What I do and why I love it.

It’s the most important week of the year – Dietitians Week ;) Just kidding, holidays that involve chocolate are more important, obviously.

I’ve only been practicing as a dietitian for 2 and a half years now but I can honestly say that I’ve never had a conversation that went like this:
Them: “What do you do?”
Me: “I’m a dietitian”
Them: “Oh okay. Anyway…”
People are always interested in what a dietitian does and what they have to say. The most typical responses I get are:
“I need to come see you, I need to lose weight”
“So what do you think of Tim Noakes?”
“Please don’t watch what I eat”
(I’m sure my fellow RD’s can relate)

Currently, I work in paediatrics. When I mention this people usually ask:
“So you help kids lose weight?” No…

Dietitian does not = weight loss

While there are many dietitians who are passionate about helping people lose weight and get healthy (and doing an excellent job of it), unfortunately I am not one of them. Believe it or not, most of my time is spent helping people (kids) gain weight.

A typical day is spent in hospital calculating requirements and prescribing feeds for premature babies who are sometimes 800g or even smaller, or children who are malnourished or who have any other nutrition-related condition. I love it when these little humans are big and well enough to go home, to me it’s the most rewarding job in the world.

That’s probably the broadest and most general description I could give but the point is, there’s more to being a dietitian than what you thought (I’m generalizing here, excuse me :)) To be honest, when I decided to become a dietitian it was so that I could sit behind a desk and tell people what to eat, I thoughts that’s what dietitians do. As a student I fell in love with the clinical and community side of dietetics.

A well-known professor recently said that Dietetics is a dying profession. I may be a bit biased but I’d have to disagree. I think we’re just getting started. People are starting to realize that nutrition literally affects everyone and food is medicine.

I could carry on for days, people who know me have probably experienced this. I am truly passionate about what I do, and can’t imagine spending my days doing anything else!

To all the dietitians – happy Dietitians Week :)

Health and happiness :)
Robyn

Do you even know what Carbs are?

It seems that recently people have found a great pleasure in telling me that they don’t eat carbs anymore. Some people (whose names I need not mention, they know exactly who they are) mostly do it to get a reaction out of me, I think…I hope. It really does wind me up.

Why?

Because I hear it so often.

“Carbohydrates are manufactured by plants and are a major source of energy in the diet” from my textbook Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy (I know, I get 0 for that pathetic attempt at referencing) Anyway…there are different types of carbohydrates; monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. What this means is that some carbs are simple and more refined while others are complex and well, less refined.

What most people forget is that sugar is a source of carbohydrates, along with everything that contains sugar like sweets and sweetened drinks.

Let’s clear up a major misperception – the word ‘carbs’ does NOT mean bread. Just because you eat less bread does not mean you don’t eat carbs. A lot of the food you ate today had carbohydrates in it. Fruit contains carbs, vegetables, juice, Coke, milk, beer, sauces…I could go on.

And for those who don’t eat carbs but only eat starch…it’s the same thing. Starch isa carbohydrate.

Oh Tim Noakes….I have nothing against him. He is highly qualified, a great sports scientist and a few other things and I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about. My problem is that people have bought into the latest craze and have chosen convenient parts of his diet to follow. Please don’t sit on your couch all day eating sausage and butter telling me “Tim Noakes said I must eat fat and butter and full cream milk”.

Because of people like Tim Noakes, dietitians have been under attack and criticized for not willing to change our views and sticking to what we’ve been taught. For the most part, this is untrue. We are scientists. There’s always new research and we have to keep up with it.

Personally, I don’t believe it’s necessary to cut out any food group to be healthy, but I am open to the latest findings. I don’t believe in diets but I can’t stop you from dieting. All I would like to do is help you get the basics right. Know what you’re talking about and most importantly know what you’re eating.

Dietitians love this cheesy line “If it’s about nutrition, ask a dietitian” but I agree 100%. This is our science.

PS: I know many great dietitians in private practice obtaining amazing results with their clients and would be happy to pass their names to you if you’re interested ;)

Health and happiness :)
Robyn

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Keeping Cool This Summer :)

Summer is (slowly) approaching and if you’re anything like me, it involves a lot more soda, juice, cocktails and ice cream than it should!

