At Winterberry we help our patients live their best life and part of our “whole body” care is offering easy access t our team of highly skilled and caring dietitians. Seeing a Winterberry dietitian is easy. Just call the clinic at 905-575-9004 and book an appointment with one of our nurses or nurse practitioners. Let them know you want to see a dietitian and they will get your appointment booked.

You might be wondering what dietitians do, how they’re trained and what their role in the clinic is. That’s understandable because not a lot of people know just how valuable and important dietitians are and how they contribute to health. This blog will:

  • Answer all of your questions using information provided by Dietitians of Canada 
  • Introduce you to each of our dietitians
  • And we’re even sharing a recipe they recommend!

What is a dietitian?

According to the Dietitians of Canada, Dietitians empower their patients, clients, and communities to embrace food, to understand it, and to enjoy it. The advice and information they provide is tailored to their clients and patients personal needs and challenges, including taste and accessibility. They translate the science of nutrition into terms everyone can understand to support healthy living for all Canadians.

Dietitians believe in the power of food to enhance lives and improve health.

How common are dietitians?

Again, according to the Dietitians of Canada, dietitians are everywhere. Whether collaborating with other healthcare professionals, undertaking scientific research, driving innovation in the food industry, informing public policy, or working with patients and communities across the country, our influence runs deep and it continues to grow.

Why would I need to see a dietitian?

Dietitians can support you throughout many phases of your life from pregnancy to eating well when you are older. Counseling sessions with a dietitian can also help you to prevent and treat health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

At Winterberry, dietitians work as part of a team of other health care professionals like doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and speech pathologists. 

What are some concerns that a dietician can help me with:


Heart health


Food allergies

Digestive concerns

Weight loss or weight gain

Infant and child feeding and nutrition

Picky eating


Pregnancy or breastfeeding

Sports nutrition

Vegetarian and vegan diets

Meal planning

A dietitian will work with you to give you advice and information that is right for you by considering your culture and food traditions. They will also think about your personal needs and challenges, including taste, food skills, budget and health conditions. Dietitians help you cut through the clutter by consulting the latest scientific evidence and providing you with personalized guidance. 

What happens when I see a dietitian?

The first appointment, whether it be in-person, online, or on the phone, will be about 45 minutes to 1 hour. During this appointment, your dietitian will ask you questions to get to know you and the reason you contacted them. You may want to make changes in the way that you eat, have a food allergy, digestive issue, or you have a nutrition-related health condition like diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol. Each person’s reason for speaking with a dietitian is different. A dietitian’s job is to work with you as a partner to look at your needs and set goals.

What kind of questions will my dietitian ask me?

Your dietitian will need specific details about you to give you personal and practical information that you can use. The questions your dietitian will ask you will depend on the reason you are visiting them but may include:

Your current diet

What types of foods you or your family like to eat

Your culture and food traditions

How often you eat

How much you eat

When you eat

Where you eat

Your food skills

Your food budget

Any concerns you have about your eating habits

Your general health/medical history

Any medications or supplements you take

Any challenges you face buying preparing or eating foods

Whether you require specific equipment to eat or prepare food

Your height, age and weight (to access your nutritional needs)

How often you exercise

Asking these questions will help your dietitian get an idea of your diet and lifestyle and any healthy or unhealthy habits that you have. It also gives them the information that they need to do a nutrition assessment. This means that your dietitian can figure out if you are getting too much or too little of anything in your diet.

What will I take away from my first visit with a dietitian?

Your dietitian will use or give you resources to help you with your goals like food models to show you healthy portion sizes, sample meal plans, healthy recipes, or a grocery shopping list template. You may be given written information to take home with you.

Always feel free to ask your dietitian questions or let them know about any concerns that you have during your appointment.

Will I have more than one appointment? 

You should expect to have a follow-up appointment. Diet and lifestyle changes are a gradual process and learning new information and skills can take time. A follow-up appointment is generally shorter and costs less than an initial appointment. You and your dietitian can decide on the number of appointments that you need and when they should be.

