Rest is Best!

In the summer, it is so easy to get out of routine, especially when it comes to sleep. With the longer daylight hours, it can be challenging to get kids to bed early. And if there’s no need to rush out the door to work in the morning, it can be tempting to sleep in. Although we can manage this temporarily, a shortage of sleep or an irregular pattern of sleeping will catch up eventually and you may start noticing these signs or symptoms of it becoming an issue:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Stress
  • Poor mental health
  • Difficulty staying awake in the day
  • Difficulty learning/concentrating
  • Low energy/lethargy
  • Irritability

Ensuring we get enough sleep can optimize physical health, emotional well-being and quality of life. Children 5-13 need 9-11 hours each night, teenagers 14-17 need 8-10 hours and adults need 7-9 hours. But it’s not just about the length of sleep, it’s also about the quality of sleep. Many children and adults have trouble falling or staying asleep or do not find their sleep refreshing.

So, as we wind down the last few weeks of summer and have to prepare for the start of our fall activities, consider shifting back into a healthy sleep routine. After a family dinner, consider a relaxing walk in the neighbourhood to help digest and burn off any excess energy. Then skip the screens! The blue light from televisions, phones and tablets can disrupt our melatonin cycle—the key sleep hormone—and provide stimulation that can prevent us from becoming tired naturally. Instead, opt for reading a book or even meditation or relaxation techniques, perhaps a warm shower or bath.

On the subject of phones, best practice is to keep them out of the bedroom and use a clock instead. Otherwise it can be tempting to engage if you check the time in the night and see a message or notification. For teens, consider managing the phone charger so that you take possession of the phone each evening and prevent them from being on it too long and too late.

For more information, check out this Health Canada infographic: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/canadian-children-getting-enough-sleep-infographic.html

And to understand if lack of sleep may be impacting your teen’s physical and emotional health, https://www.uclahealth.org/sleepcenter/sleep-and-teens 

Happy Book Lover’s Day!

A family that reads together, feeds (their minds) together! Summer is a great time to relax with a good book—whether on the deck, at the beach or around the campfire. And it is a very peaceful activity to do as a family. 

Start young! Reading to children from the earliest age can set them up for a lifetime of loving books, as well as prepare them for school and enhance their vocabulary. It also gives them valuable time with their caregiver(s) in a warm, nurturing environment.

Literacy is more than just reading and writing. It’s the foundation upon which we learn and grow.

Building literacy skills in children is one of the most effective ways to ensure they can achieve their full potential in school and throughout life. Literacy opens doors to understanding, empathy, critical thinking, and the capacity for lifelong learning, according to the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation.

Some of our favourite children’s authors include:

  • Richard Scarry—amazing illustrations and characters, great for learning vocabulary
  • Margaret Wise Brown—from Goodnight Moon to Runaway Bunny—sure to be passed down in your family
  • Sandra Boynton—funny rhymes that are easy for children to memorize and read along

And for older children (these could also be read together as a family):

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder—expose children to life in the 1800s and how hard people had to work just to survive (and her Canadian counterpart, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables)
  • J.K. Rowling—who doesn’t love Harry Potter and his magical world! 
  • Judy Blume—for younger audiences like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to books for tweens, these topics are still timeless
  • Suzanne Collins—a great author for tweens and teens in the sci-fi realm—even adults will love reading the Hunger Games series

For children who are transitioning to reading on their own, consider graphic novels in series like Big Nate or The Babysitters Club, where text is broken up into easier-to-read snippets accompanied by illustrations. A children’s magazine subscription can also be fun! Getting a Highlights or Children’s National Geographic magazine in the mailbox can brighten a child’s day and spark their curiosity and creativity.

For more ideas for reading as a family, visit https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/reading-resources/9-tips-to-inspire-family-reading.html and to buy books http://www.scholastic.ca/ or support your local neighbourhood bookstore.

On Sunday, August 9th, celebrate Book Lover’s Day by picking up a new book, starting a book club or even having a family theme night where you dress up and act as your favourite book character!

Happy BC Day!

We are so fortunate to live in this beautiful province and unceded territory of our many indigenous communities. From our oceans, lakes and rivers to our hills, mountains and valleys, BC is so rich in nature. It is also abundant in so many local foods and what better way to celebrate BC day than focusing on eating local and supporting our incredibly hard-working food producers.

