Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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How to find a good dietitian

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Photo by Orla MacEachern. Location: Local Source Market.

Last week after I wrote about the issue of dietitians sniping at each other I had a reader ask me how to find a “good” dietitian. That’s a bit of a tricky one but I’ll try my best to address it as it seems very fitting for Nutrition Month. If any of my fellow RDs (or anyone who’s seen a dietitian) have any other tips or suggestions please feel free to chime in, in the comments.

The process will vary from country to country but in Canada, every dietitian must be registered with the provincial regulatory body for the province in which they work. Here they are by province:

Newfoundland – Newfoundland and Labrador College of Dietitians

Nova Scotia – Nova Scotia Dietetic Association (NSDA)

New Brunswick – The New Brunswick Association of Dietitians (NBAD)

Prince Edward Island – PEI Dietitians Registration Board

Quebec – Order Professionnel des Diététistes du Québec

Ontario – College of Dietitians of Ontario

Manitoba – College of Dietitians of Manitoba

Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon – Insofar as I can tell, because there are so few dietitians in the Territories, there are no regulatory bodies. Presumably, RDs working in these areas would maintain registration with the Provincial body where they completed their examination.

Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Dietitians Association

Alberta – College of Dietitians of Alberta

British Columbia – The College of Dietitians of British Columbia

Some provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, and BC) have free provincial programs that the public can use to contact a dietitian via email or phone. This is a great option if you have a common nutrition concern or question.

Dietitians of Canada also maintains a list of private practice dietitians but it’s not a complete list as you must be a member of DC to be included. Some provinces also have organizations formed and run by dietitians such as the Dietitians Network Nova Scotia. Again, this is not a comprehensive list of all dietitians in NS as membership is voluntary. The nice thing about their list though, is it provides some detail regarding the area each RD works in and their specializations.

You may also wish to contact your local public health unit as they will be able to tell you about dietitian services offered in your area. Many grocery stores also employ dietitians who offer one-on-one nutrition counselling for a reasonable fee.

Once you’ve found all of the private practice dietitians in your area now it’s time for the tricky part. I suggest looking to see if they have a website, exploring the website to get a feel for whether or not they’ll be a good fit for you. As with any counsellor or heath care professional, not all personalities are going to be well-suited. Look to see if they have links to social media accounts and see if you can get an idea of their personality and nutrition philosophy from tweets and facebook posts.

You should be able to narrow-down your search to a few dietitians based on location and your assessment of their online presence. At that point, you may want to pick one and make an appointment for an initial assessment. If that goes well, excellent, you’ve found your RD. If not, there’s no harm in shopping around. The good thing is, we don’t often work in the same location (like hair stylists) so if you don’t like the fit with the first one you see, you can easily try another without fear of encountering the first at your appointment. Find someone who will help you determine your goals, barriers, and provide you with support to overcome those barriers to reach your nutrition goals. However, don’t expect your dietitian to do the work for you. We’ll be your biggest cheerleader and we’ll give you all the tools you need to get you eating your best but you still have to do the actual work and make the lifestyle changes.

 


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The dark side of dietetics

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Is there any other profession in which there is as much infighting as there is in dietetics? Seriously though. Is there?

All too often I see RDs attacking each other, undermining each other, subtweeting the heck out of each other. Maybe it’s that social media has brought our differences to the fore. Maybe it’s that it’s far too easy to belittle someone when you just have to tap out a short message on social media and it’s there for all the world to see. But why is there what seems to me to be an excessive amount of vitriol amongst members of my profession?

Perhaps it’s that there aren’t enough jobs to go around so it feels like everyone’s stepping on everyone else’s toes. The pie isn’t big enough for everyone to get a reasonably sized piece (yes, I had to use a food metaphor. It’s my duty as a dietitian).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we all have to agree on everything. There are many approaches to various aspects of dietetics and with such an evolving field there’s bound to be differences of opinion. Honestly, I’ve been critical of other RDs myself although I try not to make it personal. I find it hard to resist calling out examples of what I believe to be a lack of ethics or subpar advice.

But seeing dietitians attack other dietitians for differing opinions is not cool. There’s no need to insult someone because you don’t agree. Just because you are so confident in your dogma, or perhaps because you’re so insecure about your promotion of specific products that doesn’t make those who see things differently wrong or bad dietitians. There’s no need to publicly disparage them. It does a disservice to our entire profession. And god knows with everyone else and their dog thinking that they’re qualified to spout nutrition advice we don’t need those within our profession taking each other down. The pie isn’t going to get any bigger. Rather than squabbling over one piece while the self-styled nutritionists run away with the pan we need to figure out a better way to share amongst ourselves.


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Who polices the food police?

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You know how everyone thinks that dietitians are the food police (spoiler: we’re not)? I find it a bit ironic (no, not like rain on your wedding day, that’s just crap luck) that everyone seems to believe that we’re secretly judging every morsel they eat. Honestly, I generally pay very little notice to the lunches of others; unless they consume a Monster energy drink and a chocolate bar on the daily in which case I dare you not to pass judgement. At any rate, I find that others are far more likely to pass judgement on what I’m eating when they know I’m a dietitian than I am to pass judgement on them.