During a follow-up appointment, your dietitian will track your progress, provide you with more tips and information, adjust your nutrition plan based on how things are going, and discuss the next steps. These appointments allow you to ask questions, talk about what’s going well, what’s not going well, learn about new tools or resources and receive support and feedback from your dietitian.

What training does a dietitian have?

Dietitians are qualified to give you nutrition advice and information. They have a degree in food and nutrition from an accredited university program. They complete practical training and have to pass a national licensing exam*. Like all regulated health professionals, dietitians must stay on top of new research, skills, and techniques. Dietitians do this by taking courses to improve their skills and knowledge every year. Dietitians are the best source for nutrition and food information.

What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

Dietitians are trained and regulated to ensure that you and your family receive safe and effective nutrition care, just like your dentist or family doctor.

The title “dietitian” is protected by law across Canada. This means, in Ontario only people who meet certain criteria and standards can call themselves a dietitian whereas anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.

To be sure, you are working with a qualified nutrition professional, look for the initials RD or PDt (DtP in French) after the person’s name. 

An important note: Titles like Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Nutritional Practitioner are not the same as Dietitian. People using these titles are not provincially regulated health professionals. Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals regulated by law. Often people who have completed privately owned training programs use these titles. The length of training and education needed to use these titles vary.

Is there a code of ethics Dietitians must follow?

Check out this quick video from the College of Dietitians to learn more about their Code of Ethics.

Let us introduce you to our team of highly skilled and caring Dietitians:

Elizabeth Muggah (she/hers) MSc, RD, RSE

Registered Dietitian 

A little bit yourself and what inspired you to become a dietician?

I am originally from Cape Breton Island, growing up in Sydney, NS.

I started my career in the kitchen. I have always loved cooking. I decided to follow my passion and attended culinary school at Nova Scotia Community College. I have my Red Seal in cooking which required 5400 hours of work in professional kitchens along with the successful  completion of a national exam. 

After graduating from culinary school I decided to pursue my interest in nutrition and enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at Acadia University. After finishing my dietetic training, I worked as a Dietitian and Food Service Manager for Brigadoon Village, a camp for children and youth living with chronic illness and/or other life challenges. I moved to Southern Ontario to complete a Master’s degree in Food Science at the University of Guelph. Here I researched ways to improve food service delivery in long term care. 

My interest in nutrition started due to sport. In high school, I played volleyball and ran track and cross country. I became interested in the role of nutrition in performance. Growing up, cooking and eating together was very important in my household. My Dad passed down his love of cooking to me. Becoming a dietitian was a great fit with my interests and personal values. 

What’s your favorite part of your day at Winterberry?

I like when I can have fun with my patients. I love food and helping patients see how they can add variety to their diet; that’s really rewarding. When an appointment with a patient is finished my goal is for them to feel motivated, excited about food and being able to enjoy it. I also want to be sure they have felt heard and listened to and that they know the information they got was personal and specific to them. 

What simple advice can you give readers that can make a big difference?

  1. Small steps add up and letting go of the all or nothing mentality – this can hurt a lot of our efforts. Focus on a couple of things at a time and make those a habit and then move forward. 
  2. Get more vegetables on your plate. Vegetables provide fibre, micronutrients, and add a variety of textures and flavours to your meal. Try planning to serve a hot and cold vegetable with dinner.  

Samantha Plantic, Professional Masters Diploma (Dietetics), BASc (Nutrition and Food), SCOPE certified, World Obesity Federation

A little bit yourself and what inspired you to become a dietician?

My name is Samantha, a Registered Dietitian at Winterberry Family Medicine. A bit about myself: I enjoy hosting dinners for friends and family, hiking and biking the many trails of the Niagara Region (born and raised!), exploring the seas and cuisine of my Croatian homeland, and am a lover of all things coffee. 

As a young student pursuing my Biochemistry degree at Brock University, I gained an understanding—both in the lecture hall and in my personal life—of how nutrition directly impacts our mental and physical health. It was during this time that I started to be more mindful of my food choices and lifestyle, and felt more energized, focused, and confident because of it. 

