Living with Diabetes in University: When the “Freshmen 15” Isn’t Your Biggest Concern.

  • By Alyssa Grams
  • 09 Aug, 2017

University means a fresh start.

University means a fresh start. You can put anything you want behind you, and instead look forward to who you want to become. Even if you aren’t moving away from home and you are entering your first year of university, many aspects of your life will still change.

It is important to remember that with the many changes university brings, your diabetes management may have to change too. A new living situation, new stressors, and new faces can cause your health to dip. But we have 3 tips to prepare you for living with diabetes in university.

Tip #1: Family, friends, and the pharmacist—know your network.

University offers you the chance to meet so many new, diverse people. Although it might be overwhelming to explain your living situation several times over, it is important to establish a new support network.

You can start building your community before class even begins by introducing yourself to your medical team:

  • The medical clinic – Book an appointment with the doctor on campus one or two weeks ahead of your first class, so they can become a part of your medical support team. The doctor can also give you with further contacts such as a dietitian or support nurses to help you with any challenges the campus may pose.
  • The pharmacy – If you are on any medications, such as Metformin or insulin to help manage your diabetes, go scope out the nearest pharmacy and call ahead to familiarize yourself with their store. If you are living on residence, and they have a “ safe-package” policy  that requires signed pick up, it may be easiest to have your meds shipped to you.
  • Residence – Most first year students will be living in residence to have the full university experience. Chances are, your roommate is random and you won’t know anyone on your floor. Our pro tip: to introduce yourself and your condition to a few people who seem trustworthy and establish a respectful rapport with your roommate at the minimum. Having some people know about your living situation can help you avoid awkward situations or let people know what to do if you experience hypoglycemia .
  • Family – Although your family may be a 1000 miles away, you should connect your family with your new friends and doctors. That way if anything happens to you, your family can contact your roommate or doctor to stay updated on your condition.
  • In an emergency – No matter who you have in your support system, they can only really help you if they are informed. Creating diabetes information sheets or emergency medical contacts could save your life.

Tip #2: Food, diet, and the allowance of alcohol.

Normally, students will only worry about budgeting out their allowance for the food hall and making sure they have enough money left over for the alcohol at the after-party. But living with diabetes brings on an additional layer of concern.

The best thing to do is to be realistic about your health and diet by bringing the healthy habits you followed at home:

  • Dining Hall – There are plenty of schools that require first year students to use the dining hall. While this may make eating more convenient, options can be limited. Work with a dietitian or your university’s food services to make sure you are presented with accurate nutritional information and a variety of food options. If this isn’t an option, it is always worth checking to see if some of your dining hall fees can be amended for you to spend money on healthier grocery options.
  • Refrigerator – Students with type 1 diabetes will need a clean, cool storage system for their insulin, and the community refrigerator is neither trustworthy or likely sanitary. Requesting a mini fridge for your bedroom will give you peace of mind by knowing your insulin injections are stored. You can also store healthy, fresh snacks by your bedside for emergencies. Bonus!
  • Party Time – It is inevitable that drinking will happen. University is often synonymous with “party time.” Although it may be hard, this is where sticking to your healthy habits from home will come in handy. If you want to have a social drink or two on the weekends, make sure you have a sober friend to help you out and keep a casual eye on you. Also, monitoring your blood glucose levels every 30 minutes could prevent you from having any hangover symptoms. Finally, if you are going to the bar, phone ahead to make sure they know may be coming with sharp/pointy objects that are filled with insulin and not illegal substances.

Tip #3 Campus Rights

Although this tip is short and sweet, it is vital! You are going to university to gain new experiences and pursue the career of your dreams, so you should focus on making the most of your academics. Letting professors or program directors know of your situation could prevent you from failing that test when you were low, as there may be an opportunity for a re-test or alternative grading opportunity. This could also lead to priority position in line-ups during food hall, the ability to eat snacks or use medical devices in class, or be used as a valid reason to miss class due to your regular A1C test.

Many students worry about stereotypical situations such as the “freshman 15,” but you have to conquer so much more in this new and exciting time!

To kick off your university career, read here on the experience of university students living with type 1 diabetes in this academic paper.


