Nutrition 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.

The Truth about your Diet and Cholesterol

posted Sep 10, 2018, 7:29 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito

By Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, LDN, E-RYT


What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is basically a fat in the blood.   We get cholesterol in the blood by eating animal-fat foods and it’s also made by the body. Cholesterol plays a role in our hormonal balance, as well as many cellular functions that are essential to keeping us healthy.  However, too much cholesterol in our bodies can cause a build-up of plaque in the arteries that can lead to cardiovascular disease.


Cholesterol and Your Health

The amount of cholesterol you have circulating in your blood can determine your cardiovascular health.  Cardiovascular health refers to the health of your arteries.   Imagine the arteries as pipes you have in your home.  Clear pipes provide you with fresh water and remove the waste from your home efficiently.  If pipes become clogged with excess residue or rust, the water will not be as fresh, nor will the waste water drain well.  Similarly, your body is lined with pipes we call arteries, which line organs including the heart and brain.

Blood that flows through the arteries carry nutrients and oxygen to the cells within the vital tissues and organs in our body and removes carbon dioxide and other toxins from these tissues.   Our lifestyle, and what we eat and drink, as well as exposure to toxic chemicals such as tobacco, determine the integrity of our arteries.  If arteries become clogged, blood flow is restricted and can result in a heart attack or stroke.


Why worry about Cholesterol in the blood when you have no symptoms?

High cholesterol does not have any symptoms, so many people are unaware that their levels may be high.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, (CDC), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of death among Americans over 18 years of age.  Nearly 800,000 people die in the United States each year from cardiovascular disease (1 in every 3 deaths).   Having high cholesterol is one of the risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.  Other risk factors include high blood pressure, genetics, having diabetes, and a waist circumference of over 35 inches for women and over 45 for men.   


Diet and Cholesterol

Eating cholesterol-rich foods, such as eggs, has been reported to put one at risk for high cholesterol.  This has led to dietary recommendations of no more than 300 milligrams per day for healthy Americans.  However, recent studies challenge the current dietary cholesterol restrictions and find that consuming dietary cholesterol does not increase the risk of heart disease.   Elevated cholesterol in the body is tied to overall fat intake, specifically, saturated fat and trans fats, as well as sugary foods.  So, don’t give up those eggs for breakfast, just yet!   Eggs once got a bad rap in previous studies, which did not look at the daily intake of saturated fat from other foods.  However, eggs are rich in healthy nutrients, including choline and Vitamin A, as well as being low in saturated fat (1.56 grams) and containing healthy unsaturated fats.    Eating one egg a day has actually been reported to increase good cholesterol (HDL), and not raise LDLs, according to research from The City University of New York’s School of Public Health and Health Policy.


3 Main Fats in the Blood that influence Cardiovascular health

Total cholesterol is the sum of blood fats circulating in your blood, which is LDL, HDL, and Triglycerides.   

LDL (Lousy Cholesterol):  Considered "Bad Cholesterol".  A build-up of this cholesterol can clog your arteries.  Frequently eating large portion sizes of foods that are high in fat, and especially high in saturated fat.

HDL (Happy Cholesterol):   Considered "Good Cholesterol".  Removes bad cholesterol from the bloodstream and helps keep arteries clear. If LDL is high and HDL is low, this puts one at risk for a heart attack and stroke.      

Triglycerides (Trouble Fat):  When triglycerides are elevated it signals "Trouble" in the body and can cause damage to the arteries.  Triglycerides form in the body when we consume more calories than we use up.  Triglycerides are also elevated in individuals who have high blood sugars.   If you have very high triglycerides, make sure to talk to your doctor about being tested for pre-diabetes or diabetes.


Translating the Cholesterol Numbers to The Foods We Eat

It’s not enough to know your numbers, but what you do with those numbers is what counts.  Reviewing your cholesterol numbers with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian is key to understanding what actions to take.   Here is a guide to help you on your way to healthy cholesterol numbers:



Nutrition Recommendations



Healthy Range

Foods to Eat Less of or Avoid

Foods and Beverages to Include

Suggested Actions to Take

Total Cholesterol

Less Than 200


LDL (when elevated can clog arteries). 

Less than 100



Limit Saturated Fat (Fatty meats Red meat, skin on chicken, pork chops, butter, whole fat milk, and cheese)

Skinless chicken breast, salmon, whole grains with soluble fiber(oats, barley),  beans,  vegetables, avocado, flaxseed, walnuts.  olive oil, green tea, spices (curcumin).

Herb: Red yeast rice acts as a cholesterol-lowering statin, however, check with your doctor to see if it's right for you.

·       Quit smoking

·       Exercise (30 minutes daily)

·       Stress management


HDL (helps get rid of the bad cholesterol).

