Introduction to working with a Dietitian/Nutritionist in Calgary
Eating and drinking is pretty easy, right? It is something we do several times a day, every day, since the day we are born, no? Where food and “eating well” becomes tricky is when we are expected to prepare and eat “balanced, wholesome, and nutritious” meals and snacks while staying afloat balancing our other day-to-day challenges and packed schedules. It is because we typically live hectic lives juggling things like work, family life, and personal time that we put food on the back-burner (no pun intended). In doing so, we essentially prioritize all else over our own personal health and well-being.
So, how does a dietitian fit into all this and what do they actually do?
If you have ever been down the rabbit hole of what “healthy” eating looks like, your countless internet searches have likely left you wondering “when did food become so complicated?”. You are not alone. It is virtually impossible to find a clear answer about food when the internet is riddled with conflicting and confusing information about which diet to follow or which “super food” to eat or not to eat. What the internet doesn’t tell you is that everyone is unique, which means that no two people have the same nutritional needs. For example, what may be considered “healthy” for a 30-year-old athlete may not be “healthy” for a 30 year-old pregnant woman.
Unlike what the title suggests, a dietitian doesn’t put people on strict cookie-cutter diets based on “forbidden” or “bad” foods. Instead, our knowledge about food itself, what happens in the body when we eat, and the relationship between what we eat and common illnesses, gives us the amazing ability to help people make decisions about food that are more informed, more confident, and better suited to their specific needs.
In other words, dietitians seek to share their passion and knowledge about food, while considering your individual lifestyle, health, interests, and needs. We take an approach that integrates the science of food with the needs and goals that you bring to the table. Our goal is to help you gain a better understanding of food and how it relates to you, so that you are armed with the information you need to prioritize your personal goals, health and well-being.
Here are just a few examples where working with a dietitian can be helpful:
Nutrition for Adults and Children – Do you have answers about what basic and balanced nutrition looks like so that you can make improvements to your and your family’s day-to-day eating habits? Do you have a picky eater at home who may not be getting what they need? Are you a student unsure about how to prepare low-budget and wholesome meals while managing a full-time semester?
Weight Management – Dieting takes a toll on both the body and the mind and can be hard to shake, especially when we feel that society dictates what “normal” or “healthy” should look like. Often, people are left with fluctuating weight, restrictive eating habits that distract from the pleasures of food, and a general lack of self-compassion. Work with a dietitian can help lower the stress related to making the “right” food choices and can help you take on a more intuitive approach when it comes to listening to what you and your body needs.
Alternative or non-traditional “diets” – Whether you choose to follow a vegetarian or a vegan lifestyle, for example, you need to be aware of how to replace the foods you are cutting out. The first few steps toward making changes can be intimidating and dietitians can be a great comfort to ensure you are doing it right! We can also make sure that food doesn’t become boring by sharing ways to keep things diverse, tasty and nourishing.
Allergies – While food allergies can be a nuisance and a source of fear for many, dietitians can help you find alternatives to foods you have to avoid, while also making sure that you are not missing out on important food groups and nutrients.
Digestive concerns - Whether you struggle with IBS, colitis, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s, celiac disease, or lactose intolerance, knowing what to eat is important so that you and not your body dictate how you feel daily. Dietitians can help you identify the “trigger” foods that affect your digestion and guide you in finding alternatives to those foods.
Physical Rehabilitation – The dietitian’s role in recovery may not be obvious because nutrition cannot fix the actual injury. However, what is often overlooked is that injury stresses and affects the whole body that can even cause challenges in the future. Knowing how to support your body with the right foods can promote a quicker recovery as you undergo physiotherapy and can also have long-lasting benefits to overall health. Did you know that optimizing what you eat before a planned surgery has also been shown to not only promote better post-surgery outcomes, but also aid in a more rapid recovery?
Sports nutrition – It is clear that a balanced way of eating is the way to go for any lifestyle. As an athlete especially, regardless of performance level, nutrition is a critical part of how you fuel your efforts and achievements. What and how much you eat has a direct impact on sport performance, training, and recovery, and should not be overlooked when trying to reach your fullest potential.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding – Making specific changes to what you eat can prepare your body for a planned pregnancy. Once pregnant, your body goes through extraordinary changes that completely redefines what “optimal” nutrition means for you. Nutrition education can support “both” of you during each trimester of the pregnancy and can even be helpful in the months following birth.
Diabetes – Recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can feel overwhelming and scary, but it doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to manage the condition and live your life. Nutrition education can be life-changing because it not only gives you piece of mind when making daily food choices, but can also empower you by helping you regain control over your health.
Heart disease and stroke – Making changes to your diet by including more heart-healthy foods has been shown to be helpful in both the prevention and management of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You may find yourself making small changes to your current diet that have long-lasting impact.
Cancer – Do you have a family history of cancer or know of certain predispositions you may have to cancer? Research supports that making certain changes in what you eat can lower your risk for developing types of cancer. Maybe you have recently been diagnosed with cancer or are beginning various cancer treatments? Dietitians can work with you in helping you support your body and your immune system as they fight off the disease during cancer treatment. What you learn about nutrition will also aid you on your road to recovery.
If you feel like any of these or other health-related concerns speak to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can either call the clinic to set up an appointment, or book one yourself through the website!
à Blog Topic Requests: I am always looking to learn more about food and share information with the public. Feel free to email me with interesting nutrition-related topics you would like to know more about, and perhaps you will find a blog entry about it on the clinic’s website!
By Kathleen Litzenberger, Registered Dietitian
Posted on 2020-07-14