Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: With gratitude to the hunters and the snow…

Moose in snow

Have you tried wild game before? Registered dietitian Victoria was hesitant at first but now has trouble going back to beef!

Winter is here and I am pretty excited. I love the first snowfall! Letting those first snowflakes settle on my face is one of my favorite winter moments. It’s a great time for families and friends to get out and have some fun together walking or playing in the snow.

After one of those outdoor winter adventures, it’s sure nice to come home to a hot meal. This is where a crock pot comes in handy! The recipe I’m sharing today is moose meat spaghetti sauce made in a crock pot so all you have to do is cook the pasta when you get home. Sound good? Of course, if you don’t have moose meat, you can always substitute ground beef.

I know many Indigenous people and northerners who hunt or have someone who hunts for them. I had the good fortune last year to be given some moose meat from a friend. I learned a lot from him about the best way to cook the meat and make sure it is safe to eat.

The First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets from the First Nations Health Authority are a great resource on traditional foods such as moose. They provide nutritional information as well as traditional harvesting and food use. Moose meat is an excellent source of protein and B vitamins (riboflavin and niacin), and a good source of iron. It’s also low in saturated fat compared to modern domestic animals like beef.

I’ll admit that at first, my daughters and I were hesitant to try moose meat because we had not had it before. But after a few meals, we found it hard to go back to beef! Moose meat is a healthy and delicious northern food. I hope you enjoy winter and this great tasting crock pot moose meat spaghetti!

Crock pot moose spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500 g ground moose meat
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1- 28 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1- 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • Other vegetables such as mushrooms or zucchini (optional)
  • 1 package spaghetti or other pasta noodles

Instructions

  1. Fry the ground moose meat in a frying pan with the oil until fully cooked. Put into crock pot.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients except the noodles. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  3. When you are ready to eat, in separate pot, boil water, add the noodles, and cook as per the package directions. Drain. Serve with the sauce on top.

Serving suggestion:

  • If you like, you can garnish with parmesan cheese and serve with a tossed salad. A dessert such as frozen berries is a nice addition.
Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health’s Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: Give your comfort food a boost!

Plate of macaroni and cheese

Mac & cheese is easy to make from scratch and, with a few tweaks, you can amp up the nutrition and taste!

The snow has been falling and the days are getting shorter. Yes, winter has arrived in northern B.C.! These chilly evenings have me turning to soups, stews, and hearty comfort foods.

Comfort foods often get a bad rap when it comes to nutrition. We often think of comfort foods as being heavy, rich, and lacking in the vegetable department. But there isn’t any good reason they have to be this way. Most classic comfort foods can be easily modified to boost their nutrition and still be warm and satisfying enough for even the coldest winter night.

Mac & cheese is probably one of my favourite comfort food meals to make at home. Not only is it an easy dish to make from scratch, but with only a few little tweaks, you can amp up the nutrition and taste:

  • It’s easy enough to switch out regular macaroni for whole grain pasta to add some extra fibre to your meal.
  • Using an old or aged cheddar allows you to use less cheese while keeping that cheesy flavour.
  • And I always add some vegetables to my mac & cheese to make it a complete meal.

Some great vegetable choices include:

  • steamed cauliflower or broccoli
  • frozen peas or corn
  • sautéed mushrooms
  • puréed butternut squash
  • dark leafy greens, like spinach or kale

Here, I’ve used baby kale in my favourite mac & cheese recipe because it has a more mild flavour than regular kale and it requires less prep. If baby kale isn’t available, you can easily substitute chopped fresh, frozen, or canned kale instead.

Casserole dish with mac & cheese

Marianne’s recipe calls for kale, but cauliflower, broccoli, peas, corn, mushrooms, or squash are all great mac & cheese additions!

Oh Kale Yeah! Mac & Cheese

Recipe from Evergreen Eats

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole grain pasta (such as macaroni, rotini, or penne)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded old cheddar (the older the better!)
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of baby kale, packed
  • 1/2 cup herb and garlic croutons, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cook pasta per package directions, until al dente.
  3. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stir and cook for 1 minute, without browning.
  4. Lower the heat, and gradually whisk in milk. Stir until bubbles form around the edges, and sauce thickens. Do not boil.
  5. Stir in cheddar cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat until pasta is cooked.
  6. Drain pasta, and add it to the cheese sauce, along with the baby kale. Stir until combined and kale has wilted slightly. Transfer to baking dish, and top with crushed croutons.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until top is crispy and golden brown.

