Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Spring cleaning your diet

Tray of salad rolls

Spring is the perfect time to get re-inspired around healthy eating! This season, try playing up veggies in new ways like salad rolls!

Is your kitchen done with the winter blues? If you’re like me, spring is the perfect time to get re-inspired and focused around healthy eating. Fresh local produce is becoming more abundant and the bright sunny weather brings with it tasty & delicious barbecue season to enjoy all that fresh goodness!

No fancy juice cleanses needed here, just a shift in focus to enjoy fresh, whole foods again! A little planning and inspiration can go a long way:

  • Short on time? Plan out a few meal ideas on the weekend. This will save you from hitting the grocery store multiple times and will help you make a conscious effort to eat fresh, minimally processed foods.
  • Thirsty? Skip the pop, fraps and sugar-heavy beverages. Grab some lemon water or home-brewed ice tea instead. If you’re a juice drinker, try cutting back or mixing half with club soda.
  • Hot weather? Ditch the oven and try these easy options: veggie-loaded pasta salads, quinoa/grain salads, sandwiches, wraps, or fruit & cottage cheese plates.
  • Need some veggie inspiration? Try to play up your vegetables in new and exciting ways. Try grilling veggie kebabs on the barbecue, throwing together a fresh veggie platter with your favourite dip, or try my all-time favourite: Vietnamese salad rolls … because salad wrapped up is way more fun!

Vietnamese Salad Rolls

Cut veggies on rice paper wraps

Salad rolls are a great way to enjoy veggies in the spring – no oven required!

Makes 40 half-rolls

Prep time: 1.5 hours



  • 20 (8 inch) rice paper wrappers
  • 4 oz rice vermicelli noodles
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 bunch romaine or butter lettuce
  • 1 bunch green onions (white parts removed)
  • 1 bunch fresh mint

Peanut dipping sauce

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp chili-garlic paste (I used sambal oelek)
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • sesame seeds for garnish
Rice paper wrapper with mint leaves

Make sure to roll the rice paper wrap tightly!


  1. For peanut sauce: whisk all ingredients together, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Set aside.
  2. For salad rolls: cut vegetables into thin strips. Lettuce leaves can be cut in half width-wise.
  3. Boil 4 cups of water in a kettle. Put rice noodles in a bowl and cover in boiling water. Let sit 5 minutes then drain out water.
  4. Prepare work surface with tray of cut-up vegetables, lettuce leaves and cooked rice noodles. Fill deep dish (I used a pie dish) with hot tap water and have rounds of rice paper ready.
  5. To roll each salad roll:
  • Place 1 rice paper wrapper in hot water until soft and pliable (approx. 10-15 seconds). Remove from water and place on dry plastic cutting board (or clean damp dishcloth).
  • Lay lettuce leaf just above the centre of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side.
  • Fill lettuce leaf with 1/4 cup cooked rice noodles, 2 strips cucumber, 3 pepper strips, 5-6 slices thinly sliced carrot, 2 mint leaves and small slice of green onion.
  • Fold top of rice paper wrapper over the bundle of cut veggies, then fold in sides and roll TIGHTLY.

Once you are finished rolling all the salad rolls, cut each one in half diagonally. Plate with peanut sauce for dipping.

Salad rolls can be made 2 days in advance, simply leave whole (un-cut) in a tray. Cover with a damp paper towel then wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Destyni Atchison

About Destyni Atchison

Destyni is a Clinical Dietitian at Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa. She has been working with Northern Health for the past two years and also runs her own nutrition consulting business. In her spare time, she enjoys snowshoeing, hiking and developing new recipes for herself and her clients.


Spring into activity – injury-free!

Young boy wearing a life-jacket and fishing off of dock.

Make sure that your favourite spring and summer activities are enjoyed safely so that you can have fun all season long!

Spring is in the air! Lakes are thawing, bulbs are blooming, and leaves are sprouting! After a long but mild winter, it’s a perfect time to get outside and enjoy your favourite spring activity!

