Healthy Living in the North

Picture YOU Healthy grand prize winner

PYH winner

Congratulations to Sandi Toor-Mann, our Picture YOU Healthy grand prize winner. Sandi submitted this photo of her brother-in-law and nephew, getting active in the winter.

Thank you to everyone who put some thought into what healthy eating, active living and healthy communities means to you during our Picture YOU Healthy challenge. We received some amazing photo entries from you and we hope you got some ideas from our posts about living a healthier lifestyle.

Last week we posted our top ten photo choices to our Facebook page and asked you to vote for the winner by liking your favourite photo. Collectively, the photos received over 1,200 Likes – thank you for your enthusiasm!

We’re happy to announce that the winner is Sandi Toor-Mann, who submitted this photo of her brother-in-law and nephew outside enjoying some activity in winter. The photo received 278 Likes!

Sandi described the photo with this: “The groundwork of all happiness is health. Out for a walk with my family on a Sunday afternoon. Enjoying quality time with my family, while modeling the importance of exercising all year around!”

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Picture YOU Healthy week 3 winner

Week 3 winner

Pamela Richardson is our Week 3 Winner for submitting this great photo of participants and volunteers at the 3rd Annual Surf Expression Session in Haida Gwaii.

The Picture YOU Healthy challenge has completed and you’re all waiting for the final word on the grand prize winner I’m sure! But first, we are happy to announce the winner of week 3 goes to a fantastic entry that represents healthy communities!

Congrats to Pamela Richardson from Haida Gwaii, who submitted this amazing photo of the 3rd Annual Surf Expression Session on North Beach in Haida Gwaii last November. During the event, one-on-one surf lessons are offered for free to youth 16 years and younger.

In her entry, Pamela said: “The community on Haida Gwaii rallied and over 40 volunteers came out to help instruct and get children as young as 3 in the water. Promoting active living and year round activity is preventative health care. Haida Gwaii does not have traditional recreation centres, so we rely on our environment for recreation. Surfing allows for a connection to the natural environment and the strengthening of cultural identity and the transmission of traditional environmental knowledge.”

Stay tuned tomorrow when we announce the grand prize winner of the Picture YOU Healthy Challenge!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Let the Picture YOU Healthy voting commence!

PYH finalists

Help us choose the Picture YOU Healthy champion! Visit the Northern Health Facebook page and LIKE your favorite!

Thank you to all those who have entered the Picture YOU Healthy challenge! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the quality of pictures that have been submitted over the past three weeks have been phenomenal! It’s clear that you have all put in a lot of thought to the photos you’ve submitted and have hopefully had a lot of fun thinking about what healthy eating, physical activity and building healthy communities means to you!

Now that the challenge has closed to new entries, it’s time to VOTE for our winner! And we need your help! Visit the Picture YOU Healthy photo album on the Northern Health Facebook page to see the Top Ten entries (as voted on my an internal NH group) – the picture with the most LIKES on our Facebook page by the end of day March 31 will win our grand prize: a Canon Powershot SX50HS digital camera with accessories (valued over $400)!

Thanks everyone! (Stay tuned when we announced the Week 3 Winner later this week too!)

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Finding your motivation

Dogs are great motivation

Having a dog friend can be great motivation to get moving!

Motivation is key when it comes time to make healthier life choices. My motivation is a 5-year-old pug-beagle cross named Puggles. If not for our walks around the neighborhood, my desire to get active would easily be trumped by homework or chores.  When I look at those big brown eyes I am compelled to take him for his much loved walks. The benefits are equal for both me and Puggles – increased stamina, that happy feeling after exercise and a longer, healthier life. It’s funny how being responsible for someone else’s health (and yes I do consider my dog a person) can motivate you to consider your own. I am aware that my dog lacks the brain function to exercise himself when required and to make his own healthy choices. I, however, am fully capable of making healthy choices for the both of us. This sense of responsibility is a constant motivation to get active and make healthy choices. Your motivation may differ from my own, maybe instead of a dog you have children, siblings or a spouse who serve as your motivation. Motivation is important in living a healthy lifestyle and as stated in Northern Health’s Position Paper on Healthy Communities: When people make healthy choices, we know they will live longer, healthier lives.

