Tag: dietitian

Plant Based Pantry Recipes that won’t break the bank

Plant Based Pantry Recipes that won’t break the bank

When the world ended as we knew it I was determined to cook up lower cost, plant based meals and chalk my freezer full. I wanted to have a great stock pile so that when I eventually returned to work I would have so many […]

Are We Vilifying The Holidays???

Are We Vilifying The Holidays???

This morning I prepared a cute little Christmas Tree plate for my son out of kiwi. Banana and strawberry. I absolutely love having fun with my food and shaping it into different things. Its so exciting to create healthy alternatives for the holidays. It’s also […]

Breastfeeding and Allergies: A Dietitian and a Mom’s Perspective

Breastfeeding and Allergies: A Dietitian and a Mom’s Perspective

While I have been plugging away these past few years writing blogs about food I always wanted to delve into writing a lifestyle blog. It appears I didn’t feel like I had a lot to say until I had my own little guy! Having a baby certainly changed the way I practice dietetics and I find myself gravitating much more towards baby, children and family nutrition.
I was so excited when I became pregnant and friends started adding me to mom groups on Facebook. There were mom groups, play groups, Breast Feeding Support groups and Baby Led Weaning groups. I loved these groups but I quickly saw a trend. Worried momma’s getting online and sharing their baby’s issues with other mom’s in the hope of getting advice…but sometimes this advice was medical in nature and certainly not something they were quailifed to give and often incorrect. This lead me to take 2 actions. Firstly, I started my own Baby Led Weaning Workshop so I could help mom’s navigate the tricky world of online information and provide real, evidence based information about when baby was ready to start solids, what foods should be offered first, how these foods should be prepared and how to offer them. The Second thing that came from this experience was seeking out medical help more readily myself.
I hit my first roadblock when baby was about 6 weeks old. My little guy was spiting up SO MUCH. I mean it went from the occasional spit up to me wondering if I should call a priest to perform an exorcism…it was BAD! SO many mom’s had also written about this experience on the mom groups. Their solution, which was suggested by other mom’s in some cases and their family doctor’s in others, was to give up dairy, soy and gluten. Being a Dietitian I knew that this was uneccesary and also detrimental to Mom’s nutrition. You need all the energy, protein and especially calcium you can get when you are breastfeeding! Aside from this, cutting out these foods is completely unnecessary because only true allergens can cross the breast milk. Baby might appear to be fussy after you eat certain things but there is little that crosses through the breast milk besides drugs (including alcohol, caffeine and marijuana) and these allergens. Don’t get me wrong, true milk allergies are common but before you go cutting dairy from you diet it’s extremely important to explore other possibilities.
Let me bring this back around to my little guy. First I sought out a lactation consultant. My nipples had tears in them and I had developed a case of mastitis along with the issues my baby was experiencing. I so desperately wanted to continue breastfeeding but the pain was unbearable. It turned out he had a shallow latch and was taking in too much air when he fed (thus increasing the amount of gas and discomfort in his stomach). Second, I bought him into the children’s hospital. He was gaining great, almost a pound a week, but there was something to this spitting up. He did it so often and so much. The Peaditrician saw him, examined him, took the time to ask me specific questions and told me something that made COMEPLETE sense (he even drew a diagram!). We all may know (or might not know, hey, everyday is a new experience) that baby’s muscle tone is not fully developed for the first few months and that is why their movements are uncoordinated and jerky. BUT did you know that the throat musculature is the same!? Reflux in babies is extremely common and most often caused by immature muscles in the throat. There is a ring of muscle fibers whose job is to prevent food at the top of the stomach from moving back up into the esophagus This valve is meant to be only one way. If this muscle does not close well, which it often does not in new babies, food can leak back into the esophagus. This is called gastroesophageal reflux.
Did I blow your mind? I mean I knew it couldn’t just be the food but this made complete sense to me. I was so relieved. I have Celiac Disease myself and having to restrict my diet any more than I already have was a stressful thought to me.
So what did this doctor suggest? He told me after each feed to make sure baby was sitting up for 30 minutes or so. Lying baby flat increases the chance that milk will move back up the stomach and into the throat if the valve isn’t closing properly. Keeping baby upright helps them digest better and prevents this backflow from happening. He also suggested to keep baby still for 30 minutes. So no joslting, bouncing, or sitting up quickly. Again this is to let milk settle and prevent a backflow issue. Lastly, he prescribed reflux medication. As I am not always a fan of medication, I decided to try his other suggestions first before resorting to that. I will add though, he told me that the medication would do nothing to STOP the spitting up, only relieve any discomfort that my baby was feeling from the acidic juices coming back into the throat.
I practiced this advice for a couple of days and I saw great results. My baby still spit up but it would only be 2-3 times per week and if I moved him too quickly after a feed. It was nothing like the previous multiple times per day. I did end up giving him the medication a couple times, but only when he appeared to be particulay uncomfortable. With the improvement of his latch breastfeeding also became more enjoyable and I finally started to heal.
I am not a pediatrician and I’m not saying you should follow my advice…what I’m saying is that I’m a Dietitian and I knew that I shouldn’t cut food out of my diet so I consulted with a Paediatrician. Sure enough there was an alternate solution to my problem. The moral of this story is to seek out the right professional for the job. Mom’s are great and offer great advice, but you want to make sure you are looking out for your health as well as your babies. I always love the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and you can’t. Now if your baby does have a true milk allergy then you should certainly consult with a Dietitian so they can help you decipher which foods you need to avoid as well as helping you incorporate other sources of calcium into your diet AND your baby’s when it comes to introducing solids.
When it came to introducing solids I offered all the allergenic foods first at 6 months and one at a time. Health Canada now suggests offering these foods sooner (at 6 months opposed to a year) as research shows it can prevent allergies. My little guy had egg, peanut butter, gluten, soy and the list goes on. I had Benedryl and a phone on hand but he was a-ok. But wait…didn’t I say I had Celiac and didn’t I just admit I gave my baby gluten? Yes I did both and yes he is at in increased chance of having celiac, but only 15%. There is a huge psychological component in children who have food allergies and cannot participate in regular activities like other children. So even though there is some chance my baby might have Celiac, ruling out this possibility so he can have a normal childhood and go to a birthday party and eat cake like all the other children is so much more important for his mental health. Its not just the nutritional component we worry about either.
Mom’s, I am just sharing my experience as a mom and a Dietitian so that another perspective is offered. It isn’t easy to cut foods from your diet, especially if you are exhausted and caring for a small life. Your Nutrition can suffer, your mental health can suffer and so can your baby’s. So always seek other alternatives. Cutting food out might seem like the lesser of some evils but it isn’t. Often there are other things going on in the background and if you don’t solve the underlying issue, you might not be able to solve the problem in entirety. At the end of the day everyone will be much more happy if they can eat whatever they want.

