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Rachel: “My name is Rachel Hilts, I’m a registered dietitian based in Halifax, and I started my nutrition counselling business in July 2020 after the practice that I had been working at previously closed due to the pandemic. This turned into a blessing because I was able to build a practice that focuses on supporting people with fertility and pregnancy nutrition, as well as health conditions like PCOS and Endometriosis. I also integrate an Intuitive Eating based model to much of my client work, as I too often see women who have been struggling with their relationship with food and restricting more and more foods trying to find a solution to their fertility or other health concerns. I’ve struggled with my own eating and know how much stress that can cause, and I ultimately want my clients to be able to be confident in their decisions around food and nutrition, while not really having to think about it or stress about it much through the day!
I first realized I wanted to work in the prenatal health field when I was taking a second-year nutrition class about nutrition through the lifecycle. While every life stage was interesting, I quickly became fascinated with how much of an impact nutrition changes during pregnancy could have on future health outcomes for both mom and bub. This lead me very quickly into the rabbit hole that is fertility and pregnancy health care, researching and learning as much as I could, and I haven’t lost my passion yet!
Rachel: “I offer one on one nutrition counselling, as well as some group programs and courses. I support individuals and families through evidence-based, patient-centred care to optimize their diet and nutrition, troubleshoot eating challenges, and provide support in reaching their goals. Sometimes that means getting a period back, getting pregnant, or healing a disordered relationship with food. Other times those goals might be smaller – eating more vegetables, dealing with morning sickness, or just a general health check-in.
I work primarily virtually, and most of my client work is done through video appointments. I do also see patients in person a couple of days a week at a clinic in Bedford NS – Strada Health and Fitness. While I am based in Halifax, I see patients virtually from across the country. I’ve also recently started offering some standalone resources for purchase/download, including a fertility recipe book and a pregnancy e-guide (coming soon!). These are available on the shop page of my website. “
Rachel: “I have a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition from Mount Saint Vincent University. I also completed a 1 further year dietetic internship that was integrated through my degree at MSVU. I’ve done additional training to specialize in nutrition therapy for fertility and pregnancy, including courses through Nutrition Plus, and an Advanced Breastfeeding Practice course through Mohawk College. I’m also currently completing a 1-year advanced eating disorder training course through ED for RD’s.”
Rachel: “Technically, in Nova Scotia, there is no difference. Anyone using the term nutritionist in NS must be a registered dietitian. In other provinces or countries though, nutritionist is not always a regulated term, so often will refer to someone without a dietetic licence – they may have training in holistic nutrition, a nutrition degree, or a certificate in nutrition, or they may not have any regulated training, so it’s important to find out their qualifications! To be a dietitian you have to have completed at least 5 years of nutrition education, including a 1-year internship, pass licensing exams and follow provincial regulations.”
Rachel: “Changes in our environment, including changes with nutrition and food, can impact gene function and the way that some genes express themselves. On the other side of things, some genes can impact the way we respond to our diet or environment. This concept is typically called nutrition genomics, or nutrigenomics, and it is still a fairly new field of research, but it is rapidly expanding.
An example of this is lactose intolerance – People who are not lactose intolerant have a gene that allows our bodies to produce sufficient amounts of lactase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose and can therefore enjoy lactose-containing dairy. However, those who are lactose intolerant may not have this gene, so they experience discomfort if they have lactose.
There are many different genes that we are finding that are linked to diet, as well as disease, athletic performance, fertility, or other health outcomes. We don’t always need to know if we have the exact genes, in the case of lactose intolerance it’s often pretty obvious, but in other cases, it can be helpful.
That being said, genetics is only one aspect that impacts your health, and it is definitely not the whole picture!”
Rachel: “Lots of ways! Our diet can impact our cycle health, egg health, ovulation, sperm health, and also impact genetic programming for future babes – just to name a few things! We have some studies that have looked at how much of an impact nutrition can have on chances of conceiving, and Harvard researchers have found that a few targeted diet changes can reduce the risk of infertility by around 69%, and 80% in women with irregular ovulation! While I could go on all day on this topic (and I do), I’ll leave it at that for now.
Aside from all these, I always advocate for seeing a dietitian before you get pregnant, when possible, as it can really help to avoid nutrition deficiencies or other complications during your pregnancy.
Rachel: “Yep! I work with any dietary pattern.”
Rachel: “‘Superfood’ is actually just a marketing term and doesn’t mean anything practically speaking. To not leave your question hanging though, one of my favorite foods that is a nutrition powerhouse is pumpkin seeds – they are an awesome source of magnesium, zinc, protein, and healthy fats.”
Rachel: “I try to always create a welcoming and safe space for my clients, and I put you in the driver’s seat. I’ll provide the evidence-based information, but also practical tips and talk through what’s realistic and helpful for you. I never expect clients to be perfect with their eating, or to follow every recommendation – my job is always to support, and to guide you when you want me to.
You can book appointments online directly, or by contacting me. I also offer a free 15-minute discovery call so we can get to know each other before you commit, and make sure we are a good fit.”
Rachel: “Gather support resources! It’s true that it can take a village, so reach out to physio’s, counsellors, dietitians, lactation consultants, etc. Whether you’re trying to conceive, are currently pregnant, or have a new baby at home, it’s always a good time to reach out and ask for support. You don’t have to do it alone, and you definitely don’t have to know it all!
Connect with Rachel over on her Instagram page and check out her website.
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