August is the perfect time to prioritize local purchases as our growing and harvesting season is in full swing. We also have time to visit local farms and understand the challenges our food producers face every day. Whether our vegetable and fruit farmers, our ranchers, the fish and seafood harvesters, let’s show them our support by buying these local BC foods in abundance!

Here are some of our local foods around the province to look out for:

  • Fruit—from Okanagan stone fruits like cherries, peaches, apricots and plums to wild and farmed berries that grow throughout the province, it’s easy to find local options in August. The taste of ripe, local fruit is so superior to those grown on the other side of the world. So, eat it while we have it (and take a break from fruit that has been grown far away). Also consider stocking up on freestone peaches and berries that can be prepared and laid out on baking sheets to be frozen before bagging to use all winter long.
  • Vegetables—farms and gardens are bursting with vegetables in August in every corner of the province—from leafy greens to summer squash, potatoes to peppers, cucumbers to carrots–the list is endless. A fresh local tomato tastes so much different than the pale ones we find in the grocery store in January. Don’t forget to get your local corn-on-the-cob! But consider trying it in a less-than-local way, as Mexican Corn on the Cob, drizzled with crema, crumbled cheese, lime and cilantro.
  • Seafood—although spot prawn season is wrapped up by August, our salmon season is just getting underway! Our wild BC salmon is world-class—get it while it’s fresh and freeze some for later in the year.
  • Eggs & Poultry—get to know a local egg or poultry producer in your region and consider buying straight from the farm. That way more money ends up in the hands of the producers and it’s easier to know how the birds are being raised. BC eggs and poultry are available year-round.
  • Other Meats—although Alberta is known for its beef, many BC ranches also raise beef as well as bison. Bison is a naturally grass-fed animal whose meat is leaner and often has a better nutrition and sustainability profile than conventionally raised beef. 

To know what’s in season in your region, check out https://bcfarmersmarket.org/why-bc-farmers-markets/whats-in-season/. And keep your eye out for those roadside signs for a neighbour’s eggs, freshly-caught seafood, a pick-your-own berry patch or an all-purpose farm stand.

Calm your Mind

Meditation and yoga are fantastic ways to promote relaxation, reduce anxiety and tension, as well as deal with health issues like chronic pain and insomnia. 

Meditation is about looking within to promote peace and well-being. It involves calming the mind and breathing deeply to remain present in the moment and give our brains and bodies a break from all of the worry of past or future events that we have little control over. It’s a skill that needs time to develop as it’s not always easy for many of us to sit still without distractions.

If just getting started, try for only 15 minutes. Find a quiet space, whether in your bedroom or backyard. Begin by drawing attention to the breath then slowly scan each part of your body, noticing any subtle sensations that may be arising. Most newcomers to meditation benefit from using a mantra to focus. This is a simple statement that gets repeated silently or out loud, like “May I be happy” or “Ohm”. 

Meditation does not have to be a completely individual practice. The whole family can come together for a period of stillness and quiet together and this routine of calm can be incredibly beneficial for children and adults. For children, a walking meditation can be another option if sitting still is too challenging. Go for an easy walk in nature but instead of talking, have everyone focus on breathing and repeating their mantra.

For some of us, meditation is very challenging in terms of being still, especially in a busy household! Yoga may be an easier way to achieve some meditative moments, it can also be done as a family and you get some beneficial stretching too. There are many ways to get started with yoga, like pose cards or videos. But once you get some foundational movements, it can be fun to play “follow the leader” and everyone takes a turn suggesting a pose. 

In the yogic and Ayurvedic tradition, sattva means clarity, purity, and wholesomeness. Sattvic foods are the foundation of the yogic diet and preferred by yogis and include foods that are nourishing and easy to digest, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and herbal teas (https://about.spud.com/blog-live-like-yogi-eat-like-yogi/). Luckily these are also the foundational foods of Canada’s Food Guide—half your plate veggies and fruit and plant-based proteins more often!

The CBC has more information for getting started on meditation: https://www.cbc.ca/life/wellness/advice-from-a-buddhist-monk-on-how-to-start-a-successful-meditation-practice-1.5341736

Dive into Summer!

