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. 

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What’s in Your Food? Navigating the ingredients on a food label for a healthier you!

posted Aug 20, 2019, 6:52 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT

By Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, LDN E-RYT

Do you truly know what’s in your packaged food, beverage or supplement? Whether it’s convenience foods or processed power shakes of the latest health craze, reading the food label is vital to your health.  This is especially true if you are consuming protein bars, powders or energy drinks daily, which potentially could exceed the amounts the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes as a safe threshold. 

The FDA upgraded the food label to help consumers make more informed food choices.  The bolder and bigger print on a nutrition facts label makes it easier to know the amount of calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates we are eating, per serving size listed.  However, the ingredients in a particular food, which are in the “fine print” on the label, are not so bold or clear and can potentially be the root cause of headaches, acid reflux, joint pain and even worsen existing health conditions, like diabetes.  The FDA does regulate the safety of the ingredients in foods, but some individuals may experience sensitivities if they consume in excess.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these ingredients listed in the fine print of a food label.

Ingredients are listed in order of weight, from the highest to lowest amount of a particular ingredient.  For example, if “Olive oil mayo” lists soybean oil as the first ingredient, then the mayo contains more soybean oil than olive oil in it.   This is important if you have a soy allergy or have to limit soy due to interactions with medication, such as for a thyroid condition.

Identifying the keywords for sugar, fat, sodium and potential allergens in the ingredients can help stave away common physical complaints.  For example, if you consistently have digestive problems such as stomach bloat, constipation, diarrhea, or indigestion, this could be remedied by limiting the amount of hidden sugar alcohols, dairy and gluten in certain foods.

Let’s take a look at some of the keywords to help us identify added sugars, fats and sodium.

HIDDEN SUGARS  Based on the link between excess consumption of sugar and heart disease as well as diabetesthe American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (24-25 grams) of added sugar for women, and no more than 9 teaspoons (36 -38 grams) of added sugar for men.  To put this in perspective, a 24 oz Regular Coke has 65 grams of sugar (16 teaspoons) of added sugar!  Sugar contains calories and increases blood sugar, which can lead to weight gain and diabetes.

Keywords to find sugar under ingredients:  Words ending in “ose” like fructose, maltose, sucrose, dextrose, as well as other names: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, malt barley, honey, molasses, agave nectar, cane juice, and fruit juice.

Potential Health Risks:  Excessive sugar can raise your blood sugar after consumption, regardless if it’s natural or processed.  Consistently high blood sugar in the body can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain and diabetes.

 Sugar Substitutes have zero to small amounts of calories and don’t raise blood sugar, however, over consumption can affect long-term health.

Keywords to find sugar substitutes are: Sugar alcohols (mannitol, xylitol, sorbitol); artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and more natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit.  

Potential Health Risk: Having high amounts of sugar alcohols can lead to digestive problems.  High consumption of aspartame has been linked to headaches and inflammation in the body.1  Sucralose has been linked to diminished good bacteria in the gut.2  Poor gut health has been linked to a weakened immune system.  In fact, sugar substitutes are much sweeter than sugar and can sometimes increase your sweet cravings, which can lead to overeating. 

Try this to sweeten:  Sweetened beverage or foods with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or fresh fruit purees, such as apple sauce, bananas or prunes.  Look for stevia and monk fruit that do not have added “sucralose or dextrose” to sweeten your beverages and foods.   Lower your sweet tooth by opting for less sugar in recipes.

HIDDEN FATS:  Trans fats do not have to be listed in the food label if the food has less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving size, even if the product still contains trans-fat.  

Keyword to find the trans fats:  Partially hydrogenated oil, shortening, margarine. 

Potential Health Risks: This is an example of an ingredient that was FDA-approved as safe, but was subsequently taken off the approved list due to links with insulin resistance, heart disease, even cancer.

Try this to increase good fats:  Olive oil, avocado in recipes that call for fat.  Coconut oil has been shown to increase good HDL and lower triglycerides.

HIDDEN SODIUM:    Excess consumption of sodium in our diet can lead to high blood pressure and can cause us to retain water, which leads to swelling.  The amount of total sodium should be listed on the food label in the number of milligrams per serving.   Limit your sodium to 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg if you are over the age of 50 or have elevated blood pressure.  

Keywords in the ingredients:  sodium nitrates, sodium chloride, triphosphate sodium, sodium benzoate, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).  