Greater than 

40 for men

50 for women



 Hydrogenated oils (Trans Fats);

  Excess alcohol

Omega-3 rich foods including Salmon, sardines, sea bass, olive oil, walnuts.

*Red Wine (Some studies report an increase in good cholesterol with a daily serving size.  5oz wine is a serving size).  However, a healthy diet and exercise are more beneficial for well-being and cardiovascular health than wine.

·       Exercise (30 minutes daily)

·       Quit Smoking


Triglycerides (when elevated, damages arteries).

Less than 150

High sugary foods and beverages, excess alcohol, Sugary beverages, and foods.

Omega-rich foods, such as Salmon, Soy (tofu, soymilk), olive oil, walnuts.


·       Quit smoking

·       Cut back on alcohol

·       Cut back on sugary foods and beverages.

*Alcohol should be consumed in moderation and can be an addictive substance in certain individuals.

For questions about this article, please email

Raising Happy and Healthy Eaters

posted Aug 27, 2018, 1:41 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Aug 30, 2018, 9:02 AM ]

As parents and caregivers we all want our children to develop healthy eating habits. And they can with our help and guidance. Parents/caregivers have the biggest impact on children’s eating habits and their relationship with food, but sometimes mealtimes can turn into battlegrounds. With your child refusing to eat certain foods or not eating at all or eating too much. Here are some tips to help make mealtimes pleasant and healthy.

Children learn by watching you. By eating healthy foods you teach your child that healthy foods are important. Stock the refrigerator and cupboards with healthy foods, make it easy for everyone to grab a healthy snack.

All children go through the same stages of eating, starting with breastmilk or infant formula then progressing to solid foods. With obesity rates rising in children, you can help your child develop good eating habits by watching for hunger and fullness cues. When babies and toddlers are full they will turn their head away from food, push the food away, begin to play or lose interest in eating, babies may fall asleep. Hunger cues are often easier to recognize, babies will put their fists in their mouth, make sucking noises, and/or cry. Toddlers want to be independent and may verbally tell you, reach for food or have a melt down when hungry. For toddlers it is important to have scheduled mealtimes and 2-3 snacks each day so your child knows when to expect to eat and trusts you will feed him/her, it will also help avoid melt-downs and tantrums due to hunger.

Quick Tip: Always hold your baby when feeding and sit with your toddler. Mealtimes are great for spending quality time with your child and making sure they don’t choke.

Preschoolers often start to exhibit “picky eating” behaviors. This is normal, it’s the parent’s and caregiver’s job to continue to offer a variety of healthy foods and let your child decide what to eat from what is provided. Children at this age can start to have some choices in what they eat. From your planned meal, choose one food group to offer up a choice, for example, give them a choice of what vegetable they would like – carrots or broccoli, then invite to help prepare it. Giving too many choices is confusing for young children and can lead to frustration on both parties. Also, children are more likely to try foods if they have helped prepare or choose it.

Quick Tip: It can up to 10 times or more of offering a food before a child will try it – they may or not like it, but praise them for being adventurous.

School age children are becoming more independent and can be more involved in planning and preparing meals. Many school age children are still “picky eaters,” by continuing to offer a variety of healthy foods you set the stage for the teenage years when they are choosing the majority of what they eat. The appetites of school age children varies from meal to meal and day to day, let them continue to listen to their body's hunger and fullness cues. 

Quick Tip: Don’t be a short order cook. Cook one meal and incorporate at least one or two foods you know your child likes. Let your child decide what he/she is going to eat and encourage them to try new foods but don't force it - it will only lead to frustrated parents and upset children. 

Teenagers are making many of their own decisions on what they eat, so by having healthy foods in the house, you know they will at least be eating healthy in your house. If your teens plays sports, help them choose healthy foods that fuel their bodies and help their performance by discussing food labels and healthy options at the places they eat at.

Quick Tip: Continue to eat together and make mealtimes a relaxed and fun place to gather.

For more information on feeding your child(ren) click here.

“TAP” into Healthy Meal Appeal

posted Aug 11, 2018, 11:05 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito   [ updated Aug 18, 2018, 7:21 PM ]

By Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, LDN, E-RYT

Let’s face it when seeing meal options through a typical kid’s eye, choosing between pizza, french fries or choosing steamed squash, you can guess what they would pick!  August is Kids Eat Right Month, and as a Registered Dietitian and mother, I have to be creative to get my own children to eat foods that usually make them cringe. 