I directed my career path toward dietetics to help others, too, realize their health goals, while nurturing their relationship with food and navigating a world of conflicting health claims. Through an enriching road pursuing my nutrition degree and Professional Masters Diploma in Dietetics at St. Michael’s Hospital, I have come to realize that nutrition is an essential, personal, cultural, and rather complicated aspect of our lives. I work with my patients to make nutrition less complicated, and strive to use an additive approach in my counseling: what foods, physical activities, and self-care strategies can we add to reach our health related goals? I look forward to working with you! 

What is the best part of your day at Winterberry? 

  1. Being a “Myth Buster.” In a world of diet fads and false nutrition information, I am happy to offer evidence-based nutrition information to our patients. 
  2. Relationship building and celebrating patient success. I love collaborating with our clients to break down the barriers that hinder their health goals, recognizing the privilege of offering a listening ear when times are tough, and celebrating their achievements.
  3. You! I am very fortunate to work with the compassionate and knowledgeable team members at Winterberry Family Medicine, collaborating to achieve patient-centred care. 

Nadia Browning (she/her), MAN, RD

A little bit yourself and what inspired you to become a dietician?

My name is Nadia Browning, and I am overjoyed to be working as a Registered Dietitian with Winterberry Family Medicine. 

I recently completed my Master’s in Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph, where I also received my undergraduate degree in Applied Human Nutrition (Go Gryphons!!). Throughout my education, I developed the skills needed to provide evidence-based, patient-centered nutrition recommendations. 

I grew up in a large Italian family, where food was at the center of every birthday, holiday, and visit. So, naturally, I pursued a career in food and nutrition! My love for food led to a curiosity about how nutrition impacts our health. In the media, I was met with a large amount of misinformation, diet culture messaging, and recommendations that failed to consider the social determinants of health (such as economic stability, access to education and health care, environment, and social context). I decided that by becoming a Registered Dietitian, I could promote healthy relationships with food, challenge diet culture, and advocate for a lens on individual health that considers the social determinants of health. 

In addition to my love for food, I also love spending time outside! I have set a couple of goals for myself with regards to outdoor activities this year, including learning to downhill ski and successfully keeping a garden this summer. Wish me luck!

What is the best part of your day at Winterberry? 

The best part of my day at Winterberry is interacting with the Winterberry team members! Everyone is always so welcoming and supportive. New learning opportunities are always provided and encouraged, which enables us to provide the best possible care to patients. Furthermore, I always look forward to meeting with my fellow Registered Dietitians, there is so much we can learn from each other’s experiences! 

Alexandra Venger, MPH, RD, Scope Certified, Level 1, 2 Motivational Interviewing

A little bit yourself and what inspired you to become a dietician?

My name is Alexandra Venger, a Registered Dietitian (RD) from Toronto, now working with the wonderful staff and patients at Winterberry Medical.

I completed my Honours Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Food and Nutrition from Western University in 2015, and Masters of Public Health degree specialized in Health Systems Administration and Global Health Leadership from Haifa University in 2021. I have been fortunate to be working as a dietitian for nearly 5 years in areas of clinical nutrition and chronic disease management, sport nutrition, public health and community nutrition. 

I became a dietitian because I wanted to help others and was fascinated by the role of nutrition. It’s hard to say what first inspired my passion for nutrition and dietetics, but it was likely a combination of my family and coaches that valued healthy eating. Growing up in a Russian-Israeli household there was always healthy food (and Bamba) in the house. In high school I was a wrestler, and having to make weight was a natural part of the sport. The rest they say is history. My love for nutrition and helping others blossomed into a career as a dietitian where I have been fortunate to work with people from all over the world.   

What is the best part of your day at Winterberry?

The best part of my day at Winterberry is speaking with patients. I enjoy learning about their unique health and nutrition needs and getting to know them at a level where I can help them achieve their goals. It makes me feel like I can give back my nutrition knowledge and experience to help them achieve their goals and improve their health. To me this is rewarding and continues to fuel my passion for nutrition and helping others.

