Healthy Living in the North

Dietitians share their Pro Tips!

To celebrate Nutrition Month this March, my colleagues and I had a potluck. The theme was “Throwback Thursday,” where we prepared foods that were important to us during our childhood. During the potluck, we gathered and shared stories about the different foods and their significance in our lives.

This Nutrition Month, Northern Health dietitians are highlighting the potential of food. This includes celebrating food’s potential to bring us together; exploring food as an important part of a child’s discovery of the world; and in  one colleague’s case,  reflecting on the dietitians she has met throughout the years and how they have influenced her (and others) both personally and professionally.

group shot of dietitians together.

Dietitians from across Northern Health at a meeting in Prince George; September, 2017: a group of passionate advocates for the role of food in health!

We are lucky to have a group of dedicated and passionate registered dietitians who work for Northern Health in a variety of capacities. Whether it’s in the hospital, in food service, or population health, dietitians are committed to their work in supporting the health and well-being of the people and communities they serve.

Celebrating Registered Dietitians across our northern BC region!

Officially a Northern Health tradition, March is when we ask our dietitians for nutrition “pro tips.” So, what did they have to say about food and nutrition?

This #nutritionmonth, what pro tips would you like to share with northerners?

Judy (Dawson Creek):  Grow a little food in your yard, balcony, or a sunny window sill in the winter! Discover the joy of nurturing the food that can nurture you!

Flo (Terrace): Be a good eater. Be aware of and respond to, your body’s cues of appetite, hunger, fullness, and satisfaction; be open to trying new foods and expanding the variety of foods you eat and feel good about eating. Good eaters have good health!

Allie (dietetic intern): Frozen vegetables can be a great alternative to fresh vegetables. They’re just as nutritious, keep well in the freezer, and can be cost-effective!

Lise (Terrace): Consider activities that allow kids to see, touch, smell, taste, and talk about food. This helps them to build familiarity with a variety of foods.

Laurel (Prince George): Spring is coming! Consider sharing a meal with family or friends at your local park or picnic site. 

Emilia (Terrace): Consider healthy school fundraising! Some ideas include seedling sales or school-made calendars. Check out the Fresh to You Fundraiser to sell bundles of locally grown produce!

Christine (Terrace): All foods can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Refrain from labelling foods; food is not inherently “good” or “bad.”

Flo (Terrace): Eat well and be active for the sake of health, pleasure, and well-being. Care for your body at whatever size you are now. All bodies are good bodies!

Laurel (Prince George): Food has the potential to connect us! Whether it’s a quick snack at coffee break, on a road trip with friends, or a Saturday morning family breakfast, mealtime is a chance to tune in and connect with loved ones.

Lise (Terrace): Preparing food and eating it together can be fun for all! Have you considered cooking with kids?

Interested in reading pro tips from years gone by?

  • Nutrition Month 2016: Dietitians share their knowledge in the first-ever “Pro Tip” blog.
  • Nutrition Month 2017: Dietitians contribute to the second annual “Pro Tip” blog!

Food has so much potential. It connects us all. Through food, we can discover so much: new tastes, new traditions and cultures, new stories and new relationships. Registered dietitians promote health through food and nutrition, but we also recognize that there is so much more to food than nutrients. Food shapes us all. Happy Nutrition Month!

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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Poison prevention: can you spot the difference?

Take a look at this photo.

side by side comparison of nicotine and chewing gum.

Can you spot the difference between these two types of gum? Hint: one is safe for school-aged children, one is not.

Stumped? The gum on the left is chewing gum and the gum on the right is nicotine gum. Easy to tell the difference right? For an adult, yes. Now put yourself in the shoes of a toddler. Easy to confuse the two, isn’t it?

I’m sharing this photo (and others below) to bring awareness to Poison Prevention Week, which falls on March 18 – 24 this year. Poisoning can happen at any age; however, children are at particular risk of injury. Looking at the photo above, it’s easy to see why! Children between the ages of 1 and 3 years are at the highest risk because of the way they explore the world around them. What do toddlers do best? Put things in their mouth! They like to taste test everything!