Below are a few facts and tips to help keep you cool without adding too many calories :) You’re welcome ;)

Ice Cream

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It isn’t really summer without ice cream hey? No. But I don’t think I need to tell you that we probably need to go a bit slower on ice cream.
Good news – there are healthier alternative which are equally as yummy!
1. Frozen yoghurt
Personally, I’m a huge fan.
I do however feel that sometimes it’s marketed as like this miracle zero fat zero calorie really tasty stuff, which is only partly true. A small part. The tasty part.
Based on Wakaberry’s nutritional info:
100g FroYo
419 kJ
3.99g fat
12.2g carbohydrates

Compared to a soft serve from Steers:
100g ice cream
624kJ
5.3g fat
23g carbohydrates

So you see how frozen yoghurt is a little better :)
PS: Beware of the toppings! They don’t even pretend to be fat free!

Another favourite – Fruttare. Love these things! If you don’t know what they are all I can say is that you’re missing out!
They are less than 270kJ a pop, made with fruit and simply yum :)

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Opt for fruit ice lollies instead of the ice cream chocolatey ones like Magnum/King Cone etc.

Juice

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I have mentioned this in a previous post (go read it!) but don’t be fooled by fruit juice. It usually contains more sugar than your fizzy drinks so it isn’t necessarily the better option.
It’s always a good habit to dilute your fruit juice with water. Everyone who knows me knows that I always do this.

You can also try making some drinks at home like flavoring water with fruit slices or homemade ice tea. Those are good alternatives to sodas and juices.

Use Sprite Zero in place of lemonade when making punch. This helps to cut down the sugar!

Drink lots of water
I’m sure you already know this, but maybe you just needed a reminder :)

Like I always say, there’s more to life than counting calories, but let’s not be too silly this season ;)

Health and happiness always :)
Robyn

World Breastfeeding Week – What the celebs have to say

It’s one of the biggest weeks in a dietitian’s calender, especially a community dietitian like myself, World Breastfeeding Week! :)

My excitement will come as no surprise to most of you, you know how passionate I am about this.

My mind is buzzing with ideas! I want to tell you all the scientific facts, the benefits for the mother, the baby, the environment, the… Yeah, I need to calm down. So to keep it nice and chilled (for now) I recruited (not really) some well known women to share on their breastfeeding experiences :)

Jenna Elfman:
I’m on a mission with every pregnant woman I see! I’ll ask, “So are you planning to breastfeed? Have you prepared?” If anyone had told me what to expect, or had given me some pointers, I would have been able to have a very different experience.

Jada Pinkett Smith when asked for how long she breastfed Jaden:
A good 18 months. That baby never even saw a bottle. He went everywhere with me – premieres, award shows.

Catherine Zeta Jones:
There’s something so intimate about it. It’s wonderful bonding.

Jennifer Garner:
All I ever heard was everyone bitch about it, nobody ever said, “You are not going to believe how emotional this is.”

Shakira:
Breastfeeding has been one of the best experiences of my life. I love it! I can’t stop! I think I’m going to breastfeed him until he goes to college! I’m hooked!

David Beckham:
Breastfeeding, I think, is really an incredible thing.

I know it may seem a bit shallow, and definitely unscientific, just a couple of quotes from celebs. But I love it. I love hearing success stories, good experiences and just anyone who is as passionate as I am (if that’s possible).

Let me end off with something less shallow. Of all the breastfeeding quotes I’ve read, this is my favourite. It may not be from someone famous, but this is the quote that fueled my passion.
“Breastfeeding is a natural “safety net” against the worst effects of poverty. If the child survives the first month of life (the most dangerous period of childhood) then for the next four months or so, exclusive breastfeeding goes a long way toward canceling out the health difference between being born into poverty and being born into affluence…it’s almost as if breastfeeding takes the infant out of poverty for those first few months in order to give the child a fairer start in life and compensate for the injustice of the world into which it was born.” – James P Grant, former Executive Director, UNICEF.