Potential Health Risks:  Some individuals may have sensitivities to MSG and can experience headaches.  Individuals on blood pressure medication can also have adverse effects.

Try this to flavor foods:  Instead of using salt to add flavor, try fresh herbs and spices to enhance the taste of foods.  Morton’s lite salt is good because it does contain potassium which can lower blood pressure.  Be cautious with certain blood pressure medication.

Take Away Message

The best practice is to make recipes from fresh ingredients and eat less processed foods.  The take away for eating processed foods is that in small doses, sugar alcohols, sweeteners and even sodium ingredients can be safe for most individuals.  If you experience physical discomfort after eating, make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to identify if dietary reasons are the cause of your discomfort.  Find a Dietitian at . For more information on how the FDA regulates food safety, log on to


1. American Heart Association 

2. Corrigendum for "Revisiting the safety of aspartame" by Arbind Kumar Choudhary and Etheresia Pretorius Nutrition Reviews. 2017; 75(9): 718-730. Nutr Rev. 2018. Schiffman SS, Nagle HT.

3. “Assessing the in vivo data  on  low/no-calorie sweeteners and the gut microbiota”by Schiffman, Nage HT. Food Chem Toxicol. 2019 Jul 24:110692.  Food Chem Toxicology.

Reducing Your Consumption of Processed Foods at Home

posted Jul 12, 2019, 10:49 AM by Amanda Schlink, MS, RD, LD

It’s Friday night and you open your freezer to see what to have for dinner. You find a pizza, chicken strips, peas and carrots and salmon, along with a bag of frozen berries that you use each morning for your daily smoothie. At first glance, some of these food items sound pretty healthy right? Salmon? Berries? Peas and Carrots? While some of these options could be healthy, the truth lies in what has been added to these foods before they made it to your freezer and how much processing they have undergone. What is a processed food you might ask? Let’s explore this buzz word that has been popping up in the news lately.

A processed food, according to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, is any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged, or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways. Foods that we consume every day might be considered minimally processed, heavily processed, or somewhere in between. Let’s walk through some common foods and understand how processed a food might actually be.

Stages of Processed Food:

-        Minimally Processed: Convenience or prepped items in the produce section, such as sliced peppers & onions, bagged leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards, etc.) and bowls of cut cantaloupe and honeydew melon.

-        Processed at the Peak of Freshness and/or Nutritional Quality: Fresh Meat, Poultry or Fish, Frozen Fruits & Vegetables, Canned Tomatoes, Meats or Fish, Grains including Pasta, Rice and Breads.

-        Processed as Flavoring Agents: Seasoning Blends, Spices, Extracts, Oils, Sauces, Gravies, Dressings, Baking Mixes.

-        Ready-to-Eat Foods: Cereals, Granola Bars, Dairy Items, Deli Meats, Crackers, Baked Goods, etc.

-        Heavily Processed Foods: Pre-made meals including microwavable meals, frozen pizza and fried foods.

After reading this list, it may have become clear that some of the foods that you are eating on a regular basis are actually more processed as you once thought. The good news is that we’ve got some easy tips to help you reduce the amount of processed foods in your home without going bananas (no pun intended J).

Tips to Try at Home:

1)    Buy Fresh & Prep at Home: Take advantage of buying whole fruits and vegetables in season for not only quality, but optimal nutrition and lower prices. Then, prep the items at home you’ll need for the week. Got vegetables for a stir-fry or zucchini noodles for a pasta dish? Slice, dice and spiralize these vegetables at home. They will not only taste better, because you prepped them fresh before serving, but you will also save some money in your wallet.

2)    Check the Labels on Canned & Frozen Foods: Many canned or frozen food items are indeed healthy options to include in a balanced lifestyle. For frozen items, choose options that have no added salt, sauces or sugar. For canned foods, look for foods that are packed in water and/or state “Low-Sodium” on the can. Can’t find these options at the grocery store? Try draining the excess water or oil and rinse if possible, such as canned beans or canned tuna.

3)    Beware of Hidden Ingredients: Have you ever tried to read the ingredient list on a packaged loaf of bread and found yourself scratching your head trying to pronounce the ingredients? Breads and baked goods are notorious for having added ingredients used to enhance flavor and/or preserve the shelf life. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce an ingredient or know what an ingredient is, there’s a high chance that it’s heavily processed. Choose breads and baked goods with a shorter ingredient list and ingredients that you are familiar with. Even better, try making some of your favorites at home, where you can control what goes into the final product. 

