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. 

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Table of Contents

Dairy 101: Lactose Intolerance

posted Jun 23, 2017, 9:21 AM by Sunamita Da Silva

We’ve been talking dairy all month long, but we know that for some of us, dairy may be a limited option because of lactose intolerance. We’ve discussed dairy alternatives last week, so this week we’re giving you the short and sweet on lactose intolerance.

What is lactose?

Lactose is a sugar found in milk and milk products. Our bodies have an enzyme called lactase that breaks down lactose so it can be absorbed in our bodies.  

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body cannot digest lactose because it doesn’t have the enzyme lactase to do so. Because of this, people who are lactose intolerant will often feel symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and gas when they eat or drink lactose-containing dairy products. There are different types of lactase deficiency, which is why some people can eat or drink more lactose-containing dairy products without symptoms than others. For more on the types of lactose intolerance, visit here.

Did you know?

It’s normal for most adults to lose the ability to digest lactose. It’s actually a genetic modification that allows some adults to keep the enzyme lactase.

Can I still have dairy products?

Your body is the best judge of whether or not you can have lactose-containing dairy products. Some people do well with harder cheeses (because they are naturally lactose free), while others still feel some discomfort when eating these in excess. For others, one glass of milk per day is A-Okay, but they may not be able to go above that.

You are your best judge here. Consider trying different dairy products in different quantities to test what your body can tolerate. You can also look for lactose-free milk and cheese at your local grocery store and check out non-dairy alternatives like soy milk.

Happy dairy shopping!

No Dairy for You-No Problem

posted Jun 16, 2017, 8:07 AM by Tracy Ducker

Not everyone can or chooses to consume dairy foods, whether it is a milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance or you follow a vegan diet. But there are still many foods that are good nutritional substitutes, that can help keep your bones strong.

Let’s start with milk alternatives, and there are many.  It is important to note that even though these beverages are called ‘milk’ they are not milk, they are plant based beverages. There are beans/nuts, seeds, and grain based beverages. Bean/nut milks include soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk. Soy milk is probably the most notable and has been around for a very long time. Soymilk contains 6-10 grams of protein making it a great source; it also has omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Most are fortified with calcium, riboflavin and vitamins A and D and B12, making it the closest nutritionally to cow’s milk. There are a variety of flavors and it comes sweetened and unsweetened.  Almond milk is made from ground almonds, water and sweetener. It isn’t as nutritionally sound as soymilk or cow’s milk as it lacks adequate protein, fatty acids, and B vitamins. It does contain almost 50% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin E and many varieties and brands fortify almond milk with calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients.  Coconut milk is another popular milk beverage. It is higher in calories and fat than most milk or milk alternatives, but also contains fiber and iron (which cow’s milk does not).

Seed and grain based milk products include Hemp milk from hemp seeds, oat milk, rice milk, flaxseed milk and even sunflower milk (though not common). Oat milk is made from oat groats, water and possibly other grains. It is low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat and contains fiber, iron, vitamin E and folic acid. It is best to avoid oat milk if you have a gluten sensitivity.  Hemp milk is made from hulled hemp seeds, water and a sweetener and contains protein and omega-3 fatty acids but no calcium. It is not widely available but can be a good substitute for those with dairy, gluten, nut and soy allergies. Rice milk is also popular among individuals with multiple food allergies, however it lacks adequate protein, calcium and vitamin D. There is not a lot of research on flaxseed milk and sunflower milk, but they could also be an alternative for those with gluten, dairy, nut and soy allergies.

For other dairy foods, like cream cheese, regular cheese, and desserts, there are many soy based varieties that do taste good. However, many soy based cheese alternatives don’t have the same texture or meltability as animal based cheeses so may not work as well in cooking.

It is recommended to always look at the nutrition label and check for the amount of calcium, vitamins A and D, riboflavin and protein along with the sugar content. Cow’s milk has no added sugar (except for flavored varieties) and many of the milk alternatives have sweetened and unsweetened varieties. You can find more information on milk alternatives here.