4 Ingredients to Supercharge Your Diet

4 Ingredients to Supercharge Your Diet

Its almost Christmas! The holiday season can be full of stress for some people. You worry about eating too many treats, drinking too much alcohol and perhaps an ever expanding waistline…fear not for I have some tips to sneak extra nutrients into your diet that […]

Top 5 Foods To Kick Start Baby Led Weaning

Top 5 Foods To Kick Start Baby Led Weaning

The term Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is popping up all over the place these days. It is met with skepticism by some health professionals to total cult movements in some parenting groups. BLW is essentially a way of feeding your baby that completely by-passes the […]

The Skinny on Fat

The Skinny on Fat

February is Heart month and in light of this important topic I thought it would be a great time to talk about FAT! Over the past years there has been some new findings that have changed the way we look at fat in foods and it has left a lot of people scratching their heads and trying to read labels in total confusion. So what exactly are we looking for?

It turns out that it’s more complicated than simply cutting out certain kinds of fat and decreasing others. Let’s break it down and talk about the different kind of fats and the effect they can have on our bodies.

Trans fats can be found in some degree in animal products but are more widely dispersed and in great abundance in industrially produced foods. The main source of trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils. Their use was accepted for so long because they improved the length of time a food can stay on the shelf without spoiling. They can also improve the texture of foods, for example it is the ingredient responsible for holding the 2 layers of peanut butter together so that it isn’t separated like in natural nut butters. Other places you might find these partially hydrogenated oils include: hard margarines, vegetable shortenings and baked goods like cookies, cakes and muffins. So why are trans fats bad for us? They have what we call a double whammy effect on our cholesterol levels…they raise the bad cholesterol…which is bad, and decrease our good cholesterol which is also bad. We want our bad cholesterol to be low and our good cholesterol to be high!

Saturated fats are found naturally in mostly animal based foods like meat and dairy. Not all saturated fats have negative impacts on our health but most do so it is important to ensure that you are consuming lower quantities when possible. This type of fat has no impact on our good cholesterol but it does increase our bad cholesterol.

Monounsaturated fats are our healthy fats and are found in plant based foods. These fats can lower bad cholesterol but they can also lower good cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are found in nuts, oils, avocado and peanut butter.

