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August 16
New posters say even one soda a day is too much

For Aug 16 blog New Sugary Drinks Poster 8.5x11-1A-CB.jpgSchool’s about to start, so take a look on the walls at your child’s school to see if you can spot Play Every Day’s newest messages about the importance of physical activity and the health risks of sugary drinks.

For the past few years, Play Every Day has been sending its posters to hundreds of schools across Alaska. Many of them are stilling hanging up – showing kids and parents how much sugar is hiding in sugary drinks (a 20-ounce bottle of soda can have the same amount of sugar as 16 chocolate mini doughnuts.)

This year’s posters touch on two pieces of news:
• First, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, filmed new public service announcements (PSAs) this summer featuring Alaska parents and adults in Bethel and Unalakleet who help children in their communities be physically active.
• And second, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued its new recommended limit for the amount of added sugar you eat and drink every day.

Play Every Day took this news from the Dietary Guidelines and photographs from filming families this summer and turned them into a new poster series for schools and health clinics across Alaska.

Let’s start with the new PSAs and posters that focus on physical activity. One PSA includes Nick Iligutchiak Hanson, a Unalakleet man who participated in the American Ninja Warrior TV competition this summer. Nick doesn’t just focus on his own physical activity. He spends a lot of time motivating children to be active through his free running club, his obstacle course on the beach, and his involvement in playing neighborhood games. The second PSA features the Iverson family from Bethel who gets children moving through playing, coaching sports, and heading to fish camp. Schools are receiving several new posters that feature Nick Hanson, the Iverson family, and children who get out and play in Unalakleet and Bethel.

Play Every Day has two new posters and two-sided rack cards focused on drinking water instead of sugary drinks. In January, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that people limit the amount of added sugar they eat and drink every day to less than 10 percent of their total daily calories. As an example, an adult eating an average of 2,000 calories a day should limit their consumption of added sugar to 12 ½ teaspoons each day. Play Every Day took that recommendation and communicated it using sugary drinks. One bottle of soda (with 16 teaspoons of added sugar) and one tall glass of a powdered drink mix (with 11 teaspoons of added sugar) have more sugar than a child should consume in one day. That bottle of soda has more added sugar than anyone should eat or drink in one day. The text across the top of the new posters drives home the main message: Even one sugary drink each day is too much.

Do you want to help us share these messages? We have more posters and rack cards and can mail them across Alaska. Please email or call 907-269-3433 to have posters sent to you.

August 09
Wild about Alaska Wild Salmon Day!

Square-Salmon-Day-Boots-in-Stream-copy-300x300.jpg​Earlier this year, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed a bill designating every August 10 as Alaska Wild Salmon Day.

The annual celebration of all-things-salmon came about from a bill sponsored by Alaska State Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). He said he hopes this day will promote healthy and delicious Alaska wild salmon, and recognize the importance of salmon subsistence fishing, recreational fishing and commercial fishing.

At Play Every Day, we’re excited to celebrate salmon’s place on Alaska dinner plates (and breakfast, lunch, and snack plates as well). Wild Alaska salmon is an excellent source of lean protein, and it boasts high concentrations of heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. People who eat one to two servings of salmon or other fish each week reduce their risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.

Health leaders in Alaska recommend that everyone eat fish at least twice a week for the best health. Alaska wild salmon is low in an environmental contaminant called mercury, so state health leaders recommend unrestricted consumption of all species of wild salmon, as well as other types of fish caught in Alaska waters.