In a 2017 comprehensive review of scientific literature by the Mayo Clinic on Childhood Obesity,  it was found that “1 in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese.” Children who have obesity are more likely to develop chronic health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and cholesterol issues.  However, being healthy doesn’t always have to be about a child’s weight status.   Exposure to toxins found in the environment and in foods, as well as less consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, can lead to certain types of cancers and autoimmune diseases over the years, regardless of weight.  Therefore, it is vital that we teach our children early on that protecting their body from these conditions starts with prevention through healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

Since discussing weight can be a sensitive issue at any age, it is essential when talking to your children to have a caring dialogue about eating and lifestyle habits.  The focus should be on eating to be healthy, not to lose weight.    Having a conversation about healthy eating and lifestyle habits should always be about feeling healthy and prevention, not being thin. This is because being thin does not always mean one is healthy, and when talking to children, it can set them up for a poor body image.

As consumers, we are more health-savvy than ever, and we know that fruits and vegetables are healthy, but what about making an appealing meal out of those healthy foods?   For those of us who have children, it can be a struggle to get our children to eat for good health.  Even if you don’t have children, maybe your “inner-child” is what’s preventing you from eating healthy.  Tap into creative ways to motivate you and your children to eat more healthy.

So how do we get our children or our inner child to eat healthier?  Think “TAP”: Texture, Appetizing, and Presentation, when preparing meals.  These 3 elements will allow you and your children to be more creative in preparing appealing meals.

Texture: Children and adults may not like the mushy texture of food, but if the food is prepared to produce a different texture, it may be more appealing.  For example, I recall teaching a Human Nutrition course to a group of nursing students, and one student indicated she disliked the taste of broccoli.  When I further asked what she specifically disliked about the broccoli, she said it was mushy and just didn’t taste good.  It was the texture that she disliked.  I asked her to try to steam fresh broccoli for no more than two minutes.  She did so and found she liked the taste after all.   This student's aversion to broccoli is an example of how certain cooking methods can change the texture and flavor of foods.

Appetizing:  A food can be very good for you but if it doesn’t taste good, it won’t entice us or our little ones to eat the foods they so need to grow strong bodies.   Plain Greek yogurt is one of those food items that I still struggle with getting my kids to eat.  However, by creating Greek Yogurt parfaits or smoothies, or by using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in many of your recipes, children will eat because it’s more appetizing.  Try layering Greek yogurt with blueberries and walnuts to provide a better appetizing taste.  Even better for the children is making a smoothie out of the Greek yogurt.  Add peanut butter, banana and ½ cup of Greek yogurt, then grate some dark chocolate (1 tablespoon), and you have yourself a healthy power smoothie.  Look for these offerings at your IL Creations cafes. 

Presentation:  My son never liked zucchini, so  I would steam, sauté or grill it, yet he would still cringe and not eat a bite.  One day, I tried spiralizing it to make it look like 

Spaghetti and let him add the seasonings he enjoys, and . . . “winner,” he now enjoys Zucchini!   The presentation of this vegetable to look like spaghetti changed the appeal of the meal.  The texture of the zucchini is “al dente,” which means not mushy, just slightly dense. The presentation looked like spaghetti noodles, and encouraging my son to assist in enhancing the taste allowed him to season the noodles to his liking.  Thus, the presentation can be a powerful motivator to get kids to eat foods they would typically not eat.  And during the month of August in select IL Creations cafeterias, we will be sampling the “spaghetti style zucchini”.

So, think of foods you can “TAP” to create better “meal appeal” for your children, or for your own inner child.   

For other ideas, feel free to "Ask the Dietitian" during our Wellness Visits at select IL Creations cafeterias. Or email us directly at

Quick and Easy Dinners

posted Jul 23, 2018, 9:25 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Jul 30, 2018, 6:27 AM ]

Working late? Traffic a nightmare? Shuffling kids around to practice? Too tired to prepare an elaborate meal? You don’t need to reach for the cereal-again. We have some great tips to help you put a healthy dinner on the table – quick.

1- The first thing to do is plan ahead (it is also the hardest to do). Grab a calendar (see below for some apps) or create your own if you still like paper and pencil. Take 5-15 minutes and look at what you have going on that week and start planning. For evenings with a lot going on, find ways to use leftovers or use already prepared items to create a meal.

2- Create your shopping list – see what you already have in the cupboards and refrigerator/freezer. Are there items you need to use up? I like to organize my list using the layout of the grocery store I go to, that way I save time having to go back and forth revisiting the same section or isle. If possible try to plan your shopping trip so you have time for some food prep when you get back home. If it fits into your budget consider buying some items that are already pre-prepped (ie. Preseasoned meat, pre-cut produce).

3- Prepping for the week- wash and cut any produce that won’t spoil quickly, prepare any sauces for the week.

4- Putting it into place – to make things easier during the week either mark the leftover containers or have a section in the refrigerator designated for leftovers.


Tips: Once you have 4 weeks of menus you can just move meals around depending on your schedule. It is always good to have a quick back up meal that is ready to go, in case something pops up. Breakfast for Dinner works really well as a backup meal.

