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Self-care is usually last on the list for moms. Especially when they’re “in the trenches” with little ones. I know that all too well—it’s something I continually work on. Kids become the priority, followed by spouses, work, family and friends, and self-care is often an afterthought (yet so essential). It’s hard to fit it in though with work, school, activities, household tasks… and the list goes on. One thing that I’ve managed to always keep up with is physical activity. For me, being active has always made me feel better physically but more so mentally, and always seems to make my day a little bit better. So, I’ve always made it a priority to fit it in. And I’ve become really creative with them! In fact I remember a time when my colicky baby girl wouldn’t nap (at all!) so in order to fit a workout in, I would strap her to me and go on the elliptical trainer for half an hour to not only get some activity in, but also help her fall asleep!

When you’re a busy mom, it can feel next to impossible to fit in a workout, so what can often happen (and what I hear from fellow moms and clients) is that it just doesn’t happen. So, what I often recommend (and what has been my go-to way of working out lately) are free workout videos that you can do at home. There are literally millions of them online, so it can be a bit overwhelming to choose one, so I’m going to share my top three. What I love about these is that they range from 15 minutes to 45 minutes depending on how much time and energy I have. And the more I do them, the more comfortable I feel. They require minimal equipment and can be done just about anywhere (including hotel rooms!). My kids often join in too!

Top 3 Favourite Free At-Home Workouts:

1. Barre Body Studio’s Youtube Videos

I just started doing ballet barre workouts a few years ago and feel in love with it. I’ve been active my whole life but have noticed a big difference in my strength and tonality since starting barre. And my very favourite place to do it is Barre Body Studio in Calgary. Every single instructor is absolutely amazing, and the music and positive vibes brighten my day every time. In fact, one of the owners, Marlo Brauses’ “Rise Up” classes have been so inspiring and even “healing” that I have made them a weekly ritual as part of my self-care. When Marlo released her first free Barre Body at-home workout I literally cheered – it’s an amazing 45-minute workout that you can do anywhere (and there are modifications for those who aren’t totally comfortable with barre yet). It’s best to have light weights, but you don’t need them! And they’ve just released a second video which is just as good! I highly highly recommend!!! And if you can make your way to one of her live classes at Barre Body Studio in Calgary, DO! Her classes (and all of the other classes) are fabulous.

BARRE BODY STUDIO // 45min @ HOME WORKOUT - YouTube

website: barrebodystudio.com
IG: @barrebodystudio

Marlo and I after one of her “Rise Up” classes 2. Train with Tish’s Tabata Cardio Workout

Tish McCrae’s short and sweet at-home workouts have literally gotten me through the last three to four years of being at home with little ones and having very little time to work out. I can literally just turn one of her free at-home workouts on, get my sweat on for 15 minutes (no equipment needed) and go on with my day! My kids know this workout off by heart and do it with me. It’s the best! Some of Tish’s workouts require equipment, but most can be modified so that you don’t need it. I’ve included the link for my favourite one below. Her videos aren’t fancy, but they’re just what I need when I don’t have a lot of time, but I still want to get a good workout in. Tish is Fabulous—she’s a pro in the fitness field and really knows her stuff. Follow her on IG too – she’s got lots of great workouts on there too!

Workout #26 Tabata Cardio Strength HIIT! - YouTube

website: trainwithtish.com/
IG: @trainwithtish

3. Popsugar’s free fitness videos

Popsugar’s videos are fun, free and easy to fit into your day. I discovered them when I was searching for free and fast workouts for moms, and now I’ve done 10 or 12 of them. Some I like better than others, but if you’re looking for a 20-30 minute quick and fun workout, these are great. There are so many… from beginner workouts to no equipment cardio workouts to sculpting weight videos. My favourite are the no-equipment cardio workouts. The best part? They’re free!! Browse their channels and try a few out to see which ones are the best fit for you.

15-Minute Beginner's At-Home Cardio Workout | Class FitSugar - YouTube

Don’t forget to fuel your workouts with proper nutrition!

Now, it’s important that you’re fuelling yourself for your workouts (and after). Admittedly (and ironically), I have not been doing the best job of this myself lately, and I’ve really noticed that I’m not getting as much out of my workouts… I don’t have as much energy and have been experiencing more muscle stiffness than is normal. Proper nutrition and hydration before and after workouts is really SO important!

Hydration:

It’s important to stay hydrated always (water is always best!). I always recommend that moms have their favourite water bottle with them at all times and try to refill several times a day. Two to three litres is what we should be aiming for per day (this includes all hydrating fluids, such as water, milk, tea, coffee, smoothies, soup etc.). But when it’s hot out and you’re working out, you might need more. The one way that you’ll know you’re hydrated properly is the colour of your urine – it should be clear to pale yellow and you should be peeing frequently throughout the day. Remember that alcohol will dehydrate you, so if you’ve indulged in a few glasses of wine, make sure you bump up your fluid intake to avoid becoming dehydrated.

Before a workout:

Make sure you are nourished prior to your workout. Timing of this really depends on what time you’re working out (and the intensity). If you’re working out first thing in the morning and you’ve had a good supper the night before that included protein, fat and carbs, you might be ok to have a quick cup of coffee, some water and do your workout without eating before. If you feel like you need a quick snack half an hour to 45 minutes before, have something light like half a banana with a bit of peanut butter, 1/3 cup of yogurt or a homemade energy ball to give you a little boost before. Again, hydration is most important. You want to stay away from anything too heavy (too much protein, fat or fibre especially) before a workout. These nutrients are digested really slowly and will make you feel sluggish while working out (and probably give you a stomach ache). If your body is busy digesting food during a workout, blood flow will be drawn to your stomach, not your muscles. This isn’t good. So if you do eat something, make sure it’s light enough (and more carb-based) so that it’s digested easily and quickly.

After a workout:

This is when proper nutrition is most important, because you’re replenishing your energy stores for your next workout, and you’re repairing (and building!) muscle tissue that has been damaged during your workout. For these reasons, it’s important to have a good meal or snack within about an hour of your workout, that includes some protein and some carbohydrate. The carb is for the energy store repletion and the protein is for muscle repair and growth. I always try to include a little bit of healthy fat too. Hydration is also key, especially if you got a really good sweat on!