Adding Alaska wild salmon to your plate this week?
Search for wild Alaska salmon recipes online:

Here’s one recipe to get you started:
salmon risotto photo.jpg
Alaska Salmon Risotto
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 (2 cups each)
2 packages (8 oz. each) risotto with mushrooms
1 cup fresh mushrooms (button, crimini or porcini), cut into bite-size pieces
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth (regular or low sodium)
4 Alaska Salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz. each) fresh, thawed or frozen
Pepper, to taste
10 to 12 oz. fresh asparagus (sliced into 2-inch pieces) and/or peas, blanched
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
• Prepare risotto according to package directions adding mushrooms, but cooking just three-quarters of total time, about 15 to 18 minutes.
• While risotto is cooking, bring chicken broth to a simmer in a large (12-inch) nonstick pan or stockpot.
• If salmon is frozen, rinse off any ice glaze under cold water.
• Turn off heat and gently add seafood to the chicken broth, skin side down.
• Return heat to a simmer. Once simmering, cover pan and cook 4 to 5 minutes for frozen salmon or 2 minutes for fresh/thawed fish.
• Turn off heat and let seafood rest in liquid for 5 minutes, until seafood is opaque throughout.
• Remove salmon from broth, season with pepper and cool slightly.
• Add asparagus/peas and Parmesan to partially cooked risotto; finish cooking risotto.
• Break salmon into large chunks (removing skin, if any) and gently fold salmon and basil into risotto.

August 02
The Iversons in Bethel make physical activity a family affair
Families across Alaska have stories to share about how they help their own children — and their community’s children — be physically active. This summer, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, visited two communities to help tell those stories.
We’ve talked about our visit with Nick Hanson, the American Ninja Warrior contestant in Unalakleet who coaches and mentors children of all ages. In June, we also visited Bethel and met the Iverson family. Watch our new TV public service announcements featuring Nick Hanson and the Iversons helping their communities be physically active.
Carolyn Iverson photo for Aug 2 blog.jpg

Carolyn and Shane Iverson are raising three children in Bethel, a community along the Kuskokwim River. Carolyn is Yup’ik, grew up in Akiak until age 5, and has lived in Bethel for years. That’s where she met her husband, Shane. They have two boys and a girl — all under the age of 8. Carolyn is a social worker with the Lower Kuskokwim School District and Shane is the general manager for KYUK.
The Iversons are busy, but they work hard to make sure their whole family is active every day. They limit TV time and don’t have video games. They make physical activity a daily priority by finding ways to weave activity into their family’s day.

“Sometimes people think physical activity needs to be separate from their daily lives,” Carolyn said. “When you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle, that’s when it will be easiest to maintain.”

Activity is a part of the kids’ school day. The boys do Native dance twice a week at the Yup’ik Immersion School. After school, the Iverson children play basketball, wrestle, do judo or play soccer — depending on the season. When school’s out for the summer, they pick berries or take trips to the sand pits to run around and play. They often take a boat to their fish camp so they can fish together on the river.

The Iverson family has found a way to be active and help the community be active at the same time. In the summer, Shane coaches soccer while his children play the game. During the school year, Carolyn coaches girls basketball and Shane assists. Carolyn calls physical activity a “family affair.”

“If my kids are in wrestling, then our whole family goes to wrestling,” she said. “In basketball, when we coach, our whole family goes to basketball and they’re in the gym. So any time we have somebody doing something, our whole family goes. Shane will play Ultimate Frisbee, and our kids will be playing off on the sidelines.”

Carolyn says she gives her time to help young kids because she wants them to think about the importance of being physically active. She wants to inspire them to maintain that level of activity throughout adulthood. She also wants to help them feel better about who they are, and start thinking about their goals for the future.

“We are trying to raise our kids to choose to be active and engage in things that make them feel good,” Carolyn said.

She encourages parents to join their kids in play. If your kids are playing outside, play with them. If your children are playing soccer, go with them to the soccer field. That’s what makes it more fun, she said.

This is how the Iversons are helping children in their community be physically active. What can you do in yours?
July 26
 Alaska's Ninja Warrior sets a new record

Nick Hanson photo for July 26 blog.jpgWhat does the self-described Eskimo Ninja do to prep for the Las Vegas finals of American Ninja Warrior? Set a world record in the men’s scissor broad jump during the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks.