That said, the risk of poisoning is not limited to toddlers. I have a 6 year old, who, despite my best efforts, still absentmindedly licks many items not fit to eat! Ick!

The good thing is that this reminds me that even as my children age, I need to remain watchful and always keep medications out of sight and out of reach. Generally, as parents, we do a really good job of creating safe spaces and home environments, but we can’t control everything. Visiting guests with purses or toiletry bags, or new unfamiliar spaces are a part of life and sometimes kids just can’t recognize the risk. The good news is that poisoning is preventable.

Spot the difference: poison prevention edition

Take a look at the following products. Can you spot the difference? Take a guess and share with a friend. Poison Prevention Week is a great opportunity to remind ourselves how mistakes can happen.

Nicotine chewing gum comparison.

Skittles coated medication comparison.

Chocolate laxative medication comparison.

Juice and medication comparison.

Toothpaste medicinal creme comparison.

Medications remain the leading cause of poisoning in children

Follow the recommended practice of storing medications in their original packages; in child resistant containers; and out of sight and reach of children. Keeping these practices in mind, we can significantly reduce the risk of accidental poisoning, however there may come a time when you find yourself calling the BC Poison Control Centre. The phone lines are answered 24 hours a day and offer services in 150 different languages.

When to call the BC Poison Control Centre

If a person is unconscious, having convulsions or having trouble breathing, call 9-1-1. This is an emergency.

If the person you are concerned about is awake, call BC Poison Control right away 1-800-567-8911.

Have the following information ready:

  • The details of the substance (medication, plants, cleaners, or other) that you are concerned about
  • The estimated amount taken, inhaled, or spilled on the skin
  • When the incident happened
  • The age and approximate weight of the person affected
  • How is the person doing now
  • The telephone number you are calling from

What you can expect from the BC Poison control centre:

  • A poison specialist who is a specially trained nurse or pharmacist will answer your call.
  • You will be advised if you need to go to the emergency department of if you can watch the person at home.
  • You may be given first aid instructions.
  • If the person can be watched at home, the poison specialist will advise you what to watch for, and in some cases, may call you back later to see how the person is doing.

Children act fast…. so do poisons. If you think someone may be at risk for poisoning, don’t hesitate to call.

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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Celebrating the work of dietitians in the north: Dietitians Day 2018

Did you know that March 14th is National Dietitians Day in Canada? On this day, we celebrate registered dietitians (RDs) as healthcare professionals who support health through food and nutrition. It’s an opportunity to pause and reflect on the contributions of the approximately 35 passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated RDs that work all throughout Northern Health. In particular, I started to think about those dietitians that have served in the north for many years and how things have changed over the years.

Linda’s story

 I first met Linda McMynn in the fall of 1996. She interviewed (and subsequently hired) me via videoconference for a job at Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace. It was my first experience with videoconference, a very new technology at the time. Linda’s willingness and courage to use this brand new technology really speaks to her openness to seek out new challenges. Linda was the first dietitian to work in Terrace, moving here in the 1970s:

I got to write my own job description and develop the job the way I wanted. I felt very isolated in the beginning, but the job turned out to be a huge opportunity. I was able to explore and work in many areas of the profession that I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed in Vancouver.”

Working in the north helped shape Linda’s preferences and career path. She says that during her training, she enjoyed clinical work, but intensely disliked food service and administrative dietetics. However, in the past two decades with Northern Health, Linda has immersed herself in the food service world. She pioneered the development of high quality food service practices and policies that have improved food service in all Northern Health facilities.

Two dietitians cooking pasta together.

Left: Linda McMynn and Right: Flo Sheppard; circa 2010 in Smithers at a Northwest Dietitian gathering, making pasta.

