Wellness Blog

Each month, I.L. Creations' registered dietitians create our Wellness Newsletter discussing a different nutrition or wellness topic. You may subscribe to this at the registered dietitian's table during your cafe's monthly wellness visit or by clicking the link below to our Home page.  Here on the blog, we continue the conversation by posting relevant, entertaining, and useful food and nutrition information. 

Please look through our previous posts below to see what topics you may have missed. If you would like to see a topic in the future, let us know!

Check out the Home page to subscribe for free to our monthly Wellness Newsletter.
Check out the Recipes page to see recipes from previous newsletters, registered dietitian cafe visits, and our registered dietitian's family favorites.

Table of Contents

Setting and Keeping Goals in 2018

posted Jan 15, 2018, 3:02 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

In our last blog we discussed CLEAN Cuisines in 2018. Focusing on Clean eating, Lean meals, Exercise, Ask the dietitian, No excuses. This week we’ll discuss how to make resolutions or goals. A popular acronym many professionals use is SMART to help clients set and reach their goals.  So, if we think about living CLEAN this year, we can use the SMART way of setting goals:

S – Specific:  the more specific a goal is the more likely you are to achieve it. Exercise more- walk in the morning before work

M – Measurable:  this is the “how’s” how much, or how many, or how often. I will aim for 30 minutes, 5 times a week

A – Attainable: the steps you will take to reach your goal. First, I will start walking 3 days/week for 1 month, then increase to 4x/wk for 1 month, then 5x/week.   

R – Relevant: Is the time right? My husband is willing to help get the kids ready for school so I have time in the morning. If the weather is bad I will walk during lunch at the office gym.

T – Time: Set a specific time that you will achieve your goal. I will achieve this in 3 months.

Our handout this month has the step by step process of setting SMART goals or come visit us during our dietitian visit at your cafeteria for a copy and let us help you reach your goals.

Happy New Year!

CLEAN Cuisines in 2018

posted Jan 5, 2018, 10:47 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito   [ updated Jan 6, 2018, 8:21 AM ]

By Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT

Happy Healthy New Year!  At the start of each year, many of us make New Year’s resolutions that we feel will improve our lives.   With good intentions, we research the latest and greatest weight-loss and exercise plans.   Often, these plans begin to clutter the mind and body with short-term results.  This year, set out to transform your resolutions into life-changing habits.  Resolutions are goals we set for ourselves.   That’s why in 2018, let’s de-clutter our New Year’s resolutions by thinking “CLEAN”.  The “CLEAN” steps will help guide you through your most transformative year.

(1)    C:    Clean eating.   Eat less processed foods and eat more fresh and locally-grown foods.  At IL Creations (ILC) cafes, we aim to use more locally-grown produce and meats in our cafes.   Once a month, our registered dietitians and chefs at ILC provide healthy homemade sample recipes made from fresh ingredients at select cafes.   So, check out your IL Creations menu to find the schedule for your next dietitian visit. 

(2)    L:    Lean meals.  Aim to eat more meals made with lean meats and ingredients.  For example, at IL Creations, our chefs and salad cooks use wholesome fresh vegetables and lean meats to produce a variety of flavorful dishes.

(3)    E:    Exercise:    Exercising at least 30 minutes a day can help improve your cardiovascular and mood, and can lead to healthy weight-loss.  Working out 45 minutes to an hour each day can lead to weight-loss if this is your goal.  Adding strength training can boost your metabolism because the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns throughout the day.  Mindfulness and stretch activities are exercises for the mind and body.    Yoga conditions the body to become more flexible and youthful.   Mindful breathing and meditation can further reduce anxiety and stress.   A stressful lifestyle can increase your chances of developing chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's.   These two mindfulness practices will help you reduce stress as well as become more mindful in 2018.   At I.L Creations, our newest dietitian/nutritionist is dually-trained as a Restorative Yoga Instructor and Registered Dietitian.  Additionally, both of IL Creations dietitians have experience in sports nutrition.  

(4)    A:   Ask the Dietitian:   IL Creations hires registered, licensed dietitians who are credible and medically-trained nutritionists.  Our Registered Dietitians on staff ensure that our food offerings are adequately analyzed, and nutrition information is available to you.  They are also available to make presentations on nutrition and healthy lifestyle topics, to help keep you on track in 2018.