Being realistic when setting your goals is important; you wouldn’t run a two-minute mile the first time you put on your runners. Instead, keep track of the progress you have made – finding out you beat your previous record can be exhilarating. Finding a healthy recipe that also looks and tastes great will impress your family and friends, not to mention improve your overall health. Puggles and I began with our 30 minutes walks around the neighborhood, always stopping at a nearby park to sniff around (him, not me).  In recent weeks we have increased our walking time to 45 minutes and I have challenged myself to increase that time on a weekly basis. I can admit to missing the occasional day or two, but walking Puggles three times a week puts me pretty close to the World Health Organizations recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week. Also, having support when engaging in a healthy lifestyle can make a lot of difference and will encourage you to stick with your choices. Support systems can be friends, pets or members of your community – like walking groups or farmers’ markets. No one wants to be the one who ditches friends for a weekly exercise class or tell their significant other to take a late night stroll solo. I know my dog may not live to be 90, but making healthier choices for us both will ensure we can make the most of our time together. And who knows, with the right healthy choices I may be blowing out the candles on my own 90th birthday!

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “when people make healthy choices we know they will live longer, healthier lives” means to Jasmine and Meghan. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Men's Health Nursing Students

About Men's Health Nursing Students

Jasmine Ford is a fourth year nursing student currently doing a practicum with the men’s health program. Jasmine grew up on Vancouver Island and has been living in the north for five years while completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Her passions include working in physical rehabilitation and long term care. Meghan McQuhae is a fourth year nursing student currently doing a practicum with the men’s health program. Meghan grew up in the Fraser Valley, and has been living in Prince George for five years while completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Her passion is working in the acute care field of nursing.

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Picture YOU Healthy week 2 winner

Taking time for physical activity

Amy Stephen is our week 2 winner – she took this photo of seniors taking time for physical activity in Vanderhoof. A great example of both physical activity and building healthy communities!

Building on the fantastic momentum of week 1, week 2 brought us even more amazing photos in the Picture YOU Healthy challenge – both in quality and in thought. We are so pleased at how YOU are interpreting our healthy eating, active living and healthy community messages — and for sharing such great photos of yourselves, your family, friends and community members! Thank you everyone for your submissions!

After careful deliberation, we have chosen our week 2 winner – Amy Stephen, from Vanderhoof, B.C., who submitted this great photo of seniors at the Vanderhoof Seniors Centre taking time for physical activity. Amy describes the photo as “Vanderhoof seniors reaching for the world!”

In speaking to Amy, she told us that she will choose the fitness equipment prize and share it with the Seniors Centre! Amy, you’re definitely an inspiration for building healthy communities!!

We encourage everyone to keep sending in their entries. You have a few more days – deadline to enter to win in the Picture YOU Healthy challenge before March 22. Next week, we’ll showcase this week’s (week 3) winner, and on Monday, we will reveal the top 10 photo submissions and give YOU the chance to vote for the winner on our Facebook page. Stay tuned!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Eat real food

Eat a variety of food!

Eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groups!

Eat real food. Sounds simple. Right? But is it? Where’s the “real food?” Diet crazes, demands for convenience foods, and industrial/agricultural innovations have left grocery stores packed with anything but. Our great grandparents probably wouldn’t recognize most of what’s on the shelves these days as food! There seems to be a low fat, baked or “healthier” version of everything but, are they really healthier? Or, are they just a more processed, chemically laden version of the original?