Nick Iligutchiak Hanson’s leap of 37 feet, 5 inches last week pushed him into the record books and added another gold medal to his collection from the Arctic Winter Games and the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. The previous world record for the event was 36 feet, 7 inches. Yep, Nick set that record, too. 

You might say his world-record leap vaults him into top form as he heads to the American Ninja finals in Las Vegas , where he will vie for the $1 million Ninja Warrior prize.
Nick — featured this month in a Play Every Day PSA to promote the importance of helping children be physically active every day — made it to the Los Angeles finals by nailing the obstacle course in the season premiere in Los Angeles that aired June 1. Over 6 million viewers watched the feat, according to Hollywood Reporter, making the premiere the most-watched network program of the night.

Nick then made it through the LA finals in the July 11 episode, qualifying him to compete in the Vegas finals later this summer.The show airs Mondays at 7 p.m.

What looks like a seamless run of success took years to develop. Nick competed in the Native Youth Olympics as a teenager and believes his subsistence lifestyle has helped him develop resilience and strength as an athlete. Last season, his first on American Ninja, he missed the regional finals by a fraction of a second.

Missing the cut prompted him to refocus and train harder, one of the key messages he wants to share and embody for the kids of his village, Unalakleet.  They were the ones who convinced him to audition for American Ninja in the first place. They’re the ones who flock to his no-cost running club and join in games of tag and hide-and-seek. And they’re the ones Nick wants to inspire to dream big, work hard, and care about their community.

The 28-year-old teaching assistant coaches youth in basketball, volleyball and Native Olympic events, and mentors other Alaska athletes who want a shot at American Ninja.  As a member of Arctic Winter Games Team Alaska, Nick proves that the Arctic games might be the training ground for the next Ninja Warrior.

Look for Nick on his You Tube channel, The Eskimo Ninja, and on TV in our PSA and American Ninja Warrior.

July 12
Get out and play at the first Teddy Bear Picnic

teddy bear picnic - Kids checking out the new playground.jpgThe state’s 6th annual Ted Stevens Day is coming up on July 23, 2016, and there are lots of fun activities planned around the state to help Alaskans get out and play. One of these family-friendly events in Anchorage is focusing on including children and adults who experience disabilities in playground fun.

The Ted Stevens Foundation is partnering with Parks for All, the Anchorage Park Foundation, ARC of Anchorage, Special Olympics Alaska, Healthy Futures, and other local groups to host the first "Teddy Bear Picnic" at Cuddy Family Midtown Park in Anchorage. Cuddy Park was Anchorage’s first inclusive playground, accessible to people who use wheelchairs and other assistive mobility devices.
The event organizers are encouraging families to bring their children — and their teddy bears — to the park between noon and 4 p.m. to enjoy a picnic, music, a parade and playtime. 
“The activities are geared toward including all kids and families in the fun,” said Beth Nordlund, executive director of the Anchorage Park Foundation, one of the partners in the Teddy Bear Picnic event. “We hope kids enjoy a bit of pretend creative time, play on the playground, and have fun with the other kids. We hope the adults take advantage of this great community gathering for family fun while they learn about the importance of inclusive play. No child should have to sit on the side of a park — inclusive play is for all of us!” 
Matias Saari, event support coordinator for Healthy Futures, says the organization is excited to be involved in the Ted Stevens Day event.
“The activities will be both fun and healthy, and we anticipate the event as a whole will build awareness of the Inclusive Play Movement and importance of wholesome outdoor opportunities for all kids,” he said. 
Ted Stevens Day Teddy Bear Picnic
Cuddy Family Midtown Park, Anchorage
12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
June 27
Want to cook more healthy meals? Watch and learn — with your kids!

OvernightOatmealWithColton_3.PNGA new series of online cooking videos produced in Alaska show how kids can take charge in the kitchen and prepare meals with healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The series was filmed through the Children’s Healthy Living Program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Cooperative Extension Service.