(5)    N:   No Excuses:  Excuses become our downfall.   By setting a fail-safe plan, you can ensure that excuses will be a thing of the past.   Fuel your body with clean cuisines at IL Creations' cafes.  To help you with mindful meal planning, IL Creations posts on-line menus so that you can select your breakfast and lunch items.   To help keep you motivated a weekly nutrition and lifestyle tip will be posted on the IL Creations menu site.

Packing the Right Snacks for Travel

posted Dec 22, 2017, 1:06 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

As many of us head out to visit family and friends this holiday season, it is important to have the right snacks whether by plane, train, or automobile.  Go for lower sugar, higher protein items with some healthy fats to help keep you feeling full.

Unsalted tree nuts– walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, etc. contain protein and healthy fats. They contain antioxidants and  omega-3 essential fatty acids like Linoleic acid, α -Linolenic acid (ALA), etc. Omega -3’s help to lower the risk of blood pressure, coronary artery disease, strokes and some cancers.

Fruit – dried (check the label for sugar content-raisins don’t typically contain added sugar most others do.)  For fresh fruit bring along firm apples, pears or oranges. Pack some grapes in a baggy and store them where they won’t get crushed.

Trail mix – make your own with various dry cereals, nuts, raisin, and for a special treat add a few dark chocolate chips.

Hummus and vegetables –you can buy small single serve hummus or use a small container. This is a great way to get a serving a vegetables in and the hummus contains some protein to help keep you satisfied.

Cheese sticks and crackers- a serving of dairy plus you’ll feel satisfied.

Peanut butter (or other nut butter) sandwich-add jelly if you like and use whole wheat bread for the additional fiber you may need.

Pretzels or popcorn – are great low fat snacks that travel well.

Hard boiled eggs- peel ahead of time and keep cool if possible or eat within 2 hours. Eggs provide 6 grams of protein, disease-fighting nutrients like lutein which is an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration; and choline  which promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body.

Seeds-contain vitamin E and B vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin. Vitamin E helps protect the body from harmful free radicals. B vitamins aid in supporting your body's metabolism rate,  and aiding your body in fighting disease and infection.

Dry oatmeal- bring in a heat resistant container and add hot water after airport security. Oatmeal is a whole grain and contains fiber.

Sugar Substitutes: Are they safe?

posted Dec 6, 2017, 6:40 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

Sugar substitutes are one of the most widely tested food additive. But are they safe? We’ll discuss some of the concerns along with some of the benefits. Sugar substitutes are any sweetener used instead of table sugar.  There are many types of sugar substitutes including artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, novel sweeteners and natural sweeteners. Each have pros and cons and a variety of uses.

Artificial sweeteners – are synthetic and made from naturally occurring substances or chemicals. They are calorie free and many times sweeter than table sugar, so only a little is needed. They are mainly used in the diet beverage industry, and to sweeten foods and drinks at home.

Pros: Calorie free which may help in weight loss, don’t typically rise blood sugar because they aren’t carbohydrates (check with your doctor or  dietitian before using artificial sweeteners if you have diabetes)

Cons: A study from the 1970’s involving saccharin showed it caused cancer in rats, and a warning label was required. Since then studies have shown no links to cancer in humans and the warning            label was removed. Some artificial sweeteners leave an aftertaste.

           Examples: Sucralose (Splenda), Aspartame (Nutrasweet), Saccharin (Sweet n Low).

Natural Sweeteners – are promoted as being healthier than table sugar and other sugar substitutes however these often are processed and refined. Typically they are used at home as a sweetener, and also used in processed foods.

Pros: Generally safe, some studies have shown that honey has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

        Cons: Can cause cavities, contain calories and carbohydrates so those with diabetes need to plan accordingly.

Examples: honey, agave nectar, molasses, fruit juice, maple syrup

Sugar Alcohols-  are commonly found in processed foods like chocolate, frozen desserts, candy and baked goods. They are about the same sweetness as table sugar and can occur naturally in some fruits and vegetables but are also manufactured.

       Pros: typically less sweet than sugar and therefore less calories (unless you use more to achieve the same taste. Don’t contribute to tooth decay and have less effect on blood sugars because             They aren’t absorbed completely.

