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.
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!
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!
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!
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!