When I asked Linda what she believed to be at the core of her work as a dietitian, she was quick to say ‘food first’:

The best way to ensure good nutrition is by preparing, eating, and enjoying good food  . . . ideally with others.”

Certainly, I recall her efforts to make this real for the residents of Terraceview Lodge, a residential living facility in Terrace. I’ve always been struck by how deeply Linda cares about the people she serves. Certainly, many dietitians, including myself, prefer to be working behind the scenes to make things better, like Linda.

Wendy’s story

 Wendy Marion-Orienti is a dietitian based out of Smithers. Like most northern dietitians, she is a generalist, working across the spectrum of care: health promotion and prevention, treatment, and long-term care. She is best known for her expertise in person-centred care, especially with clients with diabetes and disordered eating. When I first met Wendy in 1996, I was struck by her passion for food and her focus on providing whole-person care.

Two dietitians standing together on rock over looking valley near Smithers, BC.

Left: Wendy Marion-Orienti and Right: Shelly Crack; taken near Smithers circa 2010.

Wendy didn’t start out wanting to be a dietitian. Initially she was enrolled in a degree in interior design at the University of Saskatchewan. The program had set courses for the first two years. While taking a required nutrition course, she was struck by the professor’s impassioned description of nutrition and its ability to make a profound difference at the local, national, and global level. It was this discovery that motivated Wendy to switch career paths. Her upbringing on a mixed farm in Saskatchewan, where “we ate what we grew and very few foods were purchased (sometimes macaroni)” is what “planted [her] in nutrition,” so this switch to a career as a dietitian was an easy one.

When asked what she loves most about her work, Wendy said:

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with clients, families, colleagues, and community . . . to walk with them, and to support them in making informed choices about their health.”

 I, along with many other dietitian colleagues, have been on the receiving end of Wendy’s warm and nurturing support and friendship.

Reflections of nutrition: then and now

Collectively, Linda and Wendy have offered almost 100 years of quality service to northern BC.  When asked about changes in the nutrition landscape, both of them reflected on how the field of nutrition has continued to grow.

Linda noted that there has been a growth in the interest in food and nutrition:

When I first started working as a dietitian, nutrition was not a frequent topic of discussion in the media. I don’t remember there being the prevalence of food fads, supplements, and diets being promoted. There wasn’t much interest in where our food comes from. Now there is so much more interest in all aspects of food.”

 Wendy agreed. She reflected that, throughout the years, there are cycles of food fads – the “miracle” food was once broccoli, then kale, cauliflower, and coconut, to name a few. In truth, there are no magic foods, rather the wisdom of variety and balance prevail.

Wendy also appreciates the ever-expanding variety of foods that can be enjoyed. She remembers when yogurt and granola were rare, found only in health food stores. Now, an increasing number of people enjoy diverse eating patterns that incorporate foods from a variety of cultures and those locally grown or produced. Wendy incorporates influences from Korea, China, and Thailand into her cooking, as a result of travel to these countries. However, she occasionally enjoys a traditional meal of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, and fresh greens from the garden, which is a meal from her youth. Although the foods we eat and our understanding of healthy eating has grown over time, the basic understanding that food means more than nutrients, is key. Food celebrates who we are and where we come from.

This year’s Dietitians Day, I’d like to honour the RDs that have come before me, those I work with now, and those who will come next. I feel honoured to share in the work that dietitians do. RDs have a strong scientific knowledge base, and promote person-centered health, not only through food and nutrition, but also through their passion, commitment, and advocacy for the health and wellness of the communities they serve.

Do you have a story about how a dietitian has made a difference for you?  If so, we’d love to hear about it. Happy Dietitians Day!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has worked in northern BC for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Currently, she is the Chief Population Health Dietitian and Team Lead for the Population Health Nutrition Team. She takes a realistic, supportive, and non-judgemental approach to healthy eating in recognition that there are many things that influence how we care for ourselves. In her spare time, you are likely to find Flo cooking, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.

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Nutrition Month: Celebrating food’s potential to bring us together

Happy Nutrition Month!