4)    Enjoy heavily processed foods less often: Most individuals we’ve met have one or two foods that they can’t live without. Often times, these foods are heavily processed in one way or another. Instead of cutting out these foods cold turkey, which might cause you to binge on them, enjoy these food options a little less often. Got a special occasion or family gathering? Enjoy your favorite dish (Macaroni & Cheese, Fried Chicken, Banana Cream Pie, etc.) at those special times and really savor the flavors. Eating smaller portions can also help to cut back on the consumption of processed foods.       


Wolfram, T. (2019, February 11). Processed Foods: What's OK and What to Avoid. Retrieved June 21, 2019, from

Nutrition for Youthfulness at Any Age

posted Jun 13, 2019, 12:15 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT   [ updated Jun 17, 2019, 8:02 AM ]

Ever wonder why some people look younger as the years go by, while others seem to be aging at a rapid rate?  Sure, genetics plays a role, but what you consume physically and mentally on a daily basis is a big determinant of how well you will look and feel 5 or 10 years from now.  Consuming the right foods, beverages and lifestyle practices can keep you looking and feeling younger with each passing birthday.  New age aging is in your control more than ever, with the right approach, you can live longer, happier and more youthful with each passing year.

What happens when we age?

Years of exposure to contaminants in the air we breathe, ultraviolet rays from the sun we absorb and excess sugar, protein, fat and artificial ingredients from foods and beverages we digest can produce free radicals in the body and start us on the path to aging-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis. Before we get diagnosed with health problems, nutritional imbalances can start to show in the skin, hair and internal organs, as well as damage the cellular functions we need to conserve our youthfulness. 

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

Our bodies are efficient in detoxifying in the early years of life, however, as we advance in years the body’s ability to absorb and detoxify nutrients becomes less efficient.  This happens because of diminished hormones, digestive enzymes that help with repairing and regenerating the cells.   Therefore, the unhealthier eating and lifestyle practices we adopt, we generate more free radicals, which in turn accelerate aging.  

 What about diets that promote anti-aging?

Diets, to name few, vegan, ketogenic and intermittent fasting, have been reported to have beneficial effects in staving off age-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer as well as slow the development Alzheimer’s disease. However, the restrictive nature of these diets may have some emotional and mental consequences that could lead to yoyo dieting.  This is because in vegan diets, it’s hard to get B12 which is a supplement that, if deficient can lead to neurological impairment, and lack of energy.  Ketogenic diets remove the rich antioxidant and high fiber foods such as citrus fruits, whole grains, and beans from your plan, and in intermittent fasting, you deprive your brain of nutrients for about 8 to 12 hours a day.

Research shows that your body shifts into ketosis for fuel at least on Keto and Intermittent fasting, but you have to endure many physical and emotional symptoms first.  The flu-like symptoms caused by very low blood sugar, the headaches, and sleeplessness, can start to leave you feeling tired and anxious in the first stage of keto and intermittent fasting.  Additionally, ketogenic and intermittent fasting diets have the potential to deplete our bodies of nutrients that are essential for good health.  For long-term results, these diets may have their benefits in making the body more insulin sensitive, but these diets can be very hard to adhere to.  However, for short-term success may be worth exploring safely with an experienced Registered Dietitian who specializes in therapeutic ketosis plans.

It is important to note that ketosis in a ketogenic diet is not the same as ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition in persons with diabetes, specifically, Type 1 diabetes.   

Power foods that ensure youthfully aging:

 Properties of foods we eat can boost the immune system, repair and build the body.  Nutrition habits that incorporate anti-aging foods will not only extend lifespan but help you to look and feel better and live longer.  Below is a list of a variety of foods to eat every day.    

Foods that contain or are precursors to anti-aging nutrients.

Anti-Aging Nutrients

Recipe Idea

Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach

Vitamin A:

Retinal the active ingredient in anti-wrinkle creams is derived from vitamin A.

Smoothies: ½ cup sweet potato or shredded carrots, soy milk, and cinnamon, with ice. Blend well.

Kale, spinach, strawberries, blueberries, grapefruit, mandarins, blackberries, raspberries

Vitamin C: Boost immune system and is needed for the generation of collagen which is a vital protein for youthful skin and body.

