We ask health and wellness professionals the same six questions we always ask. This week, TWO DOULAS talks to nutritionist Naomi Berkowicz.
Naomi Berkowicz Dt.P. is a registered dietitian-nutritionist working in private practice in Montreal. She graduated from the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ).
Naomi specializes in pregnancy, breastfeeding, infant and pediatric nutrition. She is studying to become a lactation consultant to further her specialization. When she’s not working or studying, she can be found exercising with YouTube videos, playing with her precocious toddler, and drooling over the Food Network.
How would you describe your job in just one sentence?
My job is about diagnosing, assessing and recommending healthy eating and lifestyle habits for my clients, taking into account their social, economic, health, cultural, and religious situations – It’s about helping them reach their goals for nutrition in a way that works for them; that’s tailored to their lifestyle and circumstances.
What made you want to be a nutritionist?
I originally thought I would go into medicine (delivering babies sounded like fun!), but then I did an in-hospital program for high school students to shadow doctors, and I definitely couldn’t do it (I’m sorry, some things are too gross for me). After that, I knew I wanted to stay in the health field; it was a matter of figuring out what. Nutrition for me is not just a science, it’s an art and a creative endeavour – for example making menu changes that fit a person’s unique needs can be a creative exercise. I have to make sure it looks delicious to eat, tastes yummy and does good for the body.
How can new or expectant parents benefit from your services?
Nutrition in the intrapartum period is essential for the health of not just baby, but also mom, too. There are many health conditions that can be affected by what mom eats, and how much she eats when she’s pregnant. When she’s breastfeeding, food can also be a tool to optimize both mom and baby health – of course no matter what you eat, your milk is perfect for baby. In essence, I am there to guide and reassure new parents who have all sorts of new things thrown at them, including a lot of misconceptions about nutrition. A lot of times, people put unnecessary restrictions on themselves and the more options you have to eat, the easier pregnancy and breastfeeding can be.
What happens at your first meeting with new or expectant parents?
I do a full nutritional evaluation, which includes health history, history of pregnancies, and any relevant social and cultural background information. I then assess and evaluate these fields, and come up with extremely personalized recommendations, depending on needs and wants. We decide on goals and to work on, and future follow-ups as needed.
For example, a mom at risk of gestational diabetes can benefit greatly from a nutritionist during pregnancy, to try to prevent it, or deal with it if it is diagnosed. We work on modifiable risk factors, taking into account the above points.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about your field?
That I only eat steamed broccoli and broiled fish, all organic of course … This is not true, I enjoy a large variety of foods. Usually, when someone asks me about what I do, I usually have a fries or ice cream in front of me.
The other big misconception is that I give you a diet that you have to follow to a tee. I don’t provide a lifetime of menus; I give you the tools and education to be able to make nutritional decisions, because life is full of birthday parties, Sunday night dinners, restaurants visits and limited choices at the airport when your plane is delayed.
What do you love most about working with new and expectant parents?
I love that many people I work with make changes in their lives, for themselves and their families. Being pregnant or having children is usually a major catalyst for changes, and I like being a part of that. I love seeing positive results that impact people’s lives. It makes me so happy when a parent tells me my advice has improved their life.