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with Burin Peninsula Brighter Futures

We were very excited at the opportunity to participate in Healthy Together- Let’s be Active Outdoor!  Our concept was simple- engage families in creating a Family Bucket List. Parents and children would share ideas about outdoor activities they would like to enjoy, and these would be gathered into two sand buckets- one family bucket to take home, the other a contribution to our Center’s Collective Family Bucket. The result would be a collection of easy, practical and fun activities we would aim to accomplish together over the span of 15 sessions.  These are some of the activities we’ve enjoyed thus far:

  • Beachcombing
  • Nature Walks
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Kite making and flying
  • Rock painting hide n’seek
  • Gardening
  • Outdoor Safety
  • Environmental stewardship
The group proudly showing off the fruits of their labors during gardening day!

You need only look at the children’s expressions in the numerous photos we took to see the immediate value of engaging in such activities. One of our main goals from the outdoor program was to provide experiential learning to families and children in such a way that they could repeat and expand on these as a family unit, without being attached or organised by an outside source. It was important to demonstrate that these adventures could be low cost, did not involve a lot of pre-planning or extra equipment, and that they were enjoyable in and of themselves. You need not plan what happens at the beach, you just need to plan to go. The children will lead.

That’s where we began…

I am repeatedly amazed on how a simple idea can plant a seed, take root and grow into something well beyond what you envisioned in the beginning.  We trusted that families would enjoy the excursions, had bore witness to how physical activity and time in Nature can positively impact one’s health in a holistic way. The most surprising outcome was to see where the wind would take these seeds, whose backyard they would end up in, and where else they would take root. Every activity seemed to draw in a new partner, connecting them not only to our Family Resource Center and our goals, but more importantly, connecting them to families and children in our community. During our small gardening activity, what began with planting a seed in a cup, soon developed into a local business donating planting materials and seeds (and an unlimited supply of drinking water and a stove for cooking programs), an invitation from the municipality to participate in the community garden, support from a parent participant who we discovered is a trained horticulturalist, assistance with planting from the Green Team- a youth group doing summer conservation work (they also volunteered to later do an environmental stewardship session with our family around Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and a donation of fresh produce from a local gardener to contribute to our healthy snacks.

It did not end there…

Through social media (because we love to post pictures of our HT activities), the local food bank asked us if we would disseminate healthy food packs they had secured through Food Bank Canada’s After The Bell program, to our families throughout the summer.  They saw that not only were we connected to families with young children during this time, we were also focused on promoting nutrition and health.  Thus, every week we were able to give families a kit of healthy dry goods along with a bag of fresh produce. It still did not end there… Another food bank from a nearby community became aware of the partnership and offered to provide healthy snacks for families attending our programs in their community for the month of September. We continue today to work together to ensure families have regular access to healthy food.

This is only one example of the impact any one of our HT activities propagated. We did not purposefully set out to increase our partnerships and relationships with the community through the outdoor program; it developed organically. Yet, we recognize that this is how you grow an idea, how you feed it, and how you can turn that idea into something, however unintended, into something concrete, shared, and impactful. We are grateful for the seeds Healthy Together has provided us, for the relentless Newfoundland wind that helped spread them, and for the generosity of its people that nurtured them.

with Immigrant Services Calgary

Fall is always a beautiful time of year!  With colorful leaves and chilly days, autumn brings feelings of change and connection to nature.   Mosaic Preschool has been out enjoying our lovely fall weather, taking in warm sunshine and brisk winds on our nature walks.  These walks are an excellent way to stimulate a child’s appreciation for the natural world. Ask the children what they see, hear, smell, or feel… the answers always provide a new perspective.  With the wind rustling the trees, the leaves gently falling to the ground, birds making preparations to fly south for the winter… even in the heart of the city, we felt surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Riley Park was our first stop where we discovered a rock garden!  Exploring rocks of all different sizes, shapes, and colors provided great inspiration for starting our own rock collection.    This park was a great place where kids can jump, hop, skip rope, climb, run, roll, and make noise in a natural environment.  We encouraged families to feel the texture of rocks, the bark on trees, and dried up leaves. It was an interesting science experience for parents and children alike.

