Healthy Living in the North

In focus: Amelia Gallant, Primary Care Dietitian, Fort St. John

Amelia Gallant sitting at a table with a balanced meal and Canada's Food Guide.

From Newfoundland to British Columbia – nutrition has literally brought Amelia Gallant far and wide in her work as a dietitian. Making what she calls a “risky move,” she left the East Coast to pursue nutrition work in B.C. a year and a half ago. She now works, lives, and plays in Fort St. John. Get a sneak peek of what it’s like to work as a primary care dietitian in a health care team setting and learn why she loves the nutrition work she does.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian

I’ve been a dietitian for about five years now. I started in Newfoundland working in food services in a hospital kitchen setting. Later, I moved to the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s to work for a for-profit food services company. It definitely had a different scope than my previous work. I ran a few different programs in the dining hall and across campus but my role was largely around food service management. I decided I wanted to move out of that role and into more of a health services role – that’s how I ended up in Fort St. John! Now I work as a primary care dietitian at Northern Health. I’m part of a health care team which means I work closely with nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, mental health and substance use professionals, as well as doctors and nurse practitioners, to support patients.

What dietitians do: Amelia’s take

I think a dietitian loves food and loves science, and uses both to help people create and achieve health goals. In primary care for example, a dietitian can help people to understand what to eat to manage their chronic disease. Dietitians understand that food is more than nutrients and that the how to eat part is just as important. Dietitians use strategies that can help a patient understand their food environment and how they react to it, or to understand their own attitudes towards food and eating.

A day in the life of a dietitian

No day is the same, really! Some days I work with patients in back-to-back appointments. Some days I’m out in the community visiting patients in their homes. I work with other health care professionals to help them understand what dietitians do and how we can help patients together. I also try and further my own knowledge on new nutrition topics – I may call my other dietitian colleagues at Northern Health with questions or to get their opinion on a topic. I’ve got a great network of support!

What’s one thing someone might not know about your role?

Sometimes people can have expectations about seeing a dietitian that aren’t necessarily true. When you come to see me I won’t ask you to step on a scale or give you a diet plan to follow. Dietitians are invested in the ways we can help a patient improve their health and we try to do that in the most sustainable way. What I will do, is help you identify small changes that you’re ready to make, and offer support along the way to help you meet your long-term nutrition goals. Dietitians ultimately want patients to succeed – whatever that might mean for them.

What part of your role do you find the most rewarding?

Working with people is very rewarding. When I work with someone and they feel supported in their health journey – that’s very rewarding. Sometimes patients feel shameful when it comes to their health or nutrition – I love when someone has a moment of “this isn’t what I expected” and realizes that I’m on their side. It makes them feel more confident in their ability to reach their goals – it’s great to be a part of that!

How to see a registered dietitian

Do you think you or your patients could benefit from talking to a dietitian?

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.

Nutrition Month Eating Together contest

During Nutrition Month throughout March, we want to see how you “eat together!” Organize a date to eat together, show us, and be entered to win an Instant Pot! This could mean grabbing a coffee and scone with a colleague, organizing a lunch date with a friend, having a potluck with family – whatever this means to you! Set a date, eat together, and show us to win! See our Eating Together contest page for complete details.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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The 1970s world of Dietetics: reflections of then and now

They say a picture says a thousand words but they can also offer a peek into another world. In this case: the 1970s world of Dietetics.

When I first saw the picture, a handful of questions came to mind. What were the uniforms for? Why did the women in the photo look so triumphant? I spoke with the owner of the photo, Linda McMynn, a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health, to find out.

Dietetic graduating class photo.

The 1970 Vancouver General Hospital Graduating class of Dietetic Interns. Linda McMynn stands in the back row, second from the right.

Tell me a little bit about this photo.

This is the 1970 Vancouver General Hospital graduating class of Dietetic Interns. Our undergrad caps had a pink stripe (all white when we graduated) and were folded a specific way that was supposed to identify us as dietitians and not nurses.