While physical activity is an important part of our health, as well as our growth and development, we recognize that there are risks involved – as there are in all parts of life. While not all risks can be eliminated, most can be managed.

Everybody has thoughts and ideas about risk and protective factors and what they believe is the right balance to keep their activity both fun and safe. For example, when you leave the house to go for a walk and cross the road, you are taking a risk. But, if you look both ways, make eye contact with drivers, and wear bright clothing, you minimize that risk while still enjoying your walk!

What are your thoughts around risk taking? Do you manage risks in your daily activities in a way that keeps those activities fun while including the appropriate safety measures? What precautions do you take to ensure you can get back to the same activity with the same ability again and again? Remember to aim for a healthy balance, avoid the bubble wrap and when you take risks, take smart ones!

Did you know that we sustain more injuries during the spring and summer months? Why might that be?

  • There are more vulnerable road users out and about such as bicyclists and motorcyclists, dog walkers, runners, and skateboarders.
  • Off-road vehicle use increases with warmer weather. In northern B.C., we actually have the highest rates of ATV injuries in the province.
  • There is more access to open water for swimming, fishing, and boating – all of which come with a drowning risk.
  • There is an increase in outdoor sports where we see more musculoskeletal injuries and concussion.
Young boy wearing helmet on BMX bike.

Shellie’s tips for safe spring and summer activities are simple but effective: look first, wear the gear, get trained, buckle up, and drive sober. Whether you’re on a boat, a bike, a car, a dock, a street, a hill, or enjoying any other Northern activity, these tips will help you stay active and injury-free!

Here are some simple but effective tips to stay fit and injury-free so you can enjoy the activities you love all spring and summer long – and for many seasons to come!

  • Look first: Stop, think and check out the situation before you act. Watch for vulnerable road users. Stop, think, and assess before crossing the street, before skiing down a hill, before climbing a ladder. Understand the risks of an activity and make a plan to manage them.
  • Wear the gear: When there is protective gear for an activity, wear it. It will save a life. Your seatbelt, your helmet, your life-jacket – wear the gear!
  • Get trained: Learn how to assess the risks of an activity, decide which ones are worth taking, and develop skills to manage those risks. ATV safety training, swimming lessons and driver education are all examples of getting trained.
  • Buckle up: Have the rule that everyone buckles up properly every time, no matter how short the trip. Remember to buckle up life-jackets and helmets, too!
  • Drive sober: Be fully in control of your mind and body when behind the wheel of any kind of vehicle, whether car, ATV, boat or bicycle. Operate these vehicles without the impairment of alcohol, drugs, fatigue or distractions of any kind.
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.


Make plans for activity this spring!

Four children playing on a tire swing.

Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone! With spring upon us, it is a great time to get out and play as a family or community! Kids and adults alike won’t even realize they’re being active when they’re socializing at the same time!

From Dease Lake to Prince George, the sidewalks and streets are basically clear of the white stuff at this point! The weather is warmer, my children have their bikes out and the tuques and mitts have been put away. For me, these are all the signs I need to say that spring is officially here!

We were pretty lucky to have had a mild winter in most parts of northern B.C. this year, but the colder temperatures, shorter days, and snowy and icy conditions will still have kept many people indoors for the season. This hibernation often results in a decrease in physical activity over the winter months which comes with a cost to our health.

We now have more information about how spending the majority of our time sitting is not good for our health. We know that decreased physical activity raises our risk for a number of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and can also affect our mental health. Now that we have sprung into spring, it’s a good time to turn that sedentary behavior around and take a positive approach to getting and staying healthy!

Here are a few tips for getting started with any physical activity plans this spring:

Wear proper footwear.

Having the right footwear for activity will ensure comfort and the ability to continue with the activity of choice. Walking is one of the single most beneficial things for our health as almost anyone can do it and it’s free! Walking shoes or running shoes will provide good support and the proper fit will prevent blisters and calluses. There are a wide variety of shoes available and appropriate for all activity levels that will fit into most people’s budgets. Proper footwear is definitely a good investment and will keep you moving!