  •          Make 2 or 3 pounds worth of meatballs and freeze in portioned bags or containers for quick spaghetti and meatballs, meatball soup, or BBQ meatballs during the week.
  •         Throw left over vegetables in a pot with vegetable stock, add some lentils, beans or left over meat for a hearty soup. Double the recipe and freeze for next week.
  •         Use a slow cooker for an easy one pot meal, freeze 1/2 for next week.
  •         Have whole wheat pita bread sub rolls for a quick sandwich using left over roasted chicken, ham or steak. Try lettuce wraps for a low carb alternative.
  •         Toss a veggie salad and add canned tuna or beans for a super quick meal.

Below is a simple example of how to plan a week's worth of dinners. It does take a little time initially but in the long run you will save time and have healthier well balanced meals. 












Prepping for the week


Roasted whole chicken with baked sweet potatoes,

fresh or steamed sugar snap peas and carrots,

Patriotic fruit salad



Meatless Monday



Penne with herbs, tomatoes and peas (from cooking light)

Crusty whole wheat bruschetta with pesto and tomatoes




Soccer Practice






Baked salmon with lemon and Italian seasoning

Couscous pilaf with peas and carrots

Fresh cut fruit with yogurt dip








Pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches (use chicken from Sunday)

Tossed Salad with Fresh Veggie, nuts or seeds, and cheese

Roasted red skin potatoes



 Soccer Practice



Breakfast for dinner:


Veggie and Salmon omelets (use leftover salmon and bell peppers, add additional veggies of choice

Whole grain toast

Spinach, strawberry and flaxseed smoothie

                              Soccer Practice



Dinner out






Steak fajitas with veggies and whole wheat or corn tortillas

Baked tortilla chips with guacamole

Cilantro lime rice with black beans



Meal planning apps - Here are a few I found, there are many others available all with different features, so look around to find one that best meets your needs:                                                   Mealtime (free); FoodPlanner (free); MealBoard ($4); Recipe calendar (free). 

Power Breakfast on the Run

posted Jul 7, 2018, 9:09 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito   [ updated Jul 18, 2018, 1:27 PM ]

By: Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, LDN

What foods do you eat for breakfast? What you have for breakfast can drive your entire day. As a dietitian nutritionist, experienced in diabetes and weight management, I have witnessed how eating the wrong foods can get one off track of their health and fitness journey. If you start your day with high- sugar and high-fat foods such as donuts, sugary cereal, and juices, these meals can throw your blood sugar and insulin levels into overload mode. Consistently having high blood sugar and insulin levels have been associated with the inability to lose weight and puts one at risk for diabetes. Some of the symptoms you may have if you eat a high-sugar, high-fat breakfast is brain fog, low energy, irritability, and hunger a few hours after consuming such a meal.  So, the goal is to fuel up on foods that clear the mind and energize the body.

Eat breakfasts that are well-balanced and have a good source of high-quality carbohydrates (that contain fibers to help keep you full longer), lean proteins (to keep your muscles and red blood cells healthy), and healthy fats (helps with mood and brain function).  

To help you get started, here are a few tips for a healthy start.

Dining Out:

At IL Creations café choose fresh fruit, plain yogurt or have a made to order omelet loaded with fresh vegetables. Pair with a soy latte or skim milk latte if you are a coffee drinker or water if not.


At Home:

Foods to have handy for breakfast. Stocking your refrigerator and pantry with the right foods are essential to preparing quick, ready-to-go meals. Because morning times can be the most hectic for many, we may not have a chance to prepare a nourishing, well-balanced meal such as a vegetable omelet with fresh fruit on the side or have our steel cut oats with walnuts and berries. However, with the following recipes, you may be able to have those meals on the go.

The following shopping list consists of the staples that will help you generate the quick and easy recipes below:

Shopping List








Berries (Blueberries, Strawberries)



Bell Peppers






Greek Yogurt

Soy Milk

1% Milk



Peanut Butter

Walnuts Almonds

Olive oil




Oatmeal (regular and steel Cut Oats

Sweet potatoes





Cayenne Pepper











 Prepping containers:        


           Glass Mason Jars                                                  Baking muffin pan


Power Breakfast Ideas:

To-Go Vegetable Omelets:

Dice up vegetables of your choice and add to the baking muffin pans.  In a glass bowl, beat the eggs. Add egg mixture to the muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees until done, about 30 minutes. 

Remove the cooked egg vegetable muffins and store in BPA-free container in the refrigerator.   Now you have a portion-sized omelet to take with you daily.  All that is needed to microwave for a 1 to 2 minutes on high.


Overnight steel cut oats with blueberries and walnuts:

In a mason jar, place ½ cup of your favorite high-protein beverage ( soy milk, 1% milk ), then add 1/3 cup steel cut oats, then layer blueberries and walnuts.

