Thanksgiving reflection – How I became a dietitian

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Many of you know me as a registered dietitian, food scientist and professional home economist. In my work as leader, teacher and mentor I’m often asked to reflect on my career path. Do you love food? I do! That’s where it all began. My interest in the science of food and nutrition was sparked by my father (Dr. Tibor Heim), who was a researcher exploring the nutrient needs of sick children to help them grow. He discovered much about energy metabolism, types of fats and became a world leader in his field. He also enjoyed cooking and telling stories. I grew up liking family meals, eating what was put on the table and discussing how good nutrition has the power to enhance lives and improve health. At university I was naturally drawn to study nutrition science, and I specialized in food chemistry and microbiology. After rigorous training, I worked as a food scientist and helped ensure that foods sold to Canadians were safe, nutritious and tasted great. Today, I am still driven by the curiosity to understand the science behind food and its connection to health. I now work as an advisor, teacher and speaker with expertise in translating the science of nutrition to help unlock food’s potential and support healthy living. I’m also honoured to serve the dietetic profession as a Director of the Board, Dietitians of Canada and help shape the future of nutrition. I’m looking forward to celebrating food with you and sharing more tasty recipes, hot topics and stories from behind the scenes.

Originally published  by Candian Food Focus

Healthful Reset for Fall

Image Source: Bigstock

Are you looking for great tips to kick-start fall? Many of our clients are looking to squeeze in some professional development before year end and at the same time reset personal health routines. As dietitians – the food and nutrition experts – we can help!

People are spending eight hours a day – and probably more – at work, let’s make them count for health and wellness! Also, travelling can do a number on even the most conscientious eaters. Many Canadians are surprised to hear that eating well on the job could improve their concentration and productivity. Other benefits of workplace wellness programs include better employee morale, reduced absenteeism and turnover and enhanced recruiting.

Here are five tips to spark your healthful reset at work and at home.

  1. Keep it real
    Set realistic expectations without black and white thinking. Consider why you are making healthy choices. List the reasons and keep it handy as a reminder to help you stay on track.
  2. Have a plan
    There is no perfect way to eat well that works for everyone. Find a healthful way to change your food journey one small step at a time. For a list of ideas that fit your goals check out credible tips from registered dietitians.
  3. Keep unhealthy foods out of your home
    If you don’t buy it you’re less likely to eat it. Stick to buying wholesome foods and put food away when you’re finished eating. Remember, drinking water is the best way to stay well hydrated.
  4. Pack & carry to eat on the go
    When you’re on the go at school or at work it can be hard to stick to a healthy eating plan. Pack some healthy foods at home and carry them with you to eat later. If you eat out, check the foodservice options in advance for healthy choices.
  5. Practice mindful eating
    Enjoy the food you’re eating and appreciate all that has gone into getting it from the farm to your table. Mindful eating helps build a healthy relationship with food.

Improving your eating habits takes time and it’s not easy. However, finding a few strategies that work for you in the long run will be your best bet for health and wellness. Are you ready to embrace healthy eating? As dietitians we translate the science of nutrition and offer life- changing advice for healthy living. Contact us for more information – we can help make it a little easier for you to choose, eat and enjoy healthy food.

Workplace Wellness – Good Food Builds Healthier People & A Healthier Workplace!


Are you looking for great tips to kickstart your fall? Do you wish you had more energy at work? Since many of us spend eight hours a day – and probably more – at work, let’s make them count for health and wellness!

You may be surprised to hear that eating well on the job could improve your concentration and productivity.  Other benefits of workplace wellness programs include better employee morale, reduced absenteeism and turnover and enhanced recruiting. Squeeze in some professional development before year end and at the same time reset your personal health routines. As dietitians – the food and nutrition experts – we can help!

Why Promote Wellness in the Workplace?

Work site health promotion is an investment in your most important asset: your employees. Surveys show that 87% of employees have personal goals to eat healthier foods; 57% of employees are living with at least one chronic health condition; and 45% of Canadians find it challenging to eat healthy meals / snacks at work.  Since Canadians’ interest in food and health continues to grow leverage this growing demand in your employee-wellness experience.

Three steps you can take to build healthier people and a healthier workplace through good food

The power of food can enhance people’s lives and improve health. Here are three tips to help you and your workplace benefit from the power of food. For more information, contact a Registered Dietitian – Canada’s go to food and nutrition experts.

  1. Fill half your plate with vegetables
    Wherever you are eating, look to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits. Divide the rest of your plate equally between protein foods such as meat, poultry, fish, legumes and tofu, and fibre-rich carbohydrate foods like brown rice or other whole grains. This simple visual can help you manage your portions and enjoy a well-balanced meal.
  2. Make water your drink of choice
    Coffee break? You may enjoy a cup of coffee or tea to help you wake up in the morning but water is the healthiest beverage choice. If caffeine bothers you, switch to herbal teas or decaffeinated tea or coffee. Be sure to replace sugary drinks with water in your beverage bottle and in the workplace cafeteria and vending machines.
  3. Enjoy a variety of foods and learn more about good nutrition and workplace wellness
    Eating well means living well. Discover more about healthy food and feel more confident in your food choices.  Consider workplace wellness programs that give employees access to dietitians, Canada’s most trusted food and nutrition experts. Here are examples of some popular workplace wellness initiatives that you can implement:        

Lunch ‘n Learn – Health Challenge in Action

Invite a dietitian to kick start a healthy food challenge with employee teams. Engage human resources and your wellness committee to focus on issues most relevant to your team. Perhaps themes like boosting energy or improving relationship with foods might be of interest. Some workplace teams may be ready to tackle key steps to prevent and control diabetes and heart disease. Working with dietitians can reduce health related lost productivity by 64% and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 70%.

