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Healing with food since 1949

Food: the number one ingredient to healthy living

Posted: October 26, 2008 6:33 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Betty Waldner assesses clients' eating habits at the Samuel Dixon Health Centers in Canyon Country and Val Verde.

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Dieting in the 1940s was a lot different than what we are used to today, and Betty Waldner of Thousand Oaks can attest to that. She has been a nutritionist for almost 60 years.

Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, supervise meal preparation, and oversee the serving of meals. They prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and recommending dietary modifications.

Waldner has been working in the Santa Clarita Valley for almost a decade now, working in two health clinics once a month. She offers her services to the communities of Canyon Country and Val Verde at their Samuel Dixon Health Center locations. She provides Medical Nutrition Therapy for patients at each center.

She also conducts workshops during diabetic screening days. These days come four times a year where the health centers invite people with diabetes in the community to come in, get tested, and keep up on any new information regarding the condition.

During these workshops, Waldner naturally talks about the power behind food and how it can affect overall health.

The 30-40 people who attend usually leave with new found knowledge on what foods to avoid, and what foods to eat in order to help their diabetes.

"That's what it's all about," Waldner said.

Her workshops are roughly 20 minutes long, and because so many people attend, Waldner unfortunately doesn't have enough time to answer any specific-related questions.

"It's very general," she said. "If they want a more specific or personal meal plan, they need to make an appointment with me."

Each appointment is roughly 20-30 minutes long. Waldner assesses the patient, asks for a food record of what they typically eat day to day, what time of day they fill their bellies, and if they snack in between meals. She also asks about foods she calls "extras" that people don't typically think have a lot of calories, sodium, or sugars, like sodas, condiments, and juices. At the end of the appointment, Waldner informs her patients what they are doing wrong, and then proceeds to give them a list of things he or she could do in order to improve his or her health.

Waldner doesn't just help those coping with diabetes. Her services are available to anyone needing nutritional management.

"I deal with a lot of weight management, people trying to lose weight," she said. "But I have clients coming in trying to control their hypertension and cholesterol too."

In addition to helping those who gained too much weight, she also helps those who are diabetic while pregnant, people who are anemic, and people who don't have enough weight on their bones.

Health related conditions weren't as prominent when Waldner first became a nutritionist in 1949.

"Hypertension really didn't come out til the 50s," she said. "And there weren't any cholesterol tests until 30 years ago."

If only people listened and applied the saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.'

"All of my clients are referred to me by doctors or practitioners," Waldner said. "And doctors usually send them back to me if their condition is getting worse throughout the years."

Although clients are permitted to see Waldner on their own, only a few of them actually come back for a follow-up.

"Health is all about self management, "she said. "I can tell them what to do, but if they don't do it, I'm not helping them."

Betty Waldner knew she wanted to be a dietician when she was in high school.

"I worked in the kitchen at school for a two to three years," she said. "I met and worked with the Dietitian from school and I really liked it. I knew I wanted to work in the field at that moment, and I stayed ever since."

Becoming a nutritionist is no walk in the park. Just like nurses have to pass a test in order to be a registered nurse, nutritionists have a test of their own to become a registered nutritionist.

And just like anyone in the medical field, Waldner has to maintain her RD status.

"It's a continuing education," she said. "It's part of the job."

Registered nutritionists are required to complete a number of units over the course of five years. There are a variety of ways credits could be attained. Classes could be taken, participation in research and publication in journals, or attending workshops throughout the year are just a few ways to fulfill the credit requirements.

Each dietician is also checked and approved by the American Dietetic Association.

With a constantly challenging career, Waldner couldn't see herself doing anything else.

"I love meeting and trying to help people," she said. "And trying to find solutions in order for them to have a better and healthier life."

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