What better time to try out a new water-focused activity than in the heat of summer? Our province is packed with opportunities, even if your local pool may not be open yet. Whether on the ocean, in a lake or on the river, there’s an activity for everyone:

Kayaking/Canoeing—a great family adventure! If you don’t have a boat, rent to assess everyone’s interest level. See the world from a different perspective paddling on pristine lakes or in calm ocean bays. Make it easier on younger children and novices by renting boats that hold multiple people. Don’t forget your lifejackets!

Paddleboarding—also called SUPs (Stand Up Paddleboards), these have grown exponentially popular the last few years. Rent one at the beach or invest in an inflatable one that fits in a large backpack for easy transport. Once you’ve mastered it, try doing SUP yoga! Lakes in the Okanagan are the perfect place to find calm waters: https://www.kelownacapnews.com/marketplace/the-best-spots-to-go-paddleboarding-in-the-okanagan/

Swimming—even with many public pools closed due to COVID-19, there’s plenty of opportunity to go swimming outdoors in a lake or the ocean. Consider investing in a thin wetsuit for longer swims. Remember most of these areas do not have lifeguards so swim in pairs and keep a close eye on children.

Surfing—if you’re heading to Tofino this summer, consider trying out surfing by taking a lesson or renting a board. You’ll also need a wetsuit, even on the hottest day, as the ocean temperature never reaches above 17C. https://www.surfsister.com/ 

Rafting/Tubing—from exhilarating white water to lazy floats, rivers throughout BC are the perfect chance to get out with the family. The Kootenays are the perfect destination to try this activity: https://nelsonwhitewaterrafting.com/

Snorkeling/Scuba—experience our rich marine ecosystems up close and personal on a snorkeling or scuba adventure. In Campbell River, you can even snorkel with salmon! https://destinyriver.com/snorkel-salmon-adventures 

Windsurfing/Kiteboarding—do you have the need for speed? Fly over the water on a windsurfer or kiteboard. Howe Sound near Squamish is a world-class destination, along with so many other coastal areas in the Lower Mainland. Visit http://www.kiteboardbc.com/ for more information.

Waterskiing/Wakeboarding—Lake lovers unite! Just remember to always have a spotter in the boat to communicate between the driver and the person being towed. Visit https://www.hellobc.com/things-to-do/beaches-lakes/ to find a lake near you.

So this summer, get outside and get wet! Don’t forget your sunscreen and safety gear. For more information on watersports and activities in your community, try checking out the tourism websites, for example:

https://www.tourismvancouver.com/activities/water-sports/

https://visitorinvictoria.ca/water-sports/

Protein Pontifications

We hear a lot in the media about eating protein and are faced with numerous choices of packaged foods with added protein at the grocery store. Is that because we are at risk of not getting enough? Are there better proteins to consume than others? Should you get your family a protein powder? Let’s work through all of these questions.

According to Health Canada, most Canadians meet their protein needs. This means it is not a nutrient of concern from a population deficiency perspective. If you focus on including some at most meals and snacks, you will get enough to meet your body’s needs of muscle maintenance and building of other protein-based molecules in the body, like hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters. To understand this basic need, figure out your weight in kilograms and multiply it by 0.8 grams of protein. For an 80 kg (~175 lb) person, that means 64 grams of protein. What would this look like in a day of food intake? Choose 5 or 6 of the following: 

  • ¼ cup nuts/seeds –~6 grams protein
  • ¾ c plain yogurt & fruit– ~8 grams protein
  • 2 eggs– ~12 grams protein
  • 2 sprouted grain toast — ~10 grams protein
  • 1 cup each cooked black beans and quinoa (plus veggies!) — ~25 grams protein
  • 1 piece cooked fish or chicken, ~4 oz (6 oz raw)– ~25 grams protein
  • 1 cup edamame (soybeans in their pods), steamed– ~11 grams protein

For most of us, including protein at 3-4 meals and snacks means we can easily achieve our protein needs each day, from food first. There are times or situations where protein-enriched foods or supplements may be convenient, if you need a portable, convenient post-workout snack or if you have higher needs like those fighting infection, healing wounds or body building. Choose protein supplements and processed foods from varied sources with minimal added sugar and ingredients you know and can pronounce.

