Dietitian's Blog

Will losing weight make you fat?

A new study found that frequent dieting puts people at greater risk of weight gain than non dieting. In fact, regular dieting was associated with greater weight gain than genetics. The study, which was published  in the International Journal of Obesity, looked at over 4000 twins and found that, in those twins who regularly dieted, their weights were significantly higher than the twin who did not reguarly diet. Studies that look at differences between twin sets are good at eliminating the effect of genetics, since both twins would have similar genes.

Now this study certainly does not mean we should throw caution to the wind and eat beyond our needs. However, it does indicate that frequent dieting can end up leaving you further from your weight goals. That is why I always work with my clients to make lifestyle changes. By making modest, but long-term, changes with eating and activity, you can reach a healthy weight, and stay at that healthy weight. Sure, quick fixes that offer big weight loss in a short amount of time might seem appealing, but if it’s only going to make it easier for you to gain weight in the future, is it really worth it?

Healthy Tips for the BBQ

By FWF Admin | Published June 17th, 2011

Even though we haven’t seen much of the sun here in Halifax, it is in fact summertime. One of my favourite parts of summer is the barbeques. But, did you know that cooking meats at high temperatures can increase carcinogen formation in the food?  That’s right, our favourite grilled meats, including fish, can bring with them a serving of cancer-causing compounds.  High consumption of barbecued and/or fried meats has been linked to increased risks of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers. But there are steps you can take to make those grilled meats healthier, without losing any of the taste.

  • Marinate the meats before grilling and/or wrap the meats with foil to stop the juices
    from hitting the flame directly.
  • Use lower temperatures when possible and/or cook at high temperatures for shorter
    periods. While it may sound unappetizing, cooking your meat for a couple of minutes in the microwave before putting it on the barbeque can drastically reduce the amount of carcinogens that are produced, without greatly altering the taste and texture.
  • Be sure to scrape off any charred bits that might be on the meat after it’s cooked.
  • Serve your grilled meats with a healthy portion of antioxidant-rich veggies to neutralize some of the risk from the grilled meats.

And remember, clean your barbeque regularly.  Happy grilling!

What are whole grains?

By FWF Admin | Published May 25th, 2011

We all know that we should be eating more whole grains, but what exactly are whole grains?  Whole grains are simply seeds that have their original structure intact; that is they contain the bran, germ, and endosperm.  The bran and germ are the most nutrient dense parts of the seed, containing high amounts of fibre, protein, healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. Refined grains, on the other hand, contain only the endosperm portion of the seed, as their bran and germ are removed during processing. This reduces their nutritional value significantly by removing the majority of the fibre, healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Food manufacturers often prefer using refined grains as they have a longer shelf-life than whole grains, meaning that the loaf of white bread you bought can last weeks in your cupboard before it expires. Enriched grains are a hybrid of the two. They are made by first refining the whole grain down to the endosperm and then enriching back some of the nutrients lost through processing. Multigrain or organic grain products may contain different types of grains, but these grains may not necessarily contain the entire seed structure.  Clearly, whole grains are the preferred choice.  Some companies will advertise ‘whole grains’ on the label, but only contain a small amount of whole grain and a lot more of refined grain.  So to be sure your product contains mostly whole grains, make sure that the first ingredient listed is a whole grain.

Some examples of whole grains include:

  • brown rice
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • whole grain whole wheat
  • bulgar
  • millet
  • cornmeal
  • buckwheat
  • kamut
  • amaranth

There are so many different whole grain options, you will never get bored. Try out a new whole grain this week and take advantage of their exciting flavors and textures!

Written in collaboration with dietetic interns Angela Mathews and Kate Grozier






Fueling your activity

By FWF Admin | Published May 18th, 2011

Many of you will be running the Bluenose Marathon run this weekend in Halifax, and in preparation, I’ve compiled a few tips to help fuel your best run on race day.

Tips for Pre-race:

On the morning of the race, eat a small meal 1-2 hours prior to the run. Choose a meal that is low in fat and fiber, moderate in protein, and high in carbs.  Examples include:

  • cereal and milk topped with fruit, and a glass of juice
  • toast with peanut butter and banana, and a glass of milk
  • bagel with cream cheese and an apple

Drink at least 2 cups of fluid 1-2 hrs prior to run.  Take a sip of water or sports drink every few minutes of run

Tips for Post-race:

Eat a snack within 30 minutes of finishing run!  Snack should consist of carbohydrate and protein. Examples include:

  • Chocolate milk
  • Fruit and yogurt
  • Protein-rich granola bar (see recipe below)

Eat a full, well-balanced meal within 2 hrs of finishing run.  Drink 2 cups of fluid within 30 minutes of finishing run and as needed to prevent thirst thereafter.