Kale spinach salad with strawberries.

Nuts and seeds:  almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds

Vitamin E: Protect against free radicals. Free radicals can destroy healthy cells and accelerate aging.

Trail mix with almonds, peanuts and sunflower seed.

Legumes, spinach, broccoli

 Folic Acid: Lowers bad cholesterol, protects brain cells and arteries.

Steamed broccoli is a quick easy side dish.

Clams, nutritional yeast, beef, salmon, haddock, tuna, trout, yogurt, fortified cereals

Vitamin B12: As we age, vitamin B12 is not easily absorbed.  Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis.

Grilled salmon salad for easy dinner.

Soybeans, soymilk, edamame, tofu

Phytoestrogens: Precursors to estrogen in the body.   As we age, estrogen levels drop.  Adding soy to meals may be beneficial to hormonal balance.

Tofu pesto salad.  See ILC recipes. Access through the ILC website.

 Ground Flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, canola oil

salmon, Herring,

Omega-3’s (ALA, EPA, and DHA)

Good for healthy skin, brain and heart health.

Grapes, red wine, fresh pomegranate

Stilbenoids (Resveratrol and Pterostilbene) a group of flavonoids that are strong antioxidants.

Frozen grapes make a cool summer-time snack.

Spices: ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper

Bioactive compounds rich in antioxidants that fight oxidative stress in the brain and body. Boost the immune system and fight cancer.

Grate some ginger in your green tea or water.  Season dishes with cayenne instead of pepper.


Attitude and aging

Adopt a youthful attitude to keep you young as you advance in years.  Identify what your belief system is about what your age number means.  How you identify with your age number can be a driving force on the habits that you take on with each passing year.   The “I’m too old to do that workout” or “be the weight I was when I was 25” is not based on fact, but based on a mindset. Changing your mindset changes you how you age.   So, set your mind on adopting healthy eating and lifestyle habits to help you look and feel your best, no matter the age.


1.        Diabetes. 2015 May;64(5):1576-90. Calorie Restriction Prevents Metabolic Aging Caused by Abnormal SIRT1 Function in Adipose Tissues. doi: 10.2337/db14-1180. Epub 2014 Dec 4


3.       BMJ 2018;361:k2139Forouhi NG, Krauss RM, Taubes G et al. Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: evidence, controversies, and consensus for guidance.  doi: 10.1136/bmj.k2139 

Spring Into Fitness!

posted May 10, 2019, 11:26 AM by Amanda Schlink, MS, RD, LD

By: Amanda Schlink, MS, RD, LD, Pn1

May is National Fitness Month and what better time of the year to add a little spring to your step!

Did you know that only one in five adults get enough exercise to maintain good health? Sedentary and busy lifestyles have caused many Americans to put exercise on the back burner. The surprising truth is that there are numerous benefits to incorporating fitness activities as part of our daily life. Below are a few of the positive benefits of being active on a regular basis:

·         Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
·         Improved cognition, including memory and attention
·         Reduced risk for chronic health conditions
·         Increased levels of energy
·         Improved relaxation and sleep quality


According to the American Heart Association, adults are recommended to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. At first glance, these numbers may appear daunting. Fortunately, we’ve got some tips on how small changes on a daily basis can increase your physical activity throughout the week and make a difference for your long-term health.

Incorporate Short Walks

Walking is free, easy and can be done just about anywhere, even in place. If you primarily work at a desk for your job, try taking a brisk walk for five or ten minutes a few times a day. Catching up with a colleague or grabbing a mid-day coffee are easy ways to incorporate a short walk in your day.

Get Active with Household Tasks

Many common household tasks can count toward your weekly activity goals. If you like to be outdoors, try gardening, raking leaves, lawn mowing or washing the car. If you prefer the indoors, try sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, washing the dog or making the beds. A little time each day really adds up at the end the week.

Find a Fitness Buddy

Sometimes life gets in the way and it can be hard to stay on track with our fitness goals. Having a family member, friend or colleague keep you accountable can help you reach your goals. They are here to support and cheer you on, but also someone to assist when times get tough.

Please be advised that before starting any fitness plan, it is recommended to discuss your health and fitness goals with your healthcare provider, especially for individuals with chronic health conditions or disabilities.

