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Say no to food fads this #NutritionMonth *

nutrition month 2017 knocked out by info combo 2

Did you know that one in two Canadians get their food and nutrition information from the internet, social media and blogs?  Let’s face it. Not everything we read online is true. And while many of us know that, it’s still easy to be taken in by popular ideas we see online or hear from friends. How can we really separate food fact from fiction?

Misinformation affects many of Canadians, but there is a way to spot your problem and seek reliable facts to solve it. So if you’re wondering how to make sense of the nutrition advice you read online and want nutrition facts you can trust,  I’m going to walk you through an example of a three-step problem-solving approach that was developed for Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign Take the Fight out of Food, which works quite well for nutritional concerns.

#1 Spot the problem: There is so much nutrition information online and you are not sure how to tell if something is a fad!

#2 Get the facts: You know that some websites are more reliable than others.  For example, a resource on the Dietitians of Canada website that can help you determine if facts you read online are accurate. You may read websites and absorb information, but not all of it may be true.  Be more critical and ask yourself these questions when reading a website:

  • Is the website promising a quick fix or a miracle cure?
  • Do I have reasons to mistrust the person, organization or company that runs the website?
  • Are they trying to sell me something instead of educating me?
  • Are the website writers unqualified to be giving me nutrition information?
  • Do they have facts that sound too good to be true?
  • Does the information come from personal opinions rather than scientific evidence?
  • Is the content missing reviews or verification by medical experts?
  • Are the website claims based on a single study that may draw the wrong conclusion?

Now if you know that if you answers “yes” to even some of these questions, the website may not be reliable.

#3 Seek support: You should not trust everyone who has an opinion about food and nutrition. Instead,  look for sites that aren’t trying to sell you something and that rely on science rather than opinions. Check the credentials of the writers, and look for sites written by regulated health professionals whose work is reviewed by other experts.

Don’t get knocked out by information overload! Find a dietitian at for advice. You can also browse this website and here is a list of other sites which are filled with reliable information: 

Do you have a food fight that you struggle with? Try the three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food and make your commitment official at

*Blog based on Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month 2017 resource. #NutritionMonth

New Canadian Nutrition Labels Announced!

Are you ready for clearer nutrition labelling on packaged foods? Health Canada announced the new formats which may help you make the healthy choice the easy choice. New labels will be implemented over the next 5 years for all packed foods. What’s changed? Here are my top 5 observations with Dietitian’s Tips:

  1. Calories in the spotlight with bolder, bigger numbers and Serving size stands out more and it will be easier to compare  similar foods
  2. daily-value-meter-eng% Daily Value (% DV) explained as a simple ‘rule of thumb: 5% DV is a little, 15% is a lot of any nutrient. [Dietitian’s Tip look for foods with: INCREASED Fibre and  LESS Saturated fat, Sodium, Sugars ]
  3. Sugars focus with a new 100% Daily Value as 100 g/d.  Ingredient list will still show different types of sugars, but they will be grouped together. [Dietitian’s Tip – regardless of the source, all sugars are similar nutritionally, for more information on sugars click here]
  4. Food colours identified individually on Ingredient list.
  5. There is more to come so let your voice be heard! Share your opinions about nutrition labelling with Health Canada. Complete this brief consumer questionnaire and / or complete the technical questionnaire both by January 13th, 2017. This is YOUR chance to help shape the future of nutrition labelling in Canada.



Is your teen drinking too much caffeine? Researchers say more education is needed!

(Also published by Ontario Public Health Association, Nutrition Resource Centre News April 12, 2016 )

coffee & teens NRC Apr 2016

Drinking caffeine is becoming more common with teens and a new Canadian study points to confusion among high school students in grades 9-12. Teens are aware of the types of caffeinated drinks and their negative health effects but they don’t know about other aspects of caffeine and how much caffeine is safe to drink1. Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and mom of 3, Lucia Weiler has the following key tips that teens and parents should know about caffeine.

All about caffeine

  • Caffeine is found naturally in coffee, tea, chocolate and certain flavours (e.g. those derived from kola and guarana), and may be added to carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks.
  • Caffeine can boost alertness for short periods of time and can cause increased urine flow.
  • Caffeine has NO calories or nutritional value and IS NOT a source of real body energy.  Energy comes from calories.
  • Too much caffeine can cause headaches, irritability, nervousness and rapid heart rate.