Are You Getting Enough Dairy?

posted Jun 10, 2017, 6:00 AM by Tracy Ducker

How much dairy do I need?

We know that dairy is a good source of calcium and protein, but how much of it do you actually need? That all depends on your age – so check out the table from MyPlate below:

Daily Dairy Recommendation


2-3 years old

2 cups


19-30 years old

3 cups

4-8 years old

2 ½ cups

31-50 years old

3 cups


9-13 years old

3 cups

51+ years old

3 cups

14-18 years old

3 cups


19-30 years old

3 cups


9-13 years old

3 cups

31-50 years old

3 cups

14-18 years old

3 cups

51+ years old

3 cups


What does 1 cup of dairy mean?

In general, 1 cup worth of dairy is equivalent to (for more dairy equivalents click here):

·         1 cup of milk, yogurt, or soymilk (soy beverage)

·         1 ½ ounces of natural cheese

·         2 ounces processed cheese

Although our most recent Dietary Guidelines still call for fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese as your preferred choices; more recent research is finding that fat in dairy may not be the enemy. So stay tuned as recommendations may change in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy! 

Dive into Dairy

posted Jun 2, 2017, 6:08 AM by Tracy Ducker   [ updated Jun 2, 2017, 6:23 AM ]

June is National Dairy Month. According to the International Dairy Foods Council, dairy month started in 1937 to promote drinking milk and since has evolved into celebrating the contributions of the dairy industry. Without milk we wouldn’t have cheese, yogurt, ice cream, cheesecake, or butter and list goes on. Dairy foods contain 8 essential vitamins and minerals plus protein, carbohydrate and fat (depending on the food). Let’s take a look at each one and its benefits.

                                                                               The five vitamins found in dairy foods are:

       Vitamin A – helps your eyes adjust to light and darkness and promotes skin growth

                         Vitamin D - is needed to help calcium and phosphorous absorption and aids in bone formation

                                                           Niacin – is necessary for energy production

                                                           Riboflavin – is needed for the breakdown of proteins and for energy metabolism

                                                           B12 – is crucial for forming healthy blood cells

                                                                                                                                                                  The three minerals include:

                                                                                                                                    Calcium – is essential for strong bone formation

                                                                                                                                    Potassium – is responsible for fluid balance and in maintaining nerve and muscle function

                                                                                                                                    Phosphorus – is needed for energy production, binds with calcium for bone formation

The proteins in milk are casein and whey. Milk and cheese contain about 6-8 grams of protein per serving and 8 oz of yogurt contains 8-17 grams of protein. Lactose is the carbohydrate found in dairy foods, milk contains the most lactose while hard cheeses like cheddar contain the least amount. This is why some people with lactose intolerance can eat hard cheese without symptoms   

Want to do something fun? Make your own butter. It isn’t hard and if you have kids, they will love it. This is a recipe I have used and I prefer using the marbles, it is faster, but it is optional. Make sure the marbles are clean. (You can also use a blender). http://happyhooligans.ca/homemade-butter/

How To: Get Moving at Work

posted May 26, 2017, 6:05 AM by Sunamita Da Silva

We’ve talked about how to increase physical activity at
home and at play in our previous posts. Now it’s time to also move at work! Most of us spend a lot of time at work, sitting. Let’s turn that around! Here are some tips from MyPlate and ILC dietitians on just how to do it:
  • Get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk or skate the rest of the way.
  • Replace a coffee break with a brisk 10-minute walk. Ask a friend to go with you!
  • Take part in an exercise program at work or a nearby gym.
  • Join the office softball team or walking group.
  • Take the long way to the bathroom or water cooler.
  • Walk to a co-worker’s desk rather than giving them a call.
  • Schedule a walking meeting instead of sitting.
  • If you can’t walk around, stretch in your chair (refer to picture above).

You can choose one or more of these activities to move more. And remember, no matter what you choose, every little bit counts and it’s always better than doing nothing at all. So, get moving!