My favourite post-workout snacks are…

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Wondering whether you should be feeding your family organic foods? Confused about pesticides and GMO’s? Read on!

I was recently invited by Croplife Canada to tour some research facilities and farms in Durham, North Carolina. It was enlightening and incredibly interesting for me to learn more about the latest biotechnologies such as use of pesticides and GMO’s in both Canada and the US. It’s not a surprise that–as a dietitian–I get asked all sorts of questions about whether it’s best to feed your family (and eat) organic, or whether conventionally grown food is ok.

First, let’s get real…

Feeding a family is tough. There’s so much pressure as a parent to provide healthy food for children to grow and develop properly, to provide it in a way that will expand their palates, and to not be “that” mom who gives her kid packaged or ultra-processed foods. Right?! Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying the convenience of packaged foods sometimes (I frequently reach for these five processed foods), the stigma of packaged food being unhealthy is still there. Part of the pressure is societal and part of the pressure we put on ourselves. I know that feeling of mom guilt just like you do. From forgetting about wacky hair day (or worse forgetting the correct date of wacky hair day), to hitting the drive-thru post soccer practice.

What seems to be a very common topic or area of confusion nowadays (and yet another common trigger for parent-guilt) is whether to feed your family organic vs. conventional. What’s the deal with chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and “glyphosate” and how do they affect our kids’ health long term? And then there’s GMO’s! What are they anyways?! Let’s dive into the information…

Organic versus Conventional

What’s the difference? Products labelled as “organic” must meet the Canadian Organic Standards which means they must follow guidelines pertaining to livestock treatment, how crops are grown, how pests and disease are managed, as well as what substances may not be used. This means no using genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and no synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Conventional foods, or non-organic foods, may be grown with the aid of synthetic (human-made) pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. But did you know that organic foods can also be grown with the help of pesticides? You betcha. All farmers, whether producing organic or conventional crops, battle pests and need pesticides to help. For organic farming organic pesticides may be used which are regulated by Health Canada.

So, is it better to choose organic for my kids and family? This is a question I get asked a lot, mainly from concerned parents or pregnant women! I’m here to say that whether you choose organic or conventional food sources is 100% a personal choice. Instead, what’s best is to choose a balanced, nutritious diet most of the time, focusing on whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains and protein-rich foods like meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils. My favourite phrase is “an organic cookie is STILL a cookie!” There is often the assumption that because something is labelled organic that it must automatically be healthier. False. For packaged products why not do a quick comparison of ingredients? Look for low sodium, high fibre, and a simple ingredients list. Whether the front of the box says organic or not, the back of the box is where the most important information can be found.

That being said, there’s a lot of concern over the potential effects of pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs. So, let’s break it down.

What are GMOs?

A genetically-modified organism is a result of a type of plant breeding where “precise changes are made to a plant’s DNA to give it characteristics that cannot be achieved through traditional plant breeding methods”. Some of the reasons that GMOs were created include insect resistance, drought tolerance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, and enhanced nutritional content. In the case of any argument there are always two-sides to the same coin. For example, by genetically modifying a crop to have better moisture retention you are protecting the crop from drought, therefore increasing crop yield, and saving water by reducing the need for extra irrigation! This also means lower overall cost for the food at the grocery store due to crop success and size! Genetically modifying or engineering a food to become more adaptable to climate or disease can also help save foods from near extinction. The papaya is a prime example! Nearly half of Hawaii’s papaya crop disappeared due to a virus, but by genetically modifying the papaya Hawaii was able to regain their fruit crop and continue to produce delicious papayas.

What about pesticides?

Pesticides are used by farmers to manage all those pesky-pests! This includes insects, fungi and weeds which threaten the health and quality of a crop. There are three types of agricultural pesticides 1) herbicides to control weeds, 2) fungicides to protect plants from disease, and 3) insecticides to control insects that could cause damage to a crop.

Canada has a strict regulatory system in place that regulates pesticide use to ensure safety of human health and the environment. Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) reviews all pesticides before approving them for use. And let me tell you, Canada’s testing process is in depth, and for good reason! The PMRA reviews more than 200 separate studies for health and environmental impacts before its final approval.

“Dirty” Dozen and the “Clean” Fifteen

If you haven’t heard about the Environmental Working Group’s annual list of the pesticide-heavy AKA the dirty dozen and the “clean” (pesticide-low) fifteen then here we go! The 2019 EWG list is out and it shares with the consumer the top 12 foods that tested high in pesticide residue and the top 15 foods that tested low in pesticide residue. But what does it really mean? First of all, the EWG encourages the consumer to buy organic food when possible in order to avoid pesticide consumption. Yes, it would be nice to purchase organic food, but is it the only option for your family? Nope! Because all food, whether conventional or organic, can have pesticides present, and this level is strictly monitored. It’s also important to note that the EWG didn’t test organic foods, which makes the list a little one sided. That being said, if you choose to shop for your fruits and veggies based on the EWG’s list go for it! Keep variety to your choices and don’t eliminate foods from the “dirty” list if you are unable to buy organic. Simply peel (if necessary) and wash your foods! You won’t get rid of all the pesticide residue, but there will be less present!

Bottom line, the more I investigate, the more I feel confident buying a mixture of organic and conventional foods. Because according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the majority of all fresh food found in the grocery store contain no traces of pesticides, and almost all (99%) of fresh fruits and veggies are below Health Canada’s defined limits. That being said, we are bound to consume some level of pesticide in our eating career. Washing produce before consuming helps a little, peeling the outer layer of fruits and veggies helps a little bit more. But at the end of the day what it comes down to is personal choice, availability and budget. If you decide to go organic, that’s fantastic! However, if you choose to select only a few (or not any) foods to buy organic, that’s awesome too! Above all, the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to choose nutritious and whole foods most of the time – whether that is organic or conventional.

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Unique and Easy Finger Food-Friendly Ways to Use Pouches! This post was written in partnership with my friends at Baby Gourmet. As always, all opinions are my own! 