According to Canada’s Food Guide, we should eat protein foods as part of our balanced plate but also prioritize plant-based sources more often. Beans, peas and lentils, including soy foods like tofu, tempeh and edamame are affordable, nutritious sources of protein that benefit our health and also that of our planet. Include them daily or if newer to your table, at least a few times a week in place of red and processed meats. Those animal proteins, due to health reasons like increased heart disease and cancer risk, not to mention greenhouse gas emissions, should be limited to once every week or two. That is quite a shift from those who enjoy pepperoni on their pizza, ham on their sandwich, bacon and sausage at breakfast and burgers or steaks on the grill. Choosing wild game and grass-fed meats more often means you can eat them more frequently.

It’s also recommended to include fatty fish at least twice per week, but those consuming more seafood, even 5 times per week, reduced their heart disease risk even further. The omega 3 content of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, herring and mackerel is also very important for our skin, immune, eye and brain health and decreasing inflammation in our bodies.

So forget the hype about maximizing your protein intake. Include it at most meals and snacks and prioritize natural plant sources and seafood and your family will easily meet their needs.

Keeping Connected

The time of physical distancing has been a challenge for us all but some may struggle with mental health more than others, especially without the usual support of our friends, far-away family or being face-to-face with our healthcare providers. Anxiety may be exacerbated by concerns about risk of disease, outlook for the future and worry about loved ones. Although this is common and understandable, it needs to be addressed if it is decreasing quality of life. 

Symptoms like sleep disturbances or difficulty getting out of bed; decreased appetite or binge eating; uncontrollable stress or depressed mood, substance abuse or thoughts of self-harm, are signs that help may be required. And there is no shame in asking for it! It’s the opposite—total respect for reaching out, being vulnerable and trying to make a change for yourself and your family.

Ways to manage symptoms and stay positive might include:

  • Talking to family and friends, whether about your feelings or just to stay connected
  • Stress management techniques—meditation, yoga, hot bath, walking, journaling
  • Creating a routine for eating, exercise and sleep
  • Limiting substances like caffeine, alcohol, cannabis and added sugar
  • Including key nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and protein from salmon, sardines, chia and ground flax seed, as well as antioxidants and fibre from vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains
  • Prioritizing moderate to vigorous exercise (at least 60 minutes per day for 5-17 year olds and 150 minutes per week for adults)
  • Focusing on the present and enjoying time in nature

The BC Centre for Disease Control and the Canadian Association of Mental Health have online self-assessments and free resources, as well as a crisis line to call anytime. If you, or a loved one, need support, please get help today: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/about-covid-19/mental-well-being-during-covid-19 

Camping for Canada Day

Summer trips are looking a little different in 2020 with international and even inter-provincial travel off the table. Instead we get to focus in on our own province and our favourite spots, or maybe some new ones, closer to home. Camping is an incredible option this summer (as always!) because we know that the spread of COVID-19 is reduced when we’re outside and it’s relatively easy to practice physical distancing when you’re camping.

One of the best benefits of camping is being outside all day and the added activity that goes along with it. The kids take off on their bikes and are only see again when yummy food smells start filling the campground at mealtimes. Or they explore the woods, scrambling over logs, swinging in the hammock, playing with insects. This type of unstructured play is so good for children, building their independence, sense of adventure, ability to manage risk and connection with nature. And hopefully the grown ups also get up and get moving—hiking, biking and swimming go hand-in-hand with camping! Not to mention chopping wood, setting up tents and tarps and organizing the food prep.

The food is often the best part! A hot meal around the campfire is such a treat after a day enjoying the outdoors. But it doesn’t have to be all about the s’mores, chips, hot dogs and cold beverages (and then the lousy feeling you get when you consume only that for a few days). Hanging out at the campsite can give you lots of time to make a stupendous meal, as long as you’ve done the essential advance planning.

One of the simplest solutions to camp cooking is to bring a pre-made meal, ideally that you made for dinner prior to coming, doubled-up the amount and froze the leftovers. Perhaps a veggie chili, stew, curry or hearty soup. If you have more time on your hands, prep bean burritos, pita pizzas or Dutch oven lasagna that can cook over the coals. Try to keep to the Canada’s Food Guide recommendations, at least some of time, and include lots of veggies, fruit, whole grains and plant-based proteins. A bag full of fresh-cut veggies is the perfect thing to snack on or pack for a hike and it helps to quench our thirst after the salty treats.

