Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Dietitian confessions: starting my baby on solid foods

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I haven’t written in a little while because it feels like a nutrition blog is so irrelevant when we’re in the midst of a pandemic. I also don’t want to write about anything related to the covid because self-care for me right now means not overwhelming myself with pandemic-related info. But, maybe you’re like me and you’re trying to avoid too much virtual exposure to covid-19 and you’d welcome a break with a little nutrition confessional. So, I’m here today to share with you my experience starting my baby on solid foods.

As a dietitian I’ve learned all about starting infants on solid foods. As a dietitian who works in public health I’ve even taught classes on the subject. As a lover of cooking and eating I was feeling pretty confident and excited about introducing my nugget to new flavours after six months of only ever consuming breast milk and formula. The first stumble in my plan was the fact that she wasn’t ready to start solid foods at six months.

If you’re aware of current pediatric recommendations, it’s advised that babies be fed only breast milk or formula until six months of age. I dutifully waited all that time, but babies don’t all mature at the same rate. Something that never came up when I learned about introducing solids was baby’s age versus their adjusted age. My baby was born a month early and this meant that even though she was six months old, developmentally she was more like five months. I ended up having to give her a couple of extra weeks before she was interested in and able to eat solids.

Another current recommendation is to start babies on iron-rich foods and once they’re consuming them regularly then you can introduce other foods. These foods include: meats, egg yolk, beans, lentils, and fortified baby cereal. I was confident that I was going to feed my baby whole foods, that fortified cereal was an old-school first food. Ha ha ha. My baby had other ideas. She was uninterested in my concoction of puréed chickpeas mixed with pumped milk. She was displeased with puréed hardboiled egg. And she was absolutely appalled by the jarred chicken baby food I bought in a desperate attempt to get her to eat something from that list of iron-rich foods (see photo above). Honestly, I couldn’t blame her – have you ever tried chicken baby food?? Finally, I abandoned my smug plan and fed her some iron-fortified baby oat cereal which she ate but with little enthusiasm. I made her strained green peas, which were a pain in the ass to make and which she rejected. I moved on to offering her some foods that weren’t iron-rich (gasp) but were possibly more palatable: banana (acceptable), avocado (no thank you), and sweet potato (could not get enough). I managed to get some iron in her through a combination of mixing these foods with baby cereal or with sweet potato.

I had also envisioned making her baby food myself, after all, she should quickly advance from purées to soft whole foods according to everything I’d read. It turns out that it’s pretty much impossible to get super small quantities of food smooth in my food processor. It also turns out that she wasn’t ready to try different textures for nearly two months. So, I bought ready made baby food packets from the grocery store and supplemented with baby cereal and easy to purée foods like sweet potato, butternut squash, and banana. This was an easier way for me to introduce a variety of new foods to her without ending up with a freezer full of puréed food.

She’s now advanced to consuming a mix of commercial baby food, homemade baby food (like tiny baby pancakes and muffins) and modified foods that we’re eating like puréed dal or mashed pasta. Despite what many people believe, babies don’t have to eat bland food. Yes, it’s great to let them taste unadulterated foods so that they experience the different flavours of whole foods but they can also handle herbs and spices and these are also important flavours to expose them to.

If you’re a new parent starting your baby out on solids there can be a lot of pressure to do this in a certain way. I see so many blogs with these elaborate baby meals and that’s awesome if you have time and money and your baby is interested in these foods but you are not failing as a parent if you’re feeding your baby infant cereal or food from a jar or squeeze pouch. As long as your baby is experiencing new flavours, and then new textures, then you’re doing just fine.


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Cooking in the time of COVID19

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Image from Cook Smarts

Since you’re all (hopefully) joining me in social-isolation (I’ve been practicing for a while being on mat leave) I thought I’d compile some useful websites for pantry recipes and meal planning.

Also, while it’s good to have enough food at home to see you through two weeks, please be considerate when you’re shopping and don’t buy more than you need. There are many people who can’t afford to stock-up and/or don’t have facilities to store piles of food.

With that out of the way, I’m a big fan of Budget Bytes and she’s compiled a list of 15 pantry recipes. She has lots of other recipes on her website too that are affordable and require very few perishable ingredients. And for more affordable recipes you might want to check out Jack Monroe’s (aka The Bootstrap Cook) website. Smitten Kitchen’s blog and cookbooks are a couple of my favourite recipe resources. She’s also got a section for pantry recipes on her website. Another great source of simple, affordable recipes is Leanne Brown’s free pdf cookbook: Good & Cheap.

Why not take advantage of being home to try a new baking recipe? Personally, I’m planning on tackling croissants. Sally’s Baking Addiction has compiled a list of 36+ fun home baking projects for everyone who’s holed up at home.

If you’re new to meal planning, UnlockFood.ca has a list of 7 steps for quick and easy meal planning and if you scroll down to the bottom there are a bunch of additional meal planning tools.

This is just a short list I threw together off the top of my head to get you started. If you know of additional websites please share in the comments. Also, if you decide to undertake a baking project send me a pic!


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Why this dietitian hates Nutrition Month

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It’s March and that means it’s Nutrition Month. The time of year when dietitians post a whole bunch of the same social media messages that were created by Dietitians of Canada and a whole bunch of people probably mute the hashtag “NutritionMonth2020” to stop the onslaught. And I have to confess, even as a dietitian, that impulse is strong. But, the bombardment of generic healthy eating messages aside, there’s another reason why I hate Nutrition Month and that’s the fact that it’s more of a vehicle for Big Food to promote their products than it is an opportunity for dietitians to promote nutrition and our profession.