Tips for Race Day:

Try to keep to normal routine!

  • Eat at same time
  • Eat familiar foods

Stay well hydrated in these final days leading up to race. Good luck!

See my healthy protein bar recipe.

The 5 F’s of Healthy Living

The one question I most often get asked as a dietitian is what “tricks” I have to help people get and stay healthy. While I don’t think there are any shortcuts to achieving health, there are a few tips that I live by. It’s what I like to call “The 5 F’s.”

Fat: Fat is the one word that we often don’t associate with healthy eating. But in fact, fat is a necessary component in a healthy diet. Fat helps regulate our metabolism, keeps us full for longer, and acts as a energy source for our body. The trick is eating the right types of fat. In general, we want to choose unsaturated fats more often, and choose saturated fats less often.

  • Saturated fats are usually found in solid form at room temperature, such as butter and lard, and are also the type found in animal products, such as meat, cheese, and cream.
  • Unsaturated fats are often found in liquid form at room temperature, for example canola oil or olive oil. They are also found in nuts, fish, and flax seeds in the polyunsaturated form, which are often referred to as “omega-3’s” and “omega-6’s”.

There is a multitude of health benefits associated with these polyunsaturated fats, including prevention of heart disease, improved cholesterol levels, reduction in arthritis symptoms, maintenance of mental intelligence, and the list goes on. A simple way to ensure we reap these benefits is to aim for 2-3 servings of fish per week. If you don’t eat fish, flax seeds, soy and walnuts can be good sources of omega-3’s.  In summary, my advice isn’t to cut fat out of our diets, but rather to be smart when choosing which type of fat to put into our mouths.

Fluid: We’ve all heard the rule of drinking 6-8 classes of water a day, but few of us actually live by it. The benefits of adequate hydration are endless – from decreasing appetite to improving our immune system, urinary tract, sexual health, and energy levels. Water is the best option, as it is most easily absorbed by the body, though herbal tea and low calorie beverages work also. The easiest way to stay hydrated is to carry a water bottle with you and drink from it throughout the day. Start with one cup of water at each meal and one cup between each meal. Then slowly add to this as you become comfortable. When you are first increasing the amount of water you drink, you will notice you make more trips to the bathroom! This is normal, and will balance out once your body adjusts to the extra fluid. Be patient and your body will thank you.

Fruits and Vegetables: There’s a reason why your mother made you eat your veggies when you were young! Not only are they great sources of essential nutrients, they are also generally low in calories and fat. There is no limit to the amount of fruits and vegetables you can eat, so go ahead, indulge! Try vegetables plain or with a low fat dip as a snack, or add them to soups, casseroles and main dishes. Fruit is the perfect, portable snack. The choices are endless, so be sure to sample all the season has to offer, and you can be sure you’ll find something you like! For ideas on incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet, see my FAQ page.

Fibre: Very few of us get the recommended 25-35g of fibre a day. But with a few simple changes to our regular eating routine, we can be well on our way. First, choose whole grain breads and cereals over refined. Avoid the “white” whenever possible – white bread, white pasta, white rice. Instead choose brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or be adventurous and try other whole grains such as bulgar, quinoa, and oatmeal. Add wheat germ or wheat bran to your baked goods. Add flax seeds (which are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids) to your cereal and casseroles. For more info on using flax seeds, see my FAQ page.  And remember that fruits and vegetables are a great source of fibre; in fact, an apple gives 4g of fiber and only 60 calories! Getting enough fiber on a daily basis helps fight hunger, alleviate constipation, reduce cholesterol, and prevent a variety of diseases. Just remember to increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly, and be sure to drink lots of fluid to help move it through your body.

Fitness: As important as healthy eating is, in order to reap the full benefits of a healthy lifestyle, you must also be active. Eating and physical activity are the two most effective prescriptions for a healthy life. More often than not, they outperform drugs in their effect on disease. In order for us to get active and stay active, we must find ways of moving that we enjoy. Take advantage of the many free opportunities nature provides – take your dog for a walk, go for a bike ride in a local park, or find a new hiking trail to explore. Or if you prefer a more organized activity, take up a new sport or join a local health club and take advantage of the many classes it offers. It doesn’t matter how you move, just that you’re doing it on a regular basis. Any amount of activity is better than nothing, but aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise on 3-5 days of the week. Remember that activity is cumulative, so getting 10 minutes of exercise 3 times a day, will give you a total of 30 minutes for the day. So take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a little farther away from your destination and walk the extra distance, or go for a 10 minute walk on your lunch hour. It is easy to incorporate activity into any lifestyle; you just have to make it a priority and find something that works for you!