Online information sessions about health risks and healthy lifestyle choices

Get up to date on the key areas of nutrition with registered dietitians who translate the science of nutrition and deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Convenient online sessions expose common myths related to nutrition and provide support for healthy living. Topics such as introduction to nutrition, food labelling and healthy eating all have a practical application to work and personal life.

As dietitians we are experts at translating the science to help you navigate through the myths and share trusted advice for healthy eating.  Contact us with your questions! We’re ready to help.


Coping with food allergies and sensitivities

Are you concerned about food allergies? You’re not alone since 1-in-2 Canadians know someone with a food allergy – which also means that this condition has broad impact across the country. As a registered dietitian and nutritionist I often get questions about how to manage food allergies and sensitivities to stay safe and eat well. People working in restaurants and other food businesses are also keen to stay up to date and vigilant on this important issue. Here are some top tips to help you get started on coping with food allergies and sensitivities.

What is a food allergy?

A true food allergy triggers the body’s disease fighting system into action. This usually occurs when a food protein or other compound is recognized by the body as a threat. The body releases antibodies and histamine to fight back. Symptoms vary and can involve multiple body systems such as skin, the gut and breathing. While common symptoms include swelling of the lips or tongue, in some people life threatening food allergy reaction called anaphylactic shock can result.

Did you know that only 8 to 10 foods are responsible for 90% of all food allergic reactions? This is why we talk about the top priority allergens. For example normally wholesome foods including eggs, milk, seafood, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soybeans (and soy products) may cause life threatening symptoms in people with allergies. If a food contains a priority allergen this must be shown on the food label.

The most important message to remember is that food allergies can cause serious illness and even death and can’t be taken lightly. The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to COMPLETELY AVOID the offending allergen. It’s also important to note that cooking or freezing does NOT remove an allergen.

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance implies a negative reaction to a specific food but it DOES NOT involve the immune system. This is an important difference because intolerances and allergies may prompt many of the same symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps,) and food intolerances are often mislabelled as allergies. The symptoms of food intolerance are generally localized in the gut and can be quite painful and uncomfortable, but they are NON – allergic and NOT-DEADLY.

An example of food intolerance is when someone can’t properly digest the sugar in milk due to a lactase deficiency; or can’t tolerate gluten due to celiac disease. Certain foods and spices may trigger cramping, diarrhea or constipation especially in people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Depending on the type of intolerance, many people may be able to eat SMALL amounts of the problem food without unpleasant side effects. In Canada sources of gluten and sulphites must be clearly indicated on food labels.

Living with food allergies and

Living with allergies and food sensitivities can be challenging, stressful and even life-changing for people and their families. Limiting and restricting many foods over time could also affect nutrient intake and may cause deficiencies. This is why nutrition monitoring and education are important for people living with allergies and intolerances. Registered Dietitians are trained health professionals who can help people living with food allergies. Some of the important skills a dietitian can help with include:

  • Identifying troublesome foods and ingredients
  • Reading food labels – what to avoid keeping the reactions at bay
  • Listing food & beverage substitutes to replace the offending food
  • Creating an allergen- friendly diet and meal plan
  • Cooking with recipes that are free of the offending allergen

In foodservice operations dietitians guide and certify professionals in allergy awareness and standards of practice to help chefs provide safe food for people and their families. We work closely with clients to help them navigate the new labelling requirements for food allergies and sensitivities.

As dietitians we are experts at translating the science to help families and food professionals navigate the tricky field of food allergies. Contact us with your questions! We’re ready to help.

Healthy food tips for your game day party

Hey Sports Fans! Are you ready for the big game day party? When you’re gearing up to enjoy a big sports game, food, beverage and fun times come to mind. Whether you’re actually there for the game or just for the fun of the party you can gather ‘round without giving up on your healthy eating plan.

Here are some savvy food tips aligned with the latest recommendations of Canada’s new food guide for you to enjoy food and keep connected to your healthy eating goals.

Boost the veggies

This is the number 1 healthy eating recommendation in Canada’s new food guide.

  • Let veggies take the starring role at your party food platter. Serve lots of colour, crunch
  • Whip up tasty and nutritious dips such as hummus or guacamole.

Choose whole grain foods

Looking for a crunch?

  • Slice up and toast some whole grain fajitas to swap out the chips for a healthier option.
  • Air-popped popcorn is a great whole grain snack and source of dietary fiber. Serve it plain, or try adding different popcorn flavors such as smoked paprika or chili powder.

Get creative with your protein

Are you making crown pleasing party foods such as meatballs or chili?


Okay, so it’s a party and alcoholic drinks are on the menu. Simple tips to keep in mind:

  • Canada’s low risk alcohol drinking guidelines for special occasions suggest no more than 3 drinks for women; no more than 4 drinks for men on any single occasion.
  • Set your limits and stick to it.
  • Drink slowly ex 2 drinks in any 3 hr period and have water between alcoholic drinks. Try a flavoured water. Try adding citrus fruit or cucumber slices to fresh tap water for a great flavour booster with zero calories.
  • EAT before and while drinking.
  • Lower the alcohol content of your beverages by making a wine spritzer using 3 oz white wine and 2 oz of carbonated water to keep your head clear during a sports party and to cut back calories too.

Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat!

Bottom line – your relationship with food matters more than you might think!

  • Your culture and food traditions are an important part of healthy eating. Relax and enjoy!
  • Stay on track of your healthy eating goals by taking time to eat and following your hunger cues.

Enjoy the game. Go Team Go!