Food labels and packages can be very misleading. Many fruit snacks are really just repackaged sugar. An average 14 gram serving contains 11 grams of sugar and pretty much nothing else. Parents may end up buying them for kid’s lunches thinking they are doing something good for their kids. Or what about a product like Sunny D that contains almost no real juice and the second ingredient is corn syrup! The commercial implies it will help our children grow up “happy, healthy and successful” when it’s really just sugar water full of emulsifiers, dies, gums and even oil….yuch!!! What kind of juice contains oil?

So what are my thoughts?

  • Eat real food. Or, as Michael Pollan would say “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
  • Become a “qualitarian” make every bite a quality bite!
  • Get a variety of foods from all four food groups and don’t limit any particular group – they are all important for a balanced diet.
  • Share food with friends and family. Multiple studies have shown that this has huge social benefits and fosters healthy relationships with food, especially for children.
  • Check out those ingredient labels – they should be short and pronounceable. Or better yet, try incorporating more foods without ingredient labels into your meals, as these are usually minimally processed, real foods!
  • Focus on eating food, not nutrients.
  • Buy food from farmers’ markets when possible.

Stick to the basics, and enjoy good food and traditions with friends and family, and eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groups!

Do you have real food experiences you would like to share? Leave a comment below!

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “Eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groups!means to Melissa. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Melissa Baker

About Melissa Baker

Melissa is a UBC Dietetic Intern currently completing her 10 month internship with Northern Health. Melissa has an immense passion for food and all it has to offer – from nutrition, joy, community, traditions and culture to social outings and family ties. This career allows her to mesh her love for teaching and helping others with her interest in the components of healthy eating and all the complex issues involved. She also enjoys blogging and being involved in social media.

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Finding space to exercise in your community

Dog agility.

Theresa’s “one thing” has become exercising without noticing during dog agility classes with Squid.

Research tells us very clearly that exercise is vital to health. In fact, this has been knowledge from the time of the Roman philosopher Juvenal who proclaimed mens sana in copore sano (that means “pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.”) (Satire X, line 356).

In the modern world between the demands of work and family, finding time to do anything that might nurture your own body and well-being is often bottom of the “to do list,” yet, it’s just like they say when you board an airplane: “In the event of trouble, please put on your own air mask before assisting others.” Truly, if you’re not at your best, you can’t do what you have to do to the best of your ability.

So, having accepted that you really do need to invest in your own health, how do you make the switch? A healthy community is one that can help you figure that out. As a lifelong couch potato since leaving school and the intensity of playing hockey (that would be field hockey – equally as tough as the hockey on ice but with a lot less padding), I was forced by my own ill health into figuring out how to be more active. At the beginning, all I could handle was walking. And I walked lots. I found all kinds of trails and pathways that wound through my neighbourhood. In some cases, I found myself away from a city setting and in nature not a very far distance from where I started. I had never seen these areas, never even noticed their existence from my car. I began to venture further afield and visited many of the parks in our city. I began to realize Prince George could really be called the city of parks.

Active in your community.

How do you get active in your community?

I graduated from walking into running, and now my stamina and fitness is such that I have been able to enroll my little dog, Squid, into agility classes – and I can keep up! He is a young and incredibly smart little dog. If I don’t keep him well exercised he gets into mischief. The sad fact is that although I can keep up with him in terms of speed, he is far better than me at the actual agility and is excelling in the class. I, on the other hand, am in danger of flunking out.

However, that aside, I run – and run hard – without noticing because I am too busy figuring out where my left side is supposed to be in a rear cross (that is, a sequence in dog agility.) This has become my thing – the one thing that gives such pleasure that I am exercising without even noticing. This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been able to start small and with much gratitude to the planners who built these spaces into our neighborhoods.

A healthy community is one that has a wide range of options to help you find your “one thing” that will work for you. Whether it’s a weekly one hour in the local pool with a child, hiking local trails or becoming a roller derby queen, there is something in your community that will entice you away from the couch, the TV or the warmth of that early morning “one more snooze button” state. For me, exploring my city slowly on foot morphed into running which has opened so many more options – such as the agility class – that I never expected. What is your one thing going to be?