Grab a fitness buddy or activity partner.

Finding someone with whom to share our physical activity goals is one of the best motivators to keep us invested in staying active. Find someone who will go walking or try a new activity with you and make a plan! You’ll get to socialize with your friends or family and it won’t even seem like exercise! This goes for kids, too! Encourage kids to get outdoors and play with their friends. Spring is the perfect time for kids to be outside and exploring. They’ll be so busy having fun that they won’t even realize they are getting exercise.

Set goals for yourself and your family to meet Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.

Adults need 150 minutes of activity per week. That’s per week, not per day! If we were to break that down, it’s just over 20 minutes per day, which should be achievable for most people.

If you’re just starting out, start slow and you can even break that down to bouts of 10 minutes at a time, gradually working your way up to meeting the recommendations. The biggest goal for all of us is to move more and sit less every day, whatever that looks like for each individual! We should all strive for more movement! A pedometer or step counter can be an encouraging way to help keep track of progress.

These goals apply to children as well. To achieve health benefits, kids need 60 minutes of activity per day. As parents and caregivers, we can’t assume that kids get all of their physical activity during the day and then be OK with them coming home after school and sitting around on electronics and watching screens. Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone! Make every effort to be positive, active living role models for our kids and our communities. It truly benefits everyone.

In addition to those 3 tips, the importance of progression and patience needs to be highlighted. Adults should start slow if they’re just beginning a new activity or routine and take time to work up to the recommended guidelines, especially if they haven’t been active for some time. The progression will take longer for some people, but as activity levels progress, so will the health benefits! Incorporating light stretching before and after any type of activity is also worthwhile as it warms up our muscles and joints and can prevent injury, which will keep us on the road to increased activity and improved health.

Stick with these tips and your goals and have patience. Be kind to yourself and celebrate your successes! Let’s get outside and enjoy these first signs of spring!

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

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


Tales from the Man Cave: Top 5 yard work safety tips

top 5 yard work safety tips

Get outside and tidy up that yard! But be safe about it.

I am sitting in my home office contemplating the grueling aspects of going out and raking the last of the leaves from Fall. The ones that I was sitting in my office contemplating raking last Fall.

I am told that contemplation is good for mental health, so as long as I keep thinking about this, I should be ok – Right?! But it looks awful, and I sense the nagging question, “What will the neighbours say?”

So I go outside, into the brisk and breezy day and as you’d expect, all that contemplation from last year is coming back to haunt me. There is a deck that needs painting and some repairs to the façade of the house and everywhere I turn there is something needing done and the angst is growing.

Then it hits me! I am suffering from one of the diseases of modern life: maintenance hysteria! It is a serious business, everywhere I look all I see is manicured lawns and perfect facades. Everywhere, that is, except mine. The only disease to take over this one is procrastination, and wouldn’t you know it, I have already returned to the TV… only to be taunted, as I furiously hit the remote, by Mike Holmes and Brian Baeumler, TV home improvement heroes.

I am sweating profusely now and my heart is pounding in my chest. I run from the TV and into the garage to find the chainsaw to fix the broken fence, but I can’t find it because of all the recycling product that I have not returned yet.

So my key message this week (besides the fact that chainsaws aren’t all that helping in fixing fences)? You know you have to do it. So do it safely. All kidding aside, there are real hazards.

Here is my list of top 5 yard work safety tips:

  1. Warm your body up by having a nice little walk in the sun or the yard before doing anything too strenuous. Stretch a little and then swing that bloody sledgehammer.
  2. Wear the right clothing for the job. Moving machinery has potential to cause serious harm even death.  Flying rocks that come off the machine or other objects can cause serious eye damage and even eye loss. Hearing can be damaged due to excessive noise levels. So wearing the appropriate clothing, such as long trousers and long sleeves as well as proper shoes or boots is a good idea. Put on the safety goggles and ear muffs and avoid any loose clothing that could get caught in machinery. You might also want a hat or ball cap too to protect your head from the sun.
  3. Don’t forget the H20! Keep yourself properly hydrated when it’s warm and you’re working hard.
  4. Be aware of who’s around you. Kids and pets have a tendency to sneak up on you, so make sure you know who’s around to avoid any potential for others to be injured.  Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of lawn mowing accidents worldwide every year. Some fatal.
  5. Be mindful of your back and lift properly! It’s far too easy to put it out by heavy lifting of bags of soil or mulch or just plain old shoveling. Make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew and bend those knees and use your thighs to take the wait.

