Alberta Cancer Foundation

Eating Local in the Winter and Activities To Do With Friends Undergoing Chemotherapy

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Q: I’m travelling somewhere warm this spring break. What do I need to know about eating street food?

Chasing the sun and lounging on beaches are common reasons for travel during spring break, and trying new cuisine is often a big part of the travel experience. And while market stalls and street vendors offer a range of food and beverage selections, it’s recommended that travellers avoid these options and choose establishments that cater to foreigners and have a steady stream of customers.

“The most common cause of illness when visiting a developing country is travellers’ diarrhea,” says Stephanie Scott, clinical development nurse at Calgary Traveller’s Health Service. That diarrhea is most often caused by eating or drinking contaminated food and beverages. “Because the health standards are different in developing countries – and street vendors do not have kitchen facilities to practise proper hand hygiene – travellers are advised to follow some general precautions in order to stay healthy when eating abroad,” she says. This includes eating fruits and vegetables that are peeled or cooked, food that is served hot and fresh, avoiding unpasteurized dairy products, undercooked or raw meat and seafood. The general recommendation for travellers is “boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it!”

Q: How can I maintain my local diet during the winter and spring, when we’re in between harvest Seasons?

According to Kate Stenson, co-chair of the Calgary EATS! Stewardship Group, there are lots of fun and easy ways to eat locally during the winter and spring. “Local farms are able to store and sell vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, beets and squash, and offer meat and eggs all winter long,” she says. “Some even have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs that deliver such produce regularly through the winter. Talking directly to producers at year-round farmers’ markets is a great way to get advice on how to best eat locally.”Indoor growing is also experiencing a wave in popularity, which means you can look for micro-greens and aquaponically grown lettuce and herbs. And getting creative in the kitchen with recipes that draw on the strengths of locally available ingredients and celebrate regional and traditional cuisine can be a fun way to pass the winter months.“While eating food made, baked, grown, processed and sold in Alberta is a key principle of creating a sustainable food system, so too is taking a hybrid approach that balances locally produced food with imports,” says Stenson. “So during the winter months, it may be worth extending ‘local’ to include food from places like B.C.”

Q: What activities can I do with a friend who’s undergoing chemotherapy treatment?

According to Dr. Marilyn Hundleby, psychologist and director of programs at Wellspring Edmonton, a friend going through treatment may want a break from thinking about talking about cancer, so an activity that provides a diversion can provide an uplifting element to their day.“It can be simple things that make the most difference, like going for a walk together,” she says. “Many years ago, I came to know a wonderful group of women, all of whom had gone through breast cancer. They wanted to help one of their friends, who was having a difficult time during her chemo treatment. Since many in the group had originally been members of a dragon boat team, their first thought was to get outside and exercise and they encouraged their friend to walk around the block with them. On their first outing they came across a coffee shop and decided to stop and have a cinnamon bun together. From then on they called themselves the “Cinnabunnies” and every week the walks got longer – and they came to know some of the best places for cinnamon buns in the city.”

Hundleby also recommends watching a funny movie. “Many years ago, [the author] Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a very painful disease called ankylosing spondylitis. He found that laughter seemed to help reduce his pain,” she says. Laughter produces feel-good chemicals called endorphins, and any activity that fosters a mind-body-spirit connection has a benefit to our overall well-being.

Colouring books have also recently become very popular for adults. “You may remember as a child how you lost track of time as you coloured,” says Hundleby. “Bookstores now have tables filled with these books. It is a great way to de-stress because we focus on the activity and not our worries and anxieties.” Plus, you can become engrossed in this activity with a friend and colour and talk at the same time.

Visit travel.gc.ca to obtain general travel health recommendations, information on security advisories, entry and exit requirements, locations of yellow fever vaccination centres and more. It is best to visit a travel health clinic about six weeks prior to travel. A list of Alberta Health Services travel clinics is available at albertahealthservices.ca.


Ask our experts questions about general health, cancer prevention and treatment. Please submit them via email to letters@myleapmagazine.ca. Remember, this advice is never a substitute for talking directly to your family doctor.