What simple advice would you give a patient that can make a big difference in their nutrition and health?

Don’t eat in front of the TV.  Often, people engage in mindless eating, such as eating while working or watching the latest show on Netflix. Like Pavlov’s dog, we are essentially conditioning ourselves to salivate as soon as we turn the TV or computer on, even if we aren’t hungry. Instead, aim to minimize distractions while eating, by turning off electronics, so that you can be more mindful of how much and what you are eating. 

As promised, we’re sharing a recipe that will help get more vegetables on your plate. This delicious dish was created by Elizabeth Muggah, MSc,RD,RSE and we’re sure it will become a favourite in your kitchen:

Simple Roasted Broccoli (~3-4 servings)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time ~25 minutes Preheat oven to 375°F (190 °C)


1 head of broccoli cut into florets 

1 tbsp olive or canola oil 

½ tsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: a shake of your favourite seasoning, you can customize this recipe to any entrée.


  1. Toss ingredients together in a bowl until the broccoli is evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
  2. Place evenly onto a baking sheet and bake in a 375 °F oven for 25 minutes or until the edges of the broccoli are golden brown. Toss the broccoli half way through cooking. 
  3. Enjoy!

Looking for more information about Dietitians? 

Dietitians of Canada

College of Dietitians of Ontario

And remember, booking an appointment with a Winterberry Dietitian is easy. Call the clinic at 905-575-9004 and book an appointment with a Nurse or Nurse Practitioner.

Overweight adults can lose weight by getting more sleep—even if they don’t make changes to their diet or level of physical activity. That’s the finding of a small new study of 80 overweight adults conducted by the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study found that participants who upped their sleep from less than 6.5 hours to 8.5 hours a night reduced the average number of calories they consumed in a day by 270 calories (some cut their intake by as much as 500 calories a day). 

This translates to a whopping 26 pounds of weight loss over three years.

It’s “a game changer in our efforts to tackle the obesity epidemic,” says the study’s author, Dr. Esra Tasali, director of the Sleep Research Center at the University of Chicago.

How does adding a couple of hours of extra zzz’s help people lose weight? Sleep deprivation impacts two key hormones that affect appetite. Ghrelin stimulates hunger and increases with sleep deprivation whereas leptin sends a signal when we feel full and decreases with sleep deprivation. Another issue is that insulin resistance increases with a lack of sleep, and this can lead to weight gain. 

About one-third of North American adults are not getting the seven to nine hours of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. 

Looking for ways to boost your shut-eye? Try these 10 tips:

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before bed.
  • Put away any devices (including cell phones, laptops and TV screens) 45 minutes before bedtime. The blue light emitted from these devices disrupts the natural sleep/wake cycle. 
  • Maintain a regular bedtime/wake time.
  • Practice relaxation and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques.
  • Reduce noise in your sleeping environment.
  • Keep a cozy bed: A good mattress, comfy pillows and bed linens can help promote good sleep.
  • Sleep in a dark cool bedroom (15-20 degrees Celsius).
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid long naps: Keep midday shut-eye to no more than 20 minutes.
  • Have a soothing bedtime ritual, such as taking a bath, listening to soothing music, meditating or reading.

The desire to be thin in the skin they are in starts early — especially for girls. In fact, studies show that 80% of girls have been on a diet by the time they are 10 years old. And more than half of girls and one-third of boys ages six to eight wish they had thinner bodies, according to Common Sense Media.  

Media has a huge influence on how children think about their bodies. Eighty-seven percent of female characters ages 10-17 on TV are below average in weight. And measurements of toy male action figures exceed even that of the largest bodybuilders.

While genetics and hormonal factors can affect a child’s weight, parents may also play a role in how their children perceive weight.  For example, a parent who is constantly talking about dieting or criticizing people who are overweight or obese can instil fears about weight gain in their children.

It comes as no surprise that a recent study in Obesity reports that for young people a preoccupation with weight and the desire to be thinner can persist into adulthood and lead to compulsive eating and greater weight gain.