So although I like to try and stay in the humour zone, I am afraid that injury is no laughing matter and with a little thought, is mostly avoidable. But certainly, don’t be afraid to get outside! Working in our yards is great physical activity, and being productive and enjoying the sun is great for our mental wellness too.

I wish you all a great summer – safe and enjoyable.


Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


In Consideration of the Slow Bicycle

Slow biking

Riding your bike has a lot of health benefits. Will you ride this year?

When you live in the north, things are different. Bicycle riding is a case in point. In the south, people ride bicycles year round. They develop a way of being that incorporates their bike. In the north, with the exception of a few diehards, the bicycle is a seasonal thing. Garages, garden sheds and basements throughout the region harbor our bikes usually from the first snowfall until the roads are once more clear. Sure signs of spring are not just the return of robins to our yards but the return of bicycles to our streets.

To mark this emergence from the cold season, we in the north celebrate and promote Bike to Work Week each year. It may be a provincial event but in the north it is one of our harbingers of spring. This year Bike to Work Week is May 27 to June 2.All over the north people are getting out their bicycles, cleaning and adjusting them, getting ready for the week. Many are organizing teams and issuing challenges to others.

For some, this event is important because riding a bicycle is good exercise. They look at bike riding as health promotion. It certainly is because exercise reduces many health risks:

  • It is good for your heart
  • It lowers blood pressure
  • It increases your overall fitness
  • And bike riding is a solidly low impact pursuit that most people can do

However, there is much more to it than that. Bicycle riding is an experience in itself that means something unique to each individual. For many people the idea of biking has some clear associations. For some bicycles seem to be a part of childhood: “Yeah, I rode a bike when I was a kid. Then I got my license.” In that case, riding might have an element of nostalgia, a return to a simpler time. For others biking has taken on a defined culture hallmarked by riding shoes, flashy helmets, carbon fiber components, lycra and spandex. Bicycle riding for some is about speed, competition and high tech equipment. I do not mean to be critical of such things. To each his or her own, but where does that leave those of us that ride in jeans and street shoes or those who ride bikes scrounged at garage sales and serviced with duct tape and WD40?

An emerging movement that may be of interest is something called the “Slow Bicycle Movement.” Slow Biking is all about the journey. It’s about riding peacefully, leisurely, about being comfortable and enjoying the world around us as we move from place to place. The slow bike is designed for comfort. The slow biker is a person making their way through their life on two wheels, going to work, going to play or going shopping. Whatever you do in the course of the day can be made more interesting more pleasurable and healthier by making a bicycle a part of it.

We live in a world that builds stress. We have schedules to keep, agendas to fulfill, commitments and conflicts to manage throughout our daily lives. Taking the time to ride provides more than cardio. It provides an opportunity for mindfulness. A slow-paced comfortable ride makes it possible to notice things. For me, getting my bike out of the shed and taking those first rides of the spring involved seeing the first crocuses emerging along the Heritage Trail and dodging the snowy patches hanging on in shady areas. It involved people watching in my neighborhood, waving to the elderly man on the corner preparing his yard for spring planting. It involved consciously considering purchases in the grocery store in light of what I could carry in my backpack. A casual ride in the evening gives me time to reflect on the events of the day and to plan for tomorrow as well. Later on, sitting in my chair I felt clear-headed and at peace. There was a gentle ache in muscles underused over the winter. For me that ache felt good.

Will you participate in Bike to Work Week this year? What does bike riding mean to you?

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.