Should I Take a Probiotic?

should-i-take-a-probiotic

should-i-take-a-probiotic

You asked me to cover probiotics. And sure, I know about probiotics. But instead of listening to me, I decided to reach out to a true, leading expert in probiotics. I’m proud to call Desiree Nielsen a friend. And, I can tell you that probiotics and gut health are her jams. She’s who I turn to for keeping up on this topic that the scientific community is rapidly learning about. So, I wanted to share her directly with you. Just like me, she gives you the real goods. Enjoy this interview!  And, if you want more of Desiree, check out her show Urban Vegetarian playing on Gusto TV!

Should Parents Be Giving Kids Probiotics?

If a child was born naturally and breastfed, eats a healthy diet and has no health issues, they may not need a probiotic daily. Of course, probiotics are a great choice when the time is right: the literature shows that probiotics may be helpful during cold and flu season to prevent respiratory infection or to prevent traveller’s diarrhea.

In addition, there are certain health concerns that are a clear indication for the use of probiotics daily such as colic, infectious diarrhea or tummy troubles like reflux or irritable bowel syndrome.

 

Should Us Adults Take Probiotics?

I always tend to err on the light side of supplementation but as adults, there are many reasons why a probiotic may be an excellent idea. Any chronic digestive or inflammatory concern, from IBS to eczema, is worth a three month trial of a clinical strength probiotic to assess improvement. If a probiotic works, you will feel it. I cannot tell you how often I have talked to someone who has been taking a probiotic for years with no result and when they make the right switch, they are shocked by how much better they feel. They can be taken therapeutically and discontinued when you improve…but for those with chronic concerns, I recommend continuing daily as part of lifestyle management.

Probiotics are also helpful on an ‘as needed’ basis for everything from recovering from food poisoning, prevention of side effects from antibiotics use and as a boost during cold and flu season. They are a great, natural remedy in the wellness toolkit.

For those who tend towards an ‘insurance’ mindset in supplementation, a small daily dose of an effective probiotic certainly doesn’t hurt and you may find an improvement in your day-to-day wellbeing.

What is the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are part of the natural human microflora…and prebiotics help them thrive. Not too long ago, we would have said that prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates such as inulin. The low FODMAP diet for IBS works by drastically reducing these prebiotic compounds to alter fermentation in the gut.

However, the definition of a prebiotic is changing and it is thought that a whole host of compounds, from plant polyphenols to even the diabetes medication metformin, may help boost the growth of beneficial microbes.

 

Can We Get Probiotics from Fermented Foods, e.g. Yogurt? Or, Do We Need to Take Them as a Supplement?

Fermented foods are produced thanks to beneficial microbes…but not all fermented foods may contain truly probiotic microbes. This takes a bit of explanation: the definition of a probiotic is ‘a live microorganism, which when administered in adequate amounts, confers a health benefit on the host.”

So the issue with fermented foods is that in the fermentation, many of the microbes may die or there might not be sufficient amounts to actually have an effect. The research on fermented foods is surprisingly spotty, with kimchi and yogurt being two of the standouts. But the average yogurt contains about 1 billion live bacteria at manufacture (which may not be alive when you eat them) whereas most supplemental probiotics are in the tens of billions.

Eat fermented foods daily as part of a healthy diet…take a supplement when you need extra help.

 

What Should Someone Look for in a Supplement? There Are so Many Available, How Do You Choose?

It’s a tough call; in my mind, the only probiotics that someone should consider are those with high level evidence to support their use. They are very few in number and you can find them on a very helpful website called www.probioticchart.ca – choose one of the brands with level 1 or 2 evidence. Then, the decision becomes a lot easier. We can spend so much money on supplements but if they aren’t effective, we are better off spending our money on healthy food!

In general, good quality probiotics have enteric coated capsules (with a couple of exceptions for fresh or powdered formulas) with a minimum of 10 billion live active cells, guaranteed to a clearly marked expiry date.

 

Who is Desiree Nielsen? Bio:

Desiree-Nielsen-registered-dietitian

Desiree Nielsen is a dietitian based in Vancouver, Canada. She is the author of Un-Junk Your Diet: How to shop, cook and eat to fight inflammation and feel better, forever! and the host of Urban Vegetarian, a cooking show on Gusto TV. Passionate about integrative therapeutic approaches to nutrition, Desiree maintains a nutrition practice, with a focus on digestive health, plant-based diets and anti-inflammatory nutrition. Her new app, MyHealthyGut is an evidence-based resource for those looking to improve their digestive health.

