Healthy Living in the North

A sigh of relief: trusting kids to eat enough

An adorable child, with food all over it's face, smiles into the camera and holds a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Children of all ages have the ability to regulate their food intake. The division of responsibility in feeding trusts, respects, and protects this ability.

Many parents of young children worry that their kids don’t eat enough. As a dietitian and a mother of a young child, I totally get it. We want the best for our children; we want them to be healthy and to get the nutrition they need.

Mealtime struggles

Parents and caregivers often tell me about the strategies they use to try to get kids to eat. We keep them at the table, prompt them to take a few more bites, chase them with spoons (“airplane!”), praise them when they finish their plates, negotiate with them, and entice them with dessert. It’s a lot of work. Kids often resist these efforts, and parents get frustrated. And kids are frustrated too! It’s an exhausting experience for many families.

Is there a different way?

Fortunately, yes. Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility in feeding (DOR, for short) is the recommended approach to feeding children. This approach helps prevent and manage a lot of common feeding challenges. It’s based on trusting that children of all ages are capable of determining how much to eat to grow and be well.

Adults’ roles and kids’ roles

In short, the DOR outlines adults’ roles with feeding, and kids’ roles with eating.

Adults are responsible for deciding what foods to offer, and when and where to offer them. Ideally, they would provide a variety of foods over the course of the day, offered at regular meal and snack times, in ways that support eating together. Once adults have done these pieces, their job is done.

Then, it’s up to the kids – they decide how much to eat from the foods provided, or whether to eat at any meal or snack time. Adults don’t have to do, or say, anything about how much is eaten – this is left up to the child.

Learning to trust

In my experience, at first, parents can find it hard to trust the DOR (also known as the “trust model”): “Letting kids decide how much to eat – is that a responsible thing to do? Won’t they starve?” In fact, right from birth, children can eat the amount they need to grow well. A hungry baby will let you know! And when they are satisfied, they’ll let go of the nipple, turn their head away, lose interest, and/or fall asleep. As they grow older, children continue to have the ability to regulate their food intake. The DOR is all about trusting, respecting, and protecting this ability.

A shift

It can be quite a shift to learn to trust kids to eat enough. There’s also a bit to learn about how to apply the DOR; however, in my experience, when parents and caregivers start to apply this approach, many feel a huge sense of relief. They’ve been working so hard – too hard – and they can finally take a step back, and learn to trust their children to do their part with eating. In turn, children will start to become more relaxed at meal times as well, eating the amounts they have appetite for, and (eventually) exploring a greater variety of foods.

Learn more

Interested in learning more about the division of responsibility in feeding? Consider the following resources:

It might also be helpful to connect with a dietitian:

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.
Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health Nutrition team. Her work focuses on nutrition in the early years, and she is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. She loves food! You are likely to find her gathering and preserving local food, or exploring beautiful northwest BC on foot, bike, ski, kayak, or kite.

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Make school lunches nutritious, delicious, and fun!

Mother and daughter making scrambled eggs.

Make school lunches a family affair! Even young kids can take on tasks like washing fruit, filling water bottles, and packing lunch bags!

Summer is coming to an end, which means it’s back-to-school time for families across northern B.C. Getting back into school routines often means busy schedules! Fuelling those busy days can be challenging, but there are some easy things you can do to make back-to-school lunches nutritious, delicious, and fun this year.

Follow these five simple steps for stress-free mornings and happy tummies throughout the day.

  1. Be prepared. The Boy Scouts knew what they were talking about! Taking some time during your evenings or weekends to get prepared makes busy weekday mornings a breeze. Plan meals, chop vegetables, bake muffins, or batch-cook something tasty (like soup or chili) to eat throughout the week. Check out Holly’s post for some great lunch prep ideas!
  2. Get the tools. Make sure you have a variety of reusable containers, including cutlery and drink containers, so that no matter what you pack for lunch, you’ll have something to put it in. An insulated lunch bag and a food Thermos are both great investments, too.
  3. Make it a family affair. Get the kids involved in prep! Even young kids can wash fruit, fill water bottles, and pack their lunch bags. And make sure to involve your kids in planning their lunch, like asking whether they want carrot sticks or celery. Offering them a choice means they are more likely to eat those healthy foods. There’s lots of inspiration for preparing food as a family on the Northern Health Matters blog, like Emilia’s tips for age-appropriate ways to include kids in cooking.
  4. Seek out healthy helpers. Save time with some pre-prepared nutritious items like washed and bagged salad greens, baby carrots, unsweetened applesauce cups, individual cheese portions, and yogurt cups.
  5. Think beyond the sandwich bread. While sandwiches are definitely a lunchtime favourite for many, it can be fun to switch it up. Instead of bread, try wraps or pita pockets. Or skip the sandwich and try a pasta salad, soup, crackers and cheese, or even last night’s leftovers.

Looking for a little lunch inspiration? Try this easy pasta salad recipe! You can get the kids involved, prep it the night before, and break out of the sandwich rut. Sounds like a win for healthy school lunches!