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “It takes a whole community working together to create healthy environmentsmeans to Theresa. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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Picture YOU Healthy week 1 winner

Week 1 winner

Congratulations Loretta, our week 1 winner of the Picture You Healthy contest, who shows us that every move counts.

Thank you to everyone who has entered the Picture YOU Healthy challenge! We have had so many amazing photo entries in our first couple of weeks – it’s clear that participants are putting a lot of thought into healthy lifestyles, including healthy eating, active living and building healthy communities. It’s been very difficult to pick just one winner for the first week – but all entries will continue to be eligible to win for weeks two and three, so stay tuned!

We’re pleased to announce that the week 1 winner is Loretta Mercer from New Aiyansh, B.C. Loretta entered this photo in the active living category, choosing to show us what “every move counts” means to her. Loretta told us that she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2009 and has been battling it since 2004, making exercising (particularly recovering from it) very difficult. She said, “I have met an awesome nurse, who understands that I have Fibromyalgia and has offered to help me get fit and not get sick… This is the first program I have joined since 2009 and I am excited. I can’t wait to see me fit.”

Congratulations Loretta – and we wish you all the best with your new exercise program!!

To everyone else, keep sending in your fantastic entries! We look forward to seeing how you picture yourself healthy. Enter to win in the Picture YOU Healthy challenge before March 22.

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Your health is worth taking the time to move!

don't give up

Don’t ever give up… don’t ever stop moving, no matter what it is you do.

I love quotes. I love collecting them and using the words to remind me to think differently. When I was writing the Northern Health position paper on sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity, I came across one quote that has become a very important reminder as I continue to wait for surgery to fix a damaged knee.

Great thoughts can still be important even when taken out of time and place. One hundred and forty years ago, Edward Stanley, the 15th Earl of Derby was giving a speech to students preparing to graduate. The words he spoke then, still resonate strongly now: “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”  

This wasn’t a new idea. Several thousand years earlier, Plato said, “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”

Running and long walks used to be my passion, but they were not the best choice to keep my knee protected from injury. Being faced with physical restrictions that ended my favourite ways to exercise might have meant I would just give up and wait for the problem to be fixed.

There are many people just like me who are waiting for a problem to be fixed or have given up and begun to decline in fitness. The easy answer would be for me to go into a wheelchair or scooter, or even a seat elevator to get up and down my stairs at home. My doctor had different ideas.

I was struggling with depression and frustrated because I couldn’t go for the mind-clearing walks I loved. He reminded me that my knee will be fixed at some point and that right now my mental well-being was more important than my knee. I needed to find ways to be active that didn’t involve walking or running, but I needed to keep moving.

Now I use a stationary bike or I go to the pool and run in the deep water. While these aren’t my favourites, they are the exercises that keep me moving and keep me in a better place, both mentally and physically. Exercise keeps my joints and muscles fluid and strong, so even though my knee doesn’t want to work right like the rest of my body, it is hanging in there waiting to get treatment so it can catch up and be strong again.

Many days, as I watch co-workers and family go for walks, I realize it would be easy to feel sorry for myself and give up.  But giving up isn’t an option, I want to live a long and healthy and active life enjoying spending my children, their spouses and my wonderful grandchildren. Many people say that exercise is the best medicine… and I think they are right. If I don’t exercise, I don’t feel good and I don’t move well. If I exercise, I don’t have as much pain and I also enjoy the benefits of an improved mood as a side-effect of exercise.

Don’t ever give up… don’t ever stop moving. Research has shown that you can build muscle strength no matter what your age. Of course, at 90 you won’t build muscles like a 20-year old, but you can still build enough muscle to be as independent as possible. Keep moving, because as soon as you stop, there will be lots and lots of time for you to experience the diseases that come from moving less and sitting more.