We were the first class allowed to wear poly/cotton uniforms but they HAD to be at least 3/4 length “to indicate dietitians are not cooks or dishwashers.” The instructors (in the middle) wore the standard cotton starched uniforms at all times.

We, as a class, were tired of being mistaken for nurses so we rebelled and submitted a written request at a meeting to wear lab coats over street clothes (unheard of and the instructors were shocked, I think, and didn’t know what to do with us). Anyhow, within the next few years, the interns were allowed to wear the lab coats or the uniforms and the caps were gone.

What was required to be a dietitian back then?

You had to have your Bachelor of Science in Nutrition (you still need this today). There were two streams back then: the dietetic program and the teaching program. Quite a few of the interns went on to become Home Economic teachers. You had to do three years of chemistry and an internship. Dietetic internships are still done today. Back then, they used to be done through the hospitals. I was always planning on becoming a nurse. After the first year I decided to transfer into the Dietetic program.

What was interning like?

We got paid a small amount for doing the internship but most of our time was spent doing full shifts in the various areas working under the direction of a Registered Dietitian (RD), except every other weekend when we had to work on our own, taking responsibility for the unit.

Wednesdays were classroom days when we had lectures, homework to do, and regular exams. We graduated pretty knowledgeable about therapeutic diets, including diets for most of the metabolic diseases that were known at the time.

Tell me about your career as a dietitian

My first job was at St. Paul’s Hospital. Eventually I moved up to Terrace where I was the first dietitian. My closest dietitian colleague was in Prince George. In those days, we couldn’t use long distance phone calls. It was isolating at times but the benefit of being in a small community, and having to do everything, is that you become a generalist. I learned a lot and discovered I liked administrative and operational work. Being in Terrace worked out well for me. In 2014, I officially retired. Now I report on and work on various projects. In 2015 and 2016, I went to Fort St. John to spend time there to help. There were a lot of interesting projects and I worked on from home.

Lady sitting in chair.

In 2014, Linda (pictured here) officially “retired”. She now reports on and works on various projects.

How has the profession changed?

Back then there was a hierarchy, whereas now, it’s interdisciplinary and you work as part of a team. It was a very different world, very rigid. We would take orders from nurses or doctors and didn’t really ever get to prescribe a diet. Now doctors and nurses will leave it up to dietitians to prescribe diets which is pretty exciting. It’s taken a lot of years to get here. Working together now, we’ve made huge strides.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends.
(NH Blog Admin)

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2nd annual Dietitians Day pro tips!

Group photo

Northern Health dietitians from Haida Gwaii to Fort St. John gather together!

With Nutrition Month in full swing, it’s time to celebrate the people who bring credible, evidence-based nutrition information to the public: today is Dietitians Day!

Registered dietitians (RDs) are university-trained food and nutrition experts who work in a variety of settings like health care, the community, with business, and in private practice. We translate scientific research into practical solutions for individuals, families, and communities. We love to share our tips on healthy eating while celebrating the social and cultural roles that food plays in our lives!

Did you know that registered dietitians are the only regulated nutrition professionals in British Columbia? This means we are accountable to our regulatory college (College of Dietitians of BC), where we are required to follow professional codes of conduct and ensure our training is kept up to date. The regulatory college is there to protect the public and is your point of contact if you have questions or concerns around an RD’s conduct.

In what is quickly becoming a yearly tradition for Dietitians Day at Northern Health, I’ve once again reached out to my fellow Northern Health dietitians (and a few of our dietetic interns) to share their “Pro Tips” for Nutrition Month. Check them out below and if you are hungry for more, be sure to follow Northern Health on Twitter for nutrition information all month long. Happy Dietitians Day!

What’s your Dietitians Day pro tip?