Chicken Pasta Salad

Adapted from cookspiration.com

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups cooked whole wheat pasta (such as rotini, penne, or macaroni)
  • 1 ½ cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup of your favourite salad dressing (such as Italian, caesar, or balsamic)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, chicken, carrot, cucumber.
  2. Drizzle with salad dressing and mix to combine.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for up to two days.

To switch things up, try replacing the chicken with shrimp, ham, chickpeas, or tofu. Try out different vegetables, too, like broccoli, peppers, peas, or corn.

For more inspiration, check out our Foodie Friday posts!


A version of this article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Safe Kids Week wrap-up: Safety tips for cyclists

The 2v1 rule ensures a proper and safe fit for helmets. Your helmet should rest a 2 finger distance above your eyebrows, the strap should make a V under your ears, and you should be able to fit only one finger between the strap and your chin.

The 2v1 rule ensures a proper and safe fit for helmets. Your helmet should rest a 2 finger distance above your eyebrows, the strap should make a V under your ears, and you should be able to fit only one finger between the strap and your chin.

Cycling can be a fun and active way to spend time with your kids. It’s even more fun when you’re doing so safely. Parachute encourages parents and caregivers to be role models for cycling safety by follow these important yet simple steps:

  • Protect Your Head, Wear a Helmet: A properly fitted and correctly worn bike helmet can make a dramatic difference, cutting the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%. Use the 2v1 rule for helmet fitting.
  • Check Your Ride: Ensure bikes are adjusted to the recommended height for the rider, tires are inflated and brakes are working properly.
  • Be Prepared: Get trained in bicycle safety and the rules of the road, use appropriate hand signals and obey all traffic signs.
  • Pick Family-Friendly Routes: Use designated areas for riding when available.
  • Ride in Well-Lit Areas: Be sure your bike has reflectors and lights if planning to ride in low-lit areas.
  • Pick the Right Side of the Road: Tell your kids to ride on the right side of the road, the same direction that traffic is going, and to stay as far right as possible.
  • Use Your Bell: Ensure your bike is equipped with a bell to announce when passing. If not, use your voice!
Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.

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The more you Mo

20131112LaineBeckerkidsI want to get dudes thinking about getting active with their families and friends. Becoming healthy men (and women) begins early in life, as studies have shown that healthy childhood development is associated with better overall health in life’s later stages. It doesn’t matter what stage of your life you are at, what matters is spending some quality time with those people and getting some much needed exercise while doing it!!

For me, that means making sure that I have time and energy for my kids, even at the end of a long day. The best experiences of being a dad are when I am out and being active with the kids. Sharing laughs and stories with them is super important to me, and that kind of connection is helping us to grow as a family.

I found a renewed interest in recreation when my kids came along. I often say to my friends when they have kids for the first time: “How does it feel knowing that you have reached the best part of your life?” Having kids is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. They quite likely saved my life, actually, and watching them discover and learn allows me to live vicariously through them.

There are interesting perks to being a father that you really can’t get a feel for until you have kids of your own. Any dads reading will know what I’m talking about, and for those aspiring (or not so much) to be a pappy someday, you might get a chuckle.

  1. Who knew that I would become the world’s toughest dude? It doesn’t matter what size you are or how strong (or not strong) you might be, kids look up to their dads with unconditional admiration. So for the first ten years or so, I will continue to be stronger than anyone else on earth…at least in the eyes of two little people.
  2. I’m also a giant that can pretty much reach up and touch the sky. Just sayin’.
  3. I apparently can also fix everything that is broken and there are very high expectations for me to do so. Thankfully they have yet to expose my limitations, but for the time being I will gladly play the part of MacGyver.
  4. My daughter is convinced that I actually know everything in the whole world! It’s kind of funny really because for most of my teens and twenties I thought I knew everything too! Nonetheless it’s nice to have blind support in my corner.

But you don’t need to be a dad to have fun with family. Connect with your parents. Head out hunting or fishing with your old man. Go for walks. Hit the ski hill. Go for a canoe ride down the river. We live in one of the best regions on earth, with endless terrain allowing for versatile recreation at every turn. The important piece is to take the next step and get out there! Even if you are far from home or the family isn’t available for adventure, take the initiative to get involved in the outdoors of northern BC.

My recommendation is to live everyday as if it was your last…and live well right until the very last day. That notion has a different meaning for me now than it did 10 years ago. Planning for the long-term begins today.

Get up an hour earlier and take control of your life. As you are reading this, millions of people across the world are getting exercise and taking care of themselves…push the close button at the top of this screen and open the door; get outside!

The other thing that men need to do is to take a more active part in their health. This extends beyond getting exercise and eating healthy. Men in Northern BC are renowned for higher rates of diseases, cancers and occupational injuries…yet we access the health care system less than any other dudes in the province. So even though we are sicker and more prone to injury and illness, we are reluctant to see our doctors for the necessary check-ups.