“Our goal was to show parents that preparing healthy meals with fruits, vegetables and legumes is easy,” said Andrea Bersamin, an associate professor at UAF who works with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research and the Children’s Healthy Living Program. This program is a funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve child health in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Palau, Micronesia, and the Northern Mariana and Marshall islands.

Each short video features a child helping to prepare and cook foods that are readily available in most parts of Alaska, like beans, kale, oatmeal, and vegetable fried rice. You can watch the videos at

“The idea is that kids can get involved in cooking even at a young age, and it makes them more likely to want to taste the food if they help make it,” said Bersamin. “The overnight oats video shows just the child making the whole thing, no adults.  These recipes are easy and fun to make.”

The videos were filmed in the UAF Cooperative Extension kitchen in Fairbanks and feature Alaska families. Bersamin said the group has plans to make additional cooking demonstration videos using traditional Alaska Native and subsistence foods.

June 14
Alaska coaches say no to sports drinks

Drink Water Poster ANTHC.jpgSummer sports are kicking up – soccer, mountain biking, and softball. But just because you play sports doesn’t mean you need sports drinks. A number of coaches and other sports professionals are advising their athletes to make better choices when they hydrate their bodies.

Matt Thomas is one of these coaches.

“(Sports and energy) drinks are short-burst stimulants, and can have a lot of sugar, and they are not the right type of thing to be putting into your body routinely,” said Thomas, the head coach for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves men’s hockey team. “We discourage our players from drinking them and we educate them on the proper, healthier ways to hydrate and create the needed focus and energy. We understand that there isn’t a very good correlation to performance from using sports or energy drinks.”

Thomas says he encourages his players to consume healthy meals when training or preparing for a game, and to choose drinks like water or milk.

“We know that water is always a good choice,” he said.

Thomas said his hockey players, like many college students, don’t always make the best food and drink choices, but part of their pre-season training is meeting with a sports nutritionist.

“We give the kids an opportunity to get good information on how to fuel your body the proper way,” he said. “These guys are grown men who can make their own decisions, but they are interested in what they should consume to make their bodies work best, and they understand there are other things you can do for your body that are better than sports drinks.”

Rikki Keen is a sports nutritionist who has worked with the UAA Men’s Hockey team many times. She discourages sports and energy drinks for athletes of all ages, but especially for children under 18.

“Kids are growing rapidly, and of all the times of their lives, this is not the time to be consuming those poor-nutrient-based drinks,” she said.

Keen worries about the way these beverages are marketed, to make it seem like they are what your body requires during or after exercising. The drinks come in pretty colors and flavors, she said. Their labels often say they contain electrolytes, like sodium or potassium, that your body loses when you sweat during physical activity. But Keen says you can get more sodium and potassium in a cup of milk than from a sports drink.  

“Calories are not created equal,” Keen said. “You need to ask yourself: Is it necessary to have a sports drink when you can get the same things from a banana and water?”


June 07
Summer running fun is on the way

2015 Mayor's Marathon Expo_37.JPG​Looking for ways to keep your kids active when school is out? These kid- and family-friendly runs are coming up:

Healthy Futures Kids Mile
Thursday, June 16
UAA campus
7:00 p.m.
The Healthy Futures Kids Mile is part of the Anchorage Mayor's Marathon & Half Marathon presented by ConocoPhillips and takes place while adults are registering for their marathon bibs. The route begins in front of the Alaska Airlines Center and winds around the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.
The event includes refreshments and prizes. Scott Janssen, the “Mushin’ Mortician,” will lead the kids out behind a team of huskies. Local “Healthy Heroes” will run with the kids and hand out Healthy Futures medals.
The run is free, but kids must be registered in advance to receive a bib and prizes.
Children’s Hospital at Providence Kids’ 2K
Saturday, Aug. 20
Delaney park Strip, Anchorage
Healthy Heroes Warmup: 9:30 a.m./Run: 10:00 a.m.