Have you ever read something and wished you wrote it?

For the first 6 months of life we can level the playing field. Whether you’re Catherine Zeta Jones or a nobody like me. It’s a crazy concept!

Lastly, breastfeeding is a choice :) many moms are unable to breastfeed or choose not to. I’m only here, as always, to help people make informed choices!

Happy Breastfeeding Week :)
Robyn

HOW you cook is as important as WHAT you’re cooking

Yes, it’s true. They’re equally important.

I’ll keep this short and to the point. Just another food truth to help you :)

Let’s take a very versatile food as an example…how about potatoes?
Everyone loves potatoes, the options are endless! (Slight exaggeration)

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But not all potatoes are equal…

You can compare 100g of potatoes cooked in various ways and see that the calorie/kilojoule content differs A LOT!

Mashed potato, made with low fat milk and margarine


    403kJ

      Roasted in oil


    628kJ

      Boiled with skin
        365kJ

          Baked in jacket

        456kJ

          Chips heated in the oven

        930kJ

          Chips, deep fried

        1292kJ

        And we all know the list continues.

        Point is, depending on what you do with your potatoes, you could quadruple the kilojoule content. And this applies to everything you cook. So cooking methods are very important!

        These truths would mean nothing without some advice, so here I go…

        The methods which involve the least oil are usually the best. Like baking, boiling, steaming, etc. Cooking with water may mean that sometimes you’ll lose some of the nutrients, for example boiling vegetables, but on the plus side, you’re not adding any calories either.

        Limit frying, and try to avoid deep-fat frying altogether. Foods that already contain fat, like meat, should rather be grilled instead of fried. And allow the fat and oil to drip off! You and your heart are way better off without it!

        Stir-frying is a good option :) especially with a non-stick pan! (less or no oil). Microwaving can also serve as a low-fat or no-fat cooking method, but it’s not that popular. If you have a pressure cooker, use it! Cooks food quickly so less nutrients are lost AND most of the flavour stays in the food, so you won’t need to add any oil for richness etc.

        As always, I hope that helps. Maybe it just serves as a reminder to be mindful of your cooking methods, and maybe try something new, something healthier :) as you can see, it makes a huge difference!

        Questions are always welcome ;)

        Health and happiness :)
        Robyn

Do it right the first time and you won’t have to do it again

Because of the journey I’m on personally and because of what I see at work on a daily basis, I thought it was necessary to once gain express my….what can I call it….annoyance (?) towards weight-loss quick-fixes.

I (try to) go to the gym most days, some days I go to the gym in the morning and jog in the evening or vice versa. I eat healthily most of the time. And I am getting healthier, fitter and slimmer. It feels like it’s going a bit slower than I would like it to, but the point is, it’s going. I’m sure a few of you can relate?

Then…a friend/family member, or in my case, a colleague comes and tells you about how they’ve lost 12kg in the last 2 months. Urgh. And that conversation is enough to make you feel like WHY are you putting in so much effort for a much smaller reward. Well that’s how I felt at least. Until I realized, wait… I don’t want to inject myself every day to help me lose weight (which is what my colleague is doing). Yeah she lost a lot of weight, but her husband has to inject her every day, and she’s on a very strict diet. A quick-fix.

Another colleague of mine has had her jaw wired shut in a desperate attempt to lose weight. True story. This is the second time she’s doing it as she has regained all the weight since the last time her jaw was wired shut. It’s 36+ degrees here most days, and she has to have soup for lunch. Another quick-fix.

Seeing what people go through to lose weight has made me realise that I’d much rather do it the right way, which is and always will be what I encourage my patients to do as well. Do yourself a favour, start working towards a healthy lifestyle. Form good, healthy habits.

What both my colleagues are lacking is physical activity! Get active, make it part of your daily routine.

If you’ve inherited poor eating habits from your family, change them! And then get your kids to inherit healthy eating habits from you.

Don’t put a time frame on being healthy, get healthy and then stay healthy.

I read a tweet the other day that said something along the lines of “You didn’t need a pill to put all the weight on, so you don’t need a pill to get all the weight off”. It’s soooo true.