Fruits and veggies are key for our kids’ growth and development—we all know this! At around six months of age your baby is ready to start exploring the world of real food. When starting solids we often emphasize iron-rich foods, and for good reason! Babies need iron-rich foods because their iron-stores deplete around that six month mark (they have iron stores built up from when in the womb until then). But did you know that introducing fruits and veggies is also really important? Nutritionally, fruits and veggies offer fibre and many important vitamins and minerals, but offering real fruits and veggies will help allow your baby to experience the taste, texture and feel food, which means they’re more likely to grow and love them long term.

I recommend serving them in all types of ways. If they’re naturally soft like bananas or avocados, you can serve them whole (I like to coat them in iron-fortified cereal for better grip and added iron). If they’re firm, like carrots or broccoli, you can peel, steam and cool them prior to serving. You can also grate hard fruits and veggies like apples, pears, and zucchini in order to offer safely. And sometimes it’s nice to switch things up and use organic fruit and veggie pouches! These are great if you’re super busy and on-the-go, or if you just want to add some variety to your little ones’ fruit and veggie regime. 

And c’mon—what parent doesn’t love these things! They’re easy, convenient and can pack a lot of nutrition too! They’re pretty tasty too (even for older kids and adults)! My first choice is and always has been… Baby Gourmet. All three of my kiddos enjoyed their BG pouches and quite honestly, they were a lifesaver for me as a busy mom. Baby Gourmet has also just come out with two new delicious varieties – Pearberry Purple Carrot and Avocado Mango.

Baby-Led Weaning Tips - My Top 5 Baby-Friendly Ways to Use Pouches - YouTube

The main thing I love about these pouches has got to be the simple ingredient list. All you will see is a list of organic fruits and veggies, as well as other nutritious foods like whole grains, seeds and Greek Yogurt to add even more nutrition! Bonus – they’re shelf- stable, which means they’re great to have stocked in your pantry.

Over the years I’ve become really creative with these pouches. Yes, my kids have all consumed them straight out of the pouch, but there are lots of other delicious ways to consume fruit and veggie pouches.

So, here are my top 5 easy and nutritious ways to serve fruit and veggie pouches!

1. Add them to foods like oatmeal, infant cereal and plain Greek yogurt

I love serving oatmeal for breakfast in the morning. Oats are high in soluble-fibre which equates to staying power or a longer-lasting feeling of fullness. Adding flavour or sweetness to plain oatmeal or plain Greek Yogurt is a great way to increase taste, boost nutrition and provide variety. It’s also a great way to control the overall amount of sugar consumed!

2. Use them to slow-cook meats like pork, chicken or beef.

Seriously! The natural sugar present in fruit and veggie pouches make a great marinade. And adding the pouches as part of sauce or marinade softens meat and adds flavour and nutrition, making it perfect for little ones!

3. Add them to homemade smoothies and popsicles!

I love a homemade popsicle. And with summer right around the corner, what better time to dive into these cooling nutritious treats. Adding fruit and veggie pouches to smoothies and Greek Yogurt popsicles adds natural flavour and texture – no need for added sugar here!

4. As a dip or topping for French toast, or pancakes!

Babies and toddlers love dipping. Heck, big kids and adults love dipping too! Pouches are a yummy, nutritious and naturally sweet option for dipping. They’re also a great alternative to sticky syrup!

5. Use them in baby-friendly baked foods like muffins, loaves and cookies.

There are lots of great toddler-friendly baking recipes out there. And incorporating a fruit and veggie pouch into your existing recipes is easy! Simply swap out apple sauce or mashed banana in your recipes and use a pouch as a great alternative! It will add an extra dose of nutrition and a yummy flavour.

One of my favourites baby-friendly recipe is a fruity cinnamon cookie. It has no added sugar and lots of nutritious ingredients. They’re easy to make, easy to freeze and kids (of all ages) love them. Check them out below!

Baby-Friendly Fruity Cinnamon Cookie Ingredients
  • 1 c. Whole Wheat/whole grain flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts or seeds
  • 1 c. quick oats
  • 2-3 Baby Gourmet Fruit/Veggie Pouches
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in the largest bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in the other bowl. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Blend them well.
  3. Spoon the dough for these drop cookies onto the greased cookie sheets.
  4. Bake the dough for 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Allow the cookies to cool before eating them.
  6. Enjoy!

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Everything you need to know about peanut allergies and how to protect your babies and kids

There’s no doubt that you’ve wondered about peanuts and peanut allergies when it comes to your kids… multiple times. From whether you should eat them while pregnant, to when and how to introduce them, to how strict you need to be with school lunches. Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergens out there, and can cause the most severe reaction. An allergy to peanuts also tends to stick around well into adolescences and adulthood which makes managing the allergy a lifelong occurrence.

So, you might be wondering things like…

What exactly is a peanut allergy? How do I reduce my child’s risk of developing an allergy? And how do I manage a peanut allergy diagnosis?

So many great questions – and I’m here to answer them all.

What exactly is a peanut?

Contrary to the word pea-nut, peanuts are actually a legume like chickpeas and lentils! It’s no secret that I love all legumes, and peanuts are a family favourite. But for many kids these days, peanuts pose a serious risk. And you’re not alone in thinking that there has been a rise of peanut allergies in kids. When I was growing up a peanut butter and jam sandwich was a staple in the school lunch room. Nowadays you’d be tackled before you hit the school parking lot if you thought about bringing peanuts into school. Peanuts and peanut-products are strictly banned in the school system.

What is a peanut allergy?

In a nut-shell… a peanut allergy is caused by antibodies that mistake proteins found in peanuts to be harmful. The body then releases a compound called histamine in response, which can cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include hives, runny nose, wheezing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. And in the most severe cases, anaphylaxis – which is life threatening.  

Peanuts are listed as one of the top ten priority food allergens by Food Allergy Canada, which basically means that peanuts (along with nine other allergens) are associated with 90% of the allergic reactions among Canadians.

How do I reduce the risk of a peanut allergy?

