Tag: health blog

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 […]

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 spoon feeding/puree stage when they are ready for solids and goes directly to the solid foods stage. Now I’m not saying give your Six month old a raw carrot and let them go at it! Foods need to be cooked and there are still foods that are off limits. For more information on BLW you can check out an earlier blog I wrote on just that here. Today’s blog is about a more important topic WITHIN BLW.

I am part of a lot of parenting groups on Facebook, including a BLW group. I also offer BLW workshops bi-monthly so it’s a passion of mine. I have to say though, due to the fact that some health professionals are so against BLW (due to iron supplementation, potentially higher risk of choking? and energy intake) there is a lot of confusion about foods, implementation, supplementation and how to deal with aspects such as choking. My experience is that parents are going to do what they want with their children anyways so give them the tools they need. Educate yourselves because lack of education is what leads to confusion, mistakes and accidents. This is what concerns me. Many parents are not starting with the right foods…just the easiest foods and they are depending on support groups with no health professional present and articles on the internet with no scientific backing.

Health Canada and The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up until 6 months of age, the same goes for formula feeding. Babies are ready to start solids at around 6 months of age. Where does this number come from? The main concern is iron stores. At this age, baby’s iron stores from birth start to diminish so there is a big push to include iron in a baby’s diet. That is why you will find that Doctors, Nurses and Dietitians recommend starting your baby on an iron supplemented cereal. As a Dietitian and a Mommy I can’t imagine my baby’s first food being something as highly processed as baby cereal after consuming only breast milk for the first 6 months of life! So, what is the alternative? Iron rich foods of course!

Why is iron so important? First of all, it’s one of the most common deficiencies in infants and children, secondly, rapid growth and development in children makes it a priority nutrient and thirdly, deficiency can cause major developmental delays. But consuming iron isn’t the only thing you need to be aware of. There are nutrients that help our bodies absorb iron better and some nutrients that block iron absorption. Vitamin C is a big one. Consuming Vitamin C increases iron absorption, particularly in foods that are plant based. Calcium/Cow’s milk can block iron absorption.

So bringing all this information together I want to recommend FIVE great starting foods for BLW that focus on Iron, Vitamin C and Calcium/Cow’s milk.

  1. Eggs! Omelettes are super fluffy so a baby will have no trouble gumming and sucking on them. Personally I think that eggs are the best starting foods. We no longer have to wait to introduce allergen foods to our babies so why not start with this one. Not only does it contain iron but it’s also a component of so many other foods like baked goods and homemade burgers.
  • point to consider: Although introducing allergen foods is no longer a concern at a particular age it is still extremely important to pay extra attention when introducing one of the highly allergenic foods. Check the Government of Canada’s site here for more information. Insure that you introduce these foods one at a time and watch for a reaction. Introducing more than one allergenic food can lead to confusion if there is a reaction. This is why I suggest starting eggs first. You can then safely add them to anything without worry if no reaction occurs during introduction,  plus they are great on their own.
  1. Homemade Meat sticks. Ground beef, chicken and turkey are high in iron and can be made in any form. Not only this, but they are tender and crumbly and easy to suck on.
  • point to consider: roll into a stick form rather than a ball form to start because baby’s control is not 100% yet and sticks are easier to hold and maneuver than balls which is why I say meat sticks instead of meatballs.
  1. Homemade Fish Sticks. Fish is high in iron and omega-3 fats, which are important for baby’s developing brain. Salmon and Tuna are particularly high in these fats.
  2. Oranges, strawberries, peppers and broccoli. These are all high in Vitamin C. Once baby has mastered the iron rich foods, start incorporating a food high in Vitamin C along with it to ensure they are absorbing as much as possible. Veggies should be steamed for approximately 6 minutes or until al dante so that they aren’t too hard or too mushy for baby to handle. Most fruits are fine raw but I would suggest avoiding apple since it could pose a choking risk is small babies just starting out.
  3. Avocado and Nut or Seed butters are a great way to get healthy fats into a baby’s diet. Baby’s brain and body cells require fat for growing. Make sure they get a variety of fat sources. Babies should never get anything fat free (with the exception of meat which should be a lean source). Avocado can be cut in slices or mashed and put on toast. Nut and seed butters should be spread thinly over toast.
  • points to consider 1. Nut butters are a high allergen food. Make sure you watch for a reaction upon first and second introduction 2. Nut and seed butters should not be spread thickly as they can pose a choking hazard 3. Actual nuts and seeds should be completely avoided until at least the age of 4 as children tend to have all of their teeth by this time and are better equipped for chewing.