We also visited Prince’s Island Park, where we got to explore some of Calgary’s constructed wetlands, complete with native wildlife and plants.  Our preschoolers and parents were able to immerse themselves in Calgary’s natural environment, while learning about the importance of protecting and caring for these spaces. Our kiddos enjoyed crunching through piles of leaves with their parents and keeping their eyes peeled for some wildlife, like Canada geese, mallard ducks, and jackrabbits.  We weren’t lucky enough to spot a beaver, but fingers crossed for next time!

Autumn never lasts very long in Calgary, but we are making the most of our limited time.  In the coming weeks, we will be visiting the zoo to see how the animals are preparing for winter.  We will also be checking out The Brainasiumat TELUS Spark Science Centre, where it’s all about learning by doing, climbing, teetering, jumping and sliding all in the great outdoors!


We’re delighted to welcome back Selena De Vries, RD as our guest blogger. With the recent release of the new Canada Food Guide she was happy to share some of her initial thoughts – this is part 2 (please click here to read the first part of her article).

#3. Choose plant based proteins often:

With a focus on sustainability and evidence based nutrition recommendations with the new food guide, plant based proteins are emphasized in the ‘protein’ part of the plate and for good reason. They are a rich source of fiber which is one nutrient that Canadians do not get enough of.

However, cooking with beans and legumes can be intimidating as not many people know how to make these foods taste delicious! Involving the whole family in making new recipes is just one way that will help kids to be more open to trying these foods.

Some great resources for delicious plant based recipes include:

The emphasis on reducing saturated fat has placed an emphasis on choosing lean sources of red meat and lower fat dairy products.

The bottom line: Experiment in the kitchen and make plant proteins like beans and legumes a part of your weekly meal plan at least three times per week, if possible.

#4. Make half your meal whole fruits and vegetables

Many Canadians do not consume enough fiber as mentioned above. In fact, it is estimated that adults only consume about 11g/day, and the recommendation is 25g for females, and 38g for males. That’s a pretty large gap!

The plate model is specifically designed to help all Canadians increase their fiber and aiming for 1/2 plate of fruit and vegetables is an easy way to boost fiber intake. Some great tips to get kids loving fruit and vegetables include:

  • Involving them in the cooking or preparation process. For example, letting a younger child stir

together ingredients for pancakes

  • Letting your child choose a new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store. For example, asking a younger child if they would like apples or oranges this week.
  • Giving an older child the responsibility to cook dinner once/week, with your guidance to start, if needed.

The bottom lime: No matter what type of meal you are eating, whether you eat out of a bowl or plate or are eating a mixed meal like chili or stirfry, make half of what you consume fruits or vegetables.

#5. Choose whole grains

In the old food guide, the recommendation was to choose whole grains at least half the time. With the lack of fiber in Canadian’s diet, moving to a plate that visually shows 1/4 of the plate filled with whole grains is a great step.

Grains have the potential to be rich sources of fiber in the diet. White grains are stripped of their nourishing bran and germ components, which is where the majority of the fiber is contained. They are also typically make into products containing a lot of added sugar such as sugary kids cereals and snacks, crackers, breads, and sugary granola bars.

It is not to say that white foods can’t be had sometimes, but they shouldn’t be making it into the household on regular occasions.

Bottom line: Choose whole grains and whole grain products most often and reserve white grains and products to ‘sometimes’ foods.

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Click here for Part 1 of Selena’s article on the New Canada Food Guide.

Click to find out more information about the new Canada Food Guide

We’re delighted to welcome Selena De Vries, Registered Dietitian as our guest blogger. Selena has been working with us recently on updated resources for the HT toolkit and Healthier 4 You initiative. With the recent release of the new Canada Food Guide she was happy to share some of her initial thoughts.