Although the exact cause of the rise in peanut allergies in children is unknown, there has been more research framing the introduction of allergenic foods as of late. When it comes to the top allergenic foods, the Canadian Pediatric Society guidelines say to start introducing these foods starting at six months of age if you have little to no risk for food allergy, and at six months of age (but not before four months of age) for high-risk infants. What exactly makes an infant high-risk? The definition is a little blurry, but the general consensus is a “high-risk” is defined as having an individual or first-degree relative with an egg allergy or severe eczema.

Introducing high allergenic foods, like peanuts, may sound strange to parents of second or third children. The recommendation not too long ago used to be to wait until kids were closer to three years old! But a recent randomized control trial found that those at high risk for developing a peanut allergy actually had a protective effect when they were introduced to peanuts starting at six months of age versus those who avoided them. Pretty neat hey! So, the best way to reduce the risk of developing an allergy is to start introduction of allergenic food starting at six months of age and continuing to offer.

How to Manage a Peanut Allergy

Managing any allergy is tough. But a food allergy, and specifically a peanut allergy, is oh-so-tough. If you’re a parent whose child has a peanut allergy, I want to hug you and tell you you’re doing a great job. There’s a level of worry about your child that only a parent can grasp. Your best line of defence against peanut exposure is label reading. Food Allergy Canada recommends doing the “triple check” which means, read the label at the store, read it when you are at home, and read it again before serving or eating the product. This can be tricky for children to understand, which is why they also need to rely on parents and care-givers to help keep them safe.

What to Look for on Food Labels Other names for peanuts include
  • Arachide
  • Arachis oil
  • Beer nuts
  • Cacahouete/ cacahouette/ cachuete
  • Goober nuts, goober peas
  • Ground nuts
  • Kernels
  • Mandelonas, Nu Nuts
  • Nut meats
  • Valencias
Possible sources of peanuts include (to name a few)
  • Baked goods like cakes and cookies
  • Candies, such as chocolates and chocolate bars
  • Cereals and granola, granola bars
  • Peanut oil
  • Snack foods such as dried fruits, chewy fruit snacks, trail mixes, popcorn, pretzels, chips
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein/ hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Vegetarian meat substitutes

For individuals and families with peanut allergy it is important to remain aware of potential exposure and to stay vigilant. For example, it has recently been highlighted that pea protein may be an under-recognized food allergen that is potentially harmful for those with peanut allergies. Dr. Elana Lavine, a pediatric allergist, estimates that 95% of patients with peanut allergies can tolerate peas, but for the remaining 5% the exposure can be life threatening. Pea protein, a highly concentrated pea product, is often found in meat alternatives as a way to increase the overall protein of the food.

If your child has been diagnosed with a peanut allergy, please know that you’re not alone! There are plenty of support groups to help you connect with parents of children with peanut allergies, as well as dietitians who can help you navigate label reading and the grocery store. It takes a village after all! Although a peanut allergy diagnosis is initially scary and confusing, it will eventually become easier and more manageable with time. Allow yourself room to grow and to learn.

This post was written by Lesley Langille, MS, RD and reviews/edited by Sarah Remmer, RD

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Let’s start off by saying, WHOA have things changed! Food allergies are a hot topic these days. From how to introduce allergenic food to your little one, to what to do when your child has been diagnosed, to understanding the difference between an allergy and intolerance… There is SO much information out there that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused.

So, let’s talk allergenic food. A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system believes that a certain food may be harmful and decides to react. This reaction is defensive and will produce symptoms such as rash, wheezing, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The most serious form of allergic reaction is an immunoglobulin E (IgE) mediated reaction, which basically means even the smallest food particle can potentially trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Non-IgE mediated food allergies can also cause symptoms but are mainly disruptive to the digestive system.

Health Canada lists 10 foods as “priority food allergens”. These food allergens considered priority as they are associated with 90% of the allergic reactions among Canadians.
  1. Crustaceans and molluscs AKA shellfish!
  2. Egg
  3. Fish
  4. Milk
  5. Mustard
  6. Peanut
  7. Sesame
  8. Soy
  9. Tree Nuts
  10. Wheat and triticale

Research is constantly evolving, and in the past few years the recommendations for introducing allergenic food to babies has drastically changed. Old recommendations said to delay the introduction of allergenic foods until babies were older – almost three years old! But in 2017 guidelines for the introduction of allergic foods changed due to the ground breaking LEAP Study (Learning Early About Peanut allergy). In this study, children aged 4-11 months were randomly assigned to either consume or avoid peanut products until the age of five. Results of this study showed that of those who avoided peanut products, 17% developed a peanut allergy by age five. While only 3% of children who were free to consume peanut products developed a peanut allergy by age five. What this research study found was that introducing allergenic food (like peanuts) early was actually protective!

Here are the latest guidelines according to the 2019 the Canadian Pediatric Society
  • For high-risk infants (those with severe eczema or a first-degree relative with an existing allergy or eczema), consider the introduction of common allergenic foods at six months of age, but not before four months of age (I recommend waiting to introduce solids at all until six months).
  • For infants at no or low risk for food allergy, introduce complementary foods at about six months of age.
  • Breastfeeding should be protected, promoted and supported for up to two years of age and beyond.
  • Introduce allergenic foods one at a time in order to gauge reaction, without unnecessary delay between each new food.
  • If an infant tolerates a common allergenic food, offer it a few times a week to maintain tolerance.
  • Offer food in an age-appropriate manner in order to prevent choking. For young infants, peanut butter can be diluted with water or breastmilk or spread thinly on toast for older infants. Never offer whole peanuts.

Feeding your child is a huge responsibility. And when it comes to starting solids and allergenic food the pressure goes up. As a parent the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and be confident. Assess your child’s readiness to start solids – can he hold his head up on his own, does he open his mouth when food is presented, can he maneuver food to the back of his throat. And if allergies are a concern, feel confident that there is an overwhelming amount of research out there that indicates that not delaying the introduction of allergenic food is best.

Will my child outgrow their allergy?

