Healthy Living in the North

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!

Share

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.

Share

Safe driving: Expecting the unexpected every day of the year

Halloween decorations

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

“Drive like it’s Halloween every night”

This was the name of the Parachute Canada & FedEx media release for Halloween safety in 2013. It is still a great message today.

In B.C., there are an average of 2,400 pedestrians injured and 58 killed in crashes every year. So while it’s a great reminder to be cautious on Halloween when we expect to see more children outside, safe driving is a habit, not a once a year trick-or-treat event. Safe driving is about expecting the unexpected on the other 364 days of the year.

Drivers every day, everywhere can:

  • Reduce distractions
  • Reduce speeds
  • Share the road

Children on Halloween night can:

  • Walk facing traffic
  • Walk down one side of the street then the other – don’t dart back and forth
  • Wear face paint instead of a mask

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

Join Northern Health to make safe driving a habit. And this Halloween, make your costume stand out – dress to be seen both on and off the roads.

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.

Share

Halloween: Candy, costumes and quality time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Contest

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

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

Danielle Munnion

About Danielle Munnion

Danielle is a Public Health Nurse who works out of Fort St. John, where she enjoys working with families and children, helping them to make decisions that lead to a healthy lifestyle. When not at work, Danielle enjoys spending time outdoors exploring the north and taking full advantage of what the Peace Region has to offer. When not outdoors, Danielle can often be found either doing some form of arts and crafts or playing games with friends -both tabletop and video. (Danielle no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

Share

Foodie Friday: Handling Halloween

Ingredients for stew recipe

Use some of B.C.’s delicious fall harvest vegetables to prepare a Moroccan stew this fall!

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are changing to beautiful colours of yellow, red and orange and it is getting darker earlier (way earlier) – all evidence that autumn is here. For many children, this means that one of their most anticipated holidays of the season is near: Halloween! Kids everywhere look forward to trick-or-treating on Halloween and this can be a dilemma for many parents who worry about the sugary treats that their kids will be eating.

I often remind parents in this situation of Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. Sugary treats in and of themselves are not the problem; it is when these treats replace healthy foods and are frequently eaten instead meals and snacks that they can be a problem.

Parents and caregivers are responsible for offering regular meals and sit-down snacks. In other words, parents decide what to provide and when to provide it. Children, in turn, are responsible for deciding how much to eat and whether or not to eat what is offered. This allows children to learn to self-regulate food intake (including sweet treats) by listening to their internal cues of hunger and fullness to decide how much to eat.

Now let’s apply the Division of Responsibility in Feeding to the pile of Halloween candy that your kids bring home on October 31!

As the parent or caregiver, you decide when to offer the treats. Maybe you will offer some with an after-school snack or perhaps as dessert a few times a week. When candy is on the menu, offer it along with the snack or meal and let your child choose what and how much to eat from everything that is offered. Eventually, the novelty of the candy will wear off and you will notice they will begin to eat less of the candy and more of the healthier options as long as you keep the structure of regular meals and sit-down snacks. Kids, like adults, crave variety when it comes to eating and will tire quickly of eating only the candy portion of their meal or snack.

How will you handle Halloween this year?

Another tell-tale sign of autumn is the fall harvest in our gardens, communities, and grocery stores! I myself love autumn because of the food we reap from the fall harvest: colourful winter squash from my garden, B.C. McIntosh apples (think homemade applesauce and apple pie!), and pears from the neighbours’ trees, to name a few.

The recipe below is a favourite dish in our house and I often make it before the trick-or-treating begins.

Moroccan Stew

Adapted from Dietitians of Canada‘s Simply Great Food

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 small to medium-sized butternut squash or 1 sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger root, grated
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can (19 oz / 540 ml) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 4 cups low-sodium broth

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, squash, ginger, cumin and cinnamon; cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas and broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until vegetables are just tender.
  4. Enjoy!
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

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

Share

A safe Halloween is a happy Halloween

Two children wearing costumes trick-or-treating in the snow.

Decorations, costumes, and treats can make for lots of distractions on Halloween. Following a few simple safety tips will ensure a happy Halloween for everyone!

Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!

Remember when you were a kid and the excitement you felt as Halloween approached? It was such an exciting time: planning your costume, carving pumpkins, decorating the house, attending Halloween parties, trick-or-treating, and counting your loot once you returned home!

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to go out trick-or-treating; I wanted to start as soon as school was out and go until I dropped. The most exciting time was when it became dark; I was so scared to walk up to that haunted house with the graveyard in the front and the scarecrow next to the door! Could I build up the nerve to stand next to that goblin or witch and knock? I had to, of course, because everyone knew that the best treats were at the scariest houses.

Halloween is a fun and exciting time, but children become distracted with treats and costumes and safety rules are easily forgotten. These distractions increase a child’s chances of being struck by a vehicle and this makes for one unhappy Halloween.

Check out these simple safety tips for a happy Halloween:

  • Children under the age of nine should be accompanied by an adult or responsible older child.
  • Teach your child to stop at the curb, look left, look right, and look left again as well as to listen for oncoming traffic.
  • Select costumes with bright colours. Increase your child’s visibility using lights and reflective material. Bring a flashlight and choose face paint over a mask.
  • Always cross streets at crosswalks, street corners, or intersections. It is never safe to cross between parked cars or other obstacles.
  • Stay on the sidewalk when walking from house to house. If there is no sidewalk, walk beside the road, facing traffic. Trick-or-treat on one side of the street.
  • Drive slowly; there are more children on the streets.
  • Watch out for kids!
  • Reduce distractions such as cell phones and loud music and stay alert.

For more on Halloween safety visit:

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.

Share