The new Canadian Food guide has finally been updated and it is a huge step in the right direction. There is a large emphasis on choosing plant based foods, reducing sugar sweetened beverages, reducing saturated fat, and focusing on healthy eating behaviours.

The new guide comes with the removal of traditional ‘food groups’ and the removal of serving sizes suggestions, so this guide is certainly different from the old 2007 version. Now, the 2007 four page food guide has been replaced with a one page balanced plate model along with a list of healthy eating behaviours. The guide is now also fully online with a suite of online resources meant to help Canadians implement the new food guide and, at this time, is no longer meant to be a printable resource.

When it comes to raising healthy families, there are a few items to be highlighted. So, let’s dive in and discuss some of the key takeaways for families.

 #1. Focus on fruit vs fruit juice

As mentioned above, there are no longer food groups. In the previous guide, fruit juice counted as a serving of fruit. In the new food guide, the recommendation on the beverage of choice is water. One of the main reasons for this, is to reduce the amount of sugar in Canadian’s diet. Fruit juice does not contain health promoting fiber, and concentrates the fruits natural sugar, essentially becoming a very high sugar beverage with no health benefits.

This is not to demonize fruit juice as it can have it’s place in a healthy diet in small portions, especially in very active children. However, the key is that juice should not have a prominent place in the family household.

The bottom line: choose water most often and choose juice as a ‘sometimes’ beverage. If you choose juice, keep the serving to no more than 1/2 cup.

 #2. Focus on calcium

With the removal of the ‘milk and alternatives’ group, dairy has been removed. Plain milk, yogurt, kefir, cheese are joined by beans, legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, eggs, poultry and lean red meat and is now labelled as a ‘protein’ group representing 1/4 of the balanced plate.

This can be concerning as there is not much direction in the guide in how children or adults are going to meet their calcium needs, which is quite a high number.

  • For children 4-8 calcium needs are ~1000mg/day , 9-13 1300mg/day
  • For adults it ranges from 1000-1200mg/day

For perspective, a cup of plain cows milk contains 300mg calcium, and 1 cup of broccoli contains about 75mg. Meaning, you would need to eat about ~4 cups of broccoli to reach 300mg. I don’t know about you, but no child or adult will eat that much broccoli and even if they did, they would be much too full to eat anything else!

The bottom line: Dairy can and should be a part of the diet if there are no intolerances or allergies. If dairy is not part of the diet, a Registered Dietitian should be seen to assess the diet and need for supplements.

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Read Part 2 of Selena’s thoughts on the New Canada Food Guide HERE

Click to find out more information about the new Canada Food Guide

‘Healthier 4 You™’ Campaign Raises Awareness of Healthy Choices in Convenience Stores

Calgary, AB, Oct. 22, 2018 – The Bridge Youth and Family Services Healthy Together program and Western Convenience Store Association (WCSA) are launching a ‘Healthier 4 You™” initiative with Calgary Co-op. Co-op stores at Kingsland and Auburn Bay are stocking up to 75 products identified by dietitians as healthier than other similar options in the store. The launch marks the continuation of an innovative partnership between the two organizations, both committed to promoting healthy eating and the positive role that convenience stores can play.

Says Andrew Klukas, WCSA President: “Too many people remain unaware that modern convenience stores offer a growing range of healthier food choices.” This program will help change that. “If we can positively influence people’s shopping habits at a young age, then as they go through life they won’t have to face the obesity-related illnesses we struggle with today. We’re excited about playing our part.”

The campaign raises awareness of healthier choices through in-store labeling and educational material. Specifically, Healthier 4 You logos identify snacks and drinks with higher nutritional value according to criteria developed by dietitians. A brochure for customers has label reading tips and steps for choosing healthier items.

Consulting Registered Dietitian Selena De Vries notes, “Many Canadians get too much fat, sodium, and added sugars in their diets.” Simple label reading skills can be very helpful for improving health.

