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.

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 Jul 10, 2018, 1:54 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN ]

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 please feel free to contact ILC's Registered Dietitians: or  

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.

For more information check out at

Shining a Light on Alzheimer’s Prevention

posted Apr 8, 2018, 1:49 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito   [ updated Apr 29, 2018, 6:08 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN ]

By: Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT, Experienced Diabetes Educator and Mindful Weight-Management RD Nutritionist


Every so often, when you switch on the TV, you will see an advertisement for diabetes medication or memory supplements.  Following the advertisement is the disclaimer with a fast-talking background voice spouting off the long list of horrible side effects.  All the while, images of smiling people grace the screen.   For those who have diabetes, prediabetes or who are concerned about memory loss, these commercials can be enticing, but confusing at the same time.  I.L. Creations’ nutrition theme for April is “Nutrition Trends for 2018,” and the trend right now is the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Diabetes is a big money maker, with the latest 2017 CDC report estimating $322 billion dollars being spent in the U.S. on diabetes treatment.    Likewise, the cost to treat Alzheimer’s in the U.S. was estimated at $259 billion dollars.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 1 in 11 Americans have diabetes, and 1 in 10 Americans over age 65 have Alzheimer’s.  Historically, it has been reported that Alzheimer’s is a disease that cannot be cured, prevented or slowed.   However, research in measuring insulin activity in brain cells (neurons) provides hope for prevention, pointing to nutrition and lifestyle as key players.  This research links diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

To better understand the connection, let’s take a closer look at diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.    We will look at the key nutrition and lifestyle actions that you can take to decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

What is Diabetes?   Diabetes is a genetically-linked condition where the body cannot produce insulin or use its own insulin effectively (insulin resistance).  Our bodies make blood sugar from foods we eat that contain carbohydrates, as well as release sugar stored in muscles and the liver when we skip meals.  Blood sugar is the fuel our body cells need to survive and maintain healthy organs and physical functions.  Insulin is the hormone that transports the blood sugar to our cells for energy. If insulin is not available or is not used effectively, blood sugar levels rise in the blood stream.

In a healthy person without diabetes, the body is able to naturally bring blood sugars to healthy levels following a meal.  However, in a person with diabetes, the body is unable to bring blood sugar to healthy levels following a meal, and blood sugar levels remain high, causing damage to many organs, including cells in the brain.

Having diabetes and pre-diabetes puts individuals at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, including stroke.   However, individuals with diabetes can achieve healthy blood sugar levels through adjustment of the portion size, the quality of food and beverages they consume, and/or through medication and physical activity.   

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, genetically-linked brain disease which causes a decline in a person's cognitive abilities, memory, mood, and behavior.   Persons may initially experience symptoms such as forgetfulness, which is called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), years before Alzheimer’s develops.  As time goes on, the brain cells (neurons) diminish and die, and can cause more episodes of memory loss and confusion.  Alzheimer’s disease is commonly diagnosed when symptoms interfere with a person’s normal part of daily living. 

Insulin Resistance: The Connection with Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Researchers have previously identified insulin resistance activity in brain cells of persons with Alzheimer’s disease, similar to those with diabetes.  These researchers thus coined the term “Type 3 diabetes” for Alzheimer’s disease.   Insulin resistance can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, which increases your risk of stroke and decline in brain function.   Recognition of this connection provides an opportunity for Alzheimer’s prevention through the adoption of healthy nutrition and lifestyle habits, which make the body more insulin-sensitive.  

Alzheimer’s and diabetes share a common history.  Like Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s historically has been viewed as a normal part of aging, especially in those individuals who have family members with the disease.  Today, we now know that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthy nutrition and lifestyle.  Similarly, Alzheimer’s is also a genetically-linked disease that may be prevented through healthy nutrition and lifestyle.   The identification of insulin resistance in the brain provides a new tool in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. 

Nutrition and Lifestyle Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s

The nutrition and lifestyle actions we provide to those with diabetes will be similar to the advice we prescribe to those who have a family history of Alzheimer’s.  The following are the steps you can take to prevent Alzheimer’s.

1)      Stay on top of your health checkups

·       Get screened for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.  This allows you to take proactive steps to improve your nutrition and lifestyle habits.

·       If you have prediabetes or diabetes, work with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and your doctor, who is experienced in diabetes education to help you achieve normal blood sugar levels.


2)       Eat more brain power foods.  Start with making half your plate fruits and vegetables.