American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. (2018, April 18). Retrieved May 9, 2019, from

Mindful Living for Better Health and to Prevent Food Waste

posted Apr 5, 2019, 1:12 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT   [ updated Apr 5, 2019, 1:36 PM ]

By Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT

You might be wondering how mindfulness can prevent food waste? Well, if you consider that in the US we threw out approximately “33 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010” according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, then perhaps becoming more aware of what goes into the production and disposal of the food we discard will help you become more mindful to waste less food.  The mindful approach can also translate to a healthier you.  

Mindfulness can seem like an abstract term to many, and is even hard to attain in our busy, ever-changing world we live in.   Commitments and deadlines can take you further away from truly being able to enjoy daily living.  Taking mindful moments can help you keep things in perspective and allow you to approach life with more clarity and gratitude. 

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the state of being aware of all that is going on around you and within you.  By objectively observing all that is going on around us, we are able to respond calmly.   We become more productive and joyful throughout our day.  

Mindful exercises such as yoga, meditation and mindful eating can promote healthy blood sugar levels, healthy weight, blood pressure, improve sleep and reduce anxiety and depression.  

Mindfulness exercises such as yoga, meditation and mindful eating are all ways we can explore our surroundings with more gratitude and resolve.  In our Healthy Living and Diabetes Prevention session at the USDA this past March, we explored all three aspects of mindfulness, yoga, meditation and mindful eating.


Mindful moments we can do at work

Office Yoga

Trying yoga stretches throughout the day such as chair yoga can increase your flexibility both physically and mentally.   Try these apps on your phone or computer: Office Yoga, Daily Yoga; Chair Yoga



Meditation takes on many different forms and can be done throughout the day. There are apps you can download on your phone or computer.  Headspace; Guided Meditation; Let’s Meditate.   Other ways to meditate are by following the suggestions that follow:   

*Simply sitting still for a few moments, focusing on your in-and-out breath.  When the mind takes us to distractions, we gently guide it back to our breathing.

*Taking a walk and observing nature is another way we can bring serenity and calm into our lives.  

*Some people find that soft classical music or nature sounds help them achieve a meditative state with more ease.  The idea of meditation is to train our minds to relax amid any distractions. 


Mindful eating

Have you ever been so focused on reading or watching a show while eating that when you finally looked down at the food on the plate it was gone?  This is mindless eating and can be a great cause of overeating as well as weight-gain.

Mindful eating allows us to see our food in a whole new light.  It allows us to enjoy every bite and helps us slow down eating.  It is reported that it takes twenty minutes for our brain to get signals from our gut hormones that we are full.  So, if we eat quicker than twenty minutes we will tend to overeat, because we have not received the satiety signals from our gut.

*Try setting a timer on your watch or, when at home, on your stove timer, to twenty minutes and see if you can take that time to finish your food.

*Chew your food thoroughly. 

*Avoid reading the paper, watching television or scrolling your smartphone while eating. 


Try practicing mindfulness everyday by taking mindful breaks throughout your day.  Mindful breaks can be one minute or as long as you need to get the mind and body calm and joyful.  Consistently practicing mindfulness can create more harmony and good health in your life.   For additional resources on how you can prevent food loss and waste click here.



1.       Goldstein, C. M., Josephson, R., Xie, S., & Hughes, J. W. (2012). Current perspectives on the use of meditation to reduce blood pressure. International Journal of Hypertension, 2012, 578397.

2.       Appl Nurs Res. 2014 Nov;27(4):227-30. doi: 10.1016/j.apnr.2014.02.002. Epub 2014 Feb 10.,

The effects of mindfulness eating and yoga exercise on blood sugar levels of pregnant women with gestational diabetes mellitus.

Heart Health Month-Make a Heart Healthy Chili

posted Feb 22, 2019, 12:55 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

February is heart health month and as we wrap up our Annual Chili Tasting Contest, we thought why not focus on Heart Healthy Chili. The beauty of chili is it can take on what- ever flavors you want and love. So mix it up and be creative. Below is a guide to creating your own award winning chili that's good for your heart. 

Balance Holiday Eating with a Little Creativity

posted Dec 19, 2018, 8:12 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT   [ updated Feb 8, 2019, 11:23 AM ]

By: Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT

The holidays are in full swing, and the array of decadent food and drinks are tempting our taste buds.   Getting creative to stay on a healthy track can be a breeze with these five simple steps.