Every year Dietitians of Canada releases a suite of Nutrition Month tools and resources. And every year I find myself feeling frustrated by the obvious bias they exhibit for their sponsors. Let’s see if you can guess the two sponsors this year just by the recipes in their free recipe booklet: Hearty Manitoba Vegetable Soup, Avocado and Fruit Salad with Basil and Honey, Proudly Canadian Beet and Barley Salad, Roasted Cauliflower Farro and Avocado Salad, Avocado and Tuna Salad Sandwich, Easy Red Lentil Dhal, Grilled Vegetable Bean and Avocado Tacos, Mexican Squash and Bean Salad, Super Easy Chicken Parm, Chewy Ginger Pecan Cookies, Peach Strawberry and Almond Muesli, Yoghurt Bark. To help you out a little, I’ve bolded the recipes that were supplied by the sponsors. One is obvious: Avocados from Mexico. The other may be a little trickier: Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Dietitians are supposed to be an unbiased, evidence-based source of nutrition information and yet how can we expect people to believe that when a national dietetic organization accepts sponsorship from food companies and exhibits clear preference for those foods as a result?

Don’t get me wrong, I love avocados as much as a Millennial and I consume plenty of dairy products. However, both of these foods are problematic and should probably not be so heavily promoted by Dietitians of Canada. There are ethical concerns about both avocados and dairy (e.g. methane gas, land use, animal welfare). In addition, these are both fairly high-ticket grocery items, at least in Canada. A single avocado often goes for $1.99 at my local grocery store while a modest block of cheese is at least $7.99. Considering that about one in eight households in Canada is food insecure is it really appropriate for DC to be promoting such costly items as part of national Nutrition Month? I mean, considering that an annual DC membership costs $496 and DC has roughly 6000 members, surely to goodness they could develop a few recipes on their own, or even have members submit them so that they didn’t have to resort to corporate sponsorship.

All this to say, I hate Nutrition Month. Nutrition Month could be great. Dietitians of Canada has a fantastic opportunity to promote nutrition, dietitians, and all that we do. However, as it stands, Nutrition Month does nothing more than to undermine our credibility as nutrition professionals.


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What bothered me about Lizzo’s red bikini

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An article I kept seeing popping up in my Twitter feed over the past few days was titled “Lizzo rocks tiny red bikini while on vacation in Brazil” and was accompanied by a couple of photos of Lizzo on a beach wearing a red bikini. And while part of me was like, “good for her” and was pleasantly surprised to see a positive headline there was another part of me that felt really uncomfortable about the whole thing. I spent altogether too much time trying to figure out exactly what about it made me uncomfortable. No, it wasn’t that she was wearing a bikini, I wear a bikini when I go to the beach and I have no problem with other people wearing bikinis, I’m not a total prude.

My problem with it is, that I don’t think it’s cool for us to be publicly judging people’s bodies, regardless of their size, and regardless of whether or not that judgement is positive or negative. I hate seeing those magazines at the grocery store checkouts that are plastered with paparazzi shots of famous people on beaches and are either commenting on their cellulite or their hotness. Just because someone is famous that doesn’t mean their bodies belong to the public domain. It doesn’t mean that they’ve granted us permission to share photos of them during their personal time and pass judgement on them. And just because those judgements happen to be fat-positive it doesn’t make them any more acceptable. Yes, it’s great that Lizzo is confident and is a positive role model but that doesn’t make it okay for us to intrude on her personal vacation and it doesn’t make it okay for us to comment on her body. Frankly, other people’s bodies are none of our business.


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How much do you weigh?

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How much do you weigh? That question seems to be asked of us all too often. It’s something that I never really gave all that much thought to as someone who had maintained relatively the same weight since university. However, as I’ve learned more about taking a weight-neutral approach to healthcare, and experienced the changes that my body went through during pregnancy and postnatally, it’s something that I find myself thinking about a lot.

So many of us tie our identities up in our size and part of that is our weight. We think of ourselves as being a certain height and weight and we talk about those things as if they’re static numbers but for many of us, that’s not the case. When we gain or lose weight unintentionally it’s as if suddenly our identities are called into question. We’re not the person that others are meeting for the first time; the real me is someone who’s 20 pounds lighter, or 10 pounds heavier.

The thing is though, our bodies change, and that’s normal and okay. Many of us gain a few pounds in the winter (there’s even a word for it in German: winterspeck) only to shed them again in the warmer months. Most people will weigh more in middle age than we did as young adults. And yet, we think that we need to be the same weight as our youthful selves. We talk about losing those “last 10 pounds” as if some weight on a BMI chart is our “true” weight. As if once we attain that weight we will have reached our final destination and our weight will never change again.

We are all changing all the time. Our bodies are always changing and it’s foolish of us to think that our weight is a magically unchanging fact about ourselves. It’s okay not to be the same size that you were 20 years ago, or two months ago. You are no more or less worthy of love and acceptance if your body is larger or smaller than it was in the past or will be in the future. You are no more or less yourself if you gain or lose weight. Your identity does not hinge on numbers on a scale.