The study of  623 women began when they were 10 years old and ran for about 20 years. The participants were assessed five times during adolescence for their drive for thinness, reward-based eating and BMI. The study concluded that the desire to be thin during the critical development years can have long-term effects on adult eating behaviours tied to greater weight gain. It noted that there are likely to be benefits to early interventions to help girls and women manage negative thoughts and emotions about food and weight gain.

What can parents do to help their children not be so concerned about weight? Common Sense Media offers these suggestions:

  1. Show an interest in your child’s life by engaging them in conversation about friends, school and feelings.
  1. Help kids nurture a positive self-image by focussing on their talents and strengths.
  1. Step in when kids need support.
  2. Emphasize health, not weight.
  1. Teach appreciation for all types of people.
  1. Ban “fat talk”: be careful what you say about other people’s bodies and appearance.
  1. Say what you appreciate about your own body.
  1. Be a good role model by staying active and eating well.
  1. Remember boys have issues with body images, too: Listen for negative body talk and challenge messages from coaches, peers and media about weight, exercise and muscle building.
  2. When consuming media with your child, question and challenge stereotypes about body types. 

Quick — what’s the first thing that goes through your mind when you see a person suffering with the disease of obesity?

If you’re like many people you may assume they eat too much, that they don’t exercise enough or that they don’t have any willpower.

These are some of the common stereotypes ingrained in society about those with a larger body size. People often think that those living with obesity have no one but themselves to blame. But the truth is, obesity is a complex medical condition that is caused by key factors that go beyond diet and exercise — including genetics, metabolism and other non-behavioural issues.

A recent international study reported in the International Journal of Obesity found that 58% of the study’s 14,000 participants who were actively trying to manage their weight had encountered weight stigma,  mostly from family members, followed by classmates and physicians. Their experiences were most common and upsetting during childhood and adolescence.

Almost 30% of Canadians suffer from obesity (the figure is 40% in the U.S.) and while public attitudes toward other traditionally stigmatized groups have become less prejudiced, weight bias still persists due to the fact that thinness continues to be celebrated in North American culture, as evidenced by the multi-billion dollar diet industry and negative portrayals of people with larger bodies.

Weight stigma only makes people who are overweight and obese feel worse about themselves (known as “weight bias internalization”), and this can lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem lower physical activity, disordered eating and avoiding health care appointments. 

For the first time in 2020, the Canadian Clinical Practical Guidelines for adult obesity management addressed weight bias and stigma. Recommendations to health care practitioners included: asking permission to discuss weight with patients, assessing the patient’s history to understand the root causes of obesity, discussion of treatment options, agreement on a long-term action plan with realistic expectations and assisting with barriers and drivers of weight gain (these can include lack of access to health care providers with expertise in obesity, lack of coverage of obesity medications by drug plans and long wait times for bariatric surgery, for example). Another recommendation is for health care workers to assess their own attitudes and beliefs about weight.

While weight stigma is still extremely prevalent, there are hopeful signs that societal attitudes are shifting. For example, the body positivity movement which has become popular over the past few years focuses on ending the culture of “fat-shaming” and challenges unrealistic body standards, particularly when it comes to female beauty. 

Photo by Kevin Wolf on Unsplash

Your boss gives you a poor performance review, so you stop for a fully-loaded pizza on the way home from work. Your teenager screams at you in the kitchen, and you “treat” yourself to a couple of donuts after he heads off to school. Things are tense with your partner, so you wolf down a large slab of chocolate cake before bed.

Or—a global pandemic has you ricocheting from despair about the future to hopefulness that life will soon return to normal.  

Call it what you want — “emotional eating,” “stress eating,” “comfort eating” — the symptoms are the same: the habit of responding to stressful events and difficult feelings by typically eating high-carb, high-calorie foods with little nutritional value (think ice cream, cookies and chips), even when you aren’t particularly hungry. Negative emotions can make people feel emotionally empty and food is a way to fill the void and create a sense of fullness.