1.     Healthier substitutions: Create a healthier display of foods by substituting healthier ingredients in your favorite recipes or by bringing in healthier holiday treats               to work.


v Hummus dips, and instead of pita chips, try veggie sticks such as jicama (which contains inulin and can lower blood sugar), sugar snap peas, tri-color sliced bell peppers. and carrots.

              v Pumpkin mousse parfait or use pumpkin mousse recipe as a dip and serve with sliced apples, jicama, and ginger 
                 snaps. Click Pumpkin Mousse Parfait for pumpkin mousse recipe.

vGreek yogurt Spinach dip with whole grain pita chips and vegetable sticks.

vVegetable-based dishes, for example, instead of green bean casserole.  Try steaming fresh green beans then sautéing yellow onions, mushrooms with olive oil. Toss sautéed mushroom and onion mixture over steamed green beans.

vFor work gatherings, instead of the candy and cookie basket, try a fruit basket with interspersed dark chocolates.


2.    Don’t skip meals before a party.   Have a light snack that contains a healthy carbohydrate and protein, along with an                   8-ounce glass of water. This pre-party snack practice will help stave off hunger so you can scan the buffet table objectively.

v Sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon paired, with one tablespoon of peanut butter or half of cup of Greek yogurt.   

v Low-fat cottage cheese (4oz) with pears.


3.     Don’t drink your calories.  Stay hydrated with water or unsweetened beverages to avoid drinking your calories:  Whether you are drinking alcohol or holiday                    punch, these drinks can pack on the calories.   Cut calories in half by trying these tips:

v Alternate drinking 8 ounces of water for every calorie-laden drink (wine, beer, eggnog, punch, sodas) consumed.  

v Always have sparkling water or water in your hand to avoid being offered high-calorie drinks.

v Dilute the drinks (wine or punch) with half sparkling water for a festive spritzer drink.

v Opt for smaller-size cups to drink wine, punch or sodas.


4.       Portion control with serving size control.   "Half it and have it."  Serve yourself smaller portion sizes for snacks and meals.  

v Allow yourself two starches (such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese) per plate.

v For appetizers, opt for more fruits and vegetable appetizers paired with low-fat, high-fiber, high-protein foods such as bean dips or Greek yogurt dips. 

5.       Stay active.  Whether you are vacationing or will be on a staycation for the holidays, be sure to continue to have an exercise routine.   Staying active will help you

          stay motivated and help keep you healthy.

v Start the day off by hitting the gym for a spin class, yoga class or jog outside.  

v Walk after holiday meals.

        v Help clean kitchen.

Remember, not every approach works for everyone, so find what works for you.  Most importantly, enjoy the essence of the season by being at peace with yourself so you can be at ease with your food choices.   Happy Healthy Holidays!

More information about this article, contact author at .

Healthy Foods for Healthy Numbers

posted Dec 3, 2018, 11:09 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN


When you have diabetes or prediabetes, knowing what to eat can be challenging. However, what you eat can greatly improve your blood glucose numbers and your quality of life. By using the American Diabetes Association’s diabetes plate, you can plan a variety of healthy meals. Whether you have diabetes or not, it is always important to think about portion sizes, the 9" diabetes plate helps you keep portions under control, but it is still a good idea to become familiar with the recommended portion sizes for the foods you eat. 

Let's break the plate down. 

Protein foods make up 1/4 of the plate. Protein foods are needed for building and repairing muscles and cells. Animal based proteins contain little or no carbohydrates so are a good choice. Beans and lentils contain carbohydrates, but are also a good source of protein and fiber. Aim for 2-3 servings of plant based proteins a week.

Grains and Starchy Foods can and should be part of well balanced, healthy meal plan for those with diabetes. The key to choosing these foods is choosing high quality whole grains and starchy foodsHigh quality carbohydrates are low in sugar and contain fiber.  Fiber will slow down the absorption of carbohydrates so glucose levels won’t rise as quickly. Whole grains, beans/lentils, steel-cut or rolled oatmeal, quinoa, barley, bulgur, sweet potatoes, most fruits and non-starchy vegetables are all good high quality carb choices.

Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories and fat, and have important vitamins and minerals, like vitamin A, C, K, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants. Fill 1/2 of your plate with non-starchy vegetables.