Each year, for the month of March, dietitians celebrate food and nutrition, and what it means for individuals and communities across Canada. Food has the potential to do so many things: it fuels us and supports health and wellness; through food we can discover, whether it’s learning a new recipe or exploring new tastes; and one of food’s greatest gifts is its potential to bring us together. What does eating together mean to you?

I’ve recently moved to northern BC to start a new role as a dietitian with Northern Health’s Population Health team. In the last few months, I’ve been building my social network in Prince George, and many of the connections I’ve been making are over a shared meal. Whether it’s gathering for a weekend potluck, eating lunch with co-workers, or meeting new friends for brunch, coming together often happens over food. Food supports conversation (it’s not often that you find a quiet brunch table!). Gathering over a meal is a time to connect: to share stories, discuss current events, reflect on your week, or maybe even learn something new.

tart on table

Food creates more than social connections.

Even if I’m sitting down to a cozy meal for one, by taking the time to prepare food for myself, I am celebrating meal time, and connecting both to myself and to the food I am preparing.

In these ways, eating together supports our physical, emotional and mental wellness by:

  • Connecting us to our own and other’s land, traditions and cultures
  • Connecting us to our communities
  • Building lifelong memories
  • Creating social connection
  • Teaching and learning new skills (especially true if you prepare a meal with others!)
  • Exploring a variety of foods – (nothing invites variety quite like a potluck!)

…meals are much more than just food and function, facts and figures. Meals are about culture and tradition. Meals are about love and harmony. Meals are about friendship and fun…meals are about family.” – Better Together BC

potluck items on table

Food has the potential to connect us.

Coming together around food can mean many things. If you’re thinking about ways to eat together more, consider starting with small steps:

  • Share a snack with friends during a hike or walk; snacking in nature may lead to interesting discussion!
  • Set aside at least one night or morning per week to eat together as a family, or add one more meal time to your current schedule (e.g. eat three meals together instead of two).
  • Plan a Saturday potluck with friends, and provide the recipe for your dish; this is sure to strike up some conversation!

What does eating together look like for you?

This March, join us in the Nutrition Month Eating Together Photo Challenge: share a picture of yourself eating together with family, friends, or colleagues, along with a short message explaining how you feel food brings you together. Check out the contest page to learn more.

Read how food brings other Northern Health employees together:

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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Tough Enough to Wear Pink in the Kispiox Valley

If you’ve been to a rodeo in the recent past, you may have noticed some cowboys and cowgirls dressed in pink. And if you found yourself at the Kispiox Valley Rodeo last summer, you definitely would have noticed someone at the centre of those pink cowboys and cowgirls. New Hazelton’s Sarah Lazzarotto, in her sixth year of fundraising, surpassed $15,000 in total fundraising dollars for cancer care in the Bulkley Valley.

Girl hugging horse

Sarah and a faithful Tough Enough to Wear Pink companion.

I had the chance to chat with Sarah about this achievement and two of her passions: rodeo and cancer care fundraising.

What inspired you to start fundraising for cancer care in the Bulkley Valley?

When I was eight years old, my older sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was 10 at the time and had to spend a lot of time in Vancouver initially for treatment. I didn’t get to see much of her for a while so it meant a lot to me that she was able to get her follow-up treatments at the cancer care clinic in Smithers.

Treatment for my sister’s cancer was successful and my family stayed involved in raising awareness and funds for cancer research and treatment. We would have a team in the local Relay for Life every year but that event was always scheduled at the same time as the rodeo, which is something I love and was involved with at the time! So I asked myself, how can I stay involved in rodeo and get involved in cancer fundraising? I learned about the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign while visiting the National Finals Rodeo in 2011 on a vacation in Las Vegas and it was a perfect fit! I decided I wanted to host a Tough Enough to Wear Pink Day for my hometown rodeo in the Kispiox Valley. It was a way for me to give back while staying involved in rodeo.

What is the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign?