So break the mold. Change the pattern. Make an appointment with your doctor and get the proper check-ups. If you aren’t sure what screenings you might be due for and when, have a look at The MANual created by the Men’s Health Program at Northern Health.

Movember brings men’s health issues to the forefront, but we need to fight the good fight all year round. Taking care of ourselves is a full time investment that has a great long-term rate of return!! The more you Mo!!

Laine Becker

About Laine Becker

Laine Becker is in his final year of the Bachelor of Nursing program at UNBC, working towards becoming a registered nurse, and has worked as student for NH's men's health program. He's lived in the north his whole life and feels he couldn't have picked a better place to live, choosing to stay here, now raising his two kids with his wife. He feels the north has everything for everyone and the last few years has renewed his passion for being outdoors, as he is teaching his kids the importance of being active and exploring the world in his backyard. He urges men and women to become involved in their own health care: Eat well, exercise regularly and get proper check-ups!

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Partnering to help keep kids active

Kids playing in the pool.

Depending on their age, children need between 60 and 180 minutes of daily activity for healthy growth and development.

Although I’ve worked with children for some time now, I have recently learned a lot as co-chair of a new group of community partners called Healthy Families Prince George. For example, did you know on average, children are spending six hours a day in front of a screen? This includes watching TV, or playing with non-active electronic devices such as video games, tablets, computers, and cell phones. Looking back to my own childhood, I remember playing outside until we were called in to eat…boy, times have changed!

Healthy Families Prince George formed in the fall of 2011 in order to discuss the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for children ages 0-6. Community partners involved include Success by 6, the City of Prince George, Northern Health, School District #57, the Prince George Public Library, Pacific Sport Northern BC and the Child Care Resource & Referral…just to name a few. Our goal is to empower families, educators, and community service providers to support children in Prince George to eat healthy, be physically active and reduce screen time.

Depending on their age, children need between 60 and 180 minutes of daily activity for healthy growth and development.

Being physically active can help children:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve movement skills
  • Increase fitness
  • Build healthy hearts
  • Have fun and feel happy
  • Develop self-confidence
  • Improve learning and attention
  • Improve language skills

Here’s a few ideas on how to keep your little ones active:

  • Create safe spaces for your children to play, indoors and outdoors
  • Play music and learn action songs together
  • Make time for play with other kids
  • Get where you’re going by walking or biking

And remember there is nothing more your little one likes than participating in physical activity and healthy eating with you, their role models!

How do you help keep your kids active?

For more info on guidelines around physical activity for children, visit our position statement webpage and specifically our snapshot on sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity.

Jenn Tkachuk

About Jenn Tkachuk

As the Children First Manager, Jenn works with the communities of Prince George, Quesnel, Mackenzie, McBride and Valemount to promote the importance of the early years, increase community planning and coordination, and improve service delivery for children, youth and families. Jenn has worked in the area of early childhood development for 10 years and holds a master’s degree in social work. To stay active, Jenn enjoys working in her yard, walking her dog and snowshoeing in the winter.

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What’s for lunch?

Cutting vegetables for lunch.

Including vegetables in your child’s lunch is important to their overall health!

When I think back to my elementary school days, lunches were certainly a highlight. The entire school would file down to the lunchroom/gymnasium with our lunch pails for 30 minutes of socializing, and of course, eating. The food was brought from home (no hot lunch programs in our town) and consisted of the usual lunch pail fare of the eighties: squashed peanut butter and jam sandwiches, tetra pack fruit punches, a bruised apple (that would end up coming back home usually) and leftover Halloween candy (which would not).

I packed my own lunches and distinctly remember being jealous of the kids whose parents took the time and creativity to make their lunches special. Thermoses of warm leftover soup and spaghetti, veggies and dip, homemade banana bread and salads were uncommon sights in my lunches and enviable! My single dad who worked shift work would take us grocery shopping, buy us the convenience foods we saw on TV, and then the rest was up to us. In fact, I wonder if my dad has any idea what we really ate back then?

What made me reminisce about this was hearing about 9 year- old Martha Payne from Scotland, who started her own blog about lunch, called Never Seconds. In order to bring attention to the quality of food served in Scottish school cafeterias, she started taking a picture of her lunch daily and then critiquing it. She has caught the attention of the international media, created a platform for discussion about food in schools and receives an influx of photos daily from around the world of what people (and kids in particular) are eating for lunch.

Luckily in B.C., we have guidelines around what types of healthy food and beverages can be sold to children in schools. We have wonderful programs like the Farm to School Salad Bar and the School Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Program, where kids are exposed to new foods and encouraged to eat more produce. However, not all schools have cafeterias or hot lunch programs. Not all schools have salad bars. Some kids are still packing their lunches from home (albeit without the pb&j), or in the case of secondary schools, heading off campus to local fast food establishments.

The times have changed, and our understanding of the importance of feeding children well has grown. We lead busy lives and convenience is key, but are we sacrificing quality and health for a little more time? I’ll take a page from Martha Payne then and ask, what are you (and more importantly, your children) eating for lunch today?

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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