  • Emilia (Terrace): Enjoy family meals often. People who eat together, eat better!
  • Kelly (dietetic intern, Prince George): Try roasting your veggies. It’s an easy way to bring out their natural sweetness!
  • Lise (Terrace): Jazz up your water! Try cucumber, berries, or mint. Kids can help too!
  • Emilia (Terrace): Make your own take-out. Try pizza or taco night & let everyone pick their own veggie toppings!
  • Marianne (Prince George): Be passionate about food. Grow, cook, or taste something new!
  • Flo (Terrace): Diets don’t work. Eat & enjoy a variety of foods for health & pleasure.
  • Laurel (dietetic intern, Terrace): All foods fit! Eat for your physical, mental, and spiritual health.
  • Tamara (Prince George): Get the kids involved. Let them choose a new recipe & make it together.
  • Olivia (Prince George): Bored with plain water? Try flavoured herbal teas – they are good hot or cold!
  • Flo (Terrace): Behaviour determines health, not weight. Eat intuitively, move joyfully & love your body today.
  • Darcie (Prince George): Dietitians are passionate about food & nutrition! We help translate nutrition science for everyday life.
  • Marianne (Prince George): Enjoy regular meals & snacks. Feed yourself – provide, don’t deprive!

Looking for more information on registered dietitians? Check out Dietitians of Canada.

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Eating foods you love!

Caesar salad in a bowl.

For registered dietitian Beth, the “good vs. bad” food debate is getting old! “A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you.” Love kale? Try it as part of your next Caesar salad.

As a registered dietitian, I talk about food a lot, whether it’s with my clients, friends, family, or even on occasion with random strangers. Time after time, the “good food vs. bad food” theme (“healthy vs. unhealthy”) arises. Usually people start the conversation with statements like this:

  • “I only eat gluten-free bread, that’s healthy right?” (Gee, I missed the memo on that one)
  • “I eat a banana with my yogurt at breakfast – that’s bad, right, because bananas have a lot of sugar?” (They do?)
  • “Sometimes we eat chips but I know that’s bad.” (Not if you enjoyed them!)
  • “I force myself to eat kale because I heard that it’s healthy, but I don’t like the taste of it.” (That does not sound like fun.)
  • “I don’t eat anything white.” (Oh, so no cauliflower or halibut for you?)

People, people! A healthy diet is a diet that allows you to eat foods you love in amounts that are satisfying for you!

Yes, kale is a healthy food, but what’s so special about it? Nothing, really. It’s just like any of the other leafy greens and, when eaten regularly and with a variety of other foods, it will give you some vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that your body needs to keep well. And if you like the taste of kale and love eating it, all the better! I happen to enjoy eating kale, but if I didn’t, I can tell you how unhappy I would be if I had to eat it only because it’s “good for me.”

Eating is a lot easier than that! I choose when, what, and how much I eat based on what my body is telling me that I need for that particular time. I choose foods based on flavour, a variety of textures and tastes, and how hungry I feel. This means I include a wide range of foods that will meet my nutrition needs and satisfy my cravings. I do not choose what to eat based on the latest health trends or food fads and I certainly do not buy in to the good versus bad debate.

Speaking of kale, are any of you wondering what to do with all that kale you are getting out of your garden right now? Or, if you do not have a garden, then the kale your neighbours keep giving you?

Here is a list of ideas:

  • Steam it and serve it with a little olive oil and lemon juice sprinkled on top.
  • Substitute it in your favorite quiche or frittata recipe.
  • Make the all famous kale chips (a hit at my house).
  • Chop it up and add to your favourite summer pasta recipe.
  • Cook it up and freeze it for later to throw in a smoothie with frozen berries for a cool summer treat.
  • Mix it up with beans, some cooked quinoa, and roasted vegetables.
  • Add it to soups and stews.

Here’s a recipe that I adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon that adds an interesting twist to Caesar salad. It’s also a great way to use up some of that kale this time of year!

Caesar Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Salad

  • One large bunch of kale, torn in to bite-sized pieces
  • One head of romaine, torn in to bite-sized pieces
  • Croutons (optional)

Instructions

  1. Soak the almonds in water for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.
  2. Cut off the top of the garlic head to expose the raw cloves. Cover in foil and bake in the oven at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and golden. Let cool.
  3. Squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins and into a food processor.
  4. Add the soaked almonds, oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and ¼ cup of water. Process until smooth.
  5. Place lettuce and kale in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. If you like a bit of a crunch, add some croutons.

Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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