About 40% of people respond to stress by eating more (while an equal number respond by eating less), making emotional eating highly common. The problem, of course, is that repeated bouts of this behaviour can contribute to obesity, which in turn, leads to health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Emotional eating is not necessarily related to binge eating. The difference between the two is the amount of food consumed. In order to qualify for a diagnosis of binge eating disorder, a person must binge an average of once a week over a period of three months. Binge eating is characterized by compulsive overeating, eating faster than normal, concealing the amount of food eaten and feeling shame and regret afterwards. 

So how does one change patterns of behaviour so that food is not used as a way to avoid feeling difficult emotions? Here are 6 strategies to consider:

  1. Seek help from a professional:  A physician or psychologist can help you understand your emotional eating patterns and their root causes. You can also consider a peer support group such as Overeaters Anonymous. 
  2. Find ways to deal with stress and be good to yourself: Surround yourself with positive people, engage in activities you enjoy and give yourself time to decompress and relax.
  1. Exercise: Get outside for a long walk in nature, do yoga at home or play sports with friends. Such activities release feel-good hormones that can boost your spirits and help you better manage difficult situations.
  1. Consider a mindful eating app: These can help you become more focussed on the experience of eating and becoming in-tune with your hunger, fullness and satisfaction signals. Two popular options are Mindful Bite and Am I Hungry? Being intentional when you are eating means not snacking in front of the TV or compute
  1. Keep a food diary: This can help you determine the triggers that lead to emotional eating. It can also be a helpful tool to share with a healthcare professional.
  1. Avoid temptation: Try not to grocery shop when you feel upset and carefully consider what you put in your cart. If you don’t bring high-fat, sweet or calorie-laden foods home in the first place, they won’t be on hand in times of distress.
  1. Remember, that truly experiencing your feelings is better than feeding them. Naming your emotions, whether its sadness, anxiety, boredom or loneliness, helps you recognize them—and that’s the first step to working through them. 

The post-party holiday season is a prime time for a start-of-year assessment on how you might achieve better health in the new year. That’s why so many of us make new year’s resolutions. In fact, 48 percent of people resolve to lose weight while 50 percent are determined to get more exercise in the coming year. 

But the best of intentions can be waylaid by winter — the cold weather keeps us inside, making us feel sluggish. Shoveling out the car to head to the gym can seem like just too much effort. 

That helps explain why less than 10 percent of us keep our new year’s resolutions. 

There are a few things that separate those who are able to refocus their efforts in January from those who never drop the extra pounds they might have gained or the fitness ground they’ve lost.

Here are 5 healthy habits they cultivate:

  • Trying something new: A different kind of workout can be motivating. If the cold is keeping you from venturing outside, try an indoor activity such as pickleball, Zumba or swimming laps. Alternatively, try embracing winter by investing in a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis to burn off calories and enjoy the great outdoors.
  • Scheduling the time: Make yourself as big a priority as work tasks and family obligations by scheduling the time for your health — whether it’s blocking off a half hour a day to exercise each morning, go on a weekly hike with a friend or dedicating Saturday mornings to a yoga and meditation session. Use your phone to set reminders to yourself.
  • Using the buddy system: It’s far more difficult to reach our goals on our own than with a friend. Enlist a supportive person or two with similar goals to work alongside you to achieve better health — whether that’s by exercising together or cooking healthy meals together. Consider getting a group of friends and neighbours together for a weekly hike to connect socially and boost your fitness levels at the same time.
  • Track your progress: Studies show that self-monitoring your nutrition and fitness goals serves to increase awareness of what it is you hope to achieve and can help you lose weight and exercise more. (A few top apps to try: FitBit, noon and Nutrition Coach.)
  • Staying focused on the big picture: Losing weight and getting healthier doesn’t happen overnight – it takes commitment and determination as well as patience and forgiveness if and when you get sidetracked. Consider where you want to be at the end of 2022 in terms of how much you weigh and how often you exercise — and remind yourself that you are in this for the long haul.

Happy new year and good luck with your goals for 2022!

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

It’s the season to be jolly. It’s the season to anticipate the arrival of a portly man in a red suit bearing gifts. It’s the season of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

It’s also the season of overeating — and regretting it in the morning. 