How much caffeine is safe to drink?2

  • Children’s caffeine limits are 2.5 mg caffeine/kg of body weight/day. Based on average body weight of children this  works out to be a daily caffeine intake of NO MORE than:
    • 45 mg   aged 4-6 years
    • 62.5 mg aged 7-9 years
    • 85 mg aged 10-12 years

Check out the caffeine meter below to see what this means for your child.

  • Teens (13-19 years) should also limit their daily caffeine intake to no more than 2.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For example if a teen weighs 54 kg (120 lbs) then the maximum safe caffeine intake a day is about 135mg (54 kg x 2.5 mg/kg). This is about one cup (250ml) of coffee or 3 cups of tea.
  • Healthy adults should have no more than 400 mg caffeine/day. This is about the amount found in three cups (250ml or 8 oz) regular coffee or 8 cups of brewed tea.

Caffeine meter

  • 1 cup (250 ml) coffee has about 140 mg caffeine while 1 cup of tea has 2/3 less caffeine at about 45 mg per cup
  • A 355 ml can of cola has about 40 mg caffeine while 1 cup (250 ml) of cola has about 30 mg caffeine
  • The amount of caffeine in energy drinks varies from that found in a weak cup of coffee (90 mg) to much higher levels. This means that one or two energy drinks can easily be over the safe caffeine limits for teens. Examples of Energy Drinks include Red Bull, AMP Energy, Monster, Rockstar, 5 Hour Energy etc. For more information on Energy Drinks read the labels and visit Health Canada’s website on caffeinated Energy Drinks
  • Sports drinks (ex. Gatorade, Powerade) do NOT contain caffeine. Herbal teas, decaffeinated drinks are caffeine free.

** Lucia Weiler is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in communication, marketing, education and regulatory affairs related to food and beverages.  As principal of Weiler Nutrition Communications Inc., Lucia provides expert services in nutrition trends, media, food science and labelling compliance.  Lucia is an engaging speaker and writer who translates up to date scientific knowledge to doable, relevant recommendations that motivates others. As the Co-Founder of Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists,TM and Faculty at Humber College School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism she teaches nutrition, food safety and professional development. For more insightful nutrition tips visit or follow on Twitter/Instagram @LuciaWeilerRD


1. Turton P, et al. (2016) More education needed for adolescents consuming caffeine; J Nutr Educ Behaviour
2. Dietitians of Canada (2013) What is caffeine? Is it bad for my health?

5 Easy tips for the love of food and your heart!

for the love of foodFebruary is Heart Month and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner it’s a great time to celebrate love. It can also be a reminder to make heart healthy choices as part of everyday life. Food plays such an important role in festivities and long after the day is gone memories of delicious bites and flavourful aromas linger. Food is truly an emotional connector and as Chef Jamie Oliver said it so well “food can be a hug’. In our family cooking a meal and sharing it with others is a love language we all speak and understand. Here are some tips to help you enjoy a way of eating that spreads the love of food and heart health at your table.

  1. Go for whole grains – make at least half your grain choices whole grains.
  2. Make half your plate vegetables – the more colour, variety vibrancy the better.
  3. Include milk and alternatives – add them to smoothies, soups and casseroles.
  4. Chose lean meat or go for alternatives. Take the pulse pledge – add beans, chickpeas or lentils to your favourite meals.
  5. Walk the walk – stay physically active to boost your heart health.

Happy & Heart Healthy February!

P.S. – Check out the recipes page for delicious food that fits with a healthy eating plan.


Food Service Innovation (As published in Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News)

CRFN-Sept-2015-P52-53-Nutrition INNOVATION L.Weiler RD

TOP TIPS for You on the Benefits of Healthy Eating & Regular Physical Activity

You can enjoy the benefits of making healthy food choices, watching portion sizes and getting regular physical activity!
Here are a list of benefits and tips on how you can reach them:

Benefits of Healthy Eating & Regular Physical Activity

  • energy to do what’s important to you and be more productive
  • reduce the risk of many health problems heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis
  • a better chance for a higher quality of life and perhaps a longer one too!
  • stamina and positive outlook to handle the mental and emotional challenges and emotional ups and downs of everyday life and to deal with stress
  • the chance to look and feel your best

healthy eating plate 2015

6 Tips for Healthy Eating & Drinking:

1.    Load up on vegetables & fruit, make them HALF your plate
2.    Go for whole grains
3.    Remember to include lower fat milk and alternatives
4.    Go lean on meat and try meat alternatives
5.    Choose healthier fats
6.    Satisfy your thirst with water

be active 2015

3 TOP tips to get Active:

1.    Be active at least 2.5 hours/week to get health benefits.
2.    Focus on moderate to vigorous aerobic activity throughout each week, broken into sessions of 10 minutes or more.
3.    Get stronger by adding activities that target your muscles and bones at least two days per week.

