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Dial-a-Dietitian free, confidential service available province-wide in N.L.

Natalie Thomas (seated) and Renee Dyer (standing) are the two dietitians answering calls to the province’s Dial-a-Dietitian 811 HealthLine service.
Natalie Thomas (seated) and Renee Dyer (standing) are the two dietitians answering calls to the province’s Dial-a-Dietitian 811 HealthLine service. - Contributed

‘We can help decipher between food facts and fiction’

Are these leftovers safe to eat? What can I feed my baby? Is this diet evidence-based?

These are all questions a dietitian can answer.

Back in April, the province added two dietitians to their staff at the 811 HealthLine service. Now anyone with food-related questions can dial 811 or visit www.yourhealthline.ca to speak with or email a dietitian.

“The word is getting out there, but the stats aren’t as high as we’d like them to be because not a lot of people know yet,” said Adrianna Smallwood, a registered dietitian and the province’s spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada, which partnered with the provincial government to offer the service.

“People can Google for answers, but that’s not always credible information,” explained Natalie Thomas, one of the dietitians answering calls.

“We can help decipher between food facts and fiction – there’s so much food fiction out there. So, we can really help guide people to what changes in their diet are actually evidence-based to bring the goals that they’re looking for.”

Related story:

811 HealthLine expanded in Newfoundland and Labrador to include dietitian services

Smallwood said the service can help to answer a wide range of questions people may have, ranging from allergy or food sensitivity questions, to back-to-school healthy eating advice, food safety, meal plans, and nutrition questions related to diabetes and chronic diseases.

“I don’t think a lot of people know that dietitians have a wide breadth, like basically we’re experts in all food-related information,” said Smallwood.

While the dietitians will answer people’s questions if they dial 811 or send an e-mail, they can also provide extra resources and supplemental information that can be sent in the mail or e-mailed.

Smallwood sees it as a necessary service in the province.

“A lot of the dietitians throughout this province are only located in the hospitals, so that means there’s so many communities that don’t have access to a dietitian, and this gives everybody access.”

Smallwood also points to the high rates of certain health issues in Newfoundland and Labrador — such as having the highest rate of diabetes in the country — as a reason access to dietitians’ expertise is essential.

“People are getting diagnosed with diabetes in smaller communities by their doctor, and then they’re left in a jam because they might have an appointment in town or their closest health facility and it might be weeks away, and in the meantime, they’re like, ‘Well, what am I going to do to eat so that my blood sugar stays stable?’ And they don’t have anybody to talk to.

“They’re going to the internet and anybody can post on the internet, so they might not find quite the information that they need, or not accurate. So, this is to make sure that they get accurate information from knowledgeable health professionals, rather than being left in a lurch and not really knowing what to do.”

People can call as often as they’d like with any questions.

The service is confidential and callers can choose to remain anonymous. 

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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