By Alyssa Grams 02 Jan, 2018

There’s a million ways food messaging is trying to trick you. Whether it’s misleading advertising, confusing food claims or even just rumour. To help you navigate these nutritional waters, this week I’ve opted to bust some common health myths for people with diabetes.

MYTH: Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar

 This one seems to come from the common rule that brown is best. While this rule applies to foods like rice, pasta and bread, it doesn’t apply to all foods. Nutritionally speaking, all refined sugars are pretty much the same, whether it’s brown sugar, honey or organic evaporated cane syrup. Each and every one of them are concentrated sources of calories and carbohydrate with very few other nutrients. Plus, your body responds to them all in the same way. The best choice is the one you use in the smallest amount.  


MYTH: Multigrain and whole grain are the same

They may sound like the best thing since sliced bread, but foods labeled “multigrain” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. All “multigrain” means is the product includes multiple grains, which may or may not be whole grains. If they’re refined, they’ve been stripped of their fibre, which makes them digest much faster, causing greater spikes in blood sugar. Whole grains, however, have all of their fibre and nutrients intact. To get all the benefits, make sure to look for those two words!


MYTH: You need nutrition supplements to be healthy

Contrary to what supplement companies tell you, most people can meet their vitamin and mineral needs with a well-balanced diet. There are certain groups that may require some extra nutrients from supplements. Those groups include, but are not limited to, older individuals, pregnant or breastfeeding women and those with restricted diets. But whenever possible, it’s always best (and tastiest!) to get your nutrients from foods.


MYTH: “Fat free” means healthy

Fat got a bad wrap for decades, paving the way for a plethora of fat-free foods. But just because a food is low fat or fat-free it doesn't mean it's healthy. Many of these products are still high in sugar and calories, like pop, candy and fat-free desserts. When it comes to eating well, it’s more important to replace the less healthy fats (saturated and trans fats), with heart-healthy unsaturated fats, like the kinds found in fish, avocado, nuts and seeds.


MYTH: Ditch the salt shaker, ditch the salt

When it comes to eating too much sodium, it isn’t the shaker that’ll make or break you. Over 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and restaurants. Very little actually comes from the salt shaker. To limit your sodium, choose fewer pre-packaged foods and restaurant meals, and enjoy lower sodium foods that you can cook at home. And don’t be fooled: sea salt, as fancy as it sounds, is not a healthier choice. Even if it’s pink! 

For nutrition information you can trust, look no further than the Pure Prairie Eating Plan . Along with tasty recipes and practical menus, the book is chock-full of evidence-based answers to all your nutrition questions.

By Keighla Lutes 22 Dec, 2017

This is part two of a two-part series. To find part one, click here.

6. Keep the Sweets as Treats To keep your blood sugars from climbing, keep tabs on your intake of foods with added sugar. A bite here and there can add up quickly.  Don’t love it? Leave it! There are so many foods to choose from during the holidays. Savour the ones you crave the most and leave the rest.

7.   Be Prepared
 One way to make sure there are healthy options available is to bring them yourself. If you’re going to a holiday dinner, ask if you can bring a dish — something that’s lower in calories and fat, like a vegetable tray or festive salad. Your host will likely welcome some healthy options.

8. Get Creative!
 It’s easy to make your favourite recipes healthier by making some simple swaps. For example, replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk or top desserts with fresh fruit instead of icing or syrupy sauces. Plus, bringing something creative is often just as impressive as something decadent. You’ll be surprised by the “oohs” and “ahhs” you get when you show up with a festive quinoa salad or broccoli Christmas tree.

9. Stay Active
Staying active during the holidays helps to relieve stress, regulate your appetite, manage your blood sugars and keep you energized. Find seasonal activities the whole family can enjoy like ice skating or tobogganing. Recreation facilities often have special deals during the holidays which can help your family stay active and save a few dollars in the process.

10. Don’t Forget the Reason for the Season

It’s important not to let the fear of overindulging prevent you from enjoying all that wonderful time with friends and family. Take the focus away from the buffet with fun or festive after-dinner activities that don’t involve food.