Dietitians of Canada (2013) 5 Tips for Healthy Eating and Health Canada (2011) Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide
Public Health Agency of Canada (2011) Canada Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living
Duyff (2012) American Dietetic Association Complete Food & Nutrition Guide

5 everyday superfoods for heart health

5 everyday superfoodsFall is a time of harvest plenty and Thanksgiving. It’s a great time to take a look at what we can do to take care of our health and wellness. Did you know that making a few simple positive lifestyle changes and sticking to them over time can make a big difference in your heart health? Here are my top 5 nutrition tips to help you embrace heart health.

 1. Omega-3 FATS[1]

 Omega-3 fats are essential fats that your body can’t make from scratch so it must get them from food. Omega 3 fats also deliver some big health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease. For example, Omega-3 fats appear to help keep the heart beating steadily and reducing the risk of potentially fatal arrhythmias.  Omega-3 fats also help lower blood pressure, improve blood vessel function, and lower triglycerides – blood fats linked to heart disease and diabetes. Research has also found that omega-3 fatty acids prevent blood clots and may ease inflammation, which plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis [2]

Foods high in Omega-3 include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating at least two servings of fish each week; a serving is 75 g (2.5 oz.).Other foods that contain omega 3 fats include some vegetable oils (Canola), nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables. Some foods may be enriched with omega-3 fats such as eggs, yogurt and margarine.

 2. Whole grains and fibre

 Research shows that people who eat more whole grains may have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.[3] To help reduce the risk of heart disease choose to get more fibre from whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruit.

Oatmeal and other whole grains such as whole wheat, barley, rye, millet, quinoa, brown rice, and wild rice also help reduce the risk of diabetes, which in itself is a risk factor for heart disease.

A healthy diet includes 25-38 grams of fibre a day and many people only get about half the amount of fibre they need. You can get more fibre in your diet by making small changes that add up over time. Boost your veggie and fruit intake (see next tip #3) and include whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in your meals and snacks. When grocery shopping, compare food labels and choose foods with 2 to 4 grams of fibre per serving.

3. Veggies and Fruit 

Eat your F&V’s says comedian Jimmy Kimmel referring to fruit and veggies of course. I couldn’t agree more grab your F&V’s for a snack on the go, make them HALF your plate whenever you’re eating a meal! Any F & V counts and eating 5-10 servings every day may help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Many F&V’s are rich compounds that can work as antioxidants in your body. Antioxidants are natural plant compounds that have powerful health benefits. The darker the colour the better. Powerhouse dark colour veggies include broccoli, spinach, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries just to name a few.

Tip – Frozen and canned fruit and veggies are harvested and packed at their peak, and have about the same nutritional value as their fresh version. Remember to check labels for NO added sugar or salt.

4. Nuts and seeds 

Scientific evidence suggests that eating ¼ cup of nuts or seeds as part of a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Because they contain unsaturated fat and soluble fiber, just a small amount of nuts or seeds each day can help reduce damaging high levels LDL cholesterol. Most nuts and seeds are also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that is also thought to help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease or a heart attack.

5. Tea[4] 

 The natural plant compounds found in brewed black and green tea (camellia sinensis) are called flavonoids and have powerful health benefits. Studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted that drinking tea helps lower the risk for heart disease and stroke. Researchers in Australia found that regular consumption of 3 cups of black tea a day can result in significantly lower blood pressure.  High blood pressure is a risk factor of disease and small decrease in blood pressure from dietary changes may have significant benefits.

Tea contains naturally occurring compounds called flavonoids that can function as antioxidants, but researchers are finding benefits that go well beyond. While investigators are still exploring the various mechanisms by which tea flavonoids function, studies suggest multifunctional mechanism that work in tandem to improve cardiovascular health.

