Why You Need to See a Registered Dietitian Sooner Than Later
By: Noura Sheikhalzoor, Registered Dietitian at the Rose Health Clinic
If I were in a room full of people and asked, “Raise of hands, who here eats food?” I bet that there would be a sea of hands in the room.
As humans, we were born knowing that we need to eat to survive. When we were little babies, we reached for our mother’s breasts and suckle to receive nourishment. When that stage passed, we grew and went through a lot of changes in the following years — and in every stage, food was a big part of our development. We learn about it in so many different ways. We develop special preferences for certain tastes, food items, dishes and combinations based on what we eat at home, at school and within the communities we live in and interact with.
Our larger food environment and food system can be sometimes difficult to navigate. There are social dynamics that impact our lives and choices. Even when it comes to information on food and nutrition, there is all kinds of information that is conflicting, confusing, unrealistic, impractical or simply does not apply to YOU and your unique life. Many people approach me saying with confusion and frustration: “Noura, I don’t know what to eat!” Can you relate to that?
We eat for so many different reasons — health is just one of them.
Food is fascinating. It has a variety of nutrients that our bodies need in certain amounts, not in excess and not in scarcity. Some of these nutrients, if not taken enough, symptoms of deficiency may appear. And if taken in excess, they create symptoms of toxicity. Some conditions make you need more of a certain nutrient. Some nutrients interact with each other. Also, some medications interact with some nutrients.
As a dietitian, I have studied food, nutrients, metabolism and a lot of health conditions in a science-based approach. However, from working with folks from diverse backgrounds and cultures, health conditions, living situations and food preferences, I realized that it is not all about science. It is about combining science and art to reach the goal of maximum joy that comes from food and the eating experience, while managing your condition(s) and/or preventing some.
As a dietitian, I went through extensive education and training. We engage in continuous education and keep up to date on new research and food trends. Over the last decade, I had great opportunities working in different settings such as research, academia, food system, public health, community and clinical. I discovered that I have a special interest in hormone-related conditions, a.k.a. endocrinology nutrition. I had the privilege and honour to work with folks living with diabetes and its related conditions, hypothyroidism and poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). I enjoyed seeing the interactions and connections between nutrients, hormones and the body systems. I then received my Certified Diabetes Educator recognition, which made me better equipped to help you self-manage diabetes and understand it better.
Food is my favourite thing to talk about. I love telling you how to maximize iron absorption from lentils (psst… just add a squeeze of a lemon). I also like talking about how to make your dish tastier with spices and herbs (many of those have anti-inflammatory properties, by the way). I give you ways to get enough protein the easiest way possible (I love hard boiled eggs for the week ahead). I am also all about efficiency and simplicity when it comes to food prep, cooking and food storage. I don’t know about you, but almost all of my clients don’t want to spend hours cooking.
Food has the power to change your life. It makes you either happy or miserable. It makes you energized, active and much more able to manage your health conditions. My role is to make this happen for you. I emphasize engaging all your five senses and having an “eating experience” instead of just stuffing your body with food you don’t like. And did you know there are many studies that found that if food is enjoyed, more nutrients are absorbed! Wow, right?
I know that you are the expert of your body and your life. I facilitate my food and nutrition knowledge to make it applicable to you and unique preferences and situations.
The Nutrition Care Process
As a registered dietitian, I follow what is known as the Nutrition Care Process (NCP). It consists of four components: nutrition assessment, nutrition diagnosis, nutrition plan and intervention, and nutrition monitoring and evaluation. It comes as a full circle to support your health journey. Allow me to walk you through how a nutrition session with me looks like.
What Does a Session with a Dietitian Look Like?
Before the session, you will be sent a form asking you specific questions, so I can learn about you and your medical history, recent lab results, your food choices, eating habits, physical activity, digestion and more. I then review your information and prepare for the session.
At the session, we discuss your goals, priorities, previous experiences of what worked and what did not. I also love explaining to you what and why things are happening this way in your body. I then have the nutrition assessment to help formulate a plan of simple daily steps towards achieving your goals. The plan includes, but not limited to: food ideas, food and thoughts reflections, alternatives and swaps if needed, recipes, meal plans, checklists or trackers based on what is helpful to you to achieve your goal.
Working With a Team
Dietitians are part of the healthcare team. We collaborate to offer you the best care and support possible. We integrate our knowledge and skills to support you along in your health journey. And that is why I joined the team at Rose Health Clinic. It is very exciting and rewarding to see you thrive and heal.