Posted in Dietitian Victoria BC, Healthy Habits, Myths, Nutrition Game Changers, Supplements Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Do I Need to Soak Nuts and Grains (Anti-Nutrients)?

Do-I-need-to-Soak-Nuts-and-Grains-Anti-Nutrients

Do-I-need-to-Soak-Nuts-and-Grains-Anti-Nutrients

My favourite topics to write about are the topics that you, community members, ask me to address. Today’s topic comes from a community member. She asked: “Is there any truth to the idea that we should be soaking our nuts and grains to make these foods more digestible, more nutritious or to avoid so called ‘anti-nutrients’?”

Ah, the internet, such a double-edged sword. I love it – after all, it’s how I’m communicating with you today. And, I hate it. In my 23 years of experience in nutrition, I’ve never seen so many people so confused about nutrition.

This question is yet another example of how people are confused about nutrition. Both because of the powerful nutrition fear-mongering that unscrupulous people use to make money. And, because of well-intentioned people taking a fact so out of context that it no longer makes any sense.

In a nutshell (pun intended): no, you don’t need to soak nuts and grains.

Let’s get down into the details – because I know that’s what you like to get from me – the detailed story.

Anti-Nutrients

Anti-nutrients sure are a hot topic in the media (on-line and off-line). People are making a mountain out of a mole-hill. While the community member didn’t mention beans/ lentils in her question, I’m going to add them to the conversation because others of you have been asking me about the “poison” they’ve heard about in beans/ lentils.

Yes, it’s true that nuts, seeds, whole grains, bean and lentils have molecules called phytates in them. Phytates bind to nutrients, such as iron, making us humans less able to absorb the nutrients. Hence the term “anti-nutrients”. Note that the phytates make us absorb less of the nutrients – not zero. So their presence doesn’t render the foods devoid of nutrition. Also, these phytates aren’t poisonous – they don’t harm us.

Quite the opposite of being bad for us, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils are a key part of the foundation for a healthy diet. Combine these with vegetables and fruit and you’ve got a gold star in the eating habits department.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils have been eaten by human beings for generations. If they were poisonous, we would have stopped eating them a long, long time ago. Humans have figured out many ways to reduce the phytates in these foods:

  • Roasting nuts
  • Leavening bread made from whole grains
  • Soaking beans before cooking
  • Fermenting foods (e.g. making miso from soybeans)
  • Sprouting of grains, seeds, beans

So while you don’t need to soak these foods before eating them. Soaking, roasting, sprouting, fermenting is a great idea because it frees up more of the nutrients for us to absorb. In other words, it’s the concept of “need” with which I take issue.

Great choices to increase your nutrient-absorption:

  • Try new recipes that involve soaking, roasting, sprouting, and fermenting.
  • If you have a choice of sprouted whole grain bread or un-sprouted, choose the sprouted bread. But if un-sprouted is your only choice, it’s still a healthy choice.
  • Soak beans before you cook them (and throw away the soaking water) because it makes them less “musical”.
  • Many of the nuts that you find in the store are roasted, e.g. cashews, macadamia nuts.
  • If you find that you have a hard time digesting some of these foods in their un-processed state, give them a try soaked/ sprouted/ fermented and see if your digestion improves.

Note: Raw sprouts aren’t recommended for children under 5 years due to the risk of microbes (e.g. salmonella, e. coli) causing food-poisoning.

Looking for 1:1 help from me in sorting through all the nutrition myths? Check out my adult nutrition services and kids nutrition services.