Play = Exercise: You bet!

posted May 19, 2017, 8:53 AM by Tracy Ducker

When you mention physical activity or exercise most people groan and think it’s boring, too time consuming, too hard, or too expensive. But, it doesn’t have to be. Just like anything in life if you don’t enjoy it you aren’t going to stick with it. Physical activity doesn’t have to be running 3 miles or doing endless crunches. Physical activity can actually involve playing. Just watch a bunch of kids at the playground; they are playing tag (i.e. running), climbing on jungle gym (strength training and balance), playing ball (coordination), laughing (having fun). Why not join in. If you have children play with them, not only are they getting exercise but you are too. If you don’t have kids, grab a few friends and have fun while exercising. Here are some ideas for playing while getting fit:

  • Hula Hoop- Remember how much fun it was, even if you couldn’t do it. It is a great hip and waist workout.
  • Create an obstacle course – Let you children help you, then run, crawl, and climb your way to fun.
  • Jump rope- Double Dutch anyone, show off your moves (if you don’t have any-everyone will have a great laugh).
  • Share ideas – Teach your children some of the playground games you played as a kid and find out what new games they are playing with their friends.
  • Play ball- Choose your favorite - tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer, football, kickball, etc…..
  • Neighborhood scavenger hunt – Create a list of things you might find in your neighborhood then go for walk and try to find them.
  • Dancing - Turn your living room into Dance Party USA or Dancing with the Stars and have fun judging each other.
  • Marco Polo- Heading to the pool, play this classic. It is way more fun than swimming laps.

The benefits of exercise are endless (see our previous blog) so why not make it fun and spend time with family and friends.

A great quote to end on, by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

How To: Get Moving at Home

posted May 15, 2017, 6:12 AM by Sunamita Da Silva

We’ve already talked about the benefits of exercise on last week’s blog post. Now it’s time to get active! And don’t worry; it’s actually easier than you think to fit physical activity into your daily routine at home. Here are some tips from MyPlate on just how to do it:
  • Join a walking group in the neighborhood or at the local shopping mall. Recruit a partner for support and encouragement.
  • Push the baby in a stroller.
  • Get the whole family involved – enjoy an afternoon bike ride with your kids.
  • Walk up and down the soccer or softball field sidelines while watching the kids play.
  • Walk the dog – don’t just watch the dog walk.
  • Clean the house or wash the car.
  • Walk, skate, or cycle more, and drive less.
  • Do stretches, exercises, or pedal a stationary bike while watching television.
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower.
  • Plant and care for a vegetable or flower garden.
  • Play with the kids – tumble in the leaves, build a snowman, splash in a puddle, or dance to favorite music.
  • Exercise to a workout video.

You can choose one or more of these activities to move more. And remember, no matter what you choose, every little bit counts and it’s always better than doing nothing at all. So, get moving!

Is Exercise Really That Important?

posted May 4, 2017, 12:02 PM by Tracy Ducker

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. We all know that physical activity is good for us, but how good is it really? Physical activity increases our chances of a longer life, because it helps:
  •  Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight
  •  Lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol
  •  Prevent heart disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes


But that’s not all. Being more active can:

  • Be fun
  • Help you look your best
  • Help you sleep better
  • Make your bones, muscles, and joints stronger – think osteoporosis prevention
  • Lower your chances of becoming depressed  - 6.7% of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with depression 
  • Reduce falls and arthritis pain
  • Help you feel better about yourself

Is physical activity for everyone?

Yes! Physical activity is good for people of all ages and body types. Even if you feel out of shape or you haven’t been active in a long time, you can find activities that will work for you.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults:

  • Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Moderate activity includes things like walking fast, dancing, swimming, and raking leaves.
  • Do muscle-strengthening activities – like lifting weights or using exercise bands – at least 2 days a week.
  • Physical activity is for everyone. No matter what shape you are in, you can find activities that work for you. Together, we can rise to the challenge and get more active during the month of May!