About 45% of Canadians say they worry about gaining weight over the holidays, according to Angus Reid. Most people only gain a pound or two, but they often don’t lose that weight and those small gains can add up over the years. 

Moderation and celebration don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Here are 10 tips to help you eat healthfully in the season of excess: 

  1. Don’t starve on the day of a party: Deciding to deprive yourself during the day so you can indulge at dinner can backfire since you are more likely to overeat if you are hungry.
  1. Water, water, everywhere: Have a big glass of water before every meal. This will keep you hydrated, help your body digest food and make you feel less hungry.
  1. Have a healthy snack before you head out: A nutritious snack before going out for a meal can prevent you from overeating later. 
  1. Be selective at the buffet: Fill half your plate with veggies and just a taste of other, richer foods.
  1. Size matters: Using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate can help with portion control.
  1. Eat mindfully: Research shows you’ll consume fewer calories if you eat slowly. Pace yourself by taking small bites, taking your time chewing, putting your fork down and sipping water between bites.
  1. Think twice about going for seconds: Wait for 10 minutes after you’ve finished your meal before filling up again. This way you are giving your body time to digest what you’ve eaten and determine if you are actually still hungry. 
  1. Swap standard calorie-laden holiday foods with healthier options: Select white turkey meat over prime rib or ham, brown rice over stuffing and mashed turnips over mashed potatoes.
  1. Keep a lid on alcohol: Booze adds lots of calories to a meal and can weaken your resolve about not overeating. Delay drinking until you begin your meal and set a limit in advance.
  1.  Don’t beat yourself up: If you do overindulge, try to go back to a nutritious eating plan again as soon as possible. Think of eating in moderation as a gift you give to yourself — and your health.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Anyone can catch the flu. At Winterberry we encourage you to protect yourself – and others – by booking a flu shot and also learning about the virus and recognizing the symptoms.

What is the flu?

The flu (influenza) is a contagious virus that anyone can get. But there are several things you can do to avoid catching it, or spreading it to others.

How can you tell if it’s the flu or COVID-19?

Some of the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu, and it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.

If you think you have COVID-19, you can get tested. If you have symptoms, you should stay home and self-isolate for 14 days or until you get your results.

When should you get the flu shot?

Flu season typically runs from late fall to early spring.

Flu shots are now available for all Ontarians. You should get a flu shot as soon as possible because it takes two weeks to take effect.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now recommends that COVID-19 vaccines may be given at the same time as the flu vaccine. 

Why is the flu shot your best defense?

This year’s flu season is taking place at the same time as COVID-19. Don’t take any unnecessary risks with your health. Get the flu shot as early in the season as possible.

The flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months old and older. It is:

  • Safe (including for kids and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding)
  • Free
  • Available in many places including Winterberry Family Medicine
  • Proven to reduce the number of doctor visits, hospitalizations and deaths related to the flu
  • Different each year because the virus changes frequently – so you need to get it every fall

Ready to book your flu shot?

Your team at Winterberry is here to make it quick and easy.

Simply pick a convenient time and date using our online booking page.

Information for this article is based on information from

Obesity isn’t just harmful to the heart — it can also have a negative effect on the brain.

While we’ve long known about the link between obesity and conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, a growing body of research examining the connection between body fat and the brain’s grey matter reveals that some types of obesity can lead to a greater risk of dementia and stroke.  

For example, a new study  from researchers at the University of South Australia, reported in the Neurobiology of Aging, found that for every extra 3 kilograms of body weight in a person of average height, the amount of gray matter decreased by 0.3%. With the ongoing rise in obesity (globally nearly two million adults are overweight and 650 million have obesity, according to the World Health Organization) this poses big concerns for overall brain health among the obese. 

We know all too well that the obesity problem extends to children — it’s been on the rise over the past 50 years in the pediatric population. Nearly 40 million children younger than five years old and over 340 million young people aged 15–19 years are considered to be overweight or obese. In the U.S., the percentage of children and adolescents with obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s — the prevalence of obesity in those aged 12 to 19 is now 20 percent.