Omega-3 fats or polyunsaturated fats are also found in plant based foods like monounsaturated fats. These fats have many important functions in our bodies and can help lower our bad cholesterol and increase our good cholesterol. These are those fats we consider heart healthy and are found in fatty fish, oils, walnuts, flax seed and eggs.

OK…so now that we have that all straightened out…what do we do with this information??? Essentially we want to cut all trans fats out of our diet because they are bad, bad, bad. That is why you will find “tans fat free” on packaging these days! You want to limit saturated fats because they’re not totally bad but they’re not entirely good either and lastly, we want to try and increase our intake of mono and polyunsaturated fats.

Luckily I’m a Dietitian so I can tell you how to put this information into practice and which foods you should pick to make this work…but isn’t it nice to know why?!

Here are my TEN handy dandy tips on making your ticker healthier with each bite:

One Choose lean cuts of meat and lower fat (but not fat free) milk, cheese and yogurt. The reason I say lower fat but not fat free is because many products that are fat free tend to bump up the sugar content majorly and this can also be bad for your heart too.

Two Aim to eat 2 servings of fish weekly. Fish particuly high in Omega-3 fats include salmon, albacore tuna (fresh and canned), sardines, lake trout and mackerel. You might have salmon for supper one evening and save half to make a salmon salad sandwich the next day. It’s that easy!

Three Aim to eat 2 vegetarian meals each week. Plant based foods like beans, peas and lentils are high in protein but have little to no fat. Try making a big pot of vegetarian chili for supper and bring leftovers for lunch the next day….boom…your 2 vegetarian meals taken care of. Beans, peas and lentils are also high in fibre. Fibre has an added benefit of lowering your bad cholesterol as well. Double bonus.

Four Choose natural nut or seed butters like peanut or sunflower. They have to be mixed but they contain no hydrogenated fat. Try keeping the container in your cupboard upside down for a couple days before opening. This will give the 2 layers a chance to come together. Then you just have to give them a little stir and keep them in the fridge. They won’t separate after that.

Five Add ground flax and chia seeds to your yogurt, oatmeal or cereal. These are both high in omega-3 fats and high in fibre.

Six Snack on unsalted nuts and seeds. Keep your serving size at ¼ cup per day or less as calories can add up quickly.

Seven Try cooking with heat stable oils like canola oil. While Olive oil is healthy, it loses these health properties once heat is introduced as it isn’t heat stable. Use olive oil to make your own salad dressings instead.

Eight Try using plain Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream as the fat content is much lower and it still has the same great taste.

Nine Try your hand at baking. Home baked goods have half the amount of fat as store bought goods which tend to be high in hydrogenated fats. Try using olive oil in baking or switch out the oil and sub in apple sauce for an even lower fat end product.

Ten Use avocado as a base instead of mayo on sandwiches and wraps.

So there are your tips and tricks for not only lowering bad fats but increasing your goods ones. Give it a try! Remember that this is just one way of improving your heart health but it’s definitely a great starting point!

Consuming enough calcium: building a strong framework

Consuming enough calcium: building a strong framework

Dairy consumption seems to have decreased in the last little while. I find that in my private practice I always have clients who are avoiding it for one reason or another. Incidence of lactose intolerance seems to have increased and then there are those few […]

Morning sickness during pregnancy: Survival Guide

Morning sickness during pregnancy: Survival Guide

When your job is giving people nutrition advice for a living, you always think that when it comes to yourself, you will obviously be the PERFECT candidate. Usually…this assumption is correct…but when it came to my own pregnancy, it was much harder to follow my […]

Baby Lead Weaning: To Spoon Feed or Not to Spoon Feed. That is The Question.

Baby Lead Weaning: To Spoon Feed or Not to Spoon Feed. That is The Question.

Baby lead weaning (BLW) is a concept that is gaining a lot of attention in the media. While it isn’t an entirely new concept it has certainly become popularized in the past years! But what exactly is it? Are there standards? Do health professionals recommend this approach and most importantly, is it a healthy concept for growing babies?

With BLW, infants bypass the whole spoon feeding stage. Right from the onset of complimentary feeding, babies are encouraged to feed themselves with their hands, preferably from the same foods being offered at the family meal. BLW is an approach that puts great trust in a baby’s instincts to feed itself and know its own hunger and fullness cues as well as how fast to eat and how much to eat.

“Baby-led weaning is firmly rooted in the overall normal development of infants and because of the normal developmental readiness at this age [6 months] of the gut, oral motor functions and immune system to extend the diet beyond breast milk but also because it is at about six months that infants naturally begin to want, and become able, to investigate their environment using their hands and their mouths.”