So this Canada Day, consider celebrating the beautiful country we live in by getting close to nature and camping in the great outdoors! If you’re looking for a spot, visit http://bcparks.ca/ and make a reservation at https://discovercamping.ca/bccweb/

Fermented Food

We’ve all heard about fermented food but what is it, why is it good for us and should it be something to prioritize? Let’s answer all of those questions!

Fermentation is a process where healthy microbes are added to a food ingredient to transform it into a new food. We do this for reasons of food preservation, enhanced nutrient absorption or digestibility or simply taste! Some of the ones you may have heard of and maybe you already eat or drink include:

  • Yogurt and kefir
  • Kombucha tea, beer & wine
  • Sourdough bread
  • Injera, dosa (Ethiopian, South Indian fermented breads)
  • Tempeh and miso (fermented soy cakes or paste)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi (spicy Korean cabbage or other fermented veggies)
  • Pickles (fermented, not just vinegar pickles)
  • Apple cider vinegar

These healthy microbes, like yeast or bacteria, can include Saccharomyces, used in breads, beer and wine or Lactobacillus Acidophilus, which is often used in yogurt or kefir, or Acetobacter which is used in apple cider vinegar. They are called probiotics and when they reach our large intestine, they can convey numerous health benefits, like immune support by fighting off unhealthy pathogens. Some of these bacteria help us digest our food and even produce nutrients for us like short chain fatty acids and some vitamins. We are continually learning how else we may benefit from these bacteria, like studies showing asthma reduction in kimchi eaters, anxiety reduction and lower risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease with healthy microbiomes. The process of fermentation can also make a food more digestible to us like yogurt for those with lactose intolerance or sourdough for those with gluten sensitivity.

But the key to keeping your microbiome (the balance of bacteria in your body) well-stocked with good microbes in your gut is to feed them well and that should include prebiotics. These come from fibrous foods like legumes, vegetables and whole grains and they provide good food to the microbes. Research shows that diets high in ultra-processed or fast foods can deplete the microbiome.

For more information about fermented foods, probiotics and health, check out:

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/tw2302spec 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/fermented-foods-favorable-for-heart-health

Family Cycling

The start of summer activities during a pandemic looks a little different than usual, with less vacation possibilities, summer camps and team sports. Rather than focus on what you can’t do this summer, take the opportunity to try a new activity as a family or visit a new spot close to home.

Cycling as a family can quickly become a regular pastime. The breeze blowing in your hair, the sense of freedom and adventure and a different way to see the landscape around you are just a few inspiring reasons. Not to mention sustainable transport! 

Cycling is a great form of moderate to vigorous exercise which raises our heart rates for optimum health and it can be competitive or not, to meet anyone’s activity preference. It is also an activity that can accommodate many differing abilities and health conditions. The key is to teach children to bike at a young age as it becomes harder to learn and they may become more hesitant as they get older. 

Cycling is also great for mental health, as is any form of exercise, but cycling especially because it keeps you very present. It is hard to think about what went wrong in the past or what problems could arise in the future when you’re cycling, as you need to stay focused on what you’re doing.

British Columbia has so many different cycling opportunities for people of all ages and abilities, whether on paved, gravel or forest trails. Check what is available in your community or within a day’s trip of home to find somewhere you haven’t tried before. Just a few of the best trails include:

  • Stanley Park Sea Wall (or the shorter Beaver Lake Trail for novice riders) in Vancouver
  • Vedder River Trail in Chilliwack
  • Whistler Valley Trail in Whistler
  • Kettle Valley River Trestles in the Okanagan
  • Cowichan-Shawnigan Trestle Trails in Cowichan Valley
  • Galloping Goose or the Lochside Trail near Victoria

If cycling is new to you and your family, be sure to prioritize safety, by always wearing a helmet, staying on top of bicycle maintenance, and learning the rules of the road:

 https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/cycling

If you’re ready for even more fun cycling, consider joining a club at: https://cyclingbc.net/clubs/youth/