Photo credit: Viktor Hanacek

Posted in Cooking, Dietitian Victoria BC, Myths Tagged with: , , , ,

Carrot-Top Pesto

carrot-top-pesto

carrot-top-pesto

Reducing food waste is the ultimate win-win. It reduces our environmental impact by allowing less to go to waste. And, by using more of what we buy, it saves us money. So, I’ve been exploring recipes that use ingredients that normally you’d throw away. Today, student Hanna has perfected a pesto recipe made from the green leaves and stems of carrots instead of the commonly-used basil. Voila – carrot-top pesto! Perfect timing before our local carrots start to pop up in farmers’ markets and produce stores.  Thanks Hanna! That’s Hanna’s handiwork with the camera too 🙂

Carrot-Top Pesto Ingredients

4-5 carrot top leaves
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp toasted pinenuts (or walnuts or macadamias or almonds)
1/4 tsp salt
Dash of pepper

Carrot-Top Pesto Directions

  1. To toast pine nuts: Lay out pine nuts on a baking sheet or aluminum foil for 200C for 5 minutes, watching them so they don’t burn. This can also work with a nonstick pan constantly stirring the pine nuts.
  2. In a food processor, combine carrot tops, garlic, salt and pepper until smooth. Begin to add the olive oil until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Enjoy!

Check out more healthy recipes.

P.S. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan.

 

Posted in Dietitian Victoria BC, Recipes, Vegetables and fruit Tagged with: , , , , ,

Food and Histamine: What’s the Connection?

food-and-histamine

food-and-histamine

Hay fever. I have it. Do you? Did you know that what you eat could be making your hay fever worse? In my previous post I shared about oral allergy syndrome. Today I’m talking about food and histamine.

All human bodies contain histamine. And most of us, most of the time, aren’t bothered by it one bit. However, our bodies have a threshold for histamine. And when the level of histamine in our bodies goes above that threshold, we experience symptoms. They are the symptoms that us hay fever sufferers know all too well – itchy eyes, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, etc.

Histamine in the Body

Where do the histamines in our bodies come from? They are released as a part of the allergic response. In the case of hay fever, they are released in response to breathing in that pollen. That’s why hay fever medications are called anti-histamines. Our gut bacteria also naturally produce histamine.

A number of foods contain histamine. When we eat these foods, the histamine enters our bodies.

The trick to getting rid of the symptoms of high histamine (i.e. hay fever symptoms) is to get the level of histamine in our body back below our threshold. Trees and grasses will produce pollen for as long as they are programmed by nature to do so – there’s nothing you can do about that. Even healthy gut bacteria produce histamine so there’s nothing that you can do about that.

Which leaves you with one factor that you have the ability to change – how much histamine-containing foods you eat. Let me be clear, this isn’t like a food allergy where you need to remove 100% of histamine from food. You don’t need to avoid all of these foods. But you can reduce the amount of these foods that you eat when your hay fever is acting up.

Food and Histamine

These foods contain histamine:

  • Alcohol and non-alcohol versions of alcoholic drinks (e.g. near-beer)
  • Coffee and tea
  • Vinegar and foods made with vinegar (e.g. pickles)
  • Chocolate, cocoa, cola
  • Fermented vegetables and soy (e.g. sauerkraut, soy sauce)
  • Cheese
  • Processed meats/ charcuterie
  • Fish and shellfish – unless you cook them immediately after catching/harvesting them
  • Red beans
  • Soy beans
  • Eggplant
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin/ squash
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Citrus fruit
  • Apricots
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries
  • Pineapple
  • Many dried fruits such as dates, raisins, prunes
  • Some spices such as cinnamon, chili powder, nutmeg
Posted in Dietitian Victoria BC, food allergy Tagged with: , ,

Iron-Rich Foods

iron-rich-foods

iron-rich-foods

I have good news. People are hearing that babies should have iron-rich foods as first foods. I’ve been talking this up for almost 10 years now and I’m super happy that the message is starting to be commonplace.

Yes, we recommend offering your baby iron-rich foods twice a day. From the very start. Then introduce a wide range of other healthy foods.

Why? Because iron is needed for growth and development. Iron is also needed during this critical time for brain development. This critical period extends from infancy through to about 5 years old.

That bad news is that people have misunderstandings of what foods are good sources of iron. So, they think that they are feeding their babies iron-rich foods. But they aren’t.

Avocado, broccoli, sweet potato, and quinoa are all foods that people commonly think are good source of iron. Incorrect. Myth.

Foods that are Good Sources of Iron:

  • Meat*
  • Poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey)
  • Seafood
  • Beans and lentils. Particularly the lentils.
  • Nuts and seeds. Particularly the seeds.
  • Iron-fortified baby cereal.
  • Tofu
  • Eggs

*While liver is a very high source of iron, it also contains extremely high amounts of vitamin A. So much vitamin A that it’s not recommended that you offer liver as a first food, and only offer it on rare occasions to toddlers and preschoolers.