Place in refrigerator overnight and now you have a ready-to-go oatmeal breakfast.  


Apple or Banana Boats:

In a Tupperware container, add sliced apples and bananas, then layer with peanut butter. Sprinkle some cinnamon and now you have yourself a balanced breakfast that will fuel your morning.. 


Greek Yogurt parfait: 

This is a dish you can prepack in Tupperware containers. Purchase the larger Greek Yogurt tubs and add to Tupperware six ounce containers. Layer with blueberries, walnuts, and yogurt. Leave overnight or prepare quickly in the morning.



Use left over sweet potatoes for smoothies.  In a blender add 1 /2 cup of soy milk,  ½ cup (4oz) sweet potato and 1cup. Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup of banana or pineapple and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon for a quick breakfast.  Also, you can substitute kale for sweet potatoes.

So, there you go, five  power breakfasts for people on the run. You can play around with different ingredients for each recipe above. Consistently nourishing your mind and body in the morning will ensure that you will have a powerful day. 

Sports Drinks: Are They Necessary?

posted Jun 25, 2018, 9:48 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Jun 25, 2018, 10:46 AM ]

Sports drinks have been around for many years, and one of the most popular ones, Gatorade, was developed in 1965 at the University of Florida for the football players who were struggling during practice due to the heat and humidity. A year later the Gators won the Orange Bowl for the first time. Athletes and teams from all over demanded to know the Gator's secret. Hence, the popularity of sports drinks to enhance performance. 

Sports drinks typically contain sugar (high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, or fructose), salt and potassium, food coloring, and sometimes protein and/or vitamins and minerals are added. The sugar adds flavor and acts as an energy source, the salt (sodium and chloride) and potassium are added to replace electrolytes that are lost through prolonged sweating. Our bodies typically store enough carbohydrates to fuel our exercising muscles for about an hour, if you are exercising beyond that, consuming 30 grams/hour of carbohydrate has been found to improve performance (if that is your goal). Sports drinks contain anywhere from 10-20 grams of sugar (carbohydrate) and 50-80 calories per 8oz. Keeping electrolytes in balance helps maintain fluid balance. Sodium and chloride are lost in the greatest amounts and potassium in lesser amounts. How much a person sweats and the concentration of electrolytes in their sweat varies depending on genetics, weather, duration and intensity of exercise and fitness level.

According the American College of Sports Medicine, sports drinks are beneficial for athletes who exercise vigorously for longer than 60 minutes in hot and humid conditions. This does not apply to the majority of people who exercise. For most of us who exercise less than an hour,  water is best. It is calorie and sugar free. If you are exercising to lose or maintain body weight drinking a sports drink every time you exercise can undo all your hard work.

So what are the recommendations for sports drinks?

  • Not necessary for exercise lasting less than 60 minutes, drink water to stay hydrated.

  • Not recommended for children and adolescents as sports drinks contain a lot of sugar and sodium and calories and were designed for adults, unless the child is exercising vigorously for over an hour and then it should be only consumed in small amounts.

  • For exercise longer than 60 minutes in hot, humid conditions the following guidelines from the American Council on Exercise are recommended:

    • Before exercise - there are no recommendations, but unless you are a salty sweater (i.e. your clothes and/or skin have white salty residue) you can save calories and drink water prior to the event.

    • During exercise - use thirst cues and drink a sports beverage alternating with water

    • Post exercise - Water and food containing salt and potassium are usually enough. If you are salty or excessive sweater, consuming a sports drink can help replace electrolytes and rehydrate you. Monitor body weight to determine sweat loss, aim for no more than 2% loss. For example, a 150 lb man should not lose more than 3 lbs. post exercise.

To summarize, sports drink consumption is booming. These beverage companies are marketing to children, and everyone who exercises. However, they are really only beneficial for those exercising (or working) for long periods in hot, humid conditions. Most of us can stay hydrated and keep our electrolytes in balance by drinking water and eating a balanced diet.

Hydrate Your Plate for Healthy Weight and Well-Being

posted Jun 8, 2018, 12:47 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito   [ updated Aug 28, 2018, 6:27 AM ]

by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT

The summer heat will soon be upon us, and fluid needs may increase, especially if you are physically active or on a very low carbohydrate diet.  Exercising outdoors can cause more sweat loss.  Low carbohydrate diets, which cause muscle and fat breakdown in the body, will result in more frequent urination.  Excessive sweat and urination can lead to dehydration if fluids are not being consumed. Don’t like the idea of drinking water all day?  The good news is that many foods have plenty of water which can help you achieve your body’s fluid needs.   An incentive for drinking water and eating foods with high water content is that these hydration practices promote healthy weight and well-being.   

