food services) team as well as in complex care. Originally from Vancouver Island, she grew up in the small town of Duncan then lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for four years before relocating to the north. Lindsay thoroughly enjoys her position with Northern Health as she works with many different health care teams and learns something new every day. When Lindsay isn’t at work, you can find her snowboarding in the winter and hiking, biking or camping in the warmer weather.

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Sit less and move more for a healthier workplace

In honour of Healthy Workplace Month, I want to encourage you to take a good look at your workplace. So, what does a healthy workplace look or feel like? It could include things like:

  • The physical environment being set up to support movement, interaction, and activity.
    • Meeting spaces that are conducive to standing and stretching.
    • Bicycle storage and changing/showering facilities.
    • Sit/stand workstations in offices.
  • The social environment and workplace culture making employees feel valued and supported to pursue wellness inside and outside of work.
    • Flexibility in schedules.
    • Lunch or coffee time walking groups.
    • Workplace wellness challenges and incentives.
    • Access to programs and activities onsite, nearby, and/or at discounted rates.

Why is it important to foster and support employees to be healthy? Healthier employees tend to display:

  • Improved productivity.
  • Increased job satisfaction.
  • Decreased absenteeism (sick time, injuries, recovery time, etc.).

We know that, in theory, moving more and sitting less is better for you; however, today’s culture of convenience and constantly advancing technology has, in many cases, removed the need for physical movement at work and during leisure time. We literally only need to lift a finger (okay, maybe a few fingers) to connect with a colleague via email; that the colleague is sitting mere steps away rarely stops us from taking the “instant” route. We petition to have office printers moved closer to our desks in the name of increased efficiency and time savings when, in reality, we should be moving them further away to allow for more frequent breaks from sitting and staring at screens.

According to the latest Canadian Health Measures Survey, approximately one in five Canadian adults are meeting the current physical activity guidelines. Considering over sixty percent of British Columbians are members of the workforce, and most workers are spending a great deal of their waking hours either at or getting to and from their jobs, doesn’t it just make sense to target the workplace when looking to increase physical activity and overall wellness?

Even those who are managing to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity outside of their working hours are not immune to the health risks associated with excess sitting while at work.

Workplace wellness sometimes means stepping out of the office!

What can you do to help make your workplace healthier? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • The next time you organize or attend a meeting, why not either suggest a walking meeting?
  • If a walking meeting isn’t possible, start the meeting off by giving (or seeking) permission for all attendees to feel free to stand, stretch, and/or move around the room as they feel the need. Many people don’t feel comfortable to do this for fear of appearing disrespectful or distracted, when in reality it will likely lead to improved attention and focus.
  • Request or initiate wellness programs (check out ParticipACTION’s) and/or activities with your colleagues (i.e. walks during your breaks, organize or sign up for corporate recreation/sport teams or events, activity challenges, etc.). For extra fun and competition, open up your challenge to other workplaces.

Being active is usually far more fun with others, so don’t disregard the value of camaraderie and social support networks as you strive to make your workplace healthier. Having positive influences and relationships make going to work a far more enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I guarantee the benefits will extend far beyond your workday.

Send us photos of your workplace wellness activities; we’d love to see what makes your workplace a healthy one!

For inspiration to get going, check out this Healthy Activity Ideas List from the Healthy Workplace Month website.

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Making kid-friendly meals

The reality:

In restaurants, “kids’ menus” typically offer a short list of popular foods, items like grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese pizza, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers with fries, and simple pasta dishes. At home, meal time might feature one meal for the kids, and a different one for the adults. This extra effort stems from parental concerns that their kids won’t eat the same foods their grown-ups enjoy.

The challenge:

The idea of “kid-friendly meals” reinforces the notion that kids will only accept a limited range of foods. But it’s a catch-22, because if we only offer kids a short list of easy-to-like foods, we’re limiting their chances to learn to like a greater variety of foods.

A different perspective:

Trying new foods can be a treat to watch!

Kids are “eaters in training”, and with time and opportunity, they can learn to like the wide range of foods their families enjoy. They’re capable of so much! I think about what I have seen kids eat in other regions: spicy tamales in Mexico, liver pate in Belgium, and whale blubber (muktuk) in Canada’s Arctic region. Wow, right?

Given that kids can learn to like wide range of foods, I’d like to propose a new definition for a “kid-friendly meal”:

  • It is a meal that kids share with their family or other role models.
  • It’s a positive experience.
  • It fits into a routine of regular meal and snack times.
  • It provides an opportunity for good nutrition.

Here are some practical tips for making kid-friendly meals:

  • Make one meal for the whole family. Where possible, eat together, and help kids to serve themselves from the foods you’ve prepared.
  • Include foods from 3 or 4 different food groups, but know that it’s normal (and okay) for young children to only eat 1 or 2 items from a meal.
  • Be considerate, without letting the kids dictate the menu. Offer new or less popular foods alongside familiar favourites, so everyone can find something to eat (e.g. introduce a new vegetable alongside your standby pasta dish, or offer bread, butter, and cheese together with that chili recipe you want to try).
  • Consider occasional build-your-own meals, such as salads, pizza, tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, or rice bowls, where each person assembles their own unique version of the dish.
  • Cut ingredients into large enough pieces so kids can recognize and pick out anything they are not yet comfortable with (e.g. when preparing a stew, cut the meat and vegetables into bite-size pieces).
  • Be honest about what you are serving; hiding vegetables or other foods into mixed dishes won’t help kids learn to like those foods. Worse, kids could become suspicious about the foods you offer!
  • Keep the conversation pleasant, and focus on connecting with the people with whom you are sharing the meal. If you are talking about the food, be matter-of-fact (e.g. “This is asparagus. It tastes a bit like broccoli.”).
  • Avoid pressuring kids to eat, such as “take one bite” rules or “try it, you’ll like it”. Let your child’s appetite be their guide for how much to eat, and let them learn to like new foods at their own pace.
  • “You don’t have to eat it” is always a great way to respond to resistance.

For more information, see related posts and resources:

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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