       Cons: can cause diarrhea, gas and bloating in higher amounts

       Examples: Xylitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol

Novel Sweeteners - are relatively new to the market and are combinations of a variety of sweeteners. They typically contain some carbohydrate.

Pros: many are low in calories

     Cons: not tightly regulated- one stevia compound may be 100% stevia but         

another may not.

Examples: Stevia, Tagatos and Trehalose

So, are they safe? The FDA regulates artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols and novel sweeteners and studies have shown that in small reasonable amounts they are safe. However, just because they are ‘natural’ or calorie free doesn’t mean you can eat the entire bag of sugar free cookies. Many of the foods containing these products contain empty calories, with little or no nutritional value and are highly processed.

If you are looking to cut back on your sugar intake, try choosing smaller portions, look for lower sugar alternatives like graham crackers instead of chocolate chip cookies, or plain yogurt with fruit.

For more information on sugar substitutes click here.





Finding the Hidden Sugar in the Ingredients

posted Nov 21, 2017, 7:44 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito

Excess sugar consumption is linked to many chronic health conditions, ranging from diabetes to hormonal imbalances, and linked to the acceleration of brain cell destruction in Alzheimer's disease.  While sugar in our food is not the only culprit for developing diabetes, it does trigger the release of the hormone (insulin) that regulates blood glucose (sugar) levels.   Understanding how to find sugar on a food label is important for individuals who have intolerances or sensitivities to specific types of sugar.  For example, lactose is a naturally occurring milk sugar that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort to those who have lactose intolerance.  High fructose corn syrup, a liquid sweetener, is added to sodas and many processed foods, has been linked to the development of diabetes in those individuals who are at risk. 

To help you find the hidden sugar in your food, take a closer look at the fine print on the food label listed under “ingredients”.    The clues are in the suffix or ending part of a word.    The following are just a few key terms to help you identify the sugar in your food.   

1.       “Ose”:  Ose is a suffix indicating carbohydrate.  On a food label, under  “ingredients”, look for keywords that end in “ose”.   Commonly used added sugars that use the “ose” suffix are dextrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose.  

2.       “Syrup”:  Syrup is a concentrated solution of sugar in water.  On a food label, look for words ending with syrup.  Commonly used syrups are agave syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup,  and high fructose corn syrup.   

3.       “Juices”:  A fluid which can be naturally occurring or mixed.   Look for ingredients that have added the word “juice”.  Commonly used juices, are apple juice, grape juice, and pineapple juice. 

4.       “Honey ”:  Flower nectar stored in the honeycomb by bees.   The flower nectar breaks down into simple sugars and is harvested to make honey.   Honey has the same reaction in the body as table sugar. 

With time and practice, you will be able to quickly find the “hidden sugars” in many foods.  It’s important to note that the ingredients are listed in the order of highest-quantity to lowest-quantity in a particular food.     

For more questions on this topic or to have our Registered Dietitians present more on this topic to your department, please contact nutrition@ilcreations.com .


Is Sugar the Enemy: Sugar and Your Health

posted Nov 6, 2017, 9:26 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap in last few years. But, all carbs are not created equal. Carbohydrates can be categorized into simple carbs (sugar) and complex carbs (whole grains, fruits and vegetables).  In fact our bodies need complex carbs, for optimal brain function and for energy especially during exercise. It is the simple carbs, ie. sugar that we need to be concerned about.

Some foods, like fruit, contain sugar naturally, other foods like cakes, cookies and sodas contain added sugars. It is these added sugars we need to watch out for. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Americans should consume no more that 10% of total calories from added sugars per day (about 12-15 teaspoons/day). Many Americans consume up to 25% of their total calories from added sugars and this can have a profound affect on their health.

Let’s take a look at some of the harmful effects excessive sugar has our bodies and our health.

Diabetes -  It has long been thought that consuming sugar can cause type 2 diabetes, but recent studies have found that eating recommended amounts of sugar as part of a healthy diet does not increase your risk. However, studies have shown that consuming high sugar beverages does increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Heart disease - There aren’t many dietary studies linking sugar intake to cardiovascular death but there have been associations between high sugar intake (20% of calories or 30 teaspoons/day) and an increase triglycerides and decrease in HDL levels (good cholesterol). Both of these can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. One study showed that compared to those who consumed 8% of calories from sugar; those consuming 17-21% of calories from sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. So, while more studies need to be done, excessive sugar intake does seem to have a negative on the cardiovascular system.