One last note or two: Cow’s milk should not be offered until 9 months of age and should be offered in between meals so that it does not interfere with iron absorption. Lastly, continue breastfeeding or formula feeding your baby as normal and do not decrease the amount of feeds until you feel your baby is eating enough food. They should wean themselves off of some of their feeds naturally once they start consuming more calories.

Have fun with it! If Baby led weaning doesn’t work for you and your baby then stick with the traditional ways. Feeding your baby is supposed to be an enjoyable, fun and positive experience so make sure you choose something that works for you both.

Good luck and have fun!

Signing off,

Nutrition expert and Registered Dietitian

Adrianna Smallwood

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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 […]

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 own advice. Not because of the cravings or the overwhelming tiredness…my husband was actually amazingly supportive through that part…but because of the incredible nausea I was inflicted with from week 6 until at least week 15. Now this may not seem like a very long period of time and I always thought that it was just a morning thing, they call it morning sickness after all! But, for some people…including myself…it’s an ALL day, 24 hour a day thing that knocks you on your butt. There was a silver lining, a lot of my friends so wisely told me, the morning of their thirteenth week, when they woke up…it was like a switch went off and their morning sickness abated and they returned to  business as usual. When I woke up the morning of my thirteenth week I was rudely awoken by one of my most sick days yet. I was so worried I’d be one of those “lucky few” that had morning sickness their entire pregnancy. Luckily, 2 short weeks later I was feeling back to my old self.

So what is the point of my rant? To say that nutrition completely fell out the bottom and that I was a horrible Dietitian and Momma to be for those couple months? Nope! It’s to share with you through a Dietitian perspective AND an expecting Momma perspective some great tips and tricks for keeping your nutrition, your health and the health of your baby in check. Through it all my blood work remained excellent and my weight and size were all within healthy, normal ranges. So here are my 6 top tips and tricks for expecting, super nauseous, super tired Mommas.

One Eat often and consistently. The old saying, eat 3 meals a day needs to be thrown out the window when you’re expecting. You should aim for 6 small meals throughout the day and wait no more than 2 hours in between snacks or meals. I learned this the hard way and my body was really sensitive. If I didn’t eat within 2 hours or if I ate too much I became sick. I found it helpful to have a snack directly before bed and also immediately upon waking. This lead to my super happy discovery of second breakfast (it’s not just for Hobbits!!!)! I found the only way I felt my best was having a bowl of cereal as soon as I got up and then I would have my big breakfast with eggs, yogurt and fruit when I felt up to eating an hour or so later. If I didn’t eat and went about preparing a big breakfast, I was sick before I finished cooking it.

This suggestion comes from the idea that your body is sensitive to hormone and blood sugar changes much more in pregnancy and particularly during your first trimester. Eating every 2 hours keeps your stomach full and your blood sugar stable. Both of these together promote happy tummies!

Two Preparation is key! On your good days…trust me, you will have good days…prepare some snacks and meals and put them in the fridge. On days when you’re feeling particularly horrible, you’re not going to feel up to making food. Sometimes you will have no interest in it at all but you know you have to eat to get the nutrients in your body that growing baby needs. Having a variety of snacks and meals available saves you both the energy and the guess work out of creating a healthy meal or snack. Wash some fruit and veggies then portion them out into containers for single servings, measure out a ¼ cup of nuts or seeds into baggies, cut up some cheese for cheese and crackers, bake an extra chicken breast or boil an extra egg. These are just a few ideas, but you get the drift, always make extra and have some snacks on hand! If you have a super supportive partner or a toddler at home, get them to help you. The more the merrier, plus you get to save some energy which is surely in high demand these days!