Notes:

  • No croutons? No problem! You can use breadcrumbs, panko, or even crushed crackers or a few potato chips.
  • As the cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce are all salty, taste your sauce before adding any extra salt – you might find you don’t need it!
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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Tales from the Man Cave: Don’t resolve – just stay active!

Winter landscape

For Jim, his camera is “a fine companion that ensures that I will park my vehicle and get active by walking through the snow to take photographs of the scenes I’ve spotted.” How can you stay active in the winter?

As I look out my window at a cold, bleak day, all the revelry of the holiday season is fast dissipating, and I am now faced with a dreadful reality. Tradition dictates that I must somehow “resolve” to change in the new year. And so, off I go “resolving” to do many great deeds of magnificent valor!

It seems almost inevitable that these things, grand as they may be, are stopped in their tracks by mid-February by the lack of forethought or plan. This is why I’ve written about SMART and SMARTER goals instead of resolutions before! They work!

Don’t resolve, just stay active!

According to Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Living, activity plays an important role in quality of life and feeling of well-being that Canadians experience. It is also noted that active people live longer, more productive lives and are more likely to avoid illness and injury.

In the north, we are blessed by beautiful surroundings.

Getting out and enjoying the northern weather in winter is of course something that is wonderful. Just think of skating on a frozen lake on a sunny day, skiing or snowboarding on our amazing hills, or snowshoeing through the forest. And being active doesn’t have to mean snow sports, of course. Snow shovel, anyone?

With all of these activities, there should be a thought towards the issue of safety. Think proper footwear and clothing and a knowledge of the hazards of our beautiful northern winters, like the dangers of the cold and slipping on ice. Once prepared, then enjoy and have your spirits lifted!

Winter landscape in daytime

Heading out to take photos? Be sure to check the conditions and let someone know where you’re going!

For me, a camera is a fine companion that ensures that I will park my vehicle and get active by walking through the snow to take photographs of the scenes I’ve spotted. If you are doing this, I would suggest from experience letting someone know where you are going. Better still, take someone along for the ride! Remember to check out the weather conditions before setting out so that you can dress accordingly.

Not everyone can do the outdoors thing, but for those who can, there is often the bonus of fresh crisp air and the heat of the sun, even on the coldest days. Not to mention the birds, elk, moose and breathtaking scenery! For those with conditions like asthma who can’t tolerate the cold air, there is sometimes the opportunity to go to an indoor mall or other facility and either walk in a group or individually. Organized walks indoors also bring the benefits of being around other people so the activity is enhancing both physical and mental well-being. Look for these facilities in your local community and join a group. It will help with motivation!

Winter can be a trying time for all of us but with a little preparation and some forethought (think SMART goal-setting!) we can fill our winter months with activity and be healthier individuals and communities by spring!

So don’t focus on things like weight or resolutions. Rather, set a SMART goal, start moving and keep moving. It’ll do you good!

Stay well. Only 3 months left. Well, OK … 4, maybe 5?

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.

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Mikaila’s Story – Gear Up for Winter

Mikaila was only 13 years old when a family ski trip to Nelson, BC took a turn for the worse. She recalled the weather conditions at the mountain being very windy and icy that day. She was also not very familiar with her surroundings as it was her first time at this particular location.

snowboarder on a hill

“…the decisions you make about your safety can prevent serious outcomes.”

The last thing Mikaila remembered was waiting in line for the chairlift with her sister, from that moment on her memory was wiped. She was told by her sister that it was going to be their last run of the day, and then the crash happened. Mikaila had lost control. She was headed off the trail weaving quickly through the trees. She believes she most likely hit a patch of ice and was trying to slow down. She turned to carve but crashed right into a tree. Unfortunately, Mikaila was not wearing a helmet.

After the impact from the crash and taking a blow to the head, she was unresponsive and in a coma. Once help had arrived and she was stabilized, Mikaila was flown by an emergency helicopter to BC’s Children Hospital in Vancouver. The doctors found a significant amount of intracranial bleeding and debated whether surgery would be necessary or if the bleeding would resolve itself. Mikaila remained on a respirator for 2 and ½ days. Her total hospital stay was 6 days; 3 days in the intensive care unit and few on the ward with her family at her side. The doctor believed that a helmet would have deflected the impact of the crash and protected her brain.