The most important tip of all: relax and enjoy! The holidays are a time to spend with loved ones, while taking a much-needed break from routines. Remember: maintaining a healthy diet takes practice. If you slip up now and then, forgive yourself and make sure your next meal or snack is a healthy one.

Looking for some tasty ways to make the holidays a little healthier this year? Check out the Pure Prairie Eating Plan   for healthier versions of festive faves like Betty’s Gingersnaps , Banana and Cranberry Bread Pudding  and Cookie Crumble Baked Apples .

Happy Holidays!

By Keighla Lutes 22 Dec, 2017
If you’ve been making healthy changes lately, you may notice a dread creeping in for the holidays. It’s not the family stress, nor is it those couple last items to check off your Christmas list. It’s the feeling that all your hard work (developing an exercise routine, cooking more frequently or shedding a few unwanted pounds) will be undone around the holiday dinner table faster than you can say “Old Saint Nick.”


It’s true: The holiday season does mean big dinners, more parties and more lunchroom treats. Add to that the days of travel, endless family and late nights, it’s hard not to mourn the loss of your health before the holidays even begin.


But healthy holiday eating doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. With a little planning you can maintain your goals while still enjoying all the wonderful flavours this season has to offer.


Whether it’s keeping your blood sugars in check, or preventing the dreaded holiday weight gain, follow these simple tips to help keep you on track.

 1. Root for Routine

Going non-stop can throw off eating and exercise routines. It’s up to you to fight back!  Make sure to eat regularly, exercise and take any medications the same time as usual, even on days off. Showing up hungry is a surefire way to overindulge.


2. Avoid Excess Appetizers

Appetizers add up! They’re often high in calories and fat. It’s easy to eat a meal’s worth of calories from appetizers alone. If you’re staring down a table of tempting appys, scan it, pick the best and leave the rest. Visit with friends away from the table to avoid grazing.


3.  Rethink Your Holiday Drink

What we drink during the holidays is just as important as what we eat. Many festive drinks are high in calories and sugar. For example, one peppermint mocha can have as much as 10 teaspoons of added sugar! To make matters worse, the brain doesn’t sense liquid calories the same way it does food calories, making it easy to overindulge. Some festive alternatives: try putting mint and cranberries in your water or diluting eggnog and hot chocolate with skim milk.


4.  Choose Your Booze Wisely

Alcohol can add to the festive mood. But it also adds a lot of calories and can affect your blood sugar control. Women should consume no more than two drinks a day and men should have no more than three a day. As far as blood sugar control goes, never drink on an empty stomach and remember to test your blood sugars after drinking.


5.  Watch Your Portions

The only thing that should be getting stuffed this holiday season is the turkey. Whether you’re at a sit-down family feast, or a buffet style party, be smart. Use the healthy plate method to ensure you are eating balanced meals. Make sure half of your plate is veggies, then leave a quarter of your plate for carbs and a quarter of your plate for lean protein. It’s a simple rule that can save you a lot of regret... and heartburn!


I know--I promised ten tips, but I didn’t want to throw too much at you in one post. Check back for the final five tips on how to survive the holidays, without sacrificing your healthy lifestyle.

Read Part 2 here

By Alyssa Grams 26 Nov, 2017

You’ve heard the joke a million times. And with Christmas around the corner, you’re bound to hear it a whole lot more: “With all those sweets, you’re going to give us all diabetes!”

It’s funny, but most people do assume there’s at least a hint of truth to it. Is eating sweets today going to give me diabetes tomorrow?

We all know diabetes is linked to high levels of blood sugar, so it may seem logical to assume that overdosing on the sweet stuff is why so many people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But of course, it’s not that simple.

Diabetes, By The Numbers

Diabetes does not have one cause, per se. It happens when your body is not able to make enough insulin or effectively use the insulin it has.

This can happen for a couple of different reasons. In people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Without insulin, the body isn’t able to use glucose as fuel, and blood sugars rise to dangerous levels.

For people with type 2 diabetes, muscle and other cells stop responding to insulin. Without insulin telling the cells to let glucose in, blood sugars remain high and cells aren’t able to get the fuel they need to function properly.