Water Boosts Metabolism

Water comprises 50% to 70% of body mass in adults, with women having less water percentage than men.  The difference is because men tend to have more lean body mass, which holds more water.  Every cell in our body needs water to thrive. Fluids are essential to lubricate joints, transport nutrients to all cells of the body help cool the body temperature down, and stave off hunger.   In fact, people often mistake dehydration for hunger.   Try drinking half a cup to a full 8-ounce cup of water before you have a meal or snack.  You may end up eating less.   

Research has revealed that water may help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.  According to a study published in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, 50 female participants with a BMI of 25 -29.9, which is classified as overweight, were instructed to drink 1.5 liters of water daily for eight weeks.  At the end of the 8 weeks, researchers found that drinking water promoted body fat loss as well as suppressed the appetite.  This study supports previous research, where scientists found that water acts as a natural appetite suppressant, as well as increasing metabolism.


Well-balanced Hydration for Improved Mood

Staying well hydrated can affect your mood, according to two separate studies at the University of Connecticut.    Females and males, ranging in age from 20 to 23, took part in a study to assess the effects of dehydration on cognition and mood.  Participants took a series of tests to determine their cognitive and behavioral changes after dehydration was induced.  When compared to regular hydration versus dehydration, females, and males both experienced headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.  However, the women experienced more significant changes in mood than the men, according to the study.   


Water is lost through perspiration, urination, bowel movements and sweat.  Proper hydration helps restore daily water loss.   Not staying adequately hydrated can slow many of our bodily functions, such as digestion, as well as slowing our thought processes, metabolism, and energy level.  Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than we intake, about 1% of body weight.  Symptoms of dehydration can mimic many conditions we often treat with medication, for example, headaches, hot flashes, and even dry eyes.  Checking the color of your urine first thing in the morning and throughout the day is a good indicator of your hydration status (see urine color chart).  The following are a list of symptoms of dehydration.


Mild to Moderate Dehydration:

Dark colored urine (if not taking excess vitamins)


Muscle cramps

Less frequent urination and constipation

Dry eyes

Reduced Skin Elasticity


Easily Overheated



Serious Symptoms 

Excessive Sleepiness

Disorientation and confusion


How Much Water Should I Drink?

If you experienced one or more of the above symptoms, perhaps try drinking more water and eating more foods that are rich in fluids (see table below).  The national Food and Nutrition Board reports that approximately "20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from beverages". 

To determine how much water you should drink, an easy guide to follow is the "eight (8) ounces of water daily" rule, to prevent dehydration. Although drinking 8 glasses of water is not based on scientific data, the 64 ounces (1.9 L per day) brings you closer to the recommendation for water set by the Food and Nutrition Board, which is as follows:

Women:  2.7 liters (91 ounces, which is 11 cups) of total fluids from all beverages and foods each day.

Men: 3.7 liters (125 ounces, which is 15 cups) of total fluids from all food and beverages.

It’s important to note that not everyone will have the same fluid needs.  Daily fluid needs will vary among individuals and is based typically on age, weight, activity level, the geographic region one resides in, or if one is pregnant or breastfeeding.   Some individuals have to take in consideration medical conditions or medication use.  Speak to your doctor or registered dietitian regarding your specific fluid needs.  

Hydrate your plate with the high-water-content foods

The more meals you eat that contain high water content foods, the more likely you will achieve healthy hydration.  Additionally, getting your fluids from foods with high water content will ensure you get the electrolytes you need when you have high water losses, as well as prevent over-hydration.  Below is a chart to help guide your food choices when planning your meals.  Aim to choose foods that have higher water content, especially if you are experiencing symptoms of dehydration.    Notice that the more plant-based and less processed the foods are, the higher the percentage of water.  

Water (Percentage)






Asparagus, beans, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, strawberries, squash(cooked), soy milk, skim milk, watermelon, soups




Apples, grapes, oranges, carrots, beets, broccoli, (cooked), pears, pineapple


Bananas, avocados, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, potato (baked), corn (cooked), shrimp


Pasta, legumes, salmon, ice cream, chicken breast, roasted turkey,



Ground beef, feta cheese,







Cheddar cheese, bagels, bread


Pepperoni sausage, cake, biscuits

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Check with your doctor first for any serious dehydration symptoms or symptoms that continue to persist.   

For additional questions on this blog please feel free to contact ILC's Registered Dietitian:

Exercise Myths: Clearing up the confusion

posted May 22, 2018, 5:37 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

As a former exercise specialist, turned dietitian, I was constantly bombarded with all the myths and misconceptions about exercise. The funny thing is that all these years later the myths and misconceptions are still basically the same. Since in our last blog, Evangelina, discussed what types of exercises we should do, this week we’ll clear up some myths surrounding exercise.

Myth #1 - You have to exercise for an hour or break a sweat to get any benefits.