Fruit and Dairy or Dairy alternatives are both are carbohydrates but they contain important nutrients and it is recommended to have 2 servings of fruit daily and depending on your age 2-3 servings of dairy or an alternative. Dairy foods contain calcium and, if fortified, vitamin D. 

Choose water or low sugar beverages and enjoy sweets occasionally. They will take the place of healthier carbohydrates, but if planned properly you can enjoy a small piece of pie or birthday cake. 

The American Diabetes Association website has a lot of information related to meal planning, exercise, diabetes medications, and support. Click on

Diabetes Awareness and Preventive Action Can Save Your Life

posted Nov 20, 2018, 1:07 PM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT   [ updated Nov 20, 2018, 1:17 PM ]

By Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, Experienced Diabetes Educator

Almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes, which is the general feeling I get from the many groups to whom I present on a regular basis.  In fact, a participant in one of my talks said, “I don’t know anyone who as has an A1c below 5.7, and couldn’t this just be normal for everyone?”  The fact is, an A1c at 5.7 and above does indicate prediabetes.  It should not be considered the new normal because of the damage it causes within the body and the risk for developing diabetes if no action is taken to prevent it.    Hence, the reason to raise awareness about diabetes prevention. 

How common is diabetes? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates about 30.3 million people in the U.S. over the age of 18 have diabetes, and of that number, 7.2 million are not diagnosed.   Additionally, 84 million people have prediabetes, a condition that can develop into diabetes if no action is taken to adjust lifestyle and diet for the better.  Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2015.

What is Diabetes? Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot effectively use its blood sugar due to the hormone insulin.  Insulin’s role is to transport blood sugar from the bloodstream to all the cells in our body for fuel.   In people with diabetes, sugar (in the form of glucose) remains in the blood stream.   The lack of fuel in our cells and accumulation of glucose damages a person’s vital tissues and organs, and therefore leads to many of the medical complications we see in people with diabetes.  The table below describes the different types of diabetes and the labs that are used to screen for each one.

Diabetes and Diabetes Related Conditions


Blood Sugar Screening2

A1c (%)

Type 1

Very little insulin to no insulin is available.  Occurs at any age and is not directly related to diet and lifestyle.  It is related to an auto-immune condition which destroys the cells that make insulin.   Can be diagnosed at any age.

Fasting Blood Sugar:  126 mg/dl and greater

6.5% and greater

Type 2

Insulin is being produced but is not effective in helping blood sugar enter the cells for energy.  This is known as “insulin resistance.” Type 2 is tied to diet and lifestyle. Losing 7% of weight can help the body use its own insulin effectively. 

Fasting Blood Sugar: 126 mg/dl and greater

6.5% and greater


A temporary condition diagnosed around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. 3   This condition can occur due to a drastic fluctuation of hormones, high pre-pregnancy weight, and having risk factors for diabetes.   Early treatment can save the life of the mother and baby. 

1-hour glucose tolerance test.  At least two readings above normal.



Fasting blood sugars are elevated above normal but are not at a level of diabetes.  Related to diet and lifestyle.  Early detection and action can prevent diabetes and protect damage within the body.

Fasting Blood Sugar: 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl

5.7% to 6.4%

Diabetes Symptoms: Consistently high and low blood sugar levels can lead to symptoms of fatigue which we may attribute to hectic daily living.   However, if you have persistent symptoms along with the risk factors listed below, you should consider getting screened for prediabetes and diabetes.   Consistently high and low blood sugar levels can damage many of the body’s vital organs and tissues.

Excessive hunger

Frequent urination

Unintentional weight-loss


Blurry vision


Excessive sleepiness

Dry, itchy skin or slow wound healing

Urinary tract infections

What are Complications of Diabetes? If cells of the body are consistently deprived of fuel, and blood sugar levels in the bloodstream stay elevated, this can lead to many of the conditions we see with diabetes: 

Who is at Risk?

Factors You Can’t Control

Factors You can Control

v  Age (Over 45)

v  Genetics

v  Family history (parent or siblings)

v  Ethnicity (African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian-American)

v  Diagnosed with Gestational diabetes





v  High Blood Pressure (140/90)

v  Inactive most days of the week

v  Unhealthy eating and                          drinking habits

v  BMI over 25

v  Waist Circumference

-  Men (more than 40 inches)

-  Women (more than 35 inches)

v  Prediabetes




What Can You Do?