The Things you Can Control

Of course, type 1 diabetes is due to factors we can’t control, like our genes and some viruses.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is due to a mix of things we can and can’t control. While we can’t do anything about our genes, our age or our ethnicity, we can control our weight, our diet and how physically active we are.

Now to the sugar: Although excessive sugar intake is not a direct cause of type 2 diabetes, excess calories lead to weight gain, which increases your diabetes risk. And since added sugars are one of the largest sources of excess calories in our diets, it’s crucial to keep tabs on your sugar consumption.

A diet including lots of extra calories from any source can lead to weight gain and diabetes. What’s most important is to maintain a healthy weight and embrace a lifestyle that emphasizes a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains and regular physical activity.

A Sweet Proposition

Bottom Line: If you have diabetes, you need to watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake to properly manage your blood sugars. However, if you do not have diabetes, sugar intake will not cause it.

Are you worried about your risk? Take the Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire . Knowing your likelihood can help you make healthy choices to reduce your risk or even prevent you from developing diabetes.


By Alyssa Grams 13 Nov, 2017

So you’ve been recently diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. It can be a scary and confusing time, with lots of information to take in. Of course, many people are afraid of what that means for their eating. Am I doomed to a life free of dining delights, you may wonder.

While it’s no surprise diet is of the essence, diabetes isn’t a life sentence of bland food.  Truth is, a healthy eating plan for diabetes is a healthy eating plan for everyone. And it doesn’t mean a lifetime of choosing cardboard over carbonara and never enjoying another meal again.

By following a simple recipe at each meal and snack you can enjoy delicious, nourishing food while still managing your blood sugars.

All you have to do is toss in the right ingredients, whip them up with the proper amounts, add a pinch of good timing and season to taste.

 Step One: Ingredients

This may take just a dash of patience, but bear with me—and trust me when I say there are no secret ingredients. All you need is real, wholesome foods like fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. Just eat and repeat.

Eating nutritious whole foods at every meal will go a long way in ensuring you get the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Don’t forget, all these foods come with a generous side of vitamins, minerals and fibre!

Step Two: Portions

There are a few different steps to this, but I promise it’s as easy as 1,2,3. How much of each ingredient may vary depending on your age, gender and activity level. But in general, there are two ways to be sure the recipe can’t be beat.

1.    Plate method

Using a 9-inch plate, fill half your plate with vegetables, fill one quarter with meat or another protein and finish it off with a whole grain or fibre-rich starch. Bon appetit! Feel free to add a small piece of fruit and a small glass of milk into the mix, depending on appetite.

2.  Portion it yourself

Sometimes the best solution is right in the palm of your hands; other times, the best solution is  your hands. Here are a couple good rules of thumb that will have you eating well-portioned meals in a pinch:

  • Aim for the size of your fist in grains, starches & fruit
  • Eat as many vegetables as you can hold in both hands
  • Look to your palm when it comes to meat, fish and poultry (thickness of your little finger)
  • Add just the tip of your thumb in fats & oils

Step Three: Timing

It’s not as simple as setting a timer, but eating regularly during the day helps stabilize your blood sugars, helping you rise to any occasion. It also prevents overeating by managing your hunger.

You’ve heard the advice before, but it’s as simple as this: Eat three meals a day at regular times and space them no more than six hours apart. Make sure to eat breakfast every day and include 1 – 2 small snacks as needed.

Step Four: Season to Taste

Just like any good recipe, this one also leaves room for a pinch of your favourite flavours. While it’s important to watch added sugar, salt and fat, that doesn’t mean they’re completely off the table. Just save them for special occasions, be sure to monitor your portions and savour every last bite.

As you can see, healthy eating for diabetes is a healthy way of eating for everyone. You don’t need separate meals or special “diabetic” foods. All you need is a healthy appetite for fresh, wholesome ingredients and of course, a recipe for success.

For more information on:

  1. The healthy plate method: Health Canada's Eat Well Plate .
  2. Handy portion sizes: Diabetes Canada's Portion Guide .
  3. Fresh, Alberta-grown food, practical menus and a healthy lifestyle: Pure Prairie Eating Plan.