Not All Iron is Equal

Iron comes in two different forms in food – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is better absorbed by our bodies and is found in meat, poultry and seafood. Non-heme iron isn’t as well absorbed by our bodies. So, when looking at lists of foods with iron that just list the number of milligrams, you need to recognize that you’re comparing apples and oranges.

There’s a great hack for increasing the body’s absorption of non-heme iron. It’s to eat a food with vitamin C at the same time. May fruits and some veggies are good sources of vitamin C. So serve your lentils in a tomato sauce and stir some strawberries into that baby cereal.

Here’s a more extensive list of iron-rich foods (from a trusted source): https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/iron-foods

Low Iron Foods

You’ll notice that a number of foods that are commonly thought of as containing iron aren’t on my list above. Certainly there are a number of other foods that have a little bit iron. Some vegetables and fruit do contain a small amount. But I wouldn’t consider them good sources of iron. You’re likely surprised that spinach isn’t on the “high-iron” list. That’s because while spinach does contain a decent amount of iron, most of that iron is bound to another molecule, called oxalate, that prevents us humans from absorbing it. While most of the anti-nutrient content on the internet is making a mountain out of a mole hill, the oxalates in leafy greens are noteworthy enough to not count these foods as a source of iron.

Dairy foods aren’t a source of iron. In addition, they can prevent the absorption of iron from other foods. This is why we recommend delaying the introduction of cow’s milk until 9 – 12 months of age. And, once you have introduced cow’s milk, limiting it to 2 – 3 cups per day.

Grains aren’t a source of iron. Yes, even quinoa. That’s why iron is added to infant cereal and breakfast cereals (that’s what the word “fortified” means in “iron-fortified infant cereal).

 

Check out my Youtube channel for videos on how to prepare baby food versions of iron rich foods (puree and finger foods- Baby Led Weaning).

 

Photo credit: James Sutton

Posted in Baby, Dietitian Victoria BC, Finger Foods, Introducing Solid Foods, Myths, Parenting, Preschooler (3 - 5 years), Toddler (1 - 3 years) Tagged with: , ,

Food Allergy and Hay Fever. Oral Allergy Syndrome

food-allergy-hay-fever

food-allergy-hay-fever

Yay, Spring is finally here! Full of all sorts of good things, like more daylight and cherry blossoms. But, if you’re like me, there is a downside to Spring’s arrival: hay fever. Did you know that there are foods that can make hay fever worse? There are two main ways that food allergy happens in hay fever sufferers: Oral Allergy Syndrome and histamine-containing foods. In this post I’ll share all about Oral allergy Syndrome. In my next post I’ll cover histamine foods.

Note: The advice that I’m about to share is intended for information purposes. Food allergies and sensitivities aren’t something to casually play around with. If an Allergist (allergy specialist doctor) has given you individual advice, follow their advice. I’m also happy to work one-on-one with you to create an individual plan.

In Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), you feel a tingling in your mouth when you eat these foods. Some people will get swelling of their lips and tongue. Some people even break out into blisters in their mouth. You will experience the reaction within minutes of eating the food – up to 30 minutes later. So, it’s an immediate reaction, localized to your mouth/throat. You may notice this sensation any time of the year. Or you may only get it during the time of year when you’re breathing in the pollen from the plants/ trees to which you are allergic.

What’s happening in your body during hay fever is that you are breathing in the pollen from the plant. Your immune system is reacting to the proteins in that pollen to stimulate the symptoms that all we hay fever suffers know well – itchy watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, even hives and skin rash.

In OAS, the foods happen to contain proteins that are similar in shape to those pollen proteins. So your body confuses the two and reacts to the foods’ proteins. OAS is really a cross-reaction.

The good news is that it seems to be eating just the raw foods that cause OAS. When we cook food it changes the shape of the proteins and there is no more cross-reaction.

So, what foods cross-react? It depends on the plant/tree to which you are allergic.