Many children will outgrow allergies, mainly to foods such as milk, soy, eggs and wheat by the time they head off to school. However, peanut, tree nut and seafood allergies tend to remain. If your child has been diagnosed with an allergy, please know that although the diagnosis is initially scary and confusing – that it will eventually become more manageable as you become more confident. One way to gain confidence is to connect with a registered dietitian who can help you navigate the grocery store and to read food labels and ingredient lists. Another way is to connect with other parents of children with allergies, talk to teachers, and join one of the support groups available through Food Allergy Canada. You’re not alone, nor do you have to be!

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This post was written in partnership with my friends at Made with Local. As always, all opinions are my own!

As a Mom to three kids, my youngest being 3.5 now, my breastfeeding experiences are still fresh in my memory. Although I had three completely different experiences with breastfeeding, there’s one thing — across the board — that was essential to my breastfeeding success—proper nutrition!

Now, you may think this would be a no-brainer for me, being a dietitian and all, but when you’re sleep deprived and emotionally and physically drained, your brain isn’t performing so well.  So for all of you sleep-deprived breastfeeding mommas out there, I’ve got your back!

First of all, it’s important to keep in mind a few key ideas when choosing easy and nutritious breastfeeding snacks.

  • You’ll likely be hungrier than normal when you’re breastfeeding, so it’s important to listen to your body and eat accordingly. I found it helpful to make sure that I had snacks in between meals and that they were filling and nutritious, which means that they contain some protein, dietary fat, and fibre as well as vitamins and minerals.
  • Snacks need to be easy to make and or grab. As a busy breastfeeding mamma your time is valuable! Quick, nutritious and easy to prepare snack foods are essential.
  • They need to be portable and eaten with one hand only! When breastfeeding you are often supporting a sometimes wiggly baby with one arm. While you are nourishing your baby, your other arm should be nourishing you! Easy one handed snacks are oh-so convenient. And as as a mom, multitasking is important!
Top 5 Favourite Nutritious Breastfeeding Snacks - YouTube

With all of that in mind, here are my Top 5 Favourite Breastfeeding Snacks: 1. Flourless blender muffins!

OMG you guys, the nutrition you can pack into a muffin is insane. And most importantly, they’re easy to make and you can eat them with one hand. Where these muffins are flourless you can also prepare them using one dish!! Simply blend in a blender or food processor and you’re good to go! Easy and nutrition PLUS minimal cleanup? Check out my favourite flourless chocolate lentil protein muffins for easy inspiration.

2. Homemade trail mix

I usually have several little resealable bags of homemade trail mix on hand in the cupboard that I can grab on the fly – and it was one of my go-to one-handed breastfeeding snacks too! Throw in some almonds, pumpkin seeds, unsweetened dried fruit, whole grain cereal and of course… a few chocolate chips! Delicious and easy!

3. Nutritious bars!

Bars are the best, because they’re so easy and convenient and perfect as a quick snack when you’ve got a hungry baby in hand. It’s hard to find a good, nutritious bar though – they’re few and far between. That’s why I fell in love with these Real Food Bars by Made with Local – they’ve got the simplest, shortest ingredient list including nuts, seeds, and unsweetened dried fruit. And very little added sugar and no artificial ingredients! And lucky for us Canadians—these bars are now available across the country at Safeway, Sobey’s, Bulk Barn and Well.ca! Nutritious bars that you can online shop for? YES!

4. Hardboiled eggs

I love eggs. I seriously do! They’re a daily staple in our house and offer loads of protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. My weekly food prep always includes hardboiling eggs for the week to have as snacks and throw into lunches. And you guessed it – best breastfeeding snack ever. Pair one with a piece of fruit for added fibre and nutrition!

5. Fruit and yogurt smoothies

Smoothies are an everyday occurrence in my house because they’re SO EASY and you can throw just about anything into them. Some of my fave ingredients are frozen berries, leafy greens, Greek yogurt, hemp hearts and lentils! When it comes to breastfeeding moms, smoothies not only provide SO MUCH NUTRITION, but hydration too, which is so important for milk production. Easy, nutritious and hydrating?? Triple win! My one mom-tip would be to remember to make your smoothie while your baby is awake! We don’t want to ruin precious quiet time by turning on a noisy blender to enjoy a delicious smoothie!

There you have it – my top breastfeeding snacks that are not only nutrient-packed, but also yummy and easy to eat with one hand. For breastfeeding mamma’s check out the blog for topics such as how to safely store pumped breastmilk and how to make a smooth transition back to work while breastfeeding!

And you’d like to win a case of Real Food Bars from Made with Local (whether you’re breastfeeding or not), leave a comment or question below and you’ll be entered to win!

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This post was written in partnership with my friends at the Egg Farmers of Alberta. As always, all opinions are my own!

If you know me at all, you know that I have a slight obsession with eggs. They definitely make their way into my grocery cart every single week without fail, and they get eaten daily in my house. There are SO many reasons why I love eggs so much. They’re PACKED full of nutrition—things like protein, iron, vitamin D and much more. They’re also so easy to work with and versatile – you can use them as the protein in your meal when you don’t feel like cooking meat, you can throw together a nutritious and filling breakfast, or you can munch on them as an on-the-go snack.

The eggs that we eat, regardless of where we are in the country are 100% Canadian, fresh and local. And although the egg shelve can be confusing and overwhelming with so many to choose from, you can rest assured that they are ALL healthy and jam-packed full of nutrition. As a busy mom, I know how challenging feeding a family is, so today, in partnership with Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA), I’m going to share Top 5 Easy Ways to Include Eggs in Your Family Menu Plan.

Top 5 Easy Ways to Include Eggs in Your Family Menu Plan Everyday - YouTube

EFA represents all 158 registered egg producers in Alberta and supports them in their production of 49 million dozen eggs last year. I love that they’re committed to ensuring the health and safety of Albertans by educating consumers and providing regulatory support and resources for producers.

And did you know that eggs produced in Alberta always stay in Alberta?! EFA exists to ensure that these local eggs come from a safe and trusted source, are hormone and antibiotic free, and most importantly are good for Albertans.

Here are my top 5 easy ways to include eggs in your family meal plan 1. Make egg muffins!