I’ve had people say things to me like “but you’d never eat that” when discussing a chocolate cake recipe and then show genuine shock when I reply “of course I would, I love chocolate”. When I ate lunch at work I would have co-workers examining the contents of my lunchbox, often either expressing their distaste at my “fear factor” food or amazement that I was eating something “normal” like spaghetti. My lunch was a constant source of scrutiny and discussion. And yes, some days I lived up to their expectations with a kale salad in a jar or a glory bowl but dietitians can’t live on superfoods alone. Sometimes we enjoy a cookie, chips, or chocolate bar.

I also experience a weird pressure when faced with food at work events or when offered food by a co-worker. Maybe I’m just paranoid, like everyone who thinks that I’m judging their lunches, but I always feel like my decision faces extra scrutiny simply because of my profession. When offered a chocolate my thought process is: “should I take this to show that I’m cool too, I’m not some health freak dietitian that subsists solely on green smoothies and quinoa? Or should I politely decline to set a good example, show them that I’m a good healthy dietitian and quietly eat my chocolates behind closed doors at home?” I feel like no matter what my decision it’s going to be “wrong” so I decide based on whether or not I actually want that treat at that time and whether or not I’ve already had a treat that day or will be having one later and just hope that people aren’t thinking “look at her, she thinks she’s so much better than us not having a candy”.

In truth, it really doesn’t matter what others are thinking of me and my food choices. In fact, I’m (hopefully) just being as paranoid as you are when you think that a dietitian is judging your food choices.


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Follow Friday: Dietitians of Canada

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It makes me so happy to see that Dietitians of Canada are taking a more active advocacy role. With the (eventually) upcoming federal election in the fall they’ve called on all federal party leaders to commit to a national strategy to reduce food insecurity and increased access to dietitian services.

If you’re interested in supporting their efforts or want to see the party responses, just click on the link above.


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Step away from the chips, the grocery store RD is watching you

Not my usual uniform, I swear!

Not my usual uniform, I swear!

A couple of weeks ago the Globe and Mail published an article about the role of “nutrition experts” in grocery stores. It caused a bit of an uproar in the dietitian community for a couple of reasons: one, there was some conflation between nutritionists, dietitians, and naturopaths (if you don’t know why that would upset dietitians then you should read this); two, it poorly represented our roles in grocery stores. Following that, a dietitian published a blog in Huff Post in response to the inflammatory article in the Globe. As a dietitian who worked in a grocery store for several years and who was interview for, and quoted in, the original Globe article I feel obligated to add my belated two cents to the fray.

I actually had a really nice interview with Shawna, we covered a number of topics, and I felt like she was “getting” what I was saying. So, I was a little disappointed when I read the article and saw the quotes that she had chosen. Not to mention that I had asked that grocery retailer I worked for not be identified as employees cannot speak as representatives of the company, a normal PR policy, my job was not “retail dietitian”. I was a Wellbeing Counsellor, and as part of the interview I explained the different roles of the Wellbeing Counsellor and the in-store Dietitian. Wellbeing Counsellors essentially manage the Natural Source and Wellbeing Department in one store (ordering, stocking shelves, inventory, checking for out dates, dumping expired milk…). In addition, they are there to assist customers with any food, supplement, or nutrition-related question they might have. They also teach classes, do demos, and perform community outreach. The in-store Dietitian teaches classes, does demos, store tours, community outreach, and one-on-one counselling. They’re not tied to one department and they usually split their time between two stores.

In retrospect, Shawna was trying to push the helicopter parent/food police angle a bit, and I found it odd when she brought up orthorexia. While I agreed that many people are taking healthy eating to a whole new disordered level of “clean” eating, I suggested that dietitians (I’m now talking about those of us in both Wellbeing Counsellor and Dietitian roles) working in grocery stores can actually serve to combat this. I said that the food industry, the media, and society have made healthy eating far more complicated than it has to be. Dietitians in grocery stores can help you to look past the front-of-package label claims to the true nutritional value of a foods. They can help you make healthier, more delicious choices. They’re not there peering into your cart and judging what you’re eating. They’re not there to push products on you. No one ever told me to sell more of X or Y and as a regulated health professional I would never have done any such thing. Yes, obviously, grocery stores hire us to boost sales but it’s not by pushing products, it’s by having value-added service; by showing customers what they can do with chia seeds or by helping them find the product that’s best going to meet their needs.

When I said that comment about how people often think that dietitians only eat salad (and that we don’t, sometimes we eat candy or chips) it seemed to be met with some surprise. Especially when I insisted that I’m not in the minority; that most dietitians I know would say the same thing. That it’s important to eat a variety of foods and to allow yourself to have treats. I actually hate the term clean eating and am still hoping that my #eatdirty hashtag will catch on. If you’re not enjoying your food then you’re doing it wrong.

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