Hay fever to birch trees, mugwort (a weed), grass, or Timothy grass? Avoid these foods (raw):

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Cherry
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Prune
  • Watermelon
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peanut
  • Peas
  • Soy
  • Rye
  • Almond
  • Chestnut
  • Hazelnut
  • Walnut
  • Caraway seed
  • Poppy seed
  • Sesame seed
  • Sunflower seed
  • Anise (fennel)
  • Asparagus
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Cilantro (coriander)
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Green pepper
  • Parsley
  • Potato
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini

Hay fever to ragweed? Avoid these foods (raw):

  • Banana
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Melon
  • Peach
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini

Note that you should only avoid the foods that cause a reaction in you. Just because a food is on the list, does not guarantee that you will have a reaction to it. If you don’t have a reaction to a food that’s on the list, lucky you! Feel free to continue eating it.

Not sure which food is causing you symptoms? Contact me to work one-on-one. Let’s create an individual food allergy plan for you.

Photo credit: Roberta Sorge

Posted in Dietitian Victoria BC, food allergy Tagged with: , ,

Banana Lentil Muffins

lentil-banana-muffins

lentil-banana-muffins

Banana lentil muffins. Yes, you read that right – banana LENTIL muffins. Lentils can be used in baking.

Including lentils in baking is a fantastic way to reduce the amount of refined flour we eat and get more iron, fibre, and protein. Take note parents of picky eater kiddos who don’t like most protein or iron-rich foods. Tip: Serve the muffins with a source of vitamin C (such as berries) to maximize absorption of that iron.

We made this recipe for mini muffins, so that they’re a good size for little hands (and tummies). Us big kids can choose to eat 2 – 3 of them in the place of a regular-size muffin. Or bake yours in a regular-size muffin tray and adjust the baking time. We didn’t test the baking time for regular-size muffins so I don’t have a time to give you (sorry). Keep a close eye on them and use the ever-trusty toothpick-in-the-centre test.

Enjoy!

 

Banana Lentil Muffins Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ripe bananas (or 2 ripe medium bananas)

  • 1 cup red or green lentil puree (1 cup of lentils boiled in water for 40-45 minutes, drained then pureed)

  • 1 Egg

  • ¼ cup of maple syrup

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup of oat flour (blended old fashioned oats)

  • 1/2 cup of all purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable, avocado, canola or olive)

  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (optional)

  • 1/4 cup of crushed walnuts (optional)

Banana Lentil Muffins Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. In a bowl, combine all wet ingredients (egg, oil, maple syrup, bananas, lentil purée and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, walnuts and chocolate chips).
  4. Stir into the egg mixture until mixed.
  5. Grease the muffin tins with oil.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

Check out more healthy kid-friendly recipes.

Posted in Cooking, Dietitian Victoria BC, Kids' Snacks, Picky Eating, Preschooler (3 - 5 years), Recipes, Snacks, Toddler (1 - 3 years), Weight Loss Tagged with: , , ,

Should Kids Take a Multivitamin?

should-kids-take-a-multivitamin

should-kids-take-a-multivitamin

I heard back from a lot of folks thanking me for my recent blog post about whether adults should take a multivitamin. So I knew that I needed to answer: should kids take a multivitamin.

Just like I said in my adult post, first I need to tell you that when it comes to nutrition, one size doesn’t fit all. Each child has different nutrition needs – based on age, health concerns, eating habits, etc. That’s why I always include a nutrition assessment when I start to work with individual picky eaters. It’s from the results of my nutrition assessment that I create your child’s individual action plan. So, without doing an individual nutrition assessment, I can’t really answer whether your child, specifically as an individual, should take a multivitamin.

However, I can share my thoughts on multivitamins for kids in general for you to consider.

Should Kids Take a Multivitamin?

I don’t have strong feelings either way about whether kids should take a multivitamin (I’m talking toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age kids). It’s not likely to hurt. But there isn’t great evidence that it offers a lot of nutritional benefit for kids. Particularly the gummy multivitamins, for them to taste good, many of the nutrients need to be taken out. Also for safety reasons, most kids multivitamins don’t have iron in them. Concern that kids aren’t eating enough iron (e.g. when picky kids don’t eat meat or plant-based high iron foods) is one of the reasons that I may recommend a multivitamin for kids. But you have to go out of your way to find a kids’ multivitamin that contains iron.

There are two exceptions to my recommendation:

  1. Babies receiving a combination of solid foods and breastmilk/ formula don’t need a multivitamin. But I do recommend continuing 400 IU of vitamin D drops for babies receiving breastmilk.
  2. If your daughter has started menstruating, I do recommend a multivitamin made for women. I get into the reasons why in my adult post.