Muffin tins aren’t just for traditional muffin-making. They can also be used to make individually portioned egg muffins! Egg muffins are fun and customizable and it’s easy to get your kids involved too!! Simply add ingredients like diced veggies, grated cheese, cooked and diced meat and herbs and spices to customize them how you like. They’re also easy to freeze so you always have ready-to-eat snacks in a pinch!

2. Make hardboiled eggs for the week ahead!

On the weekend, we always hard boil a bunch of eggs for the week ahead – to add to lunches, to make egg salad sandwiches, to top salads with and to eat as an on-the-go easy snack!

To get the perfect hardboiled egg, follow these steps:

  • Place your eggs in a single layer on the bottom of your pot and cover with cold water. The water should be about an inch or so higher than the eggs. Cover the pot with a lid.
  • Over high heat, bring your eggs to a rolling boil.
  • Remove from heat and let stand in water for 12 minutes for large eggs. Reduce the time slightly for smaller eggs, and increase the standing time for extra-large eggs.
  • Drain water and immediately run cold water over eggs until cooled. Rapid cooling helps prevent a green ring from forming around the yolks.
3. Bake Flourless Blender Muffins!

Eggs provide structure and leavening in baked goods, so even in flourless recipes, eggs can help them to be soft and fluffy! One of the most popular recipes on my blog is for these flourless chocolate lentil protein muffins. They are super easy and delicious, and are great for kids lunches too! One perk about not including flour is that you can blend all ingredients in a blender—best mom baking hack ever!

4. Use them in sandwiches or wraps!

Instead of putting sandwich meats as the protein in sandwiches or wraps, fried eggs make the best addition to sandwiches! I like to cook the eggs medium so that the yolk is a little bit soft and pair them with tomato and avocado — sooo good!

5. Have breakfast for dinner!

When it’s been a busy day and I just need an easy yummy dinner option that you can make in minutes, eggs are my go-to. Whether it’s a suppertime frittatta, French Toast or Egg-in-the-hole, eggs always come in handy on those chaotic weeknights. And kids love them!

So now you have lots of ideas on how to incorporate eggs into your day as a busy parent, make sure you check out all of my favourite egg recipes on my blog, and visit the Egg Farmers of Alberta for lots more ideas! 

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This post was written in partnership with my friends at Baby Gourmet. As always, all opinions are my own! 

We all know that iron-fortified infant cereal has traditionally been used as a staple first food for babies when they start solids. And there are many reasons why! Infant cereal is:

  • Neutral tasting and generally well-accepted by babies
  • It provides a great source of iron—80% of babies daily needs in 1/3 of a cup dry–which is a very important nutrient for babies, as their iron stores are depleted by 6 months of age
  • It is EASY to prepare and serve
  • AND you can now find some really nutritious, high quality varieties in the store, like Baby Gourmet’s line up of organic oatmeal and ancient grain blends. What I love about these is that they’re enriched with important vitamins and minerals for baby like iron, thiamine and niacin, they provide 3 grams of dietary fibre per serving and there’s no weird ingredients or artificial colours or flavours. If you’re going to choose an infant cereal, these are the ones to choose in my opinion.

What you might not realize is that iron-fortified infant cereal can be used in many ways… not just the same old same old! In fact, you can use infant cereal in homemade finger foods to support self-feeding, which we all know has many benefits, right from 6 months!

5 Creative Ways to Use Infant Cereal for Baby-Led Weaning - YouTube

Here are my top 5 creative ways to use infant cereal when feeding your baby 1. Coat bananas, avocado or pears in infant cereal for better grip.

Babies as young as 6 months can start eating soft and safe finger foods like ripe banana, avocado and pear, but those foods easily slip out of their hands. Coating it with some infant cereal not only helps baby to grip it, but also adds some iron!

2. Make Homemade iron-rich teething biscuits

Homemade iron-rich teething biscuits are oh-so-fun for babies because they’re delicious and can be made into fun shapes using cookie cutters! My go-to cookie cutter was a firetruck! Enlist the help of your older kids for a fun activity.

In a large bowl combine

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup iron-fortified cereal
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp or more of water (to get sticky consistency)

Use a cookie cutter to cut out biscuits and bake on a cookie sheet at 425 for 15 minutes.

3. Replace breadcrumbs or oats with infant cereal for meatballs, or meat patties for an iron and protein-rich baby-friendly finger food.

Meatballs and meat patties are a great starting finger food for babies. They can be molded into the just the right size and easily break apart for safe consumption. Adding iron-rich infant cereal is an easy way to elevate the nutritional profile of an already great finger food.

4. Make homemade baby banana muffins

Muffins are a fantastic starting solids food as they are so versatile. Egg muffins, mini-meat muffins, and even delicious baking muffins. They are the perfect portion for baby and can be made in big batches and frozen! The recipe below has no added sugar, which is exactly what little ones need!

In a medium bowl combine:

In another medium bowl combine

  • 2 ripe, mashed bananas
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp of melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup water

Fold wet ingredients in with dry, spoon dough into mini muffin tins and bake at 350 F for 16 minutes

5. Sprinkle into baby-friendly foods such as smoothies, oatmeal, full-fat plain yogurt, or a fruit pouch!

This is a great way to use up leftover infant cereal and add some texture (and iron!) to more advanced spoon foods.

As you can see, there are lots of creative and nutritious ways to use infant cereal when introducing solids. When starting solids it is important that your baby is offered iron-rich foods first, and at least twice a day. As your baby continues to explore other nutritious and exciting foods keep in mind that iron is still an important nutrient. So keep finding fun and interesting ways to offer iron rich foods!

If you feel that you need one on one support, we’re happy to help! Contact us at The Centre for Family Nutrition 

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Easy and nutritious soccer snacks that will fuel your kids

Is it just me, or did hockey season JUST end, and without even blinking, we’re headed into two very busy months of driving kids to and from the soccer field? That’s right–it’s Spring sports season again! 