This approach also focuses on social developments and the normal meal time behaviors of people. Babies are offered the same foods as parents at meal time and sit at the table observing their parents and family members eating the same foods, enjoying them and also using cutlery and other utensils appropriately. “If spoon feeding is used, the opportunity for the exercise of autonomy by the infant is significantly reduced. However responsive the carer, spoon feeding can never be entirely baby-led because the baby is not in charge of what goes on the spoon. He is able to decide whether or not to accept it – a yes/no decision – but is prevented from choosing between options.  ” The overall view is about more than nutrition. It focuses on the entire eating process, motor functions, nutrition, and social development. The child learns to feed itself appropriately and learns to listen to its own hunger and fullness cues appropriately.

Getting down to the nitty gritty of it, it sounds fantastic! Babies develop on their own and learn feeding cues appropriately. Picky eating is rampant these days in so many children, this could be a solution? But clearly there must be speculation regarding this diet as it is not yet widely suggested by health care professionals. So what are the down sides? It is a concern, due to previous studies on families using the BLW weaning approach, in comparison to the traditional spoon feeding approach, that parents using the BLW approach expose their infants to an increased risk of choking and inadequate iron and energy intakes.

Why are there increased risks with the BLW approach? It lies with the food choices and also the way foods are being offered to infants. Fruits and vegetables are easy peasy. They are great finger foods and easy to work with so they tend to be the first foods that parents offer their children. However, there is a reason that formulas and cereals were fortified with iron. At 6 months your infant’s iron stores from birth are waning and it is super important that they start to get foods high in iron at this stage. Also, even though the spoon feeding approach is being skipped entirely, it does not mean that infants should be offered all textures immediately. It’s important to remember that little babies have few teeth so raw fruits and veggies and other harder to chew foods should be put on the back burner. Essentially babies should be offered foods that are appropriate to their age and developmental level. Lastly, it is a concern that since babies are feeding themselves that foods end up everywhere and not much gets in their mouths. We’ve all seen those pics of adorable babies wearing more of their foods than seems could have ever gone into their bodies but you can rest assured that studies have found that energy intake is not significantly different between babies following the traditional spoon feeding approach and those following the BLW approach.

Well, we have narrowed down the pitfalls of the BLW approach. How do we get around them? A great study was completed in New Zealand (where all the great BLW research is happening) that showed the difference once again between 2 approaches. This one compared BLW to a modified BLW group constructed by the researchers. The researchers were all Registered Dietitians or part of the Nutrition and Dietetics Departments and they involved a Paediatrician and Paediatric Speech-Language therapist in the development of their resources. Parents in the BLW group were provided with no intervention, they could offer whichever foods they liked and report these foods back. The parents in the modified group were given education and resources about high-iron, high-energy foods as well as potential choking hazards. The results? Parents in the modified BLW group were more likely to offer high-iron, low-risk choking hazard foods, and again this study found that energy intakes between the 2 groups was not significantly different.

This Dietitian’s opinion? As a new and coming mom, I was super invested in the research behind this approach and it is certainly something I will try with my infant. Mom’s following the BLW approach are more likely to exclusively breast feed until 6 months (which is the recommendation in Canada right now), they are more likely to have an infant who feeds themselves all their food (78%) at meal times and more likely to have children who sit at the table and contribute effectively and behave appropriately at meal times and most importantly…you save time! No prepping foods separately for baby, they eat what you eat!

Foods that are of appropriate texture and high in iron include:

Tofu; ground meat or poultry; small (pea sized) pieces of tender meat or poultry; fish (de-boned and flaked); quartered meatball; pieces of egg; small beans (black beans, navy beans) or larger beans cut in half (kidney beans)

Food for thought…this approach is gaining momentum but it needs further research. All studies concluded that trials need to be completed on larger populations and this approach needs to be standardized to insure babies receive adequate iron intakes, energy intake and foods which are low-risk for choking hazards. Some other things to keep in mind: Babies should be able to sit up themselves, hold their heads up, and have good neck control before solids are offered and babies should never be left along while eating.

Moral of the story. If you are seriously considering taking this approach, make sure you talk to a Registered Dietitian about which foods to introduce first and keep your Health Care Practitioner up to date on your baby’s progress. Here are the articles I used for this research here, here and here. It’s important to be informed about your choices and at the end of the day you want to take whatever approach is going to be exciting and stress-free for you and your baby 

Signing off,

Adrianna Smallwood, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert

The sweet truth about nutrition information

The sweet truth about nutrition information

Usually my blogs start out with some piece of Nutrition Misinformation that has been totally misinterpreted and this latest blog is no different. Recently I have heard a lot in the media about carbohydrates and fruit in particular. Anywhere from fruit is pure sugar to […]


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