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

Sports Fueling for Kids

posted Aug 10, 2017, 11:38 AM by Sunamita Da Silva

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends children and teens get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. One way children can reach this goal, is by getting involved in school or other competitive sports. But in order for children to perform at their best, they’ll need to eat the right foods to keep them fueled, strong, and growing. Here are some tips:

Pre-Game Three hours before the game, think nutrient dense, but easy to digest foods like a breakfast of lightly grilled potatoes with scrambled eggs and nutrient dense carbohydrates such as berries and orange juice or fat-free milk.

During the Game Hydration is key! Make sure your child is well hydrated throughout the game with small amounts of water. Also be sure to replace fluid losses after exercise by having your child drink lots of water. Foods such as bananas, potatoes and fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk contain potassium and carbohydrates, which are important to help replenish after exercise.

Post-Game Having healthy snacks ready to go when kids get home from school is most important here as it ensures they fuel up with healthy options. Think cut-up fresh fruit with peanut butter, low-fat yogurt and smoothies.

Post-Game Family Dinner Carbohydrates are important to replenish lost energy and protein is important for muscle building. Be sure to include lean protein as part of dinner – think baked, grilled, or broiled cuts of lean meats such as chicken breast, salmon or tuna or steamed or stewed legumes. Add in whole grains and tossed vegetables and finish it off with juicy fruit desserts like baked apples or pears for a dose of healthy carbohydrates.

A balanced meal is the best way to make sure your little athletes keep growing strong and performing at their best. And with just a little planning, you are sure to keep them fueled throughout the day! For energy-boosting snack recipes click here.

August is Kids Eat Right Month™

posted Aug 4, 2017, 9:21 AM by Sunamita Da Silva

August is Kids Eat Right Month and to celebrate we'll be posting fresh ideas on healthy eating for kids. But before we get things started, here's a crash course into Kids Eat Right Month.

What is Kids Eat Right Month?

“Kids Eat Right Month™ is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' and the Academy Foundation's chance to highlight the fight for our children's healthy future. Kids Eat Right Month™ emphasizes what makes Kids Eat Right such an important program, focusing on smart shopping, healthy eating and active lifestyles for every age group from infant to teens.”

How can I help celebrate Kids Eat Right Month™?

You can help celebrate by setting an example for the whole family and creating a healthy environment at home. Get active as a family by enjoying 60 minutes of active play each day. Enjoy family meals together and get children involved in planning and cooking healthy meals together.

Remember, any little bit helps, so start small and build your way up until your whole family is enjoying a healthy lifestyle which will carry on into adulthood.

For more on Kids Eat Right Month™ visit kidseatright.org.

Grilling Safely

posted Jul 27, 2017, 1:18 PM by Tracy Ducker

Summer is in full swing and so is outdoor grilling. While grilled foods taste great and keep the kitchen cool grilling can pose risks. Here are some safe grilling tips.

  •          Be sure the grill is clean
  •          Keep the grill a safe distance from the house, trees and other flammable objects.
  •          Use lighter fluid to start a charcoal grill not as an accelerant.
  •          Keep pets and children away from the grill and never leave the grill unattended.
  •          Close the lid of a charcoal grill to put out the fire
  •          For gas grills: check for leaks, and always turn propane tank off when not in use.
  •          Always light gas grills with the lid shut

To keep your foods safe follow these tips:

  •          Keep foods refrigerated until ready to grill
  •          Cook foods to the proper temperature (see below)
  •          Avoid cross contamination by putting cooked food on a clean plate, discarding marinades that came into contact with raw meat.
  •          Clean the meat thermometer between uses and between different foods – keep hot soapy water and paper towels/sponge/or rag outside with you to clean the thermometer.
  •          Keep perishables refrigerated or in a cooler with ice or keep grilled item warm on the grill away from the flame (so it doesn’t continue to cook but stays warm until ready to eat.

For more information on grilling safely check out this USDA video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2Xs1qIcrbA

Staying Hydrated This Summer

posted Jul 21, 2017, 9:08 AM by Sunamita Da Silva

We know it’s important to stay hydrated, but do we really know how important it really is? The answer is, very. Our bodies are 60% water by weight and the water we drink helps to keep our blood pressure and body temperature in check. Not to mention, water also helps to keep our joints lubricated, it helps in moving out waste from our bodies and helps in regulating digestion.

The Heat is On!

The warmer temperatures of summer mean that we lose more water through sweating and evaporation. This is how our bodies stay cool after all, as we discussed in last week’s blog post. If we lose too much water we become dehydrated, which can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, and extreme thirst.

But did you know that dehydration also affects our brains? That’s right! Our brain is more than 70% water, which means that when we don’t drink enough water, our thinking and cognition can suffer. In fact, a 2% loss in body water weight (which is about 3 pounds for a 150 pound person) can lead to short-term memory, attention, and visual-motor issues.

Other signs of dehydration include loss of appetite, dry mouth, mild constipation and temporary lightheadedness, so be on the lookout for those.