Truth - Any movement can have benefits. In fact, walking has shown to improve cardiovascular health, mood, and help prevent diabetes and obesity. Plus it is low impact so it’s easy on your joints. Stretching and gentle yoga help improve flexibility and balance which can reduce the risk of injuries. The recommendations for exercise are 150 minutes/week which can be 30 minutes 5 days/week, or 20-25 minutes 7 days/week, or any time/day combination that works for you. So no worries if sweating isn’t your thing, just get out there and walk.

Myth #2 - 100 crunches will give me flat abs (aka: a six pack).

Truth - spot training will strengthen those targeted muscles but it won’t burn the fat in just that area. When you burn fat you lose it from all over. You may even cause muscle imbalances when you only work on one muscle group without working the opposing muscle group. So if you want flatter abs create an energy deficient through cardiovascular exercise and decreased food intake and strengthening all the major muscle groups (legs-quadriceps and hamstrings, chest and upper back, core -abs and lower back, arms-biceps, triceps, and shoulders) for a well balanced workout that will decrease injury risk.

Myth #3 - The more I exercise the more weight I’ll lose.

Truth - This will work only if your calorie intake remains the same or decreases. Keep in mind that a 150 pound person will burn approximately 110 calories during a 30 minute walk at a moderate pace (you can hold a conversation while walking). Click here for a physical activity calculator. You will need a bigger calorie deficit than that to lose weight. The most recent recommendations are to aim for a 250-500 calorie deficit per day depending on how much weight you want to lose and how many calories you currently consume.

Myth # 4 - I will burn more fat if I exercise on an empty stomach.

Truth - this is known as “fasted cardio” and in theory it would work since the body’s carbohydrate stores are depleted you will burn fat but it doesn’t last. One study by Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed no difference in weight loss between the group of women who fasted before exercise and those who drank a 250 calorie shake prior to exercising. In fact, not eating prior to exercise, especially high intensity exercise, may be counterproductive as you won’t make it very long.

Lace up your shoes and hit the road, court, gym, or studio (or jump in the pool). But, most importantly have fun.

* Before starting any exercise program check with your health care provider.

4 Essential Exercises for a Healthier You

posted May 4, 2018, 2:38 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito   [ updated Jul 10, 2018, 1:55 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN ]

By: Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT

Daily physical activity is good for the mind and body.  In fact, studies show that just getting 30 minutes a day of physical activity, working your way up to 150 minutes a week, can reduce your chances of getting diabetes and promote overall excellent health.  To help you get active, here are the 4 types of exercise to include in your workout routine:

1)      Cardiovascular:  At least 30 minutes a day of aerobic activity will condition your heart, lower blood pressure and promote well-being.  Aerobic activity also helps increase your good cholesterol "HDL” levels.  Cardiovascular activities include:

  • Walking  (stairs at work, parking further away)
  • Running   
  • Swimming 
  • Dancing  
  • Vigorous Yard Work
  • Playing in recreational sports
  • Cycling  (ride bike to work)


2)      Strength training:  Inactive adults experience 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass per decade.  Less muscle mass equals slower metabolism and increased fat stores in the body.  Doing weight-bearing exercise can help boost your metabolism by increasing muscle mass.  Weight-resistance training helps promote healthy blood sugar levels, by making the body more insulin sensitive.   Studies have also shown a 1% to 3% increase in bone mineral density with consistent bi-weekly weight training. Examples of weight training, click here.

3)      Yoga Stretch:   As we advance in years, we tend to lose flexibility and balance.  Restorative and Hatha yoga are two main yoga practices, that incorporate stretching while holding gentle poses and focus on breathing throughout the class.  Regular practice of Hatha yoga also helps improve balance, flexibility, and strength.  Both practices have been shown to lower cortisol, a hormone that is increased in the body during times of stress, which can lead to weight gain and inflammation in the body.   The emphasis on being still and present while using our breath as a guide cultivates mindfulness.  Living a more mindful way can also help us change the habits that are not balancing for our well-being.  For specific yoga poses you can do at work, click here.


4)      Meditation/Mindfulness:  Meditation is a calm and relaxing practice that has many health benefits. Those who practice meditation daily, report improved focus in their day.  Studies have found that meditation may promote healthy blood pressure, improve anxiety and depression symptoms, and help promote sleep. Meditation can take on many forms, such as sitting completely still and focusing your breath or listening to a guided meditation.   Try taking a 60-second Mindful Break at work every hour. Focus on your breath or listen to quick guided meditation. There are many “meditation apps” available to help guide you into to mindfulness, click here to explores the to 2018 Mindful Apps


Make yourself a priority and commit to doing one of the top 4 exercises every day for health and well-being.  Always check with your doctor before taking on any exercises.  For more questions on exercise or nutrition, please look for the next "Dietitian Visit" at your IL Creations' Cafe.  