If Diagnosed with Diabetes:

Taking the appropriate action can help people with diabetes live longer and healthier lives.  Following the steps below will help you prevent diabetes-related complications.

1.  Work with a diabetes specialist team including an endocrinologist, registered dietitian nutritionist, and nurse.

2.  Work with Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for a personalized meal plan that best works with your medication.

3.  Exercise 30 minutes every day.

4.  Take medicines as prescribed to effectively achieve healthy blood sugar levels. 

5.  Practice mindfulness every day to help manage stress and promote sleep.

6.  Check out our next ILC Healthy Living blog on healthy meals to prevent diabetes.


To Prevent Diabetes:  Taking these steps may prevent diabetes. 

        1.  Get screened for prediabetes and diabetes.  Look at your fasting blood glucose or A1c numbers and talk to your doctor.

        2.  Physical Activity: Get 30 minutes a day of physical activity, which makes the body more sensitive to use its own insulin.    

        3.   Meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in diabetes to help provide you with healthy meal planning that fits in your schedule.     

        4.  Check out our next ILC Healthy Living blog on healthy meals to prevent diabetes.


For more questions on this article, please contact the author at


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2017.

2. American Diabetes Association Guidelines for Diagnosis of Diabetes. . Download 11/15/2018.

3. Mayo Clinic. Diagnosis of

Incorporating Plant Based Meals

posted Oct 29, 2018, 11:51 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Oct 29, 2018, 12:04 PM ]

The benefits of incorporating more plant based meals were discussed in our last blog. So this week I’ll put it all together and focus on ways to incorporate more plant based foods into your current meals. It really isn’t hard, if you follow these guidelines.

As you replace some of the meat in your diet with plant based foods, there are a few nutrients you’ll want to be sure to consume on a daily basis.                       

Calcium -  Calcium can come from a variety of foods.

            - Dairy products tend to have the most calcium, but fortified plant based milks (soy or almond) are also good sources.  

        - Tofu with calcium

        - Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and collard greens, broccoli, some beans (soybeans, chickpeas)

        - Almonds 

Vitamin B12  -  B12 is found predominately in animal foods. If you consume dairy and/or eggs you typically get enough, however if don’t consume any meat or meat by-product you will either need to choose foods fortified with B12 or take a vitamin B12 supplement (cobalamin). Check with your doctor before taking a supplement as B12 can interact with certain medications.

        - Fortified foods such as cereals, soy milk, nutritional yeast, and meat analogs  

        - Dairy foods 

        - Eggs

Protein – Protein can be found in animal foods and many plant based foods. There are a variety of plant based foods that contain protein.

        - Legumes (beans, lentils, peas)        

        - Dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese)

        - Eggs       

        - Soy products 

        - Nuts and nut butters

Vitamin D – There are very few foods that contain vitamin D. Our bodies can make vitamin D from UV sunlight, but those who don’t get a lot of sunlight and do not consume dairy foods may have difficulty meeting their needs. Check with your doctor about having your vitamin D levels checked if you are concerned.

        - Eggs 

        - Fortified dairy foods, soy beverages, orange juice, and ready to eat cereals       

Iron – Iron content is highest in meat foods, but iron needs can met through plant based foods. Be sure to consume foods high in vitamin C at each meal to increase iron absorption.

        - Beans, including tofu                                                                                                                                                                                                          

        - Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, swiss chard)     

        - Fortified breakfast cereals 

        - Baked potatoes  

       - Cashews and pumpkin seeds

Here are examples of how to increase plant based proteins in your breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, all for about 2000 calories. You can adjust the portion sizes up or down to meet your calorie needs.


2 egg vegetable omelet, slice of toast with peanut butter, 1 orange or 6 oz glass orange juice


2 cups Southwestern vegan chili, 1 cup mixed fruit salad with 6 oz non fat Greek yogurt, whole grain roll or corn bread


2 cups Rustic spinach salad with seeds, 3 oz grilled salmon, 1 cup Mixed grain and bean salad


1 oz unsalted mixed nuts, 1 cup steel cut oats with dried fruit, or 8 oz spinach and berries power smoothie


The key is to make ½ of your plate vegetables and fruit, ¼ of your plate whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta), and ¼ of your plate lean meat or plant based protein foods (beans, lentils, nuts, seeds). Check out our recipes for more plant based foods.

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