This year, believe it or not, I have three (that’s right…THREE!)  kids in soccer, so every weeknight evening in our week will involve taking kids to soccer. This means, rushing home from work, quickly feeding the kids, uniforming-up and heading out again. Yikes! This means that we’ll have to be extra organized and either have leftovers ready to heat up or super easy weeknight meals  (here are my top quick and easy weeknight meals btw). Quick and easy is key. You want to make sure these meals are balanced, nutritious and not too heavy (so that your kids don’t feel yucky during practice). 

What about team snacks? 

Ugh–soccer snacks. A big point of contention for me. I’m so sick of seeing kids being handed nutrient-void, sugar-filled, artificially coloured and flavoured snacks post-game. And me standing there feeling helpless because I don’t want to be a stick-in-the-mud dietitian mom who speaks up about it. Does anyone feel the same way?! I know Sally at Real Mom Nutrition does… here’s her post on being fed up with soccer snacks.

How does it seem ok to hand out fruit roll-ups, donut holes and fruit punch after soccer practice twice to three times a week? 

Why I don’t love soccer snacks

There are many reasons why this doesn’t sit well with me, starting with the fact that we’re trying to teach our kids healthy habits, by playing sport and being active, and then rewarding them by offering junk afterwards–it just doesn’t make sense to me! And if soccer practice is right around the dinner hour (which for our young ones it is), most kids have just eaten dinner and really don’t need a snack an hour later (especially if they’re young and not yet at a competitive age). A healthy snack before bed–that seems reasonable. My first vote? To relieve parents of snack duty and let individual families plan out bedtime snack as they see fit. After all–life is busy enough! 

On the other hand, soccer snacks are fun and kids look forward to them–I get it. So, why not use that opportunity to offer more nutrition and teach our kids how to properly fuel after sport? 

Snacks for sport should fuel up your kiddos, and not bog them down (or add unnecessary sugar or empty calories).

The purpose of the snack post-sport is to: 

• Provide energy to keep muscles working throughout the activity
• Keep the body hydrated and cool (especially during the summer months)
• Provide nutrients for growth and development
• Encourage recovery after the game

My favourite nutritious soccer/sport snacks: 
  • Nutritious and low-sugar granola bars (my fave are Made with Local’s Real Food Bars)
  • Cheese sticks + apple slices
  • Whole fruit (bananas, apples, clementines) or cut fruit (watermelon, orange slices) 
  • Greek yogurt cups and fruit
  • Homemade trail mix in individual baggies
  • Home-popped popcorn + milk or chocolate milk
  • Cheese + crackers + fruit
  • Unsweetened fruit and veggie pouches (my favourite are Slammers Snacks or Squoosh)
  • Homemade muffins or energy balls 

Last year, I sent these yummy egg mini-muffins with some cheese, grapes, and strawberries. Let kids pick and choose their own combination. Remember – it’s their responsibility to choose “how much” they consume.

For more healthy snack ideas check out this post where I highlight eight summertime snack ideas, and here are 15 bars and bites that kids love too!  

 

 

 

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Happy Dietitian’s Day! Yes – dietitian’s get a day to celebrate their profession! And no, we don’t all celebrate with carrots and cucumber. Today marks the tenth year of celebrating Dietitians in Canada. The dietitians at The Centre for Family Nutrition are not only regulated health care professionals, but advocates for healthy families and moms surviving (and sometimes thriving) while raising little humans! We are proud to share our knowledge, nutrition expertise and our stories about HOW and WHY we became dietitians.

Sarah Remmer

I became a dietitian because when I learned about the profession, something in me clicked. I HAD to be a dietitian. After high school, I really struggled to figure out what the best career path was for me… I knew that I wanted to “help people” because it was in my nature, but I didn’t really know in what way. After travelling for a year, I came back and knew I needed to hit the books, so I defaulted to nursing, because I just thought that made the most sense. After doing a year and a half of college and university, I realized that I wasn’t as passionate about the nursing career path I was on, and felt discouraged. Until I went to see a Dietitian for some gut-related issues I was having and had an ah-ha moment. THIS is what I need to be. It’s the perfect career for me.

I was passionate about health, nutrition and fitness, and I grew up with a foodie mom who made amazing meals for us growing up, and who taught me everything I know about how to create a delicious meal or irresistible muffin or cookie. When I sat with that Dietitian I thought to myself “you can do this as a career?! Teach people about how to eat and what to eat and counsel them on their meals and snacks and health habits?! Heck yes– I’M SOLD! Sign me up!!”

I started doing my research on programs and universities and applied to the Nutritional Sciences program at the University of Alberta, packed my bags and moved to Edmonton. And I never looked back. Although an arduous process involving a 4 year degree, 13 month internship (unpaid!) as well as a national exam, I loved it, and I never doubted that I had made the right decision. I knew all along that I wanted to be a Dietitian and couldn’t learn enough–I wanted to know everything!

I always knew I’d open a private practice, and pretty much did it out of the gates (along with a bit of clinical work to help me grow my business). Nutrio Consulting (Nutrio means “to nourish”) was what I called my private practice back in 2007, when I rented a little office in a family medical clinic, which helped plant my roots and grow my practice. Even though I was in a tiny office in the back of the clinic, with constant banging on the other side of the wall (there was constant construction going on), I felt so proud and empowered to be doing what I was doing–helping people improve their health, lifestyle and relationship with food. My practice has evolved over the past 11 or years, from a general practice, to Eating Disorders, to helping parents raise happy and healthy eaters. 

I became a dietitian to help and empower people to stay nourished and well, and to discover and nurture a healthy relationship with food. And now I’m teaching parents how to do this with their kids, right from day one. How cool is that?? 

Through my nutrition counselling practice and my writing and consulting work, I get to share my passion in a meaningful and impactful way every day. I even have my first book coming out in February 2020 which is a dream come true! I feel beyond grateful to have a career that I love so much. And there’s so much more to come! 

Lesley Langille

To be honest, I didn’t really know what a dietitian did until I started studying nutrition in University. Boy am I lucky! After graduating high school, all I knew was that I wanted to do something in the field of science. I was, and still am, a total nerd! I also knew that I wanted to work with people. Working behind a computer was never something that appealed to me! I wanted connection and meaning in whatever profession I ended up in. So, I went to Acadia University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. And man, it was hard. Chemistry majors were shocked that nutrition students had to know so much chemistry, and biology students were confused as to why a person who studies food was in their anatomy and physiology class. I loved it. A profession in science where I actually get to make meaningful impact on someone’s life? Total win.