Mikaila shared that the first thing she remembered was the breathing tube being pulled from her throat accompanied by a couple flashes of her family nearby. Her recovery continued at home with a long stretch of time spent on bed rest. Although she is an active individual, involved in many sports, Mikaila was unable to get back into all of her activities for some time following the crash. When she was allowed to play soccer again she was advised not to head the ball and had to be very cautious. Mikaila was very fortunate but the impact on herself and family has had lasting effects.

Mikaila received a helmet that following Christmas as a gift and encourages everyone to wear one as well. She stated, “To this day I have never been able to remember the crash or even the recovery in the hospital, so it almost feels like it didn’t happen to me. I still go snowboarding as often as I can and I’m committed to wearing my helmet on every run. If I forget, my mom is sure there to remind me of the dangers and how lucky I am to be here today!”

What is the take-home message to Mikaila’s story? Injuries happen in predictable patterns and the decisions you make about your safety can prevent serious outcomes. Wearing a helmet can make a difference in reducing the risk of a head injury while keeping you active and having fun on the hill with your family and friends, doing what you love. So next time you hit the slopes, take a minute to remember Mikaila’s story and your safety. Gear up for winter!


You can win a new winter sport helmet by entering your favourite place to ‘gear up’ on northern BC – check out our Facebook page (by 2pm, Thursday, Jan. 28) for more details!


 

Alandra Kirschner

About Alandra Kirschner

Originally from Abbotsford, Alandra moved to northern B.C. in 2012 to pursue schooling to become a Registered Nurse. A 4th year UNBC student (BS, Nursing), Alandra is passionate about her field, especially acute care and mental health/addictions. In her free time, you’ll find her practicing yoga, watching movies, camping, and travelling.

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Foodie Friday: The humble but nutritious squash

This time of year I find myself turning to comfort foods. Perhaps it’s the cold weather or maybe it’s the darker days, but I find myself turning more to casseroles and stews, rather than salads and sandwiches.

Stuffed squash on a plate

For Rebecca, stuffed acorn squash is a go-to comfort recipe for the winter. What healthy recipes do you turn to during our winter months?

Today, I want to share one of my comfort recipes that my daughter and I love! My daughter loves being able to eat this dish right out of the squash shell. Try it with your kids and I’m sure they’ll love it, too!

Winter squash come in a number of varieties and are widely available in the grocery store this time of year. They’re a great, versatile vegetable that is quite shelf-stable, lasting months if kept in a cool spot. Squash are a nutrition powerhouse, too. Most are very high in vitamin A, fibre, potassium and magnesium. Most commonly, squash are used in soups, stuffed, mashed as a side dish, or used in pie (mmm, pumpkin!).

Beef-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Yields 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 small acorn squash
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ lb (500 g) ground beef
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp celery*
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground sage
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup cooked rice
  • ¼ cup cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Cut squash in half and remove seeds and membranes. Place squash cut side down in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Add water and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 F for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserts into the flesh easily.
  2. Meanwhile, cook beef, onion and celery over medium heat in a saucepan until the beef is no longer pink. Stir in flour, salt and sage until well blended. Add milk and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in rice.
  3. Transfer squash to a baking sheet and place flesh side up. Fill cavity with meat mixture. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with cheese and bake for 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

*I didn’t have celery, so I used red pepper instead.

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Children follow by example – how are you leading?

Skaters on an outdoor ice surface

Spending more time outdoors and being active every day is a great way to beat the “winter blues.” Take your family for a skate or walk to a local event – your kids will follow your healthy example!

Although slower to start this year, winter is upon us. Days are shorter, darker, and colder and for some of us the “winter blues” might be settling in. Feelings of low energy, tiredness, and a lack of motivation can be felt by both adults and children during these winter months. The challenge for us all is to resist going into hibernation mode and to instead find ways to beat the “blues.” Even though it might seem easier and warmer to stay cooped up indoors, it is not necessarily better for our bodies to do this.

Helping children enjoy all that winter has to offer will have positive benefits for adults and children alike. Here are some suggestions that might help you and your children to stay energized and happy during this winter season. Remember, children follow by example!