It’s a nationally recognized campaign – a toolkit, really – for rodeos and western events to raise awareness about cancer prevention and fundraise for local cancer care. The name comes from the cowboys and cowgirls who wear pink to bring attention to the cause. What I like about it, and why it works so well for me, is that it’s flexible! Where other rodeos might focus on breast cancer, I can keep it more general, which is important to me given my sister’s experience and that of other individuals who were close to me. The actual fundraising varies and may include BBQs, raffles, auctions, and more but a big part is typically selling Tough Enough to Wear Pink merchandise at local rodeos.

It sounds like the rodeo community is an important one for you! How did you get involved in rodeo?

I grew up in New Hazelton and spent lots of time in the Kispiox Valley. I worked out there, rode everyone’s horses out there, and was part of the drill team and multiple rodeo queen contests. Did you know that Kispiox has one of the biggest drill teams in Canada next to the RCMP Musical Ride? I worked for the president of the Rodeo Club and was one of the youngest Rodeo Club members, having joined in grade 9. I ran for Rodeo Queen in 2008/2009 and won. I carried my title of Kispiox Valley Rodeo Queen over to the 2010/2011 season, too. In that role, I got the chance to learn about rodeo events, take part in community events, and represent Kispiox at other rodeos. At the time, I lived, slept, and breathed rodeo! For the past three years, I have been living in the city so it hasn’t been as easy to be around the rodeo environment. However, as of this summer, I moved to Quesnel because I missed the small town feel after I had come back from the Kispiox Valley Rodeo. So I’m hoping to get more involved again.

Why is the rodeo community such a special place for you? Why did you look there when it came to the chance to fundraise for cancer care?

I just love being around the rodeo community! It’s homey and social. You can go up to anybody at a rodeo and have a great conversation. I find the people are always kind and appreciative – in part, I think, because of how much work goes into rodeo.

I also simply enjoy and appreciate rodeo as a serious sport. Cowboys and cowgirls practice year-round, just like other athletes. Rodeo is exercise for yourself and your horse, it takes mental discipline, and it leads to new skills – it’s healthy all around and I love watching my friends and others compete or take part in different events!

Now that you’ve surpassed $15,000 in fundraising at the Kispiox Valley Rodeo, what’s next for your combined interests in cancer care fundraising and rodeo?

I’d love to bring the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign to other rodeos. I don’t like to see a rodeo go without it! I’m currently working with a nice new team to host the event in Smithers.

Your successes and passion are inspiring! What advice do you have for others who are looking to support health and wellness in their community?

Tough Enough to Wear Pink clothing hanging on a wall.

Fundraising never looked so good!

Find something to join and contribute to. And if there’s nothing that ignites your passion, be courageous, go out there, and be the first to do it! Don’t be afraid of people saying no. In my experience, there’s a very good chance that people will say “yes” to a cause that you’re passionate about and that contributes back locally. Everyone will have opinions – remind yourself of why you started what you started and just go with it. Everyone in the world has an opinion and they are great to consider, but don’t let it stop you from organizing an amazing event. At the end of the day, it won’t be an event without you.

It sounds like the community comes together around this event at the Kispiox Valley Rodeo. Is there anyone in particular you’d like to acknowledge?

The community businesses are wonderful – they donate baskets for us to raffle, sell our merchandise, offer their services at no cost, host BBQs, and more. In addition to these sponsors and volunteers, I have to say a very, very special thanks to my mom, Liz Lazzarotto, and to family friend Jude Hobenshield, who has been so instrumental in making the events happen over the last six years. Thank you to anyone who has ever supported me because that is obviously a huge motivation to keep going with Tough Enough to Wear Pink. I also love, love, love all my volunteers! I love you all!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Protecting the vulnerable: the reality of flu

As a former public health nurse (that person who immunizes you at public clinics), getting the flu shot was always about protecting my patients … until it got more personal. In 2015, my parents called to let me know they had the flu and they weren’t doing well. They asked if I could come to visit and bring over a few essentials, and my mum mentioned she was worried about my dad. After a short chat with her, I went straight over.