The Lowdown on Probiotics and Prebiotics

posted Apr 17, 2018, 1:01 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

Our gastrointestinal tract contains more than 400 types of microorganisms. Some of these microorganisms are healthy and others are unhealthy. The healthy bacteria in your gut help to digest food, and synthesize some vitamins and essential fatty acids. Probiotics are live microbes that help to improve the balance of our gut flora.  There are also prebiotics, which are different, but just as important. Prebiotics are nondigestible substances (like fiber) that feed the probiotics, helping them to thrive in the gastrointestinal tract. Not all probiotics consumed will survive; it is important to consume prebiotics with probiotics. 


As stated above, probiotics are living microorganisms that are beneficial for gut health which research has shown can affect overall health. There are many different species of probiotic bacteria and within these species are different strains that have different effects in our bodies. Some probiotics work well alone and others work better in combinations. Scientists are still studying all the of health benefits probiotics. So, you may ask yourself, if there are already "good bacteria" in the gut why do I need more? The reason is that our gut flora is constantly changing, from the foods we eat, to medications we take (like antibiotics), to illness. Consuming more foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics can help keep the "good" bacteria at high levels. Probiotics are found in fermented foods naturally and are also added to some foods and beverages. There are three main groups that have been studied the most, Lactobacillus and Bidifobacterium and Streptococcus and one yeast variety, Saccharomyces boulardii.

Probiotics have been shown to boost the immune system, alleviate diarrhea from infections and from antibiotics, reduce anxiety and depression, decrease allergic reactions in children, decrease inflammation, and even be used as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. It is important to speak with a registered dietitian or health care provider to decide on the appropriate amount and combination of probiotics to determine what will work best for you.

             Probiotic                                                                            Food Sources

 Lactobacillus acidophilus Dairy and  non-dairy yogurt, lassie, kefir, miso, tempeh
 Lactobacillus  helveticus Dairy and non-dairy yogurt, kefir, Italian and Swiss cheese
 Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus Dairy and non-dairy yogurt, kefir
 Lactobacillus reuteri Fermented vegetables, dairy foods
 Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG Dairy and non-dairy yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sparkling probiotic drinks
 Lactobacillus casei Kvass, Dairy and non-dairy yogurt, lassi, probiotic dairy drink, kefir
 Streptococcus thermophiles Dairy and non-dairy yogurt, kefir,  lassi, cow’s milk  probiotic beverage
 Bifidobacterium longum Dairy yogurt, kefir
 Bifidobacterium bifidum Dairy and non-dairy yogurt, kefir
 Bifidobacterium  infantis Yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, miso, tempeh, pickles, kimchi, cured meats, some wines/vinegars, sauerkraut, sourdough bread
 Saccharomyces boulardii kombucha

Chart from: Ellis, E.L. the Potential of Probiotics. Food and Nutrition. March/April 2018:19-20


Prebiotics release short-chain fatty acids, which decrease the pH of the colon and, thereby, enhance mineral absorption, particularly calcium, iron, and magnesium, possibly decreasing the risk of osteoporosis development. This decrease in pH also leads to the decreased survival of some of the "bad" bacteria. Prebiotics may decrease cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of colon cancer, as well. Some forms of prebiotics aid in the relief of constipation. Different strains of prebiotics provide different health benefits.  

Foods containing prebiotics 

  •  Chicory root    
  •  Jerusalem artichoke
  •  Wheat
  •  Barley
  •  Rye
  •  Flax
  •  Oatmeal
  •  Onion
  •  Garlic
  •  Leeks
  •  Legumes
  •  Asparagus
  •  Leafy greens
  •  Berries
  •  Bananas
  •  Honey

While there are many supplements available it is best to try to consume as many foods as possible containing prebiotics and probiotics.

Probiotics as Supplements

Probiotics can also be found as supplements. However, supplements are not FDA regulated and therefore it is important to read the labels and research the manufacturer. Here are some tips if you decide to purchase probiotic supplements:

· Read the label to find the probiotic group, species, strain and the number microorganisms or colony forming units (CFU).
· Buy only from reputable companies that have been around. They are more likely to have studied and tested their product more.
· Be cautious of the internet. Be sure you are familiar with company, there are many people who will sell fake products, or take your money and run.

Increasing Probiotics and Prebiotics in your diet  

Probiotics and prebiotics are found in many foods you probably already eat. Be sure to eat a variety of these foods daily and if you decide along with your health care provider to include a probiotic supplement make sure they contain live cultures. Look for "contains live active cultures" on the label. Be sure you are taking or consuming the right type of probiotic for the benefit you want to achieve.

Note: Probiotics and prebiotics are generally safe, however they are NOT recommended if you have a severly compromised immune system or acute pancreatitis. Check with your health care provider first.

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