  • Plan to be active every day. Exercise is not only good for your physical health, it also helps to improve your mood.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Your mood and energy levels can be affected by what and when you eat. Eating healthy foods will give your body the nutrients needed to help stabilize your blood sugar and energy levels.
  • Spend more time outdoors. Lack of sunlight can affect your mood. Make a plan to spend a little more time outdoors, particularly around midday to take advantage of sunlight or daylight. Bundle up to stay warm and to avoid frostbite.
  • Sleep. Try to keep bedtime and waking time consistent as this will help you to have more energy. Oversleeping can actually make you more tired.
  • Be proactive. Make a plan together with your family and friends to help each other to stay active and engaged during winter.

So I challenge you today to start making your plan to stay active indoors and outdoors this winter. Try something new to beat the “winter blues” and make wintertime fun!

What are you doing today?


This article was originally published in A Healthier You magazine. The newest issue of our healthy living magazine is now available online!

 

Karen Wonders

About Karen Wonders

Karen was born and raised in Ottawa and over the last 30 years has lived in various cities and communities in Alberta and B.C. She has a nursing degree from the University of Victoria and currently lives and works in Prince George as a Public Health Nursing Program Manager. Karen is a strong advocate for the health of children and youth with her primary focus being in the area of “healthy schools”. She is a director on the board of the Directorate of Agencies for School Health, which adds great value and is complementary to her. In her spare time, Karen enjoys travelling, spending time with her family and friends, and taking long walks with her dog Theodore.

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Stay connected and get involved to conquer winter!

Editor’s note: This article was co-written by Andrew Burton, Holly Christian, Danielle Munnion and Lana Vanderwijk. It was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Healthier You magazine.


 

Northern living presents a whole host of challenges that can lead to social isolation. The long, cold and dark winters can make it difficult to get out. Many people leave for work before the sun rises and don’t get home until after it has set. This can put a real damper on your mood, energy level and motivation.

But there are lots of things that you can do to prevent this! The key to conquering winter is staying involved and connected! Research suggests that having an active social life and staying engaged in the community leads to better mental, physical and emotional health. So let’s conquer winter together this year and come out even healthier on the other side! Here are a few ways that you can get involved and stay connected in your community.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to be involved in the community, and there’s no easier time to start since the holiday season typically offers many opportunities for volunteering! There are so many different organizations in need of help that you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something that piques your interest! Volunteering gets you up and out of the house, is a great way to meet new people, and is associated with better mental and emotional health. It’s also linked to greater resiliency – that is, the ability to bounce back and cope with unexpected change.

Hello, neighbour!

Volunteering doesn’t strictly mean giving your time to an organization, though. The word “volunteer” simply means to do something and expect no financial gain. There are other ways to benefit from volunteering that don’t require an organization for you to get involved. For instance, you could help a neighbour shovel their driveway, offer to walk their dog, grab their mail while you grab yours, or help them to put up their Christmas lights. There are many things you can do that would surely be appreciated and are great ways to get to know your neighbours or kindle new friendships. And it’s these types of social connections that promote healthy aging and lead to better health for both you and your neighbours!

Try something new!

Three adults carpet bowling

Whether you’re trying something new like carpet bowling at a community centre or sharing a hobby with a neighbour, staying connected this winter will help you to come out even healthier in the spring!

Another great way to meet new people is to try something new! Take up a new activity: try yoga, join a local curling team, or check out the local pool. Many pools offer activities like Aquafit – and what better way to meet someone new than to chat for a bit while soaking sore muscles in a hot tub after a good workout in the pool! Sports, especially team sports, and other organized physical activities are good for your health in more ways than one. They help you stay active and physically fit and during exercise, your body releases endorphins – chemicals produced by the body that can relieve pain and induce a state of euphoria – which make you feel good.

Share your hobbies

In addition to more organized activities like sports, hobbies such as a knitting group, an art or photography class, or a choir also keep you socially engaged. Informal clubs like these provide a great reason to get out of the house on a regular basis during those cold, dark winters. They also provide a place to meet new people with similar interests and make new friends. Many activities offered in our communities are free or have a low cost associated with them, making them easy to attend. The social interaction associated with attending these activities has huge benefits for your health, too, especially in terms of increasing your resiliency, giving you a sense of purpose, improving brain function and memory, and boosting your mood because you’re doing something you enjoy with people you enjoy!

Why connect?