The event organizers call the Kids' 2K (about 1.2 miles) a no-pressure, fun run on the Delaney Parkstrip between E and I Streets (one block south of the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center). The start area is on 9th Avenue at its intersection with G Street. The finish is on the Park Strip grass (near F Street). The pre-race warm-up will be led by Anchorage's Healthy Hero athletes, who will also guide the runners around the course.
The run is free and all registered participants will receive a hat and a finisher’s medal.
Little A Triathlon
Saturday, June 25
Matanuska Lakes State Recreation Area, Palmer (formerly known as Kepler-Bradley lakes)
10:00 a.m.
Individuals: $100, Teams: $150

Come take part in an event focused on two goals: serving as a memorial for Avery Lindholm, a 2-year-old Alaska child who died from brain cancer, and raising funds for Alaska families with children who have cancer. Entry fees will be donated to the family of an Eagle River child who recently died from cancer. 
The course includes an 800-meter swim in Matanuska Lake (a wetsuit is strongly recommended), 12 miles of off-road biking, and a 4-mile trail run. 
Team or individual registration includes a T-shirt, a finisher’s medal, entry into a raffle for prizes, and more.
June 06
Alaska's Ninja Warrior

ninja.jpgThe sun looks bright at 5 a.m. in Unalakleet in May, but it provides little warmth against the chill on this clear morning. Nick Iligutchiak Hanson heats up a different way – by navigating an obstacle course that tests his agility, speed, power and endurance as he leaps and reaches over and up stumps, logs and walls.

On this day in May, he was doing the course for a  Play Every Day PSA to promote the importance of daily physical activity. Play Every Day has partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to show how people in communities across Alaska are helping families get more active for the best health.

Most days, Hanson hits his homemade course on Unalakleet's beach to prepare for American Ninja Warrior, an obstacle course competition show that airs on NBC. Last year he almost made it to the city finals. This year, he was the first to successfully complete the course in the first round.

After nailing the warped wall, hitting the buzzer, and howling triumphantly, Hanson told the show’s sideline interviewer, “I’m just so glad I have had so much support from my family and my community.”

The feeling goes both ways. The kids he coaches prodded him to try out for Ninja Warrior in the first place, he said, and they continue to play with the 28-year-old Ninja all year. 

Hanson coaches basketball, volleyball and Native Youth Olympic games during the school year, and leads a running club all summer. He mentors other Alaska athletes vying for a spot on Ninja Warrior as well.
For Hanson, staying active means staying connected with his body, his community and his culture. As a teacher’s aide, coach, mentor and motivational speaker, Hanson wants to help kids do their best and guide them toward healthy option, he said. He wants to be someone they can turn to when they need a hand or need someone to listen.
And if some of these kids start a game of hide-and-seek using the whole village as a playground, Hanson is definitely playing.
Though now in the national spotlight as the American Ninja Warrior from the small Alaska community, Hanson has already made a name for himself as an athlete, coach and community leader. In March, he won gold in the Open Men’s Two-Foot High Kick during the Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland, and he has won over 30 medals in the World Eskimo Indian Olympics and Arctic Winter Games since 2013.
In the past few years, he has received several notable recognition awards, including the 2015 Native Youth Olympics Healthy Coach award and the 2015 Bering Straits Native Corporation Young Providers award. Just month ago, he received a 2016 Alaska First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Award for his dedication to youth and his community (view his video about receiving the award in Juneau here).
Now, as Alaska’s Ninja Warrior, Hanson heads to the show’s regional finals and is that much closer to the show’s Las Vegas finale and $1 million Ninja Warrior prize. That hardly seems to matter on this clear spring night in May.
As sunlight clings to the horizon, Hanson keeps moving from corner to alley, beach to river bank, in a hide-and-seek game that plays on into the evening sun.
Find out more about the obstacle course Hanson and friends built and the work he does on his You Tube channel, The Eskimo Ninja, and look for him and the community of Unalakleet again in an upcoming Play Every Day PSA that will air statewide in August,
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