Check out Dr. Mike Evan’s work 23 ½ hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? I hope you too will be inspired to find ways to keep moving.

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “Make time for physical activity, or TAKE time to be sickmeans to Christine. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables! (Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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Old wedding custom translates to healthy eating advice

Variety at lunch

Variety at lunch (whole grain crackers, cheddar and havarti cheese, leafy salad with yogurt-based basil dip, sliced kiwi, toasted walnuts and trail mix, dried cherries and other dried fruit).

Recently, my oldest niece walked down the aisle to begin what I hope is a happy life filled with fun, friendship and health. As we made sure she had good luck by having something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, I remember thinking that these four ‘somethings’ work for healthy eating too! In particular, to me, these stand for the value of variety in healthy eating.

Variety, defined as eating many different types of foods from each of the four groups of Canada’s Food Guide, adds interest to our diet (= less boring!), helps kids and adults like a larger range of food and adds a wide range of nutrients for good health. Food companies lead us to believe we are eating variety but simply having multiple flavours isn’t the same thing – plain versus ketchup, salt and vinegar or all dressed potato chips isn’t true variety—where is real food? What practical advice can we take from this old wedding custom?

Something Old: Try old favourites in new ways or pull out some of granny’s recipes and give them a healthy makeover. Try oatmeal topped with a spoonful of peanut butter and sliced bananas, spaghetti sauce made with ground turkey and/or cooked lentils, sandwiches using hummus instead of mayo, pizza made with a base of sliced zucchini or perogies filled with berries and topped with yogurt.

Something New: Try a new food from each of the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide:

  • Vegetables & fruit – chop some eggplant and add to a mixture of potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and a little oil and roast in the oven until tender or use spaghetti squash as a base for spaghetti sauce—I know I am still working on Swiss chard!
  • Grain products – cook some quinoa with your steel cut oats or use it in place of rice as a side dish or in rice pudding.
  • Milk & alternatives – add kefir (a fermented milk drink found in the dairy section of the grocery store) to your smoothie or use lower fat buttermilk (which makes baked goods fluffier)in baking.
  • Meat & alternatives – nut butters like cashew butter, almond butter or pea butter, or edamame (fresh soy beans found in the freezer section of the grocery store).

Something Borrowed: Try a food, dish or custom from another culture to experience the world while staying at home. For example, add some peeled slices of jicama from Mexico to your veggie plate, enjoy a bowl of dal from India or yam and peanut soup from Africa or try eating with chopsticks or your hands!

Something Blue: Eat colourfully—whether it’s blueberries, kale, purple cabbage, kiwi or tomatoes, the richer and varied the natural colour, the more nutrition you’re putting into your body! I remember once being at a dinner party where each family was given a particular colour to match to their food offering. Dinner that night was colourful and healthy—on the menu was big green salad filled with red beets, tomatoes, peppers and tomatoes and topped with a homemade strawberry dressing, roasted purple potato wedges, large pasta shells filled with orange squash, tofu and feta cheese, and a brown dessert—chocolate covered strawberries. Yum!

While this might seem like a lot of work on top of the challenges and responsibilities of daily life, remember that small steps over time make a big difference. Variety doesn’t mean you need to eat eight different vegetables and fruit each day—variety allows you to take advantage of the changing seasons—you eat more leafy greens as salads in the spring/summer, more root vegetables as soups and stews in the fall/winter; variety isn’t about one meal or one day, it’s your pattern of eating over time. So, take that first step to variety that works for you! My niece’s first step down the aisle led to a day filled with many happy memories, the purchase of a home and much luck thus far! Think about what you will gain from eating a variety of real food from Canada’s Food Guide. What will your first step be?

[Editor’s note:  This is a great example of what the key message “Eat a variety of real food every day from all four food groupsmeans to Flo. Tell us what it means to you! Visit our Picture YOU Healthy contest page for more details on your chance to win!]

Flo Sheppard

About Flo Sheppard

Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!

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