Getting to Know Plant-Based Protein Sources

posted Apr 27, 2017, 8:12 AM by Sunamita Da Silva

The average American today eats as much as 75 more pounds of meat each year compared to past generations and by 2030 the World Health Organization predicts the world will consume nearly twice the amount of meat per year than it did in the 1960s. Producing meat takes a greater toll on the planet than producing plants. If you’ve been thinking about joining the Meatless Mondays movement but you’re not sure where to start, then this blog post is for you. In honor of our final week of Earth Month, we’re talking plant proteins.

Are plant proteins incomplete?

Protein is essential for our survival as they are required for structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. They are made up of a chain of amino acids, some of which are made by the body, and others which we can only get from food – called essential amino acids.

All plant foods have some of every essential amino acid, but in general, legumes are lower in one of them (methionine) while most other plant foods are lower in another (lysine). Studies have found that as long as you eat a variety of foods throughout the day (even if you’re exclusively vegan), you can generally get an adequate amount of these amino acids. This means you no longer have to mix a legume and a grain in each meal – a full day’s tally of what you eat is more important.

What plant-based foods have the most protein?

In general, legumes such as lentils and beans have the most amount of protein per cup. This is followed by nuts and grains. The average man needs about 56 g of protein per day, while the average woman needs about 46 g of protein per day. Here is how much protein you get from these popular foods:

While you don’t have to give up meat, adding more plant-based foods to your diet will not only help the planet, but it will also bring you health benefits, as research has linked plant-based diets with lower risks of heart disease, obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers.

More detailed information regarding plant-based protein can be found here. You can also learn about edamame (soybeans) here.

Food Scraps: To Use or Not To Use

posted Apr 21, 2017, 12:41 PM by Tracy Ducker

According to the USDA,  Americans toss out an average of 36 lbs. of food a month.  That adds up to almost $370 per year.  Food is thrown out for a variety of reasons:  spoilage, plate waste, food scraps, among others. In today’s blog we will discuss how those pieces of leftover fruit, vegetables and meat can still used (you can also compost it but this won’t decrease your food expense).

Vegetable leaves and greens

The leaves and greens we typical cut off and toss are a powerhouse of nutrients. Cauliflower leaves can be roasted in the oven at 400° F with a little oil for crunchy healthy chips.

All vegetable scraps (onion and garlic peels, carrot and celery tops, carrot peels, etc) can be used to make a vegetable broth. Toss in tomato ends for added liquid and flavor. Carrot tops can also be pureed into a delicious pesto sauce.


Save money on croutons and bread crumbs by taking your stale bread and bake it in a single layer at 350° F for up to 10 minutes (depending on how stale the bread is). Let it cool and cut into crouton size cubes or grind them in a food processor for bread crumbs and store in a airtight container in the refrigerator. For seasoned croutons add your favorite seasoning and toss the bread with a little oil and bake at 350° F for 10 minutes or until hard.


You probably already know that poultry carcasses and beef bones make a great soup stock, but you can also use the leftover juices and oil. Just add to beans, cooked grains or sautéed greens for added flavor.


Citrus peels can be thrown in the garbage disposal to get rid of unpleasant odors.  Apple peels can be used to remove stains from aluminum pots and pans, just fill the dirty pan with water and the apple peels then simmer on the stove for 20-30 minutes. Have bananas with brown spots or bruised apples, don't toss them-cook with them. Make banana bread or apple pancakes or muffins or homemade applesauce. Grapes that have started to go soft can be washed and frozen for a delicious frozen snack. Of course, use your best judgement on whether the food is still edible. If it smells or looks really bad, it is best to toss it. 

Add cucumber peels to your bathwater to help soothe dry, itchy skin. You can use that squeezed lemon half to clean and shine your stovetop. If you like tea, add orange and apple peels to the water and boil for a few minutes then add the tea bag and steep.

Of course, when in doubt throw it out or better yet compost it (see last week’s blog on composting). Keep in mind there are parts of some foods which just can’t be eaten or shouldn’t be eaten. Rhubarb leaves and apricot, cherry, and peach pits are actually toxic so definitely toss these.

Have a wonderful Earth Day.

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