Tooth decay- We all have bacteria is our mouths and this bacteria thrive on sugar. The more sugar you eat the more the bacteria multiply and this excess bacteria then can cause tooth decay.

Inadequate diet - Foods high in sugar can replace more nutritious foods in the diet. Sugar has no vitamins or minerals, it is ‘empty calories’ and because high sugar foods taste good there is the tendency to overeat these types of foods, which can lead to weight gain.

So, should we limit added sugars? Yes, too much of any nutrient isn’t good, but we don’t need to eliminate it totally. Sugar plays a role in baking and flavoring foods, so in small amounts it is not too bad.  The American Heart Association has stricter guidelines, which is recommended for better health. Most women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons/day or 100 calories and most men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons/day or 150 calories. So, take a look at the amount of added sugar you are consuming and if it is too much, try making some changes. Check out myplate.gov to calculate how much sugar you are consuming and for healthy eating tips. Our next blog will focus on reducing sugar intake.

Vegetarian Dining Out

posted Oct 30, 2017, 12:04 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Oct 30, 2017, 12:15 PM ]

Finding meatless meals when eating away from home can be challenging. But, more and more restaurants are offering vegetarian and vegan options or will alter a menu item so it is vegetarian or vegan. However, there are still things you need to look out for. For example, is the food cooked with butter or chicken or beef stock.

With a few tips you can eat away from home without much worry.

Restaurants: Many restaurants now label their vegetarian and vegan items with a leaf or a ‘v’ or have a separate section on their menu. You can always ask, if you aren’t sure. Most restaurant staff are well versed in meeting customers’ various dietary needs. If something looks good but isn’t vegetarian ask the kitchen to make the necessary substitution or deletions. One thing to be aware of is the deep fryer frying oil, this oil is typically used for all deep fried foods. If you don’t mind that chicken nuggets are fried in the same oil as your fried zucchini sticks then you’re fine, but if you do, you may want to stay away from deep fried foods.

Dinner Parties: It can be challenging when eating at someone else’s house if they aren’t vegetarians or vegans. Call the host ahead of time and inform him/her of the foods you don’t eat, or offer to bring a dish to share.

Fast Food: There are less options here, but most fast food joints have salads and some even have vegetable based sandwiches. Be aware of the frying oil as mentioned above.

Ethnic Restaurants: Ethnic cuisines tend to be vegetarian and vegan friendly. Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines offer an abundance of choices. For example, falafel, pasta marinara, minestrone soup, lentil soup, hummus, Greek spanakopita to name a few. There are also many choices at Asian restaurants, be sure to check if they use oyster or fish sauce (which is common). India and other South Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal use an abundance of vegetables, beans and rice as main entree dishes. If you do not consume dairy, request that your food be prepared with vegetable oil instead of cream or ghee. Let’s not forget our neighbor, Mexico. Many Mexican dishes are vegetarian or can be made vegetarian, you can’t go wrong with rice and beans. Just check that the rice isn’t made with chicken stock and if you don’t eat dairy foods order dishes without cheese and sour cream.

Our cafeterias always offer a variety of vegetarian and/or vegan dishes. We also have some great recipes on our website.

There are also restaurant apps that can identify vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants near you. Try Happy Cow at https://www.happycow.net/. Bon Appetite!

To Meat or Not to Meat

posted Oct 20, 2017, 1:50 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Oct 31, 2017, 6:21 AM ]

More and more Americans are switching to meatless meals, in fact according The Vegetarian Resource Group in a 2016 poll, about 7.5 million Americans are either vegetarian or vegan. In our last blog we talked about the difference between vegetarianism and veganism and this week we will discuss the benefits of eating more meatless meals. Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet is a personal choice, but even if you incorporate more meatless meals each week you can still reap many of the benefits.

There have been many studies on the health benefits of not eating meat.

+ Heart Health- one study showed that vegetarians/vegans were 25% less likely to die from heart disease. Some adults with heart disease have actually reversed some of the damage to the heart and blood vessels by switching to a vegan diet. Their blood pressure and cholesterol levels decreased and some were even able to stop taking medication.

