Nutrition Month 2018 focuses on unlocking the potential of food to fuel, discover, prevent, heal and bring us together. This year, we spoke with one of our Registered Dietitians Jennifer Emberley to learn more about food, nutrition, and what it’s like being a dietitian.
*To learn more about Nutrition Month, visit the Dietitians of Canada website.
Q: How long have you been a Dietitian and how did you get into the industry?
A: I’ve been a Registered Dietitian for 15 years, since 2003. I actually started off in the science world, thinking I’d be a pharmacist, but then I decided that industry wasn’t for me. I started to see what food can do for a person and how important it is in our lives. I became really passionate about it, and it was obvious to me that I wanted to become a dietitian.
Q: Often people associate Dietitians with creating “diets” for people, but Dietitians do so much more than that; what other services would someone see a Dietitian for?
A: Really the scope of practice is so diverse; a dietitian will look at each person and see what their particular needs are. It could be focused on improving their general well being or their relationship with food. Also preventing illness if there’s a family history of certain diseases, and talking about how food can help with that. We know that 30% of cancers can be prevented by diet, and just looking at the long-term health goals of each person is how I conduct my assessments. Hardly do we ever use the word “diet” because it’s not the best way to look at food. We should embrace food and let it be part of our culture because it’s so important.
Q: What do you think about all of the different diets you see in the media – Paleo, Raw, Gluten Free – are these just fads, are they rules to live by, should they only be adopted by people with medical issues, etc.?
A: People need to be cautious because these diets are full of tag words that get attention, and oftentimes it’s because of advertising. I do appreciate some of them for making people more aware of what they’re putting into their body. If someone has read into a certain diet I do appreciate that they’ve taken into consideration that their body is something that they need to take care of. But knowing that these diets often restrict certain foods and nutrients, people often become nutritionally deficient. And it’s really scary because your nutritional status and immune system can really get out of whack. But there’s a place for these diets, especially if you have an extreme allergy then you really need to take it seriously. But I am a little upset that these diets keep getting thrown into the media and people are so quick to jump on the bandwagon.
Q: What do you think about the new changes to Canada’s Food Labelling guidelines?
A: Health Canada has embraced Dietitians of Canada and we’ve been consulted in regards to these changes. I’m excited about them because I’ve been waiting a long time for the labelling to be easier to understand and so people can sort through what the numbers mean. I still think there’s a big issue with trying to interpret the label and every time I meet someone who is label reading, there’s always something that doesn’t make sense. So the teaching is still going to be really important, but it’s going to be a lot clearer and I’m happy that Health Canada has taken the project on. We also need to think about how many manufactures need to get their products reanalyzed and how that can take a long time. But the most exciting part about the changes, to me, is the labelling of added sugars – I was really hoping this would be included!
*To learn more about the changes to Canada’s Food Labelling guidelines, visit the Government of Canada’s website.
Q: What’s the biggest misconception about Dietitians?
A: I think that people tend to get confused because they think dietitians only follow the Canada’s Food Guide, but that’s not really the case. I don’t tell everybody this but I probably haven’t pulled out the guide in a few years! It’s definitely a good teaching tool for people to get an idea of our food supply, for teachers to use with young children, for immigrants who are new to Canada, as well as for those who may need pictures as a teaching tool. But in reality dietitians excel at providing individualized counselling and our teaching tools vary from case to case. Client-centered goals are always our main focus and that’s what you can really benefit from by seeing a dietitian.
Dietitians can be found in a variety of work settings – private practice, public health, in community health centres, home care, hospitals, rehab facilities, cooking studios, long-term care homes, education centres… the list goes on. I also feel that people associate dietitians with illness and working with people that are ill, but we’ve tried to change the focus to prevention and we really want to spend just as much time with people that are healthy.
Q: What’s your favourite myth about food that you love debunking?
A: The gluten free one just makes me burn! That gluten itself is bad for you, that’s a great one because it’s such a hot topic. The first thing to say about the gluten myth is that gluten is not bad for everybody, and that it is a protein that often comes with nutrition, so we need to individualize everybody’s needs for gluten.
Q: Now let’s get to the serious questions. Which do you prefer?
Smooth or crunchy peanut butter?
Nutritionally there’s no difference so I can’t pick one! But personal preference, I would definitely go with smooth. I just like the texture better.
Red or white wine?
Red. Mediterranean’s the way to go, right?
Fruits or vegetables?
Vegetables. If I stop eating vegetables I don’t feel well now that I know how it feels to eat vegetables and get enough fiber and not be hungry all the time. So yeah they’re more satiating, but people don’t know that until they eat lots of them.
Crust or no crust on sandwiches?
Crust. I’m not exactly sure why, I guess I just don’t like to waste food.
Chicken wing vs. drum?
Definitely I’ll take the drum, it’s less slimy, and there’s more meat on it.
Q: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
A: Hmm… one food forever… I’m going back between my nutrition hat and my personal preference. It would have to have a little bit of everything in it, right? I guess I’ll go with dark chocolate, because I’m passionate about that. I’m a 90% type of girl. But I really like mushrooms and spinach too.
Thank you Jennifer for participating in Nutrition Month to help raise awareness about the importance of food, and thank you for being part of the CTG team!