Getting Plenty of Fluids

  1. Make sure to drink enough. The average person needs about 8 to 10 cups of water each day.
  2. Always have it on hand. Invest in a reusable water bottle to make sure you always have your fluids on hand.
  3. Infuse with flavor. If you’re not a big fan of water on its own, consider infusing it with fresh fruit for some flavor.
  4. Eat your water. That’s right! Juicy vegetables and fruits like cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, cauliflower, watermelon, spinach, strawberries, broccoli and grapefruit are all made up of at least 90% water.

Here are some more tips, if you are staying extra active this summer.

Staying Cool with Food

posted Jul 14, 2017, 11:20 AM by Tracy Ducker


              Can certain foods really cool you down? Surprisingly, yes, some can. You may think that it is obvious, hot foods make you warmer and cool foods make you cooler, but it isn’t that simple. Our bodies are constantly working to keep our core body temperature at 98.6 degrees F. If the air outside is hot then we sweat to cool down, if the air is cold then we shiver to increase body temperature. But some studies have shown that food and drink can actually play a role in maintaining body temperature. For example, in some parts of the world (i.e. warm climates) they believe that drinking hot beverages or eating spicy food actually makes you cooler. In India and sub-Sahara Africa they drink hot tea to cool off, and in Mexico they eat spicy food to cool down.

So what is the science behind hot foods and beverages and staying cool? When you drink a hot beverage or eat a spicy food you sweat which cools you off, if it can evaporate. This means drinking a hot beverage in July in Washington D.C. probably won’t cool you off. But drinking that hot tea in Phoenix, Arizona will actually make you feel cooler because the sweat evaporates in the dry climate, making you feel cooler.

So what can we Mid-Atlantic folks do to stay cool? Try some of these foods that have a high water content. Cucumbers, dark green leafy vegetables and watermelon are not only refreshing but high in vitamins and minerals.  Plain, cool water is also great for hydrating your body and staying cool, infuse with some berries or lemon for flavor and added cooling. It is best to avoid ice cold drinks because studies have shown that they can actually make you feel hotter because it cools your core temperature too quickly causing your body to produce more heat in order to maintain a body temperature of 98.6 degrees F. For more information on cooling foods click here.

Summer Food Safety

posted Jul 7, 2017, 6:07 AM by Sunamita Da Silva

You’ve heard this one before: everyone at Jane Doe’s barbecue party ended up getting food poisoning. That is certainly not the best way to impress your guests! And while we all laugh about it a few days later, food poising can be more serious than just a few too many trips to the bathroom – especially for children and the elderly. So, with that in mind, here are some safe summer cooking tips:

For outdoor events

Keep foods cold by using a cooler. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.

Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler. 

For grilling

Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread and use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures.  Keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.


For more details on safe summer cooking, click here.

Osteoporosis: the silent disease

posted Jun 30, 2017, 7:23 AM by Tracy Ducker

Osteoporosis is known as the silent disease because there are usually no signs or symptoms until you break a bone. We don’t often think of bones as being a living tissue, but they are constantly breaking down and rebuilding. When we are younger (up to about age 20) the rate of rebuilding is greater than the rate of breakdown, but as we age this reverses and the breakdown of bones is greater than the rebuilding of bones. When this breakdown far exceeds the rebuilding, bones become weak and brittle leading to osteoporosis. Certain unchangeable risk factors increase the risk of developing osteoporosis: race, age, sex, family history and body frame size. However, there are also risk factors that you can change. For example, low calcium and vitamin D intake, eating disorders, and gastrointestinal surgery that decreases the size of the stomach can lead to a decrease in the absorption of calcium. There are also certain medications taken long term, specific medical conditions and lifestyle choices that can lead to osteoporosis.

So even if you have some of these risk factors or have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are still many things you can do to help prevent or decrease the progression of the disease.

·         Don’t smoke and avoid alcohol-both increase the breakdown of bone

·         Prevent falls - use handrails, avoid wearing high heeled shoes 

·         Consume adequate protein as it is one of the building blocks of bone

·         Maintain appropriate body weight - underweight increases bone loss and overweight increases risk of falls and broken bones

·         Consume adequate calcium and vitamin D - if you need supplementation check with your doctor or a registered dietitian first to determine the right amount.

·         Exercise - strength training and weight bearing exercises help strengthen not only your muscles but your bones too. Walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, skipping rope and other higher impact activities strengthen the bones in your lower body. Strength training that focuses on the upper body-chest, upper and lower back, and arms will strengthen the bones in those areas. By incorporating balance exercises like tai chi or yoga you can reduce your risk of falling and breaking a bone.

Close to 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or decreased bone density (mass) and 20% of older adults who break a hip will die due to complications. So, be sure to check with your doctor about your possible risk factors and do your part in maintaining bone density by consuming the recommended amount of calcium and following the recommendations above. For more information on osteoporosis click here. 

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! 

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