·        Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries provide an abundance of antioxidants to combat inflammation.  

·       Leafy green vegetables provide a good source of folate, which can reduce inflammation in the body.  Avocados are a good source of omega-3’s, potassium, and antioxidants which are all protective of brain health. 

Recipe Tip: Brainpower smoothie: ¾ berries (blueberries or raspberries), 1/2  avocado, ½ banana and 1 c. of coconut milk.  Blend well and enjoy.   


3)      Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day

·       Walking, yoga, strength-training.    Previous studies have shown that exercise improves memory and coordination.


4)      De-Stress:   Stress can make your blood sugars rise and cause inflammation in the body.

·       Take mental breaks throughout your workday. Simply focusing on your breathing, and taking mindful breaths, can relax the mind and body.


5)      Sleep.  Getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night can promote healthy blood sugar levels and thus brain health.


6)     Exercise your brain by learning something new.  Studies show learning a new skill can foster the growth of the synapses, which are responsible for communication between neurons (brain cells) and help with memory and cognitive function.

For more answers regarding ways to prevent Alzheimer’s, look for the “Ask the Dietitian” station at your I.L. Creations Café.

Why Shopping Locally is Good

posted Mar 10, 2018, 3:41 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

“Go Further with Food” is this year’s National Nutrition Month® theme that focuses on food sustainability. There are many ways we can all “Go Further” and reduce food waste, support local farmers by shopping locally, and eat healthier. This week we’ll discuss how shopping locally at farmers markets benefits our health, the economy and the environment.

Shopping locally is better for our health. Fresher foods contain more nutrients and taste better. Once produce is picked/harvested is begins to lose nutritional value due to enzymes that are released which break down the nutrients. Also, the longer fruits and vegetables are allowed to ripen on the vine the more nutrients are retained. Non-local produce is picked before it is ripe so that it won’t spoil by the time it reaches the grocery store, decreasing the nutritional value.

When you shop locally you save money. Many of the foods at farmers markets are cheaper than at the grocery store because the food transportation fees are low. Local food isn’t stored for long periods or being transported long distances and is therefore fresher and lasts longer decreasing the amount of food waste due to spoilage. Also, the money spent locally stays local helping to build and maintain the local economy.

Shopping locally is good for the environment. A study done at Michigan State University found that food in the US travels almost 1500 miles. This adds to the carbon footprint of not only your house but also your community.  You can greatly cut your own carbon footprint by buying locally. You also support the local farmers helping them to continue farming and preserving green space.

Spring is just around the corner and farmer’s markets will be opening soon. Click on the links below for farmer’s markets in your area (note: the opening dates and times may change).

Montgomery County

District of Columbia

Fairfax County

Arlington County

We can all make some small changes to be more sustainable and eat healthier.

National Nutrition Month: "Go Further with Food”

posted Mar 2, 2018, 9:03 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito   [ updated Mar 3, 2018, 12:43 PM ]

By: Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, LDN, E-RYT

It’s National Nutrition Month, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has set a “Go Further with Food” campaign, which encourages you to take your eating and lifestyle habits to a healthier and socially-responsible level.  IL Creations’ Registered Dietitians will be out during the month of March to ask a key question, “How much food do you throw away each week”?    This question is an important one that we all need to ask ourselves, as a family and as a community.    If we are tossing out food each week, especially fruits and vegetables, there is a chance we are not getting the essential nutrients we need.  It also contributes to food waste.  According to the USDA’s economic research center, between 30-40 percent of the United States food supply is wasted.  In 2014, USDA and EPA partnered for the U.S. Food Waste Challenge to help reduce food waste.  The goal set by USDA and EPA is to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.  To learn more about the USDA and EPA joint Food Waste Challenge click on this link Reduce, Recycle, RecoverLet’s take a look at some key areas where you can help to positively impact health and environment today.

1)          Start with a clean slate each week.  Audit your refrigerator and pantry and think of the meals you can make with existing food inventory.  Then generate a grocery list and commit to only purchase what is on the list.

2)          Challenge yourself not to let the “Crisper become the Rotter” in your refrigerator.  Purchase frozen vegetables and tub-mixed salads to prevent spoilage from underuse.  Accessible fruits and vegetables make it easy for us to use in recipes. 

3)          Get creative with leftovers.  If you make a meal with a side dish like rice, potatoes or quinoa, then think of another meal to pair those same items with. For example, you make stuffed portabella mushrooms with quinoa.  The extra quinoa can be used to make a mixed-grain and bean salad the following day.  See our “mixed grain and bean salad recipe” as well as much more recipes on our website by clicking this link, RECIPES.  