I have 3 crispers in my fridge, one is a designated snack crisper. You will find portioned cheese, fruit, nuts, veggies, homemade granola bars (recipe here) and tons of other things there on any given day. Creating a snack space is a great way to organize your space and keep you motivated in your meal prepping venture.

Three Listen to your body. Some things will totally turn your stomach, and some things you will want to eat every day because you know they didn’t make you sick, plus you might be having those pregnancy cravings (I ate tacos almost every day for 3 weeks!). Avoid the things that make you sick. Eggs for example are super healthy and a great and easy source of protein BUT they have a smell that can turn anyone’s stomach, not just the heightened senses of an expecting Momma! So, if you aren’t feeling up to eating, or even thinking about eggs there are tons of other breakfast options that have protein. Steel cut oats for example are a great source of iron and protein, Greek Yogurt can have up to 14 g of protein per serving, plus lots of calcium for growing baby, nuts and seeds are also a great source of protein and contain essential omega 3’s for baby’s growing brain. So don’t sweat the small stuff, my point is, if 1 food is offending your nose and your stomach, there are tons of other options with great health benefits too. Don’t eat something that you think is healthy and wind up getting sick. Eating is about providing nutrition yes, but it’s also about enjoyment! The important thing is that you eat a wide range of foods including proteins, fruits and veggies, whole grains and foods high in calcium and omega 3.

Four Stay hydrated. Hydration is key during pregnancy. Dehydration can cause health complications for both you and your baby so it’s important to keep those fluid levels up. I found this one hard because water was so bland some days it actually contributed to my morning sickness. An important thing to remember is that water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated! Milk and fruits and veggies contain lots of water too, plus tons of other nutrients that you need for you and growing baby. You can also jazz up your water. If you’re having an orange for breakfast, squeeze the last little drops of juice out of the peel into your glass and drop the peel right in there, then fill your glass with water. You can try the same thing with lemon and lime. On days when your nausea can’t be kept at bay and you actually end up vomiting, it might be a good idea to keep some Gatorade around. It also has electrolytes, and while it might be high in sugar, you can get around this my mixing it in parts with water.

Five Check your multivitamin. Some women get extremely nauseated from just the Maternal Supplement itself. This one has a few fixes. Since the majority of women tend to be the most sick in the morning, you can try taking the supplement at night before you go to bed. Absorption can be better on an empty stomach, plus if you’re asleep you won’t get as sick from the pill. If this option doesn’t work for you, some Doctors can prescribe a supplement that you take in parts so that you get 1 dose in the morning and 1 in the evening. This can cut down on the overload of so many nutrients all at once, lastly, if your blood work is fantastic you might be able to get away with taking a new supplements individually. If, however, your nutrition is suffering hugely from sickness, you would want to take the maternal one hands down. When in doubt, talk to your Doctor or Pharmacist about your options.

Six If all else fails….try Diclectin. Lastly, there is actually a prescription drug made specifically for pregnant women that can combat nausea called Diclectin. You need a prescription for this so it’s best to talk to your Doctor about your options. If you don’t have health insurance, be aware, it is a pricey option…forty five dollars for 15 pills and you usually need 2 per day…so try my tips 1 through 5 first!

I hope these tips help. Every women experiences pregnancy differently, so if you are really struggling with your nutrition, ask your Doctor for a referral to a Dietitian. We are the nutrition experts and can help put our practical knowledge into personal goals designed specifically for you.

