Bronwyn Coyne has had an interest in nutrition since high school when she was involved in sports.
“I’ve always loved food. It’s an area that meets all aspects of a person’s life, so you can really affect change in a lot of different ways by changing your diet or just having those conversations with people around nutrition,” she said.
“I just love talking about it. I like to know what people think about food and ways you can help them change that.”
This is a big part of what she does as a registered dietitian with the Cowichan Lake primary healthcare team: one-on-one counselling, during which Coyne starts by learning who her client is.
“You want to find out what’s going on in their whole life a little bit because those things affect food,” she said. “Then usually I try to get an idea of what they eat in a day or a week. And from there we try to work on what their goals are because not everyone has the same goal around nutrition and eating.”
Coyne and her colleagues take a team-based approach to healthcare, with each team member providing a different perspective on a client’s health and wellbeing. Their services are free and available to any adult living with a chronic disease or condition — anything from arthritis to diabetes to anxiety and depression.
The team wants to keep barriers to accessing their services as low as possible, and clients don’t need to be referred by a doctor, they can come to the Kaatza Health Clinic themselves and ask for an assessment for the program.
Coyne has been working in Lake Cowichan as part of the primary healthcare team since September 2015.
One recurring nutritional problem she’s observed during her short time here has been access to healthy foods.
“Income hasn’t gone up with the cost of food in the region so it can be hard for people to afford a lot of those healthier foods,” she said, adding that she can work with clients to figure out the best way to maximize a limited food budget in terms of healthier options.
Coyne and other dietitians are encouraging Canadians to take the “100 Meal Journey” in March, which is nutrition month in Canada.
“It’s all about the little changes you can make because we eat about 100 meals a month. So it’s all about the small things you can change that can have a big impact,” she said, suggesting switches like white bread for whole grain or lentils instead of meat once or twice a week.
Coyne said clients often tell her they don’t like nutritious snacks or meals.
“But when you actually start hearing what people eat, they do like healthy foods, they’re just convinced that because they like it, it’s not good for them,” she said.
“You don’t have to only eat the kale and spinach if those are your two most hated vegetables. You’re not going to stick with it if you don’t like it.”