If you’re making a lifestyle change, be encouraged, be proud of what you’re doing :)
You’ll feel so much better knowing you didn’t take any pills or injections or wires in your jaw to achieve your goal weight! And yes, it may take a little longer, but it will last so much longer. If you change your lifestyle, there’s no stopping and starting again. If you do it right the first time, you won’t have to do it again :)

I’m feeling encouraged again, hope you are too:)

As always, wishing you health and happiness :)
Robyn

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World Diabetes Day

Today is World Diabetes Day :)

According to the WHO, it is estimated that 346 million people worldwide have Diabetes, and by 2030, without intervention, this number will more than double!

What is Diabetes?
There are different types, the most common one’s being Type 1 and Type 2.

    Type 1:

Insulin-dependent Diabetes/ Childhood onset Diabetes. Characterized by a lack of insulin production.

    Type 2:

Insulin-independent Diabetes/ Adult onset Diabetes. Caused by the inability of the body to use insulin effectively. Mostly caused by excess body weight and physical inactivity!

Type 2 Diabetes is a disease of lifestyle. Poor eating habits and a lack of physical activity over a number if years will catch up with you, and it may be in the form of Diabetes. If you’re thinking Type 2 Diabetes is only for “old people” and you don’t have to worry about it right now, I’d advise you to stop thinking that….A 22 year old girl was referred to me last week with Type 2 Diabetes! I was so freaked out I had my own sugar tested as soon as she left.

I think it’s a good idea for everyone to get their blood sugar tested but especially if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms
– excessive excretion of urine
– thirst
– unexplained weight loss
– constant hunger
– vision changes
– fatigue
Unfortunately with Type 2 Diabetes the symptoms are often less obvious than in Type 1, leading to late diagnosis and complications. So it may be worth having your sugar tested anyway :)

To prevent Diabetes, the WHO recommends that you:

- achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;
– be physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days;
– eat a healthy diet of between three and five servings of fruit and vegetables a day and reduce sugar and saturated fats intake

I could write a book on Diabetes, there’s so much information out there, but if you do have any questions please ask :) that’s what I’m here for!

Let’s prove the WHO and not join the 346 million ;)

Health and happiness :)

Robyn

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Low fat milk – Is it necessary?

I was having lunch the other day and someone at the table made a comment about full cream milk. He said that he recently discovered that full cream milk contained 3% fat and he wanted to know why people say 2% is healthy if there’s only a 1% difference in the fat content. Naturally, being the dietitian at the table, everyone’s heads turned towards me in anticipation of my opinion, and this is it…

Yes it is true.

Full cream milk contains 3.4% fat, compared to 2% fat milk and fat free milk (containing 0.2% fat). So it makes for a valid question – is low fat milk necessary?

I believe so, yes.

Depending on how much milk you consume a day, switching from full cream milk to 2% or, even better, fat free milk, could make a big difference on your daily calorie, fat and cholesterol intake.

I use fat free milk and I have no problem with it. Some people struggle to make the big switch from full cream to fat free milk, but you really do get used to it. You can take it in stages though :)

Switching from full cream milk to 2% low fat milk

A cup of full cream milk contains 650kj, while a cup of 2% low fat milk contains 525kj. So if you usually have 2 cups of milk a day, maybe 1 cup with your cereal and the rest in tea, coffee or food, you would be saving 250kj per day and 7 grams of fat…just by changing your milk. Sounds good to me :)

Switching from 2% low fat milk to fat free milk

You save a further 200kj and 9 grams of fat :)

Milk is something that most people have every day, so yes, it is worth making the switch :) if you already have made the switch, well done :) now you know why and hopefully you can explain to others when they as you why you do it ;)

Health and happiness :)
Robyn

The truth about “healthy” foods

What are healthy foods exactly?

I don’t have an answer for you I’m afraid, but I would love to hear your thoughts?

I’ve seen  numerous tweets etc. where certain foods are labelled as “healthy” or “the healthiest foods”, maybe I’ve even been guilty of doing that myself! But how do you classify food as healthy? What is the criteria? Which properties should a food have to be classified as healthy?