The Healthier 4 You brochure provides tips on understanding sodium, fat, fibre and sugar content in popular convenience store products. Customers look for the orange checkmark logo that identifies products that are a good nutritional choice.

If you’d like to know more about the Healthier 4 You™ campaign contact catherine.nesmith@thebridgeservices.ca

Website: www.healthy-together.ca/H4U
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HealthyTogether.ca

We absolutely LOVE this video of the Healthy Together program in action at the South Vancouver Family Place. Looks like they’ve had lots of fun and smiling faces over the last 3 months and of course lots of great food and fun! Thank you so much to the facilitators and especially Jen for putting together this video – great job everyone!

Press Release: Government of Canada announces funding to support Canadians in achieving healthier weights

Public Health Agency of Canada makes the official announcement for our very own Healthy Weights for Children: Healthy Together program! We are well underway and have great fun running this program across Canada. The Bridge is very happy to be a part of this wonderful opportunity!

Too many Canadians cannot get access to healthy foods and information on healthy eating because of factors beyond their control. Innovative policies and approaches are needed to remove these barriers and give Canadians the support they need to be healthy.

Last week, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, announced $10.5 million over three years for seven projects to promote healthier lifestyles among young Canadians and their families. The projects will target people in both urban and rural settings, as well as in remote, northern and underserved communities. This phase of funding will broaden the scope of the seven projects and expand their reach, while supporting broader policy changes.

These projects are part of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Innovation Strategy that prioritizes action related to mental health and healthier weights, reaching more than 1.5 million people in over 800 communities in need.

Read the full press release here

We are excited to announce that Kelly Stone, FRP Canada’s Executive Director, and one of our project National Advisory Committee members, has been nominated for the Businesswoman of the Year Awards!

These awards recognize the accomplishments of outstanding women in the National Capital Region. This nomination is an appreciation of FRP Canada’s recent organizational developments, and it shows that your association is on the move. We’re working hard to serve you better.

Learn more about the Businesswoman of the Year Awards here: http://thebyas.ca/

Congrats Kelly! We’re so grateful for your hard work and contributions to the Advisory Committee which has helped shaped the Healthy Together program into what it is today!

Ann is running the Healthy Together programs at the River District Center, Fraserlands Drop In. She was kind enough to share a ‘typical’ HT session and how it’s working at the South Vancouver Family Place.

Getting ready for the HT session at South Vancouver Family Place!

Their Program goes as follows:

  1. Arrival and Introduction– Children and adults settle in with the children doing as art project which focuses on the Food of the Day and/or the Physical activity. We discuss the Message of the day and go over the hand-outs for the session such as “Detours” for example. We also talk about the physical activity and the Food Project that is happening at this session.
  2. Physical Activity – Children and adults participate in this together after cleaning up their art project. We have done Tennis with balloons covered with nylons and the tennis rackets are hangers covered in a nylon (the participants made them together), Bubbles Outside,  Music and Dance, Bean Bags with music, Wiggly Ribbons with copying and music, Kites (hand made) indoors. All of these were very interactive and fun for both adults and children.
  3. Hand Washing and help set up the food project. Children can cut with plastic knives if the food item is soft enough.
  4. Food Project – recipes we’ve done so far are Yogurt Parfait, Hummus and Veggies, Pinwheels and Bugs on a Log (Cream cheese and veggies/Fruit).
  5. Clean up time.
  6. Outside time.

Ann (L) & Jen (R) enjoying the sunshine during some outdoor play time!

It has been very successful and gaining attention from various Families. At this time I have about 12 or so Families registered. It has been very busy with Moms, Dads, Grandmothers and Grandfathers. They are really enjoying their time together. The hand outs are good and we share Healthy Food ideas and Physical Ideas together.

~ Thanks so much to Ann & Jen, who are doing an amazing job of promoting Healthy Together and supporting their families in living a healthy lifestyle!