Winter, and the holiday season in particular, is a time of giving – but why do we do it? Because it makes us feel good! We get to spend time with our friends and family and enjoy the satisfaction of making others feel good, too. We enjoy knowing that we’ve made a difference in someone’s life because we’re social creatures. Humans weren’t meant to spend all of their time in solitude. We need those personal, social and spiritual connections and we need to be involved in order to be as happy and healthy as possible.

Start now for stress-free and golden years!

Engaging in activities prior to retirement makes us more likely to continue them after we retire (which is handy because that’s when we have more time to enjoy them, too!). Having activities and social connections in place is key to ensuring that you are happy, healthy and engaged once you no longer have co-workers by your side day-in, day-out to chat with. This fall and winter, make it your goal to try something new: volunteer, try a new activity or join a club! There are so many ways you can benefit from putting yourself out there and we want those “golden years” to be truly that: stress-free and golden!

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.

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Do you want to build a snowman?

Two snowmen

With all of the rolling, lifting, and moving around in the snow that is required, building a snowman is a great way to stay active! How will you keeping moving this winter?

If you have children or have watched television in the past year, chances are you have heard this song. The song from Disney’s hit movie Frozen has been very popular with both children and adults and is quite a catchy tune. Listening to it recently made me think of how fortunate we are to have an abundance of activities at our doorstep to enjoy during the winter months.

Choosing to be more physically active and decreasing our sedentary behaviours is definitely beneficial for our bodies, as an active lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Being active also enhances our mental health and well-being, which can be really helpful during this season when days are shorter and darker. Aim to choose activities that you enjoy – if you like it, you’re more likely to do it!

Some examples of winter activities to experience in northern B.C.:

  • Snowshoeing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Walking
  • Tobogganing
  • Snowboarding
  • Ice fishing
  • Alpine skiing
  • Skating
  • Building a snowman

Whatever winter activities you choose to take part in, ensure that you stay safe to prevent injury. Wear a helmet when skating or skiing, wear ice-grippers when walking, and wear reflective clothing if you are outside in the morning or after dark. Choose activities that are fun and that you enjoy. Don’t forget to bring along your family and friends to join you on a road to better health!


This article was originally published in A Healthier You magazine. The newest issue of our healthy living magazine is now available online!

 

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.

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Leaving a legacy: the Nordic Ski Initiative

Cross-country skiers going down a hill.

The IMAGINE: Legacy Grants are one of many ways that Northern Health worked to create a healthy legacy for the 2015 Canada Winter Games in northern B.C. New skis for the Nordic Ski Initiative in Dawson Creek means healthier, more active kids in the school district!

When the 2015 Canada Winter Games came to Prince George, they brought a symphony of action to the city – the cheers from fans watching hockey in Kin 1, the hustle and bustle of added traffic on Highway 97, athletes and their parents from across the nation wandering the streets of downtown, and, of course, the celebration of competition in Canada. But what will happen as this two week chorus fades with the Games’ closing ceremony on March 1? How will the Games be remembered and what will their legacy be – not only in Prince George, but throughout all of northern B.C.?

To ensure that the legacy is a healthy one that embodies the spirit of physical activity that the Games represent, Northern Health created the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants stream in 2014, which funded 89 projects for a total of nearly $280,000. Northern Health’s IMAGINE Grants have a long tradition of funding health promotion projects led by community partners including northern groups, organizations, schools, and districts, that support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s position statements addressing modifiable risk factors.

One such community partner is School District 59’s Brad Booker. Brad lives in Dawson Creek and has one of the world’s coolest jobs. He’s the vice principal – outdoor and experiential education, which means he gets paid to ensure children are engaged in outdoor activity and physical activity. In other words, Brad makes being healthy fun! Brad, who began cross-country skiing as a hobby five years ago, started the Nordic Ski Initiative – a program that allows teachers to sign out cross-country ski equipment for use by their class for one week intervals – to combat inactivity in youth. When speaking with Brad, his passion for cross-country skiing, the outdoors, and his work becomes clear; however, his enthusiasm is tempered when discussing the current state of children’s health. “It’s not looking good for young people,” said Brad. “If we can pull kids away from screens for just a little while every day, we’re helping.”

Brad said that he started the Nordic Ski Initiative to help fill the demand in the community: “Cross-country skiing is part of the culture in the southeast Peace. We have a great nordic ski club with lots of families and lots of groomed tracks around town. A lot of them are in public parks that are attached to schools, so it’s easy for kids to ski during school time.” With School District 59 owning its own track setter, there is an abundance of cross-country tracks near or on school grounds where teachers can take their classes.