My dad is immune compromised. One year prior, in 2014, he had survived bladder and prostate cancer after extensive surgery that left him with a urostomy. He also has chronic kidney disease, which makes becoming ill and dehydrated very dangerous. When I arrived at my parents, I found my dad had a high fever, was lethargic, achy all over, and very weak. One look at him, and I knew we had to go to the emergency room.

family, flu, aging

Getting your flu shot protects you and loved ones (like my dad!) from flu-related complications.

Influenza had left him dehydrated and with the beginnings of a kidney infection. He felt unable to eat or drink, which quickly progressed to being unable to keep anything down. Although not a symptom of the flu itself, this was a glimpse into a 17-day saga of complications caused by influenza and dehydration.

Ten days later, dad was still in the hospital, unable to eat or drink, or pass anything through his digestive system, and he was put onto IV nutrition. We were all getting worried: my family and the doctors. Following tests and multiple procedures, he underwent abdominal surgery to investigate. The doctors found adhesions of scar tissue that formed in his bowel from his previous surgery for cancer and, once ill and unable to eat and drink well, the tissue formed a blockage in his bowel.

The two and a half weeks dad spent in the hospital were scarier and more stressful than cancer and kidney disease combined. He could have died. It became obvious to our whole family how fragile his health really could be. It was a clear reminder of the devastating impact that influenza can have on a person with complex medical issues and history. It was also my own, real-life reminder of why protecting vulnerable populations from the flu is so vital to their health.

Today, I’m an occupational health nurse (that person who pokes Northern Health staff at staff clinics and educates people about immunization). Putting my professional hat back on, I want to remind you that the Provincial Influenza Prevention policy is in effect from December 1, 2017 to the end of flu season (around March 31, 2018). Staff, patients, and visitors are asked to help protect immune-compromised populations (like my dad!) from the flu by ensuring you are immunized or that you mask when you’re in a patient-care area at Northern Health facilities.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’m happy to report that dad is living a healthy life to its fullest! He and mum are currently backpacking in Southeast Asia!

Ami Drummond

About Ami Drummond

Since moving to Prince George in August 2016, Ami has enjoyed learning her role as an Occupational Health Nurse & Safety Advisor. Ami works with employees, physicians, managers and leaders to incorporate health and safety into their daily work. Outside work life, Ami enjoys hiking with her daughter and hound dog.

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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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Eating well at work: what Northern Health staff have to say

Have you ever tried to make a lifestyle change, say tweaking your eating habits, and it didn’t quite work out? My past efforts have taught me that success is more likely to happen when you consider what is needed to make “the healthy choice the easy choice”. I find that different strategies are needed for home, work, and fun.

In recognition of October’s Healthy Workplace Month, I asked a few work colleagues throughout the region to share with me what makes it possible to eat well at work. Here’s what I learned:

 Planning at home can support easy access to your preferred food

I have a morning routine that includes packing a lunch. I also try eat away from my desk. It’s important for me to take a break.”

“I typically bring a week of snacks with me on Monday to save time and take the guess work out of snack planning. Some of my favourites are whole fruit, cut up veggies, homemade muffins or cookies, oatmeal packs, yogurt, cheese cubes, and boiled eggs.”

Supportive work colleagues and spaces make a difference

We plan potlucks a few times a year, with a focus on balancing out dishes to include all four food groups – and we always leave room for dessert!”

“I appreciate that we have a space at work where we can eat together. I really enjoy spending social time with work colleagues catching up, sharing food and recipes, laughing and relaxing.”

“It’s great that we have access to a kitchen to safely store and prepare lunches. It means I am not stuck eating sandwiches every day!”