4)          Make less food at each meal to prevent food waste.  It’s not about finishing your plate; it’s about being mindful of not making more food than your body needs. 

5)          Take part in the IL Creations (ILC) café daily “Happy Hour”.  ILC strives to be creative and resourceful in reducing food loss.  ILC offers a daily Happy Hour at each unit at the end of the day. This  Happy Hour not only gives customers a great opportunity to save money but ensures that we sell out as best as possible with no "left-over food".   

For more creative ways on how you can extend your food in your home, contact our registered dietitians at  ILC Registered dietitians are available to present on this topic and more.  

Top 5 Habits of Heart Healthy People

posted Feb 21, 2018, 9:42 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito   [ updated Feb 23, 2018, 1:38 PM ]

By: Evangelina Dispirito, RDN, E-RYT

February is National Heart Health awareness month which gives us an opportunity to take stock of our own heart healthy eating and lifestyle habits.   On one of our previous blogs, we wrote about the benefits of a Mediterranean-based diet, which is based on eating more vegetables, beans, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil, walnuts, avocados and using meats more as garnishes.  Incorporating features of the Mediterranean diet into our own meals can be the approach we can take to protect our hearts.  Below are the ILC dietitian’s top 5 habits of Heart Healthy People.


1)      Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables are rich with nutrients that help prevent inflammation in the body.  Folate and it’s naturally occurring folic acid which is found in leafy green vegetables helps lower homocysteine levels in the body.  Homocysteine levels are elevated in heart disease. Beets contain naturally occurring nitrates which can help lower blood pressure to help promote optimal heart health.   Bananas are rich with potassium to help lower blood pressure as well.   Berries are found to reduce inflammation in the body.  Finally, both fruits and vegetables are a good source of fiber which can promote lower cholesterol and healthy gut.

Nutrition Tip:  Try having a salad with roasted beets, walnuts, raspberries and goat cheese with a drizzle of olive oil.


2)      Eat more plant-beans.  Beans are rich in iron, magnesium, folate and potassium, all which are linked to heart health by lowering levels of homocysteine and blood pressure.   Replacing meat entrees with beans will provide you with a heart-healthy protein.   


Nutrition Tip:  Try soaking beans overnight then rinse and cook for an hour.  The slow cooking method is better for retention of folate as well as reducing “gas-forming” properties of beans.


3)      Limit the added sugars in your meals and beverages.  Sugar increases your blood sugar and can cause the pancreas to release a surge of insulin into the blood stream.  Consistent consumption of foods high in sugar can lead to diabetes and cause insulin resistant, a condition where the body is unable to use its own blood sugar for fuel. 


Nutrition Tip:   Try lowering your sweet tooth by eating fresh fruits and instead of a candy bar for a snack.  Of if you are a coffee drinker, try cutting out the sugar in coffee for a week.


4)      Drink more water.   Severe dehydration can increase chances of a heart attack.  Athletes or individuals taking on exercise or hot yoga classes could have increase water loss from sweat.  If you are not consistently eating water-based foods such as fruits and vegetables at most meals, chances are you are chronically dehydrated.   High protein, low-carbohydrate diets can cause dehydration.   Aim to have more water with your meals.  Drink 4 to 6 ounces of water before eating, and you may find you consume less calories.  Often times we mistaken thirst for hunger.  Please note that with various health conditions such as kidney or congestive heart failure  the water recommendations will be lower.  Consult your physician.


Nutrition Tip:  Carry a refillable water each day.  Squeeze lemon juice or other place frozen berries for natural flavoring.


5)      Get moving:  Getting at least 150 minutes a week can reduce chances of getting Diabetes according to the results of the 16- week Diabetes Prevention Program.  Diabetes puts one at greater chances of getting heart disease. Physical activity each day is good for the mind and body.  It helps relieve depression but also helps our bodies utilized the fuel from the food we eat more efficiently.  Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming help condition the heart to pump blood more efficiently.  Strength training helps build muscle to help boost our metabolism.  Yoga stretch and mindfulness exercises help reduce stress and can lower cortisol levels within the body.  Elevated cortisol levels are linked with inflammation, increase blood sugar and inability to sleep.  All which can negatively affect heart health.

                     Exercise Tip:  Aim to get 30 minutes each day by adding extra activity in your day.    

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