Cross-country skiers in an open field with a blue sky.

It’s easy to see how “nature comes alive for kids” when they’re skiing! With the support of the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants program, the Nordic Ski Initiative will keep promoting sport and physical activity long after the 2015 Canada Winter Games have gone!

Despite cross-country skiing’s place in the community, the cost of quality equipment means that it is not readily available to everyone. Recalling why he did not take up the sport at an earlier age, Brad blames the equipment, “I tried it as a kid, but my equipment was no good and I didn’t enjoy it.” Through the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants, Northern Health has helped fund Brad’s “ski library,” providing $3,000 towards the Nordic Ski Initiative’s purchase of new equipment. “Ski equipment doesn’t become dated quickly,” said Brad of the legacy that this program and funding provide, “The equipment lasts a generation. A single pair of skis might see 30-plus kids, helping them find a new passion and a new sport. The great thing about cross-country skiing is that you can do it at any age – kids to 70- and 80-year-olds. It can be a lifelong sport.”

Greeted with enthusiasm by students, teachers, and the community, the program’s biggest hurdle is people’s attitudes towards winter. “I think a lot of people prefer to not go out in the winter time,” said Brad. “Getting kids excited at an early age is critical [in overcoming this perception]. Instilling in kids that winter is not a cold, desolate time is important. It’s also when nature comes alive for kids,” he continued, building his case. “Looking at tracks, appreciating nature – you are connected with what’s around you; it’s something peaceful.” Brad walks the pro-winter walk, too. His involvement with the program goes beyond managing its inventory as he accompanies students during their first lesson to teach them the skills they’ll need to stay safe while still having fun on the track.

Along with the physical activity that kids are getting through the Nordic Ski Initiative, Brad and his colleagues at School District 59 have noticed a change their behaviour. “The big impact that I see, and that I hear about from teachers, is that kids have gotten rid of energy. But more than that, they’ve calmed down. That’s having a positive impact on their schooling.”

Improved health, better grades, and a new, active hobby for life – these are the types of positive changes that defined the purpose of the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants when Northern Health first planned them. Seeing the impact of this project, and the others like it, ensures that the Canada Winter Games will reach beyond their time and space in Prince George, leaving a healthy legacy that the north can be proud of for generations to come.


This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Tales from the Man Cave: The hope of spring can bring a healthier you

Snow hanging from a tree branch.

Blue sky, winter sun, and beautiful snow! Take advantage of northern B.C.’s winter wonderland now so that you can start the spring a little healthier this year!

Spring is still several weeks away but it is often around now that we spend all of our time wishing for longer days and warmer temperatures and forget to enjoy the winter. Yes, the weather can seem bleak, but just look at how the sun showcases the snow in all of its magnificence. Gleaming and hanging from bent limbs of trees, it radiates a white beauty seldom equalled. When I stop to look, it can be breathtaking! That’s the point of this blog post: taking advantage of every last bit of our beautiful northern winters!

Winter can slow us down physically, but here in the north of B.C., we have all sorts of free (or almost free) opportunities that people all over the world spend lots of money to access!

There are trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. There are places to go downhill skiing or snowboarding and much more. What about the views on the trails on a clear, sunny day? Is there anything like this in the world?

So let’s start appreciating the opportunities we have in the north and engage with the winter physically (and safely). We can go with friends and make it a social or even spiritual event. This type of physical activity can help fight winter’s melancholy and help keep us in shape for all of that gardening in the spring!

Remember to reduce your sedentary activities at every opportunity:

  • Every move counts, whether that’s in the gym or on a treadmill or simply walking around the block to look at the trees. Move and keep moving.
  • If you work long hours in an office or at a job where you have to sit down most of the time, get up and move at every chance you get.
  • Don’t get caught sitting down with sitting disease. Stand up as much as possible. Build a little schedule for standing and moving. It’s easy and it’s good for you.

At the end of the day we may still be in the throes of winter but remember that the Canada Winter Games are here and games of any kind can add a little extra motivation. Winter will have its way, of course, but with it comes the hope of spring.

Let’s enter spring a little healthier this year by challenging ourselves to move more today!

Visit HealthLinkBC for more healthy winter tips.

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.

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