A Guide to Healthy Eating for Adults with 22q11.2DS

Samantha D’Arcy, our Registered Dietitian, has been hosting nutrition webinars for our patients and families. Here are the recordings.

We are in the process of updating this webpage. Please check back to see our new content.

Let’s meet with a dietitian

What is a Registered Dietitian?

Registered Dietitians (RDs) are health professionals who are food and nutrition experts. They help people with conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, stomach issues, weight gain and more to eat healthier. They work with other health professionals such as doctors and social workers to treat patients and help them live healthier lives.

Samantha D’Arcy is our Registered Dietitian.
Samantha D'Arcy

What will an appointment with a dietitian be like?

The dietitian will meet with you and your family to ask about your lifestyle and eating habits, weight, medical conditions, vitamins and minerals you take, food allergies and intolerances, daily activities and more. Together you will come up with goals to improve your eating and activity habits, and they will help you reach these goals with encouragement, support and regular follow up appointments.

[Return to top]

Let’s eat healthy

Question: What are some healthy eating tips?
  1. Keep an eye on your drinks
    Have skim, 1% milk, or water instead of juice and caffeinated drinks, especially pop. Juice and pop are high in sugar, pop also has caffeine. Caffeine can make you agitated, anxious and cause tremors. Pop and “fizzy” drinks lower the calcium in your blood.
  2. Eat slowly
    If you eat too quickly you might finish your meal or snack before your stomach tells you it’s full. You will end up eating more than you need.
  3. Plan your meals
    Set aside time during the day to plan your meals. This will help you make healthier choices at the grocery store, eat out less, and save money.
  4. Stick to a routine
    Once you find a plan that works for you, stick to it! Use helpful reminders such as a calendar or notes on the fridge.
  5. Make healthier choices when you eat out
    • Look for words such as “grilled”, “roasted” or “baked”; “light”; and “low in sodium”. These foods have less fat, salt and calories.
    • Stay away from words such as “fried”, “creamy”, “crispy” and “buttered”. These foods have more fat, salt and calories.
    • Split a large meal with someone. Portion sizes at restaurants are usually larger. Ask for two separate plates.
    • Push your plate away when you start to feel full.
    • Ask for a leftover container.
What to do if I can’t afford healthy food?
  • Eating healthy can be hard, especially if you don’t have the money to buy healthy foods.
  • Here are some ideas to help you eat healthy on a budget:
    1. See if you can get extra money for healthy eating:
        If you receive financial help from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), you might be able to get extra money for healthy eating through Special Diet Allowance (SDA) funding. Ask your ODSP worker or our Clinic for more details.
    2. Use community food programs in your area:
        There are programs such as food banks, community meals, community gardens, cheaper vegetable and fruit boxes and more in many places in Ontario. Ask our Clinic for more details.
    3. Look for deals
        Check store flyers or use coupon apps such as Flipp or Reebee. Buy “No Name” brands. Learn to compare the unit price of items, which is found on the price tag at grocery stores.
    4. Have a plan at the grocery store:
        Make a list of foods you need to buy and stick to it, and never grocery shop when hungry, as that might make you buy more food off your list.
    5. Learn to cook more foods:
        Making food from scratch is cheaper than buying pre-made meals. Learn to cook less expensive protein choices such as lentils, beans, tofu, low-fat peanut butter and eggs. Add these foods to salads, sandwiches, and stir-frys. Here are some recipe websites that can help you learn:

[Return to top]

Let’s make healthy eating manageable for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

If you have 22q11.2 DS, you may have been diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Research has been done to show strengths and weaknesses in people with 22q11.2 DS. Many of these affect your eating habits and behaviours.

Here is a list of habits or behaviours that you may have and suggestions that may help you.

Habit or Behaviour Suggestions that may help you
Difficulty understanding portion sizes of food
  1. Compare the portion size to a real life object. For example, ½ cup is the same size as a tennis ball
  2. Practice measuring your own food and take a good look at them on your plate.

Your dietitian will use pictures and food models to help you understand serving and portion sizes.

Eating the same food all the time
  1. Come up with creative ideas to make food look more appetizing
  2. Try one new food a week
Difficulty planning menus
  1. Work with your dietitian to come up with a list of your favourite foods and meals. This will help you to plan your own meals
  2. Take a trip to the grocery store with your family/caregiver to learn about different healthy food choices
  3. Try to plan one new meal on your own each week
Unable to recognize when you are full Push your plate away after you eat one serving and wait a few minutes to see if you are still hungry
Poor hygiene
  1. Practice washing all fruits and vegetables before you eat.
  2. Practice washing your hands and the counter before and after you eat. Keep reminders for yourself in the kitchen.
  3. Make a duty wheel at home for tasks such as: washing the dishes, cleaning the floor, cleaning the counters
  4. Keep track of your tasks. Reward yourself

[Return to top]

Let’s get enough calcium

Calcium is a mineral that is found in your body that you get from foods. Calcium helps your brain send messages through your body and helps your muscles move. If your calcium goes too low, it can cause seizures.

Eating more high calcium foods such as milk and milk alternatives, yogurt, cheese, some types of tofu, white beans, almonds and more can help your body have higher calcium levels. Taking 2000 IU of vitamin D every day is also very important for your body to grab all the calcium from your foods.

On the other hand, salty foods, caffeine, pop and other things can make it hard for your body to take up enough calcium.

Watch the following video from our Clinic dietitian, Samantha D’Arcy, about calcium in your body, and how to have healthy levels:
Webinar: All About Calcium.

[Return to top]

Let’s have regular bowel movements

Question: How do you know if you’re constipated?
  • Stools may be hard
  • Bowel movements are difficult to pass
  • You may experience stomach pain and bloating
  • After a bowel movement, you may feel as though you have more to empty
  • Less than three bowel movements per week
Question: What are some causes of constipation?
  • Not enough fibre in your diet
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Limited physical activity
  • Side effects from medications (tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics), supplements (calcium and iron), antacids (especially tums)
Question: What are some helpful tips?
  • Follow a high fibre diet
  • Increase fluid intake
  • Add more physical activity
  • Set a routine and set aside time to go to the washroom
  • Limit high fat and highly processed foods
  • Remain calm and relaxed
  • Talk to your doctor about a bowel routine if nothing is working

[Return to top]

Let’s be physically active

Question: How can physical activity help me?
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Strengthens your heart and lungs
  • Improves your energy and confidence
  • Reduces your stress levels
Question: What type of activities can I do?

Before starting any exercise programs please talk to your doctor to make sure you are safe to start…


  • Brisk walking
  • Bowling
  • Bike riding
  • Gardening/housework
  • Swimming
  • Dancing


  • Jogging
  • Aerobics
  • Sports (hockey, basketball, tennis)
  • Fast swimming
  • Fast dancing
Question: How often should I do these activities?
  • 150 minutes each week (2 ½ hours) of moderate- to vigorous- intensity aerobic physical activity, in 10 minute or more sessions
  • You can break this down into 20–25 minutes of physical activity every day
  • Start off slowly and increase gradually
  • Try 10 minutes a day to get you started
  • Try muscle and bone strengthening activities 2 times/week

The Peter Munk Cardiac Centre has launched a website, Heart Health by Design. It is an online exercise program that blends the best in cardiac medicine and the latest fitness practices. It was specifically designed for patients with an enlarged cardiac muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)) patients, but is suitable for anyone hoping to improve his or her fitness. Please check with your doctor to see if this program is suitable for you.

[Return to top]

Let’s look at more resources

[Return to top]