“We’ve changed the culture at our worksite so that our staff room isn’t the “dumping ground” for people’s unwanted sweets. Years ago, there would be bags and bags of leftover Halloween candy, boxes of Christmas chocolates, or Valentine and Easter treats on the communal table – it was hard to not eat it when it was sitting there. Some days I’d feel sick from eating so much candy. It’s better now because if I want a seasonal treat, I can bring my own or accept one if it’s offered.”

Tasty, healthy, options that anyone will love!

 Management support, whether through policy, resources, or events, really shows that my workplace values my health

Twice a year, our managers host social events for all staff — one is a bbq and the other is a luncheon. There is always a great variety of food.”

“It’s great that we have approachable dietitians at our workplace. I like that they have a flexible approach to what healthy eating is, and they make me feel good about my food choices.”

“My team lead tries to follow the Eat Smart, Meet Smart guidelines when planning our team meetings. This means we have more healthy options to choose from, and we’re more likely to have a fruit bowl instead of a box of doughnuts at meetings these days!”

As you can see, there is a variety of strategies that people feel make healthy eating easier at work. For some additional thinking, check out Marianne’s blog about Workplace celebrations:  More than just food and Beth’s blog about Eating smart at work.

I’d love to hear how your workplace makes it easier for you to eat well!

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has worked in northern BC for over 20 years in a variety of roles. Currently, she is the Chief Population Health Dietitian and Team Lead for the Population Health Nutrition Team. She takes a realistic, supportive, and non-judgemental approach to healthy eating in recognition that there are many things that influence how we care for ourselves. In her spare time, you are likely to find Flo cooking, reading, volunteering, or enjoying the outdoors.

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Nine reasons to quit smoking today

I had been smoking for 58 years. When I decided that enough was enough I was smoking over two packages a day. I had tried everything over the years to quit, but nothing seemed to work for me. This time I was determined that I was quitting no matter what. I started using the 14mg patch, weaned down to 7mg, which I kept on for a while. And no, I wasn’t forced to quit smoking if that what some of you may be thinking. I quit because I was sick and tired of allowing cigs to take over my life, and throwing $124.00 a week to the wind, and living on a pension, meant a lot of times doing without something just to please my addiction. Today I don’t have to say no to my friends when they invite me to join them for lunch, because now I have money to be able to do that and a whole lot more. And for anyone reading my story, read it a few times, because if I can do it after 58 years, I know anyone can.”

-Diane from Prince George, BC

It’s not easy

As Diane shares on QuitNow, tobacco users often think about quitting but struggle to find a solution that works for them. Elder Leonard also faced challenges before quitting. He shares on QuitNow:

Are you wishing that you never started? Do you hope that your kids never start? You are probably planning to quit someday. Why not make it today? Have a look at these nine reasons to quit and feel free to add your own.

Nine reasons to quit smoking

  1. My health will improve within eight hours of my last cigarette.
  2. I can stop worrying about how smoking is hurting my health. I will lower my chances of getting cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and other disabling diseases. I will also look younger.
  3. Winter is coming. I won’t have to go outside in nasty weather to smoke or buy cigarettes etc.
  4. I will save money! I will have more money for Christmas and other fun stuff.
  5. My clothes, house, or car won’t smell like smoke.
  6. I won’t have to live with the constant cravings to smoke or chew once I have quit.
  7. I will feel more in control of my life. Smoking isn’t cool anymore.
  8. I will no longer expose my friends and family to the harmful effects of second hand smoke.
  9. I will help prevent my kids from getting addicted to tobacco.

Free supports are available

The Provincial Smoking Cessation Program helps eligible BC residents who wish to stop smoking, or using other tobacco products quit, by covering the cost of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, and helps with the cost of specific smoking cessation prescription drugs. Visit your local pharmacy to pick up your first month of patches, gum, inhalers, or lozenges. There are twelve weeks left in 2017 and you can access another twelve weeks of NRT in January of 2018.

Learn more

You can also access counselling by phone, email or text. Visit QuitNow or call 1-877-455-2233 for support from QuitNow services.


Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional tobacco use can outweigh the potential harms.

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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