The internship process wasn’t easy for me. I wasn’t successful in getting my internship of choice via the Dietitians of Canada post-degree internship program and was heartbroken. I knew I would make a great dietitian and just wanted everything to work out on the first try. How naïve you can feel in your early twenties! Reality set in that I wouldn’t be following my expected path, but luckily, I had also applied for the Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition (with integrated dietetic internship program) at Mount Saint Vincent University! I knew my education wasn’t over and was thrilled to be exploring the research world. I loved every minute of my courses and my internship placements brought me into the world of pediatric nutrition. My research into how families experience and manage the financial and nutritional impacts of celiac disease was immensely rewarding, but the process of conducting a qualitative study and defending a dissertation was the most difficult hurdle I encountered on my education path. Obstacles are a part of life – we all know this is true. But what I have learned on my journey to becoming a dietitian is that they can also be beneficial.

It was serendipity that Sarah and I connected when we did. In 2016 I had just started work after a yearlong maternity leave and things weren’t really working out. I needed more stability, but also craved a family focused work environment. It just so happened that Sarah was thinking about hiring and had heard about my situation from a mutual friend. We met and the rest is history. There are so many areas of dietetics and I am incredibly lucky to have found the area that I am passionate about. I get to work with a group of fantastic women, teaching parents how to nourish their families, all while helping to raise my own healthy and independent eaters!

Kathryn Taxbock

I didn’t always know I wanted to be a dietitian. In fact, I wasn’t really aware that the profession existed. My first line of studies after high school was biology. While I enjoyed my course work, I graduated without knowing what to do next.

After some reflection, I realized that I had always been interested in food, cooking and well being. It was my perceptive mom who suggested I try dietetics. I was accepted to the University of Alberta Nutrition program, completed my Bachelor of Science degree, did my comprehensive year-long internship, wrote the entry to practice exam and here I am now, an RD for the past 15 years already! I love nutrition. It’s fascinating how what we eat affects our bodies and our overall well being. And, it doesn’t mean only eating beans and broccoli – all foods fit!

Plus, I get to use what I know every day with my own family. I know first hand how tricky it can be to juggle family activities and meals. I know how it feels to prepare a meal that not everyone loves. I also know that patience, consistency and a positive meal environment go a long way. After years of picky eating, my 10 year old asked for broccoli in his mac and cheese – my perseverance is paying off! I find it so gratifying helping parents through their child’s picky eating phase, or a soon-to-be mom figure out what to eat when she feels nauseous all the time, or first-time parents introduce solids to their little one. Being a Registered Dietitian is the best. Good thing I listened to my mom!  

Amanda Hamel

Have you ever had that ‘fish-out-of-water’ feeling? Imagine the feeling of being in a room full of people, and all the lights are off except for one hot, glaring spotlight that’s pointed straight down on you. That was me in my first semester of Pharmacy. I remember so clearly being in a packed classroom, with many of whom were close friends, yet I felt like I simply did not belong. It was a crushing, almost out-of-body experience, and I knew in that moment that something wasn’t right. I couldn’t tell you why or what, but my gut (always trust your gut!) was telling me that I needed to be somewhere else. That ‘somewhere else’ was in the field of nutrition and dietetics! I always had a keen interest in health, wellness and disease-prevention, so I took a risk, made the switch, and have never looked back. Side note: I recently cleaned out my old notes from high school and found a career report I did in Grade 10 on none other than ‘The Dietitian’! It was a sign.

I have been a dietitian for almost 6 years now. I graduated in 2012 from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutritional Sciences. I then completed my dietetic internship in 2013 through the Manitoba Partnership Program and successfully became a full­fledged Registered Dietitian shortly after that. Another leap-of-faith I took was moving far north, away from my friends and family straight out of internship, for a full-time, permanent position. I lived and worked for over two years in northern Manitoba in Long Term Care (LTC) clinical nutrition and menu planning for the regional food service system. I learned a lot and quickly embraced the small community feel. To rejoin my family, I moved back to Winnipeg to continue working in a number of term positions in LTC. I also expanded my experience in a number of other roles as a clinical dialysis dietitian, grocery store tour coordinator and a few other contract positions.

Fast-forward to today, and I currently work full-time as a Nutrition Educator for Nüton, which is part of the team of registered dietitians with the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba. My primary role is to promote eating well in Manitoba through leadership in nutrition education. I develop curriculum-based nutrition education programs and materials for teachers and early childhood educators throughout the province. My goal is to inspire teachers and educators to help make a difference in the lives of children and adolescents. Like many dietitians I know, I wear many ‘hats’. My involvement with Dietitians of Canada’s committees has been long­standing and started early in my career as a nutrition student. In 2011, I first became involved as a DC Student Rep for Manitoba. I also have extensive experience and insight into the ‘behind­-the­-scenes’ workings of the Consulting Dietitians and Media Networks as website coordinator. I love helping others with and learning more about the inner-workings of their business, which is why I am so thrilled to be a part of the team with The Centre for Family Nutrition! I love that all of my current roles cover different aspects of the nutrition continuum, enabling me to maintain and learn new skills! I believe there is so much to be learned from others. It’s one of the many reasons why I love being a dietitian!

What does it really mean to be a Dietitian?

Did you know that in Alberta you have to be a Registered Dietitian to call yourself a Nutritionist? Only Registered Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists are held accountable to the College of Dietitians of Alberta and the public for their quality of service.  Regulated members of the College must meet rigorous academic and experience prerequisites and adhere to regulated standards of practice, a code of ethics and continuing education and competency requirements.  Choosing a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist will ensure that you are receiving the highest quality advice from a regulated health care professional. 

If you’d like to meet with a Registered Dietitian for prenatal or postnatal nutrition, or to chat about family nutrition, or are looking to know more about becoming a dietitian please contact us at The Centre for Family Nutrition!

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