By Keighla Lutes 05 Oct, 2017

It’s no surprise that Albertans go cuckoo over chicken. Not only is it a healthy protein source; it’s also delicious, versatile and easy to prepare. Since September has been hailed as National Chicken Month  , it seems like the perfect time to sing the praises of this popular poultry.

The Inside (S)coop

If you’re looking for a high-quality lean protein, the bird’s the word. One serving (75 g or 3.5 oz) of roasted, skinless chicken breast clucks in at about 124 calories, 3g total fat and 1g saturated fat ( 1  ).

And that lean serving is also packed with protein, dishing up 23 g per serving! Protein   is key to helping you feel full longer after eating, which helps stave off hunger and prevent overeating. A protein-rich diet also helps slow age-related muscle loss and maintain healthy bones.

Chicken also rules the roost when it comes to iron, B-vitamins, bone-building phosphorus and immunity boosting selenium and zinc. People with diabetes are at a higher risk for infections, so it’s extra important to keep the immune system strong.

No Paltry Poultry

Do you feel like chicken tonight? If so, you’re in (c)luck! There are as many ways to eat chicken as there are hens in the henhouse. Don’t be afraid to wing it. Just make sure you always remove the skin and choose healthy cooking methods like roasting, broiling or braising to keep the fat content down.

And don’t ruffle any feathers over light vs. dark meat—there’s nothing fowl about the dark stuff.  Although it’s higher in calories and fat, dark meat also contains more iron, zinc and certain B-vitamins than white meat, which means all cuts can be part of your healthy diet.

Also don’t fret over hormones   or steroids. Fun fact: their use in chickens has been banned in Canada since the 1960s.

Bird Bath

With cold and flu season just around the corner, many of us will turn to chicken noodle soup. Next time you feel a sniffle coming on, whip up the Chicken Noodle Bowl from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan  . It’ll be just what the doctor (and the dietitian) ordered!


1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Chicken, broiler, breast, meat, roasted. Retrieved from:

By Keighla Lutes 04 Oct, 2017

The weather may be cooling down, but your healthy fall food choices are heating up! It’s time for all of us to fall in love with fall—because, frankly, we don’t really have another choice!

By using these four simple tips (along with the Pure Prairie Eating Plan ), you’re sure to make fall feasting healthier than ever before.

1) Fall in love with your autumn fruits and veggies!  Alberta’s growing season is short. That means buying seasonal produce is key to saving money and getting the freshest and most nutritious foods. Plus it’s a great way to support our local farmers!

  • Check out your local farmers’ market or community garden.
  • Include seasonal fall foods in your meal plan, like beets, broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, corn, kale, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, turnips, cauliflower, zucchini, apples and pears.
  • Stock up on seasonal fruit and veggies and freeze or can them so you can enjoy them year round.

2) Settle back into a routine! As the days get shorter and schedules get busier, it sometimes seems like there isn’t enough time to put together a nourishing, home-cooked meal. But simple ways of establishing a routine can do wonders for making your life simpler and healthier.

  • Make a meal plan and a grocery list to prepare for the week. The Pure Prairie Eating Plan ’s easy-to-follow menus and shopping lists make meal planning a cinch.  
  • Use your slow cooker to save time and money. Slow cookers also allow you to control the amount of added fat, all while boosting the flavour of your home-cooked meals.
  • Make a plan for leftovers. Freeze extra soups, stews and casseroles for easy, pre-portioned meals down the road.

3) Have a couch day game plan!  Whether you’re a sports fan or just want to catch up on fall programming, some simple swaps can help you eat healthier —even when you’re vegging out.  

  • Mash green peas into guacamole to cut down on calories and boost fibre and nutrients.
  • Make your chilli vegetarian or use low-fat ground turkey in place of beef.
  • Serve pita wedges and veggies with hummus instead of the standard cheese and crackers.

