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How to Live Like the Experts: Registered Dietitian Jill Zweig opens up about what’s on her plate

Jill Zweig
Written by Monica Matys

Ever wonder if your doctor or specialist follows their own advice? Sunnybrook experts get candid with the approaches they take in their personal lives.

Jill Zweig is a Registered Dietitian, Diabetes Educator, Sunnybrook Academic Family Health Team.

What’s your earliest memory of food?

My mom was a great cook and I grew up in a house where we ate dinner together every night. My dad got home from work by 6:30, so dinner was a big part of our day. It was a healthy, balanced meal but never to an extreme. It’s not like we didn’t have cookies in the house.

So, you’ve always had a healthy relationship with food?

I’ve always had a healthy relationship with food and exercise, and they go hand in hand. I’m an extremely active person, and now that my kids are in their twenties, they are following my example and incorporating good habits in their own lives. I believe everything in moderation.

Even though you are a dietitian, are there temptations you deal with?

For sure. That stretch between 3 p.m. to dinner time is the toughest for me in terms of getting hungry and craving snacks. I try to reach for an apple when that happens, but I’m human and not perfect. I love chocolate so I may grab some chocolate chips or some chocolate covered almonds. As a family, we love dessert. When I make cookies or cake though, I don’t try to find a “low-fat” version. Make the real thing, but have one piece or two. As a family, we have a good sense of portions.

What’s your daily food routine?

A typical breakfast includes bran buds with blueberries and skim milk. I try not to snack between breakfast and lunch, but if I’m really hungry, I’ll reach for some almonds or dates.

Lunch can vary a bit, as I tend to go through phases. Right now, I’m having a small tortilla wrap, with cheese and veggies, as well as some plain yogurt with fruit and maybe nuts. If I’m going to work, I always pack a bag of veggies to munch on.

Today, as an adult with my own grown family, carrying on that tradition of sitting down to a family meal is really important to me. I cook dinner on most nights and really enjoy the process. My cooking isn’t fancy, but I love tasty food and have some simple recipes that I go back to a lot. Finding a balance with healthier foods — meaning including a protein, veggies and avoiding fried foods — is key. We’re not much for snacking after dinner.

How do you stay inspired in the kitchen?

It can be hard. I have to think about meal planning in advance, so I often ask my kids for ideas. Sometimes I just read through cookbooks for inspiration. I tend to shop seasonally as well, to change things up, especially with veggies. I like to start my grocery shopping in the produce aisle to see what’s on sale and in season. In the summer, we’ll BBQ a lot.

Are there any food limits in your home?

My philosophy is all about moderation. We live in a world that promotes a lot of unhealthy foods, so I’ve always felt it was important to give my kids the tools to navigate that in a healthy context. So we do keep snacks, like cookies and chips, around the house.

What’s your favourite meal?

I love Asian. Chinese and Thai food. We order it in about once every two weeks. I love the crunchy veggies and combination of sweet and savoury!

Do you see food more as utility of pleasure?

Food is pleasure, but sometimes utility. I don’t like to waste for sure.

So, what’s your best nutrition tip?

Enjoy the food you eat, choose healthier foods more often and include small portions of your favourite foods — such as chocolate cake — occasionally.

About the author

Monica Matys

Monica Matys is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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