+ Cancer – Many of the studies have been inconsistent with cancer risk between vegetarians and non-vegetarians with the exception of colon cancer. Those who avoid red meat have less carcinogenic substances in their colon, therefore reducing their risk of colon cancer. It is well known that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables decreases cancer risk and being vegetarian or vegan makes it a lot easier to eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies.

+ Type 2 diabetes – Eating a vegetarian diet along with exercise can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. The high fiber and low fat foods help those with diabetes better control their blood sugars.

+ Leaner- most vegetarians and vegans are leaner than their meat eating counterparts.

Those who do not eat meat need to plan their meals to ensure adequate nutrients, especially vitamin B12, iron and calcium (for vegans). Many plant based foods contain calcium, like dark green leafy vegetables, fortified non dairy milk beverages, and fortified orange juice. Iron rich foods include dark green vegetables, whole grains, and beans. For B12, a supplement is recommended as plant based foods do not contain a bioavailable source, although some cereals are fortified it usually isn’t enough to meet the recommended amount. So with a little planning you can make healthy and tasty vegetarian or vegan meals the whole family will love. Check out some of our great vegetarian and vegan recipes on our recipe page. For additional information on meal planning check out Forks Over Knives.


Vegetarian or Vegan?

posted Oct 6, 2017, 1:54 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Oct 31, 2017, 5:55 AM ]

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month and with more and more people choosing a vegetarian or vegan way of eating, it is worth discussing what each entails.

Many people group veganism under vegetarianism as a sub category. However it is different from vegetarian diets. Those following a vegan diet consume no animal meat, animal products or use anything tested on animals (makeup, skin care products) or anything make from an animal (leather clothes). Their diets consist of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Vegetarians on the other hand may consume anything ranging from dairy, eggs, fish and some meat. There are categories that describe each of these types of vegetarian diets. These are a few of the more common ones.

·         Lacto-ovo vegetarians – do not eat animals or animal by-products (any food that involves slaughtering the animal, like chicken broth) but do eat eggs and dairy foods.

·         Lacto vegetarians – Do not eat animals or any animal by-products, or eggs, but do consume dairy foods

·         Ovo vegetarians – Do not eat animals or any animal by-products, or dairy, but do consume eggs.

·         Flexitarians – Eat dairy, eggs and fish and poultry occasionally, but no beef or pork.

·         Pescatarians – Eat dairy, eggs and fish, but no poultry, beef or pork or any of these animal by-products

There are many options to choose from so why not give it go and try for Meatless Mondays. It is really up to you and these categories don’t mean you need to label yourself as one or another but decide what you are willing to eat and willing to cut out or cut back on. We have some great vegetarian and vegan recipes on our website that the whole family is sure to love.

For more information on vegetarian and vegan diets click here.

Making Time for Family Meals

posted Sep 22, 2017, 1:51 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

In our last blog we talked about the benefits of family meals and this week we will talk about how to make family meals happen. Obviously, the biggest hurdle for most families is time. With working parents and kid’s sports and activities, preparing dinner and finding the time everyone is home is difficult. But not impossible, with a little planning and some quick, healthy, and tasty recipes you and your family can eat together most nights.

During the weekend (or whenever you have some extra time) plan your meals for the week, I have included some recipe links to help you get started. Then make your grocery list this will help eliminate any weeknight last minute shopping, saving you time. Have your kids help you in kitchen so dinner won’t take as long and you can spend some extra time together. If you can, prepare some meals ahead of time on the weekend and freeze for later in the week. Even if the entire family can’t sit down together all of the time, try to plan so everyone has someone to eat with each night.

So, make a commitment to eat just one more meal together as family each week.

Here are some family friendly recipes that are easy to make.

Mini Bow Ties with Bacon and Peas: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/mini-bow-ties-bacon-peas

Linguine with Easy Meat Sauce:  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/linguine-easy-meat-sauce

Chicken Fingers and Green Beans with Tahini Sauce:  http://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/chicken-fingers-green-beans-tahini-sauce

Farmer's Market Vegetarian Quesadillas:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/165783/farmers-market-vegetarian-quesadillas/?internalSource=staff%20pick&referringId=17204&referringContentType=recipe%20hub&clickId=cardslot%207

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/50644/broiled-tilapia-parmesan/?internalSource=staff%20pick&referringId=16065&referringContentType=recipe%20hub&clickId=cardslot%203

For more information on family meals check out FMI.

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