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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 […]

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 […]

Celiac Restaurant Blogging Chronicles-Tavola Restaurant and Tapas Bar

Celiac Restaurant Blogging Chronicles-Tavola Restaurant and Tapas Bar

I haven’t done a restaurant review in quite some time but I have been to a few as of late! Most recently I ate with some friends at Tavola. It’s a quaint little restaurant located on Water Street in St. John’s. Previously, I had heard great reviews about the establishment when it came to providing safe and delicious options for Celiac customers. Well…they were right! I had a super fantastic experience there and neither myself nor my husband (who also has Celiac) became ill!

So the one thing I have learned first and foremost from my experience at the Merchant Tavern (review to come soon), and now Tavola is that it is certainly beneficial to call beforehand. In my head I had struggled with this. Restaurants should be able to provide a gluten free meal to any patron and I shouldn’t have to call ahead to confirm, even if they advertise they have a gluten-free, gluten-friendly, gluten-wise menu. WRONG. Due to the masses of people who are “gluten-free” and trendy, restaurants are providing tons of gluten free options but they can’t always guarantee there is no cross contamination. For example, fries are gluten free because potatoes are BUT if they are deep fried than they are contaminated with other foods (if the restaurant doesn’t have a designated gluten free fryer). Getting back to the point…it is always best to call a week before, and even again the day before. Restaurants take you seriously this way and they will also make a special effort because they know you are truly concerned and not just another “trendy”.

I called Tavola to make a reservation a few days before the actual date and asked them if they could provide gluten free meals and how their kitchen was with the issue of cross-contamination. The lady who answered the phone informed me they took special care and could provide a delicious meal. I breathed a sigh of relief. Perfect…a new spot…there isn’t many in St. John’s.

When we arrived at the restaurant the waitress sat us at our table and proceeded to ask about which members of our party had Celiac (she was prepared!). She was very informative when it came to the menu and even visited the kitchen several times to ask the Chef specific questions. Spoiler alert, their sausages and meat balls are made in house with no fillers and are gluten free!!!

So what did we order? To start we had Pan Seared Scallops, minus the pecans which could have been cross contaminated. They were delicious! For the main we had Halibut on a bed of Bean cassoulet which was a delectable combination of beans, sausage and sauce. When the waitress placed the meal in front of me I was super excited until I saw the sausages mixed in with the beans. I had already taken a mouth full so I had a moment of sheer panic and a flash back to my horrible experience at the Yellow Belly. I immediately flagged down the waitress who quickly rushed back to the kitchen to confirm that the sausage was gluten free. When she returned she was smiling and assured me that the sausage was made in house and that there were no gluten containing fillers. She quickly put me at ease and explained that she could tell I was quite concerned and if I had any other questions to please let her know. I ate the rest of my meal in peace and enjoyed every last morsel…I almost licked the plate! I was finishing the last bite when the waitress returned and asked if we would like dessert….I was thinking to myself…this meal has been too fantastic for there to also be a gluten free dessert option. Well…there was! On the menu, one mouth-watering chocolate plate option which the waitress stated was made in house. Our order took a little longer to come out but when it did the waitress informed me that initially the truffles had been rolled in icing sugar. While most icing sugar is gluten free she further explained that their icing sugar is exposed to the air and she was worried about cross contamination so she had got them to remake the truffles without the icing sugar. BONUS POINTS!

I was so super impressed that she took initiative and that all the staff was so well informed! I had a really enjoyable, stress-free dining experience at Tavola and I will definitely head back there in the future. I give it 2 whopping thumbs up and would give it more if I had them….is it too disgusting to mention toes in a food blog?! Just kidding!

Happy eating at Tavola everyone! And keep up the fantastic work Tavola!

Signing off,

Adrianna Smallwood, The Newfie Celiac Dietitian

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Increasing Fibre Intake-The Whole Grain Truth

Increasing Fibre Intake-The Whole Grain Truth

I often tell people that of all the things they can do, increasing their daily fibre intake is probably one of the most important (and magical). A diet low in fibre can result in loose stool and diarrhea, slow digestion and constipation. Fibre is responsible […]


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