Some foods are labelled as healthy because of their low calorie content, others are labelled as healthy because of their vitamin or mineral content and others because they’re high in fibre…the list goes on.

What am I getting at?

I’m not trying to say these foods are not healthy, they definitely do have health benefits. What I am saying is that you should find out why they’re healthy before you start eating them in copious amounts.

With 99% of foods, if someone tells me they LOVE eating it, I’ll say there’s no need to cut it out completely. That’s just my opinion, I think life would be boring if we never ever got to eat the things we love, and being healthy doesn’t have to make life boring. What is really important with these foods we love is that we have it in the correct Portion sizes. If we know how often and how much of these foods to have, they can still be part of our diets.

What most people don’t realize is that correct portion sizes apply to “healthy foods” as well.

Yes, dark chocolate has health benefits, according to research. It’s thought to help prevent heart disease and contains antioxidants which help prevent cancer. Which is great, really. But it’s still chocolate. It usually contains more calories than milk chocolate. So as great as it is, eating bucket loads of it may give you some other problems you hadn’t anticipated.

A lot of foods that you’re constantly told are healthy are high in calories or fat and sugar, and this doesn’t mean you should avoid them, not at all. But always remember the most important word when it comes to dieting or just eating in general, Moderation.

I hope you really get what I’m trying to say. Sometimes I see these tweets like “These are the healthiest foods this summer: dark chocolate, cashews and berries” and I worry that people may read it and think that if they eat it, they’ll be healthy and if they eat lots of it they’ll be very healthy! Maybe I should give you a little more credit?

I just think it’s important to know what you’re eating and why you’re eating it. These days information is so readily available and it’s so easy to get a professional’s opinion. You can look up scientific articles and see the studies that prove or disprove health claims. And I think it’s so great that there are so many registered dietitians with blogs and twitter accounts that are so willing to give great advice and answer your questions :)

Make informed food choices :)

Be healthy and happy :)
Robyn

Calories/Kilojoules – answering some of your questions

Thanks for all your questions, keep them coming :)

I’m going  to attempt answering some of them as best I can…

What is the relationship between calories and kilojoules? 

I have mentioned that they measure the same thing, however they are not equal. I also said that in SA you usually see kilojoules on food labels, but on American and other foreign labels you’ll probably see calories. You’ll also hear them speak about calories on American TV programs. So here’s the relationship…

1 Calorie = 4.2 kilojoules 

(so for example, 20 calories = 84 kJ)

How do you know how many calories/kilojoules you’re using? 

I’m no expert when it comes to the fitness side of things. I know that on the machines at the gym they usually tell you how many calories you’ve used. I can’t say exactly how accurate those are though. I’ve seen a few websites that do some calculations which show you how many calories you burn doing different activities. I will have to do some research to see which of those websites are good. I think you get some apps that you can download as well which calculate how many calories you use. Sorry I wasn’t much help with this one! If someone could help me with this that would be GREAT! :) Thanks!

How many calories are you allowed in a day? 

Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question. Your energy requirement (how many calories you need in a day) is based on your age, weight,height, gender and the amount of physical activity you do in a day. If you want to lose weight then you need to consume fewer calories than you use. The best advice I can give you is to see a dietitian if you’d like to know how many calories you should be having. We use a number of formulas to calculate this. This is why it’s very important to follow a diet or eating plan that has been designed for YOU. Using someone else’s diet will probably not give you the results you should be getting.

What is a calorie deficit diet and is it healthy?

Short answer: A calorie deficit diet is a weight loss diet. It is healthy if you do it correctly.

Long answer: A calorie deficit is when your body burns more calories than you take in. It is based on the principle that calories in< calories used = weight loss. When you provide the body with fewer calories than it needs, the body starts using its stores, and this is how you achieve weight loss.

It has to be done correctly. Starving yourself to achieve a calorie deficit is not healthy, not sustainable and not safe! There is no quick-fix. Find the right balance between what you’re eating and the exercise you do. The two have to go together for the best, healthiest results :)

I hope this answers some of your questions, if there are more, please do ask!

Health and happiness :)

Robyn