Kids and Multivitamin – Pitfalls to Avoid 

An important pitfall that you want to avoid is teaching your kids that their vitamins are candy. That safety reason (that I mentioned above) regarding why most kids multivitamins don’t contain iron is because there is a history of kids climbing up into cabinets and taking the whole bottle of vitamins – because they wanted to eat the “candy”. An overdose of iron by taking too many vitamins can cause serious harm, even kill, a child.

So, keep multivitamins up out of reach of kids. And, teach kids the difference between vitamins and candy.

Other Vitamins for Kids

There are other vitamins that I do recommend for kids:

Vitamin D for Kids

The vitamin D recommendation for kids (12 months – adulthood) is 600 IU per day. The vitamin D recommendation for babies from birth – 12 months is 400 IU per day. There are very few food-based sources of vitamin D. For example, milk and plant-based milk alternatives have about 100 IU per cup. 6 cups of milk a day would certainly crowd out other healthy foods. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. And yes, we do make it through our skin. But only during the months of March – October (fewer months in northern BC). And, windows, clothing, sunscreen, pollution, and darker skin pigment all block the ability to make vitamin D from the sun. So I do recommend giving a vitamin D supplement daily in the range of 400 IU – 600 IU (depending on your child’s vitamin D intake from food sources).

For babies, breastmilk is typically very low in vitamin D. Formula does have ample vitamin D for most babies. Therefore, the recommendation is that all babies who are breastfed or fed a combination of breastmilk and formula, receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily.

Omega-3 (Fish Oil) For Kids

The evidence isn’t super strong, but I do have a soft recommendation of omega-3s for kids (toddlers – teens). The evidence is mixed regarding its benefit for brain health and general inflammation, so I don’t have a firm recommendation.

If your child eats fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardines) twice a week, then they may be getting enough of these healthy fats.

Many kids don’t eat fatty fish that often (if at all), so I do recommend a fish oil supplement. You can get liquid supplements in quite lovely flavours. Follow the directions on the bottle for the age of your child.

If you don’t like the idea of your child consuming fish, look for an algae-based omega-3 supplement. There are lots of these on the market now.

I’ve noticed that some of the kids’ omega-3 liquid supplements include vitamin D, so you may be able to get both in at the same time.

Eating nuts, seeds, and their butters (e.g. almond butter) daily is also a great way to contribute to a healthy ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fats.

 

Wondering if you should take a multivitamin? Check out this blog post.

Posted in Dietitian Victoria BC, Preschooler (3 - 5 years), Supplements, Toddler (1 - 3 years), Vitamins Tagged with: ,

Should I Take a Multivitamin?

should-i-take-a-multivitamin

should-i-take-a-multivitamin

I write this blog to be of service to you. So I love it when readers write in with topic ideas. What’s on your mind that I can answer? I want to thank the community member who asked me to address: should I take a multivitamin. Here’s what I think about multivitamins.

First I need to tell you that when it comes to nutrition, one size doesn’t fit all. We each have different nutrition needs – based on our sex, age, physical activity, health concerns, etc. And, our eating habits vary widely. That’s why for my 40 Days to a Happy, Healthy You weight loss program, the first thing I do is a nutrition assessment of you. It’s from the results of my nutrition assessment that I create your individual action plan. So, without doing an individual nutrition assessment, I can’t really answer whether you, specifically as an individual you, should take a multivitamin.

However, I can share my thoughts on multivitamins for adults in general for you to consider.

I do recommend a daily multivitamin if you’re a woman of childbearing age.

Who is that? Girls and women from first period to last period. The reason is that it’s estimated that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Also, the risk of spina bifida is greatly reduced (although not 100% preventable) when women take 400 micrograms of folic acid (also called folate) in those first few days of pregnancy (i.e. before most women know that they’re pregnant). An unplanned pregnancy can be stressful enough. An unplanned pregnancy with a child who has a significant medical condition that could have been prevented – significantly more stressful. Even if you don’t ever get pregnant, folate is a B-vitamin that’s good for our own health too.

Sure, you could take folate on it’s own. But multivitamins designed for women under 50 will have 400 micrograms of folic acid in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, calcium) along with your folic acid is probably a good thing.