[1] Harvard School of Public Health  Omega-3 fatty acids:an essential contribution (Sourced 2015)
[2]  Leaf A. Prevention of sudden cardiac death by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. J Cardiovasc Med.(Hagerstown). 2007; 8 Suppl 1:S27-29.
[3] Dietitians of Canada, Eatright Ontario, Focus on Fibre (Sourced 2015)
[4] Am J Clin Nutr December (2013)

7 innovation tips for foodservice – from possibility to plate

7 innovation tips

Innovation is at the heart of the foodservice operators and can include daily challenges or involve longer term strategic processes that integrate the know-how of culinary experts, nutrition professionals and marketing teams to create winning products and programs. A recent report by AlixPartners looking at restaurant growth says: “Innovation means re-engineering menus to better target today’s new consumer segments, re-engineering promotions and marketing to engage those consumers, and re-engineering restaurant operations to further reduce complexity.” Based on my experience in today’s leading trends and evidence based nutrition communications, here are my top 7 tips for food service innovation.

  1. Leverage transparency

Transparency is a growing concern among consumers ranging from food safety to health, nutrition and everything in between. Canadians are looking for clean labels with ingredients they can understand and pronounce. Industry leaders and regulators are responding to this trend. In July 2015, the Institute of Food Technologists discussed transparency as a hot topic at their annual conference. Health Canada is also revising nutrition labels and the ingredient list. Another factor of transparency is communicating in a way that helps people understand food products, nutrition science and food safety. Registered Dietitians are the experts who keep consumers informed about food with transparency, so engage their services in your innovation plans.

  1. Embrace health & dietary guidelines

“Heathy” menu options are important to many consumers and influence their choice of restaurants. Millennials especially want to eat healthy and are also value conscious. That leaves lots of room for innovation in the nutrition and wellness space for food service operators. Look to dietary guidelines to improve the health profile of your menu offerings. Serve more vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lower fat cheese and yogurt. Incorporate fish, lean cuts of meat and meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu more often into your menus.

  1. Include all things fresh & local

The seasons of the year offer sparks for innovation and take us back to simpler times.  Seasonal and fresh foods attract all types of consumers. To find out what’s harvested seasonally in your area visit a farmers’ markets near you or check out seasonal produce guides on line. In 2014 Health Canada recognized “local” as food that is produced and sold within a province or territory, or within 50km of the originating provincial borders.  As an innovative food service provider, consider highlighting your responsible sourcing practices.

  1. Offer menus with a healthful focus

Today’s consumers love customizing their restaurant choices to their individual preferences and health needs. For health benefits they may opt for nutrient dense menu items, high quality foods and smaller portion sizes. Innovative approaches to meet this trend include limiting the number of main offerings but allowing more customization. Food service researches recommend consolidating menus, seeking products that stand out and offering new culinary experiences that blend with organizational procedures and operational constraints.

  1. Update beverage offerings

There is more room for innovation in the beverage offerings section. Consumers want choices especially those who are counting liquid calories. Healthiest options include plain water, carbonated water, citrus-flavoured water, or water flavoured with 100-per-cent fruit juice. Fruit and veggie smoothies and black or green teas offer health benefits as well.  Herbal teas are common caffeine-free alternatives.

  1. Embrace digital technology

Use digital technologies to engage with consumers and run your business better. Many customers pre-visit menus and explore a restaurant’s online presence, while others describe their dining experiences on social media. Innovative restaurants have their digital strategies in order and leverage social media. Advanced business analytics could also help spark, shape and predict success of innovation.

  1. Food enjoyment first!

One of the main engines of innovation in food service lies in the enjoyment of food. Consider leveraging the food-first approach to generate excitement and interest in your establishment. Drive menu innovation through themed promotions and limited-time offers.  Educational events or hands-on workshops in partnership with chefs and dietitians promote creativity and innovation giving menus or recipe items a new twist. Try the food first dining experience with wholesome food offerings and see how popular they prove to be with your guests.

Baking is Back!

bake it up cover page

It’s holiday season and we’re gearing up to celebrate with family and friends. There is nothing like a special treat of baked goodies to signal festive cheer.  Bakers know the real joy of making tasty food that brings sparkle to any occasion and helps create special memories. You may be wondering what baking recipes fit into a healthy diet. Here is a terrific resource titled Bake It Up! – a recipe book for parents and children for making baked goods that meet even the strict requirements of the  Ministry of Education’s School Food and Beverage Policy.  If you love baking give these recipes a try and see how they might fit into your healthy way of eating.

Download and print your free copy of Bake It Up!