4) Get back in the kitchen!  Is it cold outside? Stay in and get cooking! Nothing warms up a fall night like experimenting with delicious, Alberta-grown foods. Try some of the following:

  • Pumpkin is more than just delicious pie filling. Whip up pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins or even a pumpkin smoothie.
  • Use chopped apples as a salad topper or mixed into warm oatmeal. Or simply cut an apple in half, sprinkle some cinnamon and bake in the oven for a nutritious dessert.
  • Hearty fall soups are filling, easy to make and a great way to use up veggies that might be nearing the end of their shelf life. Use broth instead of cream and add lots of veggies for a satisfying meal that the whole family can enjoy.

For an array of tasty recipes that feature your homegrown harvest ingredients, look no further than the Pure Prairie Eating Plan Cookbook . All recipes are 100% dietitian approved and sure to satisfy. Happy Harvest!


By Alyssa Grams 13 Sep, 2017

While Alberta’s summer yield may be running dry, it is harvest time for many delicious fruits and vegetables. It’s also the perfect time for an early fall favourite: Zucchini!

Also known as summer squash, this versatile veggie may come late in the season, but its comeback game is strong. Low in calories and loaded with vitamins and minerals, this valiant vegetable always squashes the competition.

Zucchini for the Win!

Zucchini is 95% water, making it naturally low in calories and an excellent choice if you’re watching your weight. One serving (½ cup) contains 0.7 grams of protein , 1.9 g carbs  and 0.6 grams of fibre . That’s a steal of a deal when you consider it’s only 10 calories! And since zucchini is a low-glycemic  food, it won’t cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar ( 2 ).

And that’s not all! Along with vitamin A , potassium  and other important nutrients, zucchini also provides 15% (11 milligrams) of your daily vitamin C  needs ( 1 ). Vitamin C is best known for boosting the body’s immune system, which is extra important with flu season right around the corner.

It’s health benefits don’t stop there! As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C also helps squash free radicals in the body, which helps our bodies repair damage and fend off conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Get Squashed                

A favourite among Alberta’s gardeners, zucchini has a mellow flavour, soft edible skin and a creamy white flesh that makes it a delightful addition to any dish.

It can be sliced, diced or shredded and is delicious pan-fried, baked or raw. In addition to its tasty flesh, female zucchini plants also produce large yellow blossoms, which can be eaten raw or cooked.

Move over cuke, it’s time for the zuke! Here are some tasty ways to enjoy this fall favourite:

  1. Sauté a handful of chopped zucchini and add it to a veggie omelette
  2. Add diced zucchini to homemade or canned vegetable soup
  3. Toss matchstick or cubed zucchini into a curry or stir-fry
  4. Layer grilled zucchini, tomato and partly-skimmed mozzarella on a panini
  5. Thinly slice into “zucchini noodles” and toss in your favourite tomato sauce

Okay, so let’s say you just brought in your garden harvest and have no idea what to do with those monster zucchinis. Try grating them up and adding them to baked goods like muffins, loaves or chocolate cake. It may sound like baking blasphemy, but they add an extra dose of nutrition, a moist texture and a surprisingly delicious flavour.

For a breakfast muffin brimming with flavour and nutrition, try the Breakfast Zucchini Muffins in the Pure Prairie Eating Plan .


1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Squash, summer, zucchini, raw. Retrieved from:

2) University Health News Daily (2017). Glycemic Index Chart: GI Ratings for Hundreds of Foods. Retrieved from:

By Alyssa Grams 06 Sep, 2017

Every good parent wants to take a bite out of their kids’ hunger by offering up a nice, hearty granola bar. They’re small, portable and easy to toss in a backpack or keep in your car for when you’re stuck in traffic. But just because the right bar is perfect for almost any occasion doesn’t mean any bar is perfect for you.

Many of these bite-sized snacks are packed with more sugar than a donut and are so low in fibre and protein  they don’t stand a chance against your growling stomach.

So when faced with an ever-growing assortment of granola bars, how do you pick a smart snack over a chocolate bar in disguise?

By Alyssa Grams 09 Aug, 2017

University means a fresh start. You can put anything you want behind you, and instead look forward to who you want to become. Even if you aren’t moving away from home and you are entering your first year of university, many aspects of your life will still change.

It is important to remember that with the many changes university brings, your diabetes management may have to change too. A new living situation, new stressors, and new faces can cause your health to dip. But we have 3 tips to prepare you for living with diabetes in university.

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