I do recommend a daily multivitamin for women and men 50 and up.

Why? For the vitamin B12. At first, low B12 causes you to feel tired, lethargic, dragging. Often people think that they may be feeling this way because they have low iron. But it’s rare for men to have low iron. And, it’s rare for women who aren’t menstruating to have low iron. If your vitamin B12 levels get even lower, it causes permanent cognitive impairment. Let me repeat and clarify that. If your B12 levels get too low, you get memory loss that doesn’t return even if you raise your B12 levels back up again. Yikes! Why the concern after 50 years old? After 50, many of us have a decreased ability to absorb the vitamin B12 that we get through food. This is particularly true if you take medications for acid reflux (heart burn), and is a side-effect of a number of other medications. Getting vitamin B12 in the form of a supplement doesn’t require the same stomach function as vitamin B12 through food. We don’t have recommendations on how much you should get in a supplement. It’s somewhere around 2.4 micrograms daily.

Sure, you could take vitamin B12 on it’s own. Some people choose to get vitamin B12 shots (injections). But multivitamins designed for adults 50+ have vitamin B12 in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium) along with your vitamin B12 is probably a good thing.

What if I’m not in those two groups?

Then I don’t have strong feelings either way about whether you should take a multivitamin.

 

Want to know more about what vitamins you, as an individual, should take? Check out my Individual Nutritional Assessment Service (including individual action plan) today.

Posted in Dietitian Victoria BC, Healthy Habits, Supplements, Vitamins Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Child Nutrition and Anne of Green Gables

Child-Nutrition-Anne-of-Green-Gables

Child Nutrition-Anne-of-Green-Gables

Have you heard? Anne of Green Gables is back on TV. CBC has created a new series telling the story of our favourite red-headed PEI character. Now you may be thinking, “Um, Kristen, I don’t read your blog for TV updates, I read your blog for child nutrition”. Just stick with me for a minute, because I’m not really going to be talking about Anne of Green Gables. I’m really sharing a tip for supporting your child to become a healthy eater.

So what’s the connection between Anne of Green Gables and nutrition for kids?

My first cookbook, given to me as a child, was the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook. I still have it (yes, that’s my book in the photo). So, whenever I think of Anne of Green Gables, I think of cooking. Specifically, I think of my first times in the kitchen as a child. I remember pouring over the pages of this cookbook, carefully choosing the recipes that I would try. Saucy Chicken, Thousand Island Dressing, Diana Barry’s Favourite Raspberry Cordial, Coconut Macaroons, and Anne’s Liniment Cake were all made by a school-age, picky-eater, yours-truly. Not every recipe turned out. But I remember feeling very grown-up indeed as I made them. With the knowledge that I now have as a dietitian and child nutrition expert, I know that I was building self-efficacy, self-esteem, cooking skills, and food-confidence. It’s amazing what one little book did for my future nutritional health.

And so, I want to encourage you to empower your kids with food by cooking with them. Teaching kids how to cook is an important life skill. One really can’t be a healthy eater if one doesn’t cook. And, cooking is learned by doing.

Preparing food can help a picky eater overcome their reluctance to try new foods. Toddlers and preschoolers are at the developmental stage when they want to do things for themselves. Use this to your advantage! I’ve known many a little one who will happily try some salad that they “made”, when they otherwise wouldn’t have touched lettuce with a ten-foot pole.

Get kids in the kitchen young. Get them helping to make a wide variety of foods. Don’t just bake treats with them. Help them to build familiarity, confidence, and positive memories with healthy foods too.

Safety is important in the kitchen. With adult supervision, there are lots of safe things that kids can do. Here’s some ideas:

What Toddlers and Preschoolers Can Do in The Kitchen

  • Washing
  • Sorting
  • Tearing lettuce
  • Tossing a salad
  • Mixing
  • Whisking
  • Stirring
  • Sprinkling
  • Spreading
  • Pouring
  • Measuring

So whether you buy a kids cookbook or invite your child into the kitchen to make family favourite dishes, I encourage you to use this strategy for minimizing picky eating.

Looking for some new recipe ideas? Check out these healthy (and delicious) kid-friendly recipes.

Posted in Dietitian Victoria BC, Parenting, Picky Eating, Preschooler (3 - 5 years), Toddler (1 - 3 years) Tagged with: ,

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