It’s not yet known how obesity affects cognitive functioning in young people — although a small study presented at the Radiographic Society of North America found that MRI scans have found signs of damage in the brains of teens with obesity. It’s thought that obesity may trigger inflammation throughout the body and the nervous system that may affect the brain. 

“Brain changes found in obese adolescents related to important regions responsible for control of appetite, emotions, and cognitive functions,” said Pamela Bertolazzi, the study co-author and a biomedical scientist and PhD student from the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

COVID-19 hasn’t helped. Teens are more sedentary than ever before and this poses a new set of challenges for clinicians trying to assist the pediatric population. 

The message to parents? These are the tried-and-true strategies when it comes to developing healthy eating and exercise habits in young people:  

  • Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
  • Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.
  • Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
  • Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
  • Limit sugary drinks.
  • Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
  • Children ages 3 through 5 years should be active throughout the day. Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years should be physically active at least 60 minutes each day. 

Photo credit: Unsplash

How are kids coping through COVID-19? They aren’t so different from adults. They’re bored, they’re comfortable eating, they miss their friends, they’re binging on their digital devices and they’re experiencing higher rates of depression and anxiety.

Add to this the fact that the protracted disruption of in-person schooling means they are more sedate than ever, without the benefit of walking to school, engaging in gym class and extracurriculars and running around at recess. All these factors can contribute to pediatric weight gain that could have long-term impacts on children’s health, including increasing their risk for Type 2 diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure.

Good habits begin in childhood, which is why it’s important for parents to do what they can to help kids maintain a healthy weight and thus reduce the risk of obesity later in life.(The rate of childhood obesity has more than doubled in recent decades among preschool children, as well as those ages 12 to 19, and more than tripled among those ages 6 to 11.)

Example is the best teacher.  As such, helping kids lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example. Kids emulate what they see — so by being a good role model and eating well, exercising regularly and building healthy habits into your own daily life, you are providing your child with a solid blueprint for incorporating healthy habits that will serve them well and in the future. One of the best things you can do is to try to have as many family meals together as possible. The Childhood Obesity Foundation reports that the more meals a family eats together at home, the more likely the children are to eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich food and beverages. Children and youth who eat at home are also more likely to feel connected to their family. They do better in school and are half as likely to run into problems with substance abuse as teenagers.

Many parents worry about whether they should intervene if their child gains weight during the pandemic. It’s important not to put the focus on dieting, restricting foods and calorie counting. For one thing, research shows that childhood dieting can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. And controlling what children eat can cause them to fixate more on the foods parents don’t want them to have. It helps to remember that some weight gain may have nothing to do with the pandemic since many children follow a growth pattern, especially around puberty, where they “round out” before they shoot up in height. 

Instead, focus on helping your child have good habits, and focus on developing them yourself —balanced meals and healthy snacks (limit high-fat, high-sugar snacks and sugary beverages such as pop and sports drinks), getting enough sleep (which will be improved if digital devices are moved out of the bedroom) and regular movement (the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests kids move 60 minutes a day, which can be done in movement breaks throughout the day).

While it can be challenging to fit in physical activity at home, parents can take the lead by engaging in regular walks or hikes with their kids, without invoking weight loss as the goal. The fresh air and movement can give them a serotonin mood boost in addition to physical exercise. There are lots of creative options to engage in on the homefront — from TikTok dance routines to yoga videos. Cycling, skipping rope, playing catch and shooting hoops all offer the opportunity for kids to connect with their kids and it’s good exercise for adults too.

It’s also very important to encourage your kids to take care of themselves emotionally, and take care of yours! — help them talk about their feelings about the pandemic, ask them how they are doing and allow them to speak freely, whether it’s their fears for the future or the fact that they miss hanging out with their friends. Support their creativity and hobbies, whether it’s playing a musical instrument or journalling or cooking. Get them professional help if they seem depressed. When kids feel good about themselves and their lives, they are more likely to be both physically and mentally healthy. 

In this way, they are a lot like adults.

Feature Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash