Message from the RDs: Celebrate Hot Tea Month With 5 Benefits of Tea! By Alicia Huggler

According to legend, back in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves (from a camellia sinensis tree) blew into the water, and that is how tea was supposedly created.

All non-herbal teas are made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant, but the amount of time the leaves are processed determines whether you end up with a green, black or oolong tea. Today, there are also herbal tea variations that you can enjoy.

Not only are teas great tasting, but they pack various health benefits. Listed below are some of the potential benefits of drinking tea.

Heart Health

Studies have been conducted and have found black tea intake was associated with a decrease risk of heart attacks, and for green tea drinkers, studies report people have lower total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, and higher HDL “good” cholesterol levels.

Antioxidant Power

Antioxidants are found in plant-based foods such as fruit/vegetables, coffee, tea, wine, and dark chocolate. Antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage from oxidants. Oxidants are free radicals that you find in the environment from air pollution, cigarette smoke, and alcohol. Too many oxidants may cause medical conditions such as heart disease and cancer. So drink up!

Soothes Digestive System

Herbal teas such as chamomile may help calm you, and help ease symptoms of  irritable bowel syndrome, and ginger teas may help decrease nausea. Peppermint tea may help ease your stomach as well.

Calorie/Sugar Free

Teas are a great beverage if you are looking for flavor without any sugar/calories. It is versatile as you can drink it hot or cold and there are thousands of flavors to choose from. Just try to watch how much sugar and/or honey you add to your tea because that sugar can add up. Also, be sure when you buy bottled tea you choose one that is unsweetened.

***Dietitian Tip: I brew tea, such as cinnamon apple flavored tea, and use the water when cooking oatmeal. This gives my oats great cinnamon apple flavor without adding a ton of sugar to my breakfast!

Caffeine Booster

If you need a caffeine boost teas range from 20-90 milligrams per 1 cup compared to coffee that contains 50-120 milligrams of caffeine. Avoid drinking too much caffeinated tea as too much can cause anxiety and restlessness.

Dietitian’s Favorite Picks:

To cure my sweet tooth I like to drink Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride tea. It doesn’t have any sweetener just has a blend of herbs that taste like a sugar cookie! My other favorites are decaf Sweet Coconut Thai Chai tea by Celestial Seasonings, and Ito en Matcha Green tea when I need a little caffeine boost.

Message from the RDs: 5 Recipes to Keep You Fit During a Feast by Chelsea Rice

Holidays are meant to be spent relaxing and enjoying time with loved ones, but many stress about the season due to the dreaded “festive 15”.

Staying on track can seem daunting with all of the parties involving eating and drinking all night long. Turns out, there is no need to stress. Healthy recipes should always have a place at the dinner table for any holiday feast. With these 5 easy recipes below, you can have fun without throwing away your healthy habits and indulge without adding on inches!


Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs


  • 18 dried figs, sliced in half
  • 3 oz. creamy goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 4 slices pancetta or turkey bacon, cooked until crispy
  • 1-2 tbsp. honey, for drizzling


  • Top the cut side of each fig with ½ tsp. of goat cheese.
  • Top each fig with 3 pine nuts.
  • Cut pancetta or turkey bacon into 1-inch long pieces.  Top each fig with pancetta or turkey bacon.
  • Drizzle honey over the top of figs.
  • Serve on platter.

Main Dish: Roast Turkey Breast with Lemon Rosemary Gravy

Ingredients (for the turkey):

  • 3 ¾ pound turkey breast
  • 2 T grape seed oil
  • 2 cups celery
  • 2 cups onion
  • 2 cups carrots
  • 3 T Herb mixture (see below)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the herb mixture):

  • 1 tbsp thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sage, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tbsp grape seed oil

Ingredients (for the gravy):

  • 3 cups turkey broth
  • 1/4 cups onion, diced
  • 1/4 cups carrot, diced
  • 1/4 cups celery, diced
  • 1 tsp rosemary, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water to make a cornstarch slurry


For the turkey:

  • Heat oil in a large sauté pan to high heat and sear the turkey breast on each side. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a roasting pan add the carrots celery and onion to the bottom of the pan; add the turkey on top of the vegetables.
  • Cover pan with foil and roast turkey for 1 ½ – 2 hours or until the internal temp is 180 degrees- 10 minutes before the turkey is done rub the turkey with the herb mixture and bake.
  • Let rest for 10 minutes before you carve it.

For the herb mixture:

  • Chop all the herbs.
  • Using a mixing bowl add the herb mixture.
  • Stir until combined.

For the Gravy:

  • In a pot, heat liquid to a simmer. Add the remainder of the ingredients except for the cornstarch slurry. Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat, just long enough to cook the vegetables but not reduce the liquid.
  • Make the cornstarch slurry by mixing the cornstarch and 2 tbsp of water together, then whisk into the gravy to thicken.
  • Blend the gravy. Serve hot.

Side Dish: Roasted Brussels Sprouts Medley


  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme leaves
  • ½ cup toasted pecans
  • ½ cup dried cranberries


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • Toss vegetables with oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with herbs.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Stir half-way through.
  • Before serving, toss vegetables with pecans and cranberries.

Dessert: Spiced Hot Fruit Bake


  • 2 cups apples, sliced
  • 2 cups pear, sliced
  • 1 ½ cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks (save the juice)
  • Lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F  
  • In a large bowl, toss your fruit and add in 1-2 tsp. Lemon juice. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, combine sugar, spices, and coconut oil. Add in honey and a little bit of leftover pineapple juice as well.
  • Add mixture to fruit and coat evenly.
  • Pour fruit into a 9×12 baking dish.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Add chopped walnuts and stir.
  • Bake an additional 30 minutes.
  • Serve warm. Enjoy!

Beverage: Healthy Holiday Egg Nog


  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/3 cup raw honey
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground ginger and/or cloves
  • 2 oz. liquor of choice (ex. vodka, rum, bourbon, etc.), optional


  • Blend all ingredients.
  • Pour mixture into a pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Do not let it boil.
  • Add liquor of choice (optional).
  • Serve in mugs with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Enjoy!

Message from the RDs: Nutrition Timing and Meal Portions By Sarah Sobotka

Is it Really That Important to Consider?

Nutrient timing is a concept that has been thrown around in the fitness industry for quite some time. But does it really make a significant difference for bodybuilders, the average person trying to lose weight or fitness advocates?

In the early 2000s, the concept of nutrient timing and meal portioning for optimal results exploded as the new way to get lean while preserving as much muscle as possible. But like with many other fads, new studies and information came out and things have changed a little bit, and the concept has been tweaked based on the new data.

The original concept was more of a short-term scheme, meaning that it was only completely functional when the diet was followed over a continuous amount of time. If the food intake was altered, most cases noticed weight gains in varying degrees.

Working with a registered dietitian can help you make sure you are losing, toning, gaining muscle in correct/ healthy ways. Registered dietitians want to make sure you are making healthy lifestyle changes so the excess weight or goals do not change over time.

What Are the Facts?

Recent studies conducted by the International Society of Sports Nutrition came to the conclusion that planning out specific dietary ingestion of proteins, carbs and fats, do play a role in protein synthesis, fat loss, and hypertrophy or muscle building, which is great for both bodybuilders and the average joe just looking to lose a few pounds.

How to Portion Your Meals for Optimal Results

I have found, from personal experience, that consuming carbs before and after my workout helps to fuel my lifting session. This is ideal because it helps me push through the workout and helps me maintain muscle.

Consuming the majority of your carbs around your workout will help fuel your lifts and can also help cut body fat. This is especially good for losing weight because it helps your body to use up its glycogen stores (carbs in muscle tissue).

Portioning your meals in a way that allows you to incorporate the bulk of your daily carbohydrate macros around your workouts will go a long way in helping you see great results. However, since the specific amounts are not steady across the board for everyone, having a registered dietitian determine your macro requirement is your best bet. If you are interested in learning more feel free to contact me at or stopping by the FFC Lincoln Park club!

Message from the RDs: All About Chicago’s Ethnic Markets by Carla Schmitz

If you need to shake up some of your favorite recipes, why not venture to one of Chicago’s International Markets to add some variety to your plate?  Chicago is truly a melting pot of cultures and flavors. Check out our list below for some of our favorite International Markets where you can get dishes like grandma used to make or the unique ingredients to make specialty dishes right at home.

Joong Boo Market – 3333 N. Kimball Ave

For 25 years, Joong Boo has been the go-to Korean and Pan-American supermarket in Chicago offering a wide variety of fresh produce, meats, and seafood along with uniquely Asian ingredients that you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else in the city. Not to mention, they have an in-store snack counter and a new outdoor walk-up counter serving three types of Wang Mandoo.

The Devon Avenue Corridor – Devon Ave between Broadway and California

Devon Avenue might just be the most complex and interesting street in Chicago. There are markets catering to Assyrians, Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Greeks, Russians, Poles, Turks, Cubans, and Eastern Europeans (just to name a few). Below are some of our favorite highlights from the Devon Avenue corridor:

La Unica  – 1515 W. Devon Ave

This tiny grocery store not only sells Cuban staple ingredients, but there is also a small eatery in back where you can try Cuban coffee and other traditional dishes.

Devon Market – 1440 W. Devon Ave

This grocery store has a wide variety of international fare, but it would seem that their speciality is Eastern European goods. From pickled vegetables to Croatian wine, you’ll find plenty of Eastern European staples here.

Patel Brothers – 2610 W. Devon Ave

Patel Brothers specializes in bringing regional Indian ingredients to Chicago including dry goods, frozen foods, and a wide variety of fresh produce.

Middle East Bakery & Grocery – 1512 W. Foster Ave

Not only will you find all the staples you need for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes here, you’ll also find an array of authentic homemade foods such as hummus and Zaatar bread. Additionally, you’ll find a great selection of molasses and condiments.

Pete’s Fresh Market – multiple locations

While more of a traditional chain grocery store than a local market, the Pete’s on Cermak (2526 W) has a phenomenal selection of Latin American and Mexican staples along with a well-stocked butcher and an envious produce selection.

Old World Market – 5129 N Broadway

At Old World Market you can find a wide variety of specialty foods and ethnic spices, particularly those needed for African dishes, most of which will come in bulk bags at good prices.

Go forth and try! Let us know what you think and where some of your favorite markets are!

Bonus content: Argyle Night Market

Mid-July through August you can venture to Argyle Street between Sheridan and Kenmore, Thursday evenings from 5-9 PM for an open-air farmer’s market and street food fest.

Message from the RDs: Improving your Nutrition in the New Year – Setting Yourself up for Success by Mark LeVine

It’s hard to believe, but another year has come and gone, and it’s time again to set those health goals for 2017. If you’re like many, you may be feeling frustrated or disappointed that you were unable to reach the health goals you set for yourself the past year.

The most common New Year’s resolutions usually involve losing weight and improving eating habits. In this fast-paced world we live in, specifically when it comes to weight loss, we want results and we want them fast. With our unlimited access to information and so called “experts” offering their opinions, it can be very tempting to succumb to fad diets to get the promised quick results. Be aware though, that any diet or eating plan that emphasizes or eliminates a specific food or food group should raise a red flag! This goes against the principles of healthy eating, balance, variety, and moderation.

In addition, fad diets are usually too low in calories and can result in lethargy and moodiness, which make them unsustainable. The belief is that fad diets are something that you go “on” and then you go “off”. After coming off one of these diets, most people regain any weight they may have lost and then blame themselves. They get caught in a vicious cycle of trying different extreme tactics, and when they fail they think the reason was for lack of discipline or willpower. The real problem though, was that they are going about weight loss the wrong way.

The reason many people don’t reach their goals, is that they don’t define them or consider them achievable. When you consider what nutrition or weight loss goals you want to pursue, it’s important to realize that a “lifestyle”, rather than “diet”, refers to the way we eat throughout our lives. It’s including all foods in moderation, and the changes you want to make are permanent, not something you only do for 2-3 months.

When it comes to setting nutrition goals, remember that small changes can lead to big rewards, and no change is too small. Once you see where you can make changes, choose a place to start. It will be much less intimidating to focus on one or two dietary changes rather than trying to completely overhaul your entire way of eating. Once you see how much of an impact making the small changes has, it is easier to stay motivate to continue incorporating other healthier eating habits.

When it comes to eating healthier, those who have the most success are not the ones who choose to give up all desserts and their favorite foods. The most successful people are the ones who realize that change is a process, and it takes patience with themselves, and to sustain long-term changes it’s best to start small and continue to build upon their accomplishments.

Happy holidays and New year!

Message from the RDs: Packing Lunch 101 by Mark LeVine


As your kids head back to school and you get back into the routine of making them lunches each day, why not consider the many benefits and options of making and bringing your own lunch to work?

Maybe you have already contemplated doing so, or even have tried. What generally happens, though, is you start your week with the best intentions, but by the end of the week you succumb to all your responsibilities and making your lunch is a distant memory. Well, with some simple planning and easy strategies, you can reap the benefits of bringing your lunch to work each day!

Buy yourself an “adult lunchbox” and proper food storage containers.

If you are constantly looking for random plastic containers and lids, you probably won’t want to use them for your lunch. Invest in a good quality plastic, glass or even metal container that has divided sections for each component of your meal.

Utilize leftovers.

Last night’s dinner works as a great lunch and takes little to no prep time. When making dinner, plan on doubling the portion, then pack your lunch right then and there. Pop it in the fridge and in the morning you are good to go!

Keep easily accessible go-to foods at work.

Whether its keeping nuts and fruit at your desk or Greek yogurt and hard-boiled eggs in the office fridge, having foods on hand that you can have as a snack or with your lunch will make bringing your lunch that much more convenient.

Form a “lunch club” with your co-workers.

Try encouraging your colleagues to bring their lunch as well. You can share ideas, recipes, or even food. Make an event out of it and you can all support each other in the effort to creating healthier lunchtime habits.

Designate one day a week to eat out.

Choose one day each week where you go out for lunch. Come up with a short list of restaurants that you know the menu and that serves healthier fare so you don’t sabotage your week.

Leave yourself a note!

It’s a horrible feeling when you are halfway to work and then realize you forgot your delicious lunch that you packed! Remind yourself by putting a note on the bathroom mirror, the coffee maker, or the refrigerator. You can even set a reminder or alarm on your phone. Do whatever what it takes!


You may not realize it, but very few sandwich shops and restaurants have healthy options. When we eat out, we are generally served larger portions that are higher in calories, fat, and sodium that can derail our health and nutrition goals. On the other hand, when you prepare your own lunch you know exactly what is going into your food, and that alone can make all the difference!!


Message from the RDs: Nutrition Tips for a Healthier Summer Vacation by Chelsea Rice


A vacation is a time to unwind, relax, and rejuvenate. However, even though this can be a great time for our mind, a vacation can also take us away from our regular daily health routine. Whether you are traveling to a new city or heading to your favorite beach spot, a vacation does not have to result in unhealthy eating! By following these tips, you can enjoy your stress-free trip while still achieving your health and wellness goals.

#1: Plan ahead.

Pack your own snacks and small meals to take with you – whether it be on your road trip or on the plane.  This will help you to avoid snacking on convenience food at the airport or stopping at fast food restaurants while driving. Simple foods to pack include trail mix, popcorn, raw vegetables, hummus, apples and nut butters.

#2: Buy the basics.

Once you arrive to your destination, find a supermarket as soon as possible to pick up the basic necessities. Staples like eggs, fruits, vegetables, oatmeal and nuts make for great snacks or additions to meals.

#3: Resist the urge to splurge at each meal.

Many vacations consist of abnormally-timed (or abnormally indulgent) meals, snacks and desserts, but it does not have to be that way! Choose the meals or snacks that you want to treat yourself with and try to stay on track the rest of the day. Pass on the items you can easily get at home that quickly add calories – like that bread basket at dinner. Instead, enjoy the foods that may be unique to your vacation location (such as fresh local gelato!)

#4 Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Nothing is more important than drinking water throughout the day, especially during vacation. Traveling can dehydrate you, particularly if you are traveling to a location where you are going to be outside. Pack your water bottle and bring it everywhere you go. It will keep you energized and feeling great during the entire trip.

#5: Enjoy the scenery and walk everywhere.

Whether it be sightseeing or simply swimming in the hotel pool, get outside and get active while you are on vacation. Yes, it is nice to relax, but don’t forget to open your eyes and take advantage of the scenery! Walk on the beach as much as possible or take a hike up a mountain. You’ll make a lot of new memories, while also burning extra calories along the way.

#6: Eat local.

Many restaurants that carry local ingredients have quite the variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood. These foods are often prepared in natural way and are usually not topped with high-calorie sauces or toppings. Instead, they use the flavors from the fresh foods to make them taste great while preserving all of the health benefits.

See one we missed? Tweet at @ffc_nutriton or use the hashtag #FFCChicago!

Message from the RDs: Healthy Swaps for Your Next Cookout by Amy Silver

Healthy Swaps

One of my favorite summer activities is getting together with friends and family, grilling outside, and enjoying the nice weather. If you love this as much as I do, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of extra calories come along for the ride… between a burger and hot dog, potato salad or baked beans, an ice cold [insert favorite beverage], and then ice cream for dessert, you’ve packed on enough calories for an entire day in just one meal! How can you enjoy summer’s best activity without ruining your summer body? Try some of my healthy swaps at your next cookout!

Try your burger sans bun.

Save 100-200 calories by wrapping your sandwich in butter lettuce instead of a bun. You’ll be surprised by how much more flavor you taste without the bread covering it up!

Reduce calories in the side dishes by choosing more non-starchy vegetables than starchy ones.

  • Corn, potatoes, and beans are good in moderation, but you can amp up the nutrient content and lower the calories by trying these ideas:
  • Serve skewers of grilled peppers, zucchini, and onions
  • Mix diced cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and parsley into cooked quinoa and serve cold
  • Grill portabella mushrooms and sprinkle Parmesan cheese and/or balsamic vinegar on top

Don’t drink your calories.

Lower calorie content in liquor drinks by mixing with club soda and lemon or lime. For a non-alcoholic option, mix up a big pitcher of unsweetened iced tea and lemon for everyone to enjoy!

Enjoy nature’s candy for dessert.

Have you ever tasted fruit right off the grill? The high heat makes it sweeter- perfect for dessert! Grill pineapple, peaches, or apples and top with plain yogurt or cottage cheese and cinnamon. If you want to plan ahead, make homemade popsicles out of fresh fruit and ice. Sweet tooth conquered, no regrets!

Take advantage of the grill being on and prep ahead.

Many of my clients use the grill to prep their protein and vegetables for the entire week. While you’re eating or cleaning up, throw more chicken breasts, veggie burgers, asparagus (or whatever you favorites are) on the grill to cook. Pack them in individual containers for meals all week!

Message From the RDs: Resolutions Revisited by Carla Schmitz


Every January we promise ourselves something, a resolution, to better this or to accomplish that. But, whatever happens to these resolutions? As we spring into a new season, now is a great time to revisit those healthy resolutions for a progress report. Are you well on track or lagging behind? Let’s take a new look at your fitness and nutrition resolutions with our top tips to keeping your resolutions going strong all year long!

What’s your “why?”  It’s important to revisit your “why” every so often not only to reinforce it, but to update it as you accomplish your goals. Your “why” is the reason you drag yourself out of bed at zero-dark-thirty for that extra workout and the reason you pass up on sugary temptations. To stay on track, stay in touch with your “why.”

Reassess and change your resolution, if necessary. Did you resolve to run the marathon this year only to find out that distance running really isn’t your thing? Consider changing your resolution so that it still encompasses your “why,” but is more in keeping with your lifestyle and preferences.

Start with a clean slate… and keep it clean!  You know those cookies in the kitchen are just going to keep calling your name until you either eat them or get rid of them. Few people can say “no” to temptations forever, which is why we clean out our pantries at the beginning of the new year when resolution fever is in high-gear. How’s your pantry looking now? Time to double check to make sure you’re stocked up on healthy food and that none of those pesky little temptations have made their way back into the house.

Schedule it out. If you plan for it, you’ll do it. Whether it’s putting the kibosh on impromptu lunches out or getting in your long run of the week, deliberately scheduling time for exercise and meal prep will go a long way to helping you continue to follow through with your resolutions, especially as social calendars demand more time with the changing weather.

Stay accountable. Whether it’s a personal progress report, an app, a friend, or a professional, touch base with your support network. Renew your commitment to progress sharing. You’ll be far more inclined to stay on track if your trainer is waiting on you at the gym or if a dietitian is keeping an eye on your food diary.

Message from the RDs: It’s Finally Spring, Let’s Celebrate National Salad Month! By Mark LeVine

National Salad Month

Salads sometimes get a bad rap for being boring. They’re usually typecast as the side dish or the “diet food.” Not anymore! Salads are an amazingly versatile dish – dress them up or down, bring them to a potluck, you name it! Plus, May is Salad Month. Here are a few fun facts you might not know:

  • The National Salad Month was launched in May 1992 by the Association of Dressings & Sauces in response to a gallup poll that revealed three out of four people eat salads on a regular basis.
  • The word “salad” comes from the Latin “herba salta”, which actually means “salted herbs”.  This was because the dressing used often contained oil, vinegar, and salt.

Since May is National Salad Month and the warmer weather is almost here, there is no better time to give your oven a rest and enjoy a lighter meal. The great thing about salads is they allow you to be creative and experiment with different colors, textures and toppings. This versatility of incorporating many different ingredients not only allows a salad to become a complete meal on its own, but it can be a nutritional powerhouse as well!

So, how do you go about doing this?

  • The greens: instead of only using iceberg lettuce though, try to incorporate darker greens such as red leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, or shredded green cabbage. These all offer a different flavor and provide more nutrients than iceberg lettuce alone.
  • Vegetables: add your favorites for color and crunch – cucumbers, shredded carrots, onions, peppers are some of the more common ingredients. Why not try beets, asparagus, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts? Maybe try incorporating a new vegetable each week. Low in calories and carbohydrates but high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, vegetables give you the most bang for your buck.
  • Fruits: mandarin orange slices, berries, watermelon, diced apples, or pear slices add sweetness and are also a good source of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.
  • Make room for protein: beans, low-fat cheeses, grilled chicken, tuna, salmon and even tofu are great sources of lean protein.
  • Starches and grains: sweet potato, quinoa, and barley can really bulk up the flavor, fiber and nutrient profile of your salad.
  • Heart healthy fats:  avocados, nuts, and seeds are easy to add and a little bit goes a long way.
  • Dressings: vinaigrettes are good options because they are usually prepared with heart healthy oils such as olive, canola, or sunflower oils.

As you can see, the right combination can make any salad a well-balanced meal that will leave you feeling full and satisfied! Have questions or want to schedule a nutrition consultation? Contact Mark by emailing him at

Message from the RDs: CSA & Seasonal Produce Spotlight by Chelsea Rice

Message RDS

National Nutrition Month has come to an end, but that does not mean healthy eating should as well. As the season begins to change from winter to spring, the variety and availability of produce changes as well.  After a long winter, we all want to ensure we are making the most of our fruits and vegetables by buying, storing, and preparing our spring produce properly.

If you are looking for a convenient way to access fresh local produce, then you may want to consider signing up for a CSA. CSA stands for “community-supported agriculture”, and is a locally-based food production and distribution system that directly connects farmers and consumers. By supporting a local farmer, you will receive a portion of the crops harvested.

Most CSAs require an interested consumer to purchase a share and in return they provide weekly deliveries or pick-ups of seasonal produce. Many CSAs also offer farm visits and other special events for members. Illinois has many CSA operations in the state and all are looking forward to the abundant harvest to be offered this spring such as asparagus, radishes, spinach, sprouts, and peas.  Visit this link to find more fruits and vegetables in season throughout the United States and this link to find a CSA near you!

Benefits of buying produce locally and in season includes less in cost, better flavor/taste, and new experiences with food. Below are 3 tips on how to make the most of your in-season produce!

  1. Most vitamins and minerals are found in the outer leaves and skins of fruits and vegetables. Avoid losing nutrients by leaving edible skins on, snack on raw vegetables and fruit, and when cooking, steam most of your vegetables.
  2. Easily add flavor to your produce without the extra sodium by tossing it with herbs such as rosemary and thyme, or splash it with lemon juice.
  3. Store your produce in bags and bins to keep your delicate produce from wilting and going flat. This will help you keep your fresh, crispy, delicious produce for longer!

Questions?  Email Registered Dietitian, Chelsea Rice at!

Message From The RDs: Celebrate National Nutrition Month This March!

National Nutrition Month

This is a great opportunity to make sure your New Year’s resolutions carry on into the months and years to come. After all, healthy eating is not just for the beginning of each year, and it shouldn’t be an all or nothing approach. My most successful clients fit in a cookie here and there, or celebrate every once in awhile with a glass of wine. Those same successful clients also follow these guidelines when creating their plates the majority of the time:

Start out by making sure half your plate is full of fruits and veggies: two fistfuls of fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables) should be the center of most of your meals. Not a salad person? Try roasting vegetables with your favorite seasoning, or spiralizing them for an alternative to spaghetti or Pad Thai. Vegetables contain fiber, antioxidants, and a variety of nutrients, keeping your stomach full and your body happy.

Fill one-quarter of your plate with protein: Use your palm to know how much protein your body needs. One palm (width and thickness) of protein should be at each meal, about 4-6 ounces. Some lean options are chicken or turkey breast, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy options (no added sugar!), legumes, or tofu. Lean protein helps to stabilize our blood sugar, keeping us fuller longer and avoiding a crash a few hours later.

Fill one-quarter of your plate with whole grains or starches. Like protein, carbohydrates are calorie-dense, so limit this section to 1/2 cup, cooked. Some examples include quinoa, sprouted grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. These will provide your body with more fiber, and also energy to get you through a busy day!

Finally, you should top your plate with 1-2 thumbs of healthy fat – don’t be afraid of healthy fats! Use 1-2 tablespoons (or thumbs) of avocado, nuts and seeds, oils, salad dressing, etc. These foods will keep our arteries clean, our skin clear, our brain healthy, and not to mention they will help us feel more satiated.

Do you have a lot of foods in your home that aren’t on this list? That means it’s time for a kitchen clean out. Throw out the foods that aren’t helping you reach your goals and head to the store for more nutrient-dense foods. Make sure each time you shop, your grocery cart has the same proportions of each item as your plate should, and in turn your kitchen will be stocked with the food your body needs!

Have questions? Reach Registered Dietitian Amy Silver at!

A Message from the RDs: Alcohol and Weight Loss


Many of my clients come to the club on a consistent basis.  They lift weights, do cardio, go to group exercise classes, even work with personal trainers.  These same clients have also incorporated healthier foods and portions sizes into their diets.  Interestingly enough, many of these same clients are not seeing the results, particularly in weight loss, that they feel they should.  Well, when taking a closer look, the problem often lies on the weekends and the overindulgence of alcohol. Could this alone be enough to sabotage their efforts for weight loss?  The answer is a definitive yes!

Don’t sabotage all that hard work to get healthy. I’ll show you how alcohol can undermine your weight loss efforts, and then give you a plan for surviving the New Year.

What Does Alcohol Do?

1. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions.

We’ve all been there.  We tend to stray from our usual healthy eating habits after we have had too much to drink.  Alcohol diminishes the body’s ability to feel full and the signal to stop eating. This is why after a couple of drinks we are more likely to give into temptation or stop, even when we’ve have had enough. Simply put, when we consume alcohol, we tend to eat too much of the wrong things.

2. Alcohol is full of calories.

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and contain no nutritional value, while carbohydrates and protein only contain 4. When you consider that a 12 ounce beer contains about 140 calories, 4 ounces of wine around 100 calories, and a shot of liquor is about 100 calories, it’s easy to see how fast these empty calories can add up.

3. Alcohol reduces the body’s ability to burn fat.

After we consume alcohol, it is the first fuel to be used when combined with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and contributing to greater fat storage.

4. Alcohol can hinder a good night’s sleep.

Getting enough sleep is vital to our overall health and weight. Alcohol affects the quality of our sleep by interrupting our REM cycle, which in turn does not allow us to get into a deep sleep and can even cause periodic waking through the night. This, in turn, can affect your food choices and workout the following day.

Plan of Action

Okay, I don’t want to be a total grinch, because drinking in moderation can certainly be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that when drinking alcoholic beverages, men should not exceed 2 drinks per day and women should not exceed more than 1 drink per day. For those who do choose to imbibe, there are some simple strategies that can help prevent over-consumption:

1. Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach:  If you know ahead of time that you will be attending a social gathering, eat regularly throughout the day and continue to eat something at the event.

2. Alternate between alcohol and a glass of water:  This can help slow you down and keep you hydrated.

3. Drink wine, light beer, or spirits on the rocks:  These will give you the most bang for a buck from a calorie and carbohydrate perspective.

As we begin 2016, and you get back to work, normal routines, and even New Year’s resolutions, please consider this:  when contemplating drinking alcohol and how it may affect your waistline, remember to think, before you drink!

Mark LeVine, Registered Dietitian for FFC South Loop, FFC West Loop and FFC Union Station. To schedule a consultation, email Mark at

Message from the RDs: Beat the Winter Blues & Eat Your Way Happier


I’m a happiness research junkie. I adore adding healthy habits to my life that elevate my mood (especially during the holiday season!) Waking up to gratitude, laughing, sufficient sleep and surrounding myself with happy people all help. Get this: research shows you can also eat your way happier!

Add these 4 “better mood foods” to your daily diet regimen to stave off the winter blues for a happier you. – Jessica Dogert, FFC Registered Dietician

Probiotic-Rich Foods

Probiotics have been found to be promising treatments for anxiety & depression. Fascinating! Build an army of good gut bacteria by becoming a fermented foodie. Stock up on probiotic powerhouses including: miso, sauerkraut, kefir & kombucha. Ideas–> Miso Dressing: Mix miso paste (fermented soybeans) w/ tahini & warm water. Perfect for salads. Kombucha Margarita: Mix kombucha (fermented tea), tequila & fresh lime juice. Cheers!

Fruits & Veggies

Researchers found that a higher intake of produce resulted in more energy, calm, and a greater sense of happiness with the magic number being 7 daily servings. To use produce to elevate your mood, start early. Add-on a low sugar green juice alongside your usual AM brewing routine. Next morning, repeat!

Dark Chocolate

As if you even needed a reason to indulge in decadent dark chocolate, researchers found eating an ounce and a half of dark chocolate daily for 2 weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in people who rated themselves as highly stressed. 1) The flavonoids in dark chocolate relax blood vessels & improve circulation. 2) Dark chocolate contains magnesium, a mighty mineral that has been shown to help fight depression and relieve irritability. 3) Dark chocolate’s unique natural substances trigger a sense of euphoria that’s similar to the fabulous feeling of being in love! Smear 1 tsp. of raw almond butter on a dark chocolate square as a daily conscious indulgence. PS: be sure it’s at least 70% cacao to reap the bountiful benefits.

Green Tea

Researchers found that levels of psychological stress were 20% lower in people who consistently drank green tea daily. Meet matcha: green tea’s peppy cousin. It’s more concentrated, which means higher amounts of nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and chlorophyll. Try these oh so trendy coconut matcha energy bars!

Lightened Up Thanksgiving

A Message From The RDs: Lighten Up Your Thanksgiving

Lightened Up Thanksgiving

Fall is in full swing, and the reality of food-related temptations has definitely set in. Hopefully your Halloween candy is out of the house, and the fridge is full of fresh fall vegetables in preparation for the next holiday – Thanksgiving! What better time to practice giving thanks for the food in front of us, and being mindful of what we choose to consume?

I asked the team at FFC Oak Park to share their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, and then I provided tips for how to lighten the calories, fat, and sugar in each. Happy reading!

Green Bean Casserole

Most families add cream of mushroom soup and crunchy, fried onions on top, adding so much fat and calories that the nutrients from the green beans is mostly minimized.

  • Lighten It Up: Make green beans the star of the dish, instead of hiding them in other ingredients. Steam green beans quickly to maintain nutrients, and then top with simple ingredients, such as lemon, garlic, and sliced almonds for crunch.
  • Nutrients in Green Beans: Vitamin C, Beta-Carotene, Fiber

Mashed potatoes and Gravy

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, another dish overcome by fat and calories. I always say “it’s not potatoes that are the problem, it’s what we do to potatoes that makes them unhealthy.”

  • Lighten It Up: Swap out white potatoes and enjoy the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes by combining them with cinnamon, pecans, and a little bit of brown sugar. Adding an egg can help the structure of the casserole, and also provide healthy fat to help your body absorb the Vitamin A in the vegetable.
  • Nutrients in Sweet Potatoes: Fiber, Vitamin A


Another Thanksgiving staple, yet full of carbohydrates and fat. Most of the fat comes from the turkey, which transfers to the stuffing as you you cook it inside the bird.

  • Lighten It Up: Slash calories by cooking the stuffing outside of the turkey in a baking dish. Additionally, try using a higher fiber bread (such as whole grain or sprouted grain) if you’re open to a new texture.
  • Nutrients in Stuffing: Fiber and other specific nutrients depending on which vegetables you include (think: onions, peppers, celery, and herbs!)

Pumpkin Pie

You may be too full to get off the couch, but it’s still hard to resist dessert.

  • Lighten It Up: Use the same flavors profiles found in lighter dishes and serve them in bite-size portions (great for tasting, but not overindulging.) Examples are adding pumpkin puree to an energy bite recipe, or oatmeal cookies.
  • Nutrients in Pumpkin: Vitamin A, Beta-Carotene, other antioxidants

​No matter what you decide to consume on this holiday, make sure to remember and follow these hunger cues: eat what you want, when you’re hungry, and in quantities that your body needs.​

How To Maximize Your Mental Performance



Most days require us to be at the top of our A game mentally. Whether it’s writing the perfect maid of honor speech or preparing for a medical school exam, we need our focus to be at its peak.

Here’s how to get your head in the game…

Night before:

  • Treat yourself to a mini spa service. Spray on lavender aromatherapy body mist to relax.
  • Get to bed before ten. Sufficient sleep will help you retain your thoughts.

Morning of:

  • Start your morning w/ positive affirmations to set the tone for the day. My personal favorite: “A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset”.
  • Walk it out. Go for a brisk 30-minute walk to get the blood flowing.
  • Add-on a mug of hot water w/ fresh lemon alongside your usual AM coffee. Here’s why: water comprises >75% of our brain, making it essential for mental clarity.
  • Hack your coffee. Add 1 tsp of cinnamon to enhance concentration + 1 tbsp of coconut oil to boost cognitive performance.
  • Load up on omega-3’s to boost memory. Make smoked salmon + avocado sprouted toast. Studies have shown that 25 grams of protein is ideal for breakfast as it helps with production of dopamine, the “focus and productivity” neurotransmitter.

Blog courtesy of Fitness Formula Clubs Registered Dietitian Jessica Dogert RD, LDN, CPT. Contact Jessica at

Controlling Cravings


What I adore about being a registered dietitian is the fact that nutrition science evolves daily. I constantly learn about my passion and get to share the fascinating research in a fun way.

A common goal for many of my clients is finding ways to control a craving. Can you relate? If so, put yourself in this scenario:

You crave a little something extra after dinner, per usual, and satisfy the uber healthy way.

High five for super-food swapping! However that “snack” just added up to as many calories as a fourth meal, deterring your weight loss goals. I stumbled upon a super-intriguing research article that suggests bad belly bacteria may be to blame for your food cravings!

Here’s the deal: Bad gut bacteria affects our mood and impacts our hormones, therefore we can’t justify the fact that cravings are only a matter of self-control. Instead, cravings may be a result from the army of bad bugs in our gut!

Here’s the fix: Become a fermented foodie. Boost your beneficial bacteria army so you can overcome the “bad guys” and conquer cravings for good. Add a daily dose of probiotic powerhouses with the inspiration below:

  • Make coconut yogurt (fermented coconut milk) the base of a breakfast parfait. Layer with oats, berries & nuts.
  • Top cooked grains with a dollop of Kimchi (fermented cabbage) & a fried egg.
  • Celebrate happy hour kombucha (fermented tea) style.
  • To spruce up salads, add a miso (fermented soybeans) tahini dressing. Simply mix miso paste with tahini and warm water.

Blog courtesy of Fitness Formula Clubs Registered Dietitian Jessica Dogert RD, LDN, CPT. Contact Jessica at

Packed Lunch



Pack a Punch with Your Lunch

It’s that time of year again – back to school – and we think it’s time the old brown bag lunch got an upgrade. Whether your children (or you) are headed back to school, or you’re just stuck in a lunch rut, we’ve got some tips on how to make the most out of the lunch hour to leave you or your little one feeling revitalized and ready to take on the second half of the day.

Don’t skip the protein

Concentration goes out the window when we’re hungry. Protein-rich foods help us to feel fuller for longer periods of time, so incorporating them into lunch will help to ensure afternoon attentiveness.

What we recommend: lean meats (chicken, tuna salad), hard-boiled eggs and nut butters.

Get creative with vegetables

Chips and other salty snacks might be the side of choice for many, but they offer little to no nutrition. Vegetables, on the other hand, are chock-full of vitamins and minerals that help keep our bodies and minds healthy. If you have a picky eater on your hands, sneaking them in can be a great way to ensure vegetables are eaten. Try adding them to soups, sauces or macaroni, replacing tortilla wraps with lettuce leaves, or including some vegetables in homemade muffins.

What we recommend: carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, celery (with peanut butter!) or really any other vegetables!

Stick to whole fruits, avoid the juice

Juices can be full of sugar and artificial ingredients, and lack all of the fiber naturally found in fruit. Instead of a juice box, opt for a piece of whole fruit or a serving of berries instead.

What we recommend: apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, melon slices, peaches or really any other whole fruits!

Limit processed snacks

While they may be convenient, processed snacks such as cracker sandwiches, deli meats, prepackaged lunches and snack cakes are often void of nutrients and filled with unrecognizable ingredients, including chemicals and preservatives. Replace these foods with their more natural counterparts for a healthier and more wholesome side item or sweet treat.

What we recommend: whole grain crackers with string cheese, plain Greek yogurt with fruit, apples with peanut butter, vegetable sticks with hummus or homemade baked goods.

Keep it cool

If your lunch contains perishable items, keeping things cool is very important. If refrigeration is out of the question, you may need to add an ice pack to the bottom of your lunch box. This helps to keep food from spoiling and makes for a safer lunch experience.

What we recommend: reusable ice packs, insulated lunch bags or boxes.

Blog courtesy of Fitness Formula Club Registered Dietitian Carrie Linke, MS, RD, LDN. Contact Carrie at

Green Smoothies!

27-green-smoothies-best-chicago-lose-weight-fast-gymBefore I became a dietitian and fully understood exactly what my body needed to thrive, I would crave coffee the instant I woke up.  I relied on caffeine to help power me through my morning.  However, what my body really needed was vitalizing nutrients.  While I am still an avid coffee drinker (it provides numerous health benefits!), my morning health routine has changed quite a bit… and for the better.  Now I wake up with nourishing green smoothies.

Here are a few reasons why:

Dark, leafy greens have so few calories, yet are so nutrient dense. They are your richest food source of magnesium (Mg) and sadly, 95% of us Americans are deficient in this mighty mineral. What will magnesium do for you?

  1. Enhance your energy levels and allow you to get through your day with ease: Mg is responsible for over 400 pathways converting the food we eat into energy.
  2. Relieve your anxiety: Mg is known as the ultimate “chill pill” to ease stress, anxiety and irritability.
  3. Greens give you mental clarity: Chlorophyll purifies the blood for more efficient nutrient transportation while alkaline minerals allow “the goods” to circulate to the brain so you can think more clearly and be on the ball.
  4. Fiber-rich greens allow you to get the most out of your food: Fiber aids in digestion. You need to properly digest your food in order to absorb the nutrients in the super-foods you eat.
  5. Greens naturally cleanse and detoxify. See ya later, detox diets!

Leafy greens are also packed with fantastic folate. Folate is:

  1. Anti-aging: Magnificent Methylation. Folate is a “methylator,” allowing all of the methyl-dependent reactions to occur in the body. By drinking “methyls” you essentially allow your body to perform at its full capability. Lets stay forever young, shall we?
  2. A preventative: Folate reduces homocysteine, a biomarker for heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Mood-boosting: Sufficient folate intake is linked to an improved mood.

As if you even needed yet another reason to indulge… Greens bestow amazing antioxidant power.

  1. Antioxidants help neutralize free-radicals in your body, fending off chronic inflammation (the leading cause of diseases).
  2. Antioxidants have collagen-creating properties that also give you a dewy radiance and allow you to glow from the inside out. Green smoothies are natural beautifiers!

Honor your body and give it what it needs to thrive. Make green smoothies part of your morning health routine. With consistency, gulping these glorious greens will take your mornings to a whole new level. I promise… your body will be craving this healthy habit more so than that cup of joe.

Reach out to your Registered Dietitian, Jessica Dogert RD, LDN, CPT at for simple, nourishing green smoothie recipes.

Eating Seasonally, Fueling Locally

2-farmers-market-best-chicago-weight-loss-nutritionWhat if we told you there was something you could eat to fuel your body, improve your skin, aid in weight loss, and lower your risk for several chronic diseases? And that by buying it you’d be supporting your community? Well, it’s true! We’re talking about fruits and vegetables, and this time of year, your local Farmers Markets are chock-full of these nutrient-dense foods that not only offer several health benefits, but also taste fantastic. Buying local food also benefits the environment and the local economy, and promotes safer food supply practices.

What can you find in Chicago’s Farmers Markets in July? Fresh fruits available now include blueberries, blackberries, cherries, grapes, melons, nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries and strawberries. You can also find a wide variety of vegetables, including artichokes, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, green onions, kale, lettuce, okra, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, sprouts, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips.

Click here to find a Farmers Market near you! Here’s a delicious, healthy recipe you can make with the ingredients you find on your next Farmers Market excursion!

Braised Green Beans & Summer Vegetables
Servings: 6
Serving size: 1 cup


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
½ cup white wine, or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 pound green beans, trimmed
1 medium summer squash or zucchini, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add onion and oregano and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Add wine (or broth) and bring to a boil.
4. Add green beans, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
5. Add summer squash (or zucchini) and tomatoes and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.
6. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Nutritional Fact Per Serving: 92 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated 2 g monounsaturated); 2 mg cholesterol; 10 g carbohydrates; 3 g fiber; 3 g protein; 158 mg sodium; 290 mg potassium

Article written by FFC’s Registered Dietician Carrie Linke, MS, RD, LDN. To contact Carrie email

Summer SLIM-DOWN Foods

Nutrition-Registered-Dietitian-Weight-lossWith summer season in full swing, we all desire to control cravings, banish belly bulge and de-buff that gut of ours to look good in a swimsuit. FFC friends, start adding one or all of these scrumptious slim-down foods into your daily health routine for that rocking bikini body we all crave.

Why it’s slimming savvy: Omega-3 Fat
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show may help control appetite, increase calorie burning and decrease the amount of fat your body stores.

Why it’s slimming savvy: High water-content
Watermelon is 92% water. Research shows foods with high water-content may help you naturally eat hundreds calories less per meal.

Why it’s slimming savvy: Soluble Fiber
This root-veggie is an excellent source of fiber. Belly-filling fiber stabilizes blood sugar, which helps to control cravings.
Bonus: High soluble-fiber intake strikes a blow to belly fat.

Why it’s slimming savvy: MUFA’S
A diet rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids prevents central abdominal fat. Plus, research shows avocado-eaters have a lower BMI and smaller waist circumference than non avocado-eaters.

Why it’s slimming savvy: Vitamin C
Vitamin C reduces cortisol, the stress hormone that causes chronic fat storing around the belly section.

Grass-fed Organic Beef
Why it’s slimming savvy: CLA
Consistent CLA intake is linked to long-term weight management by lowering body fat. Grass-fed meats contain 3-5x higher CLA levels than grain-fed meats.

Coconut Oil
Why it’s slimming savvy: MCFA’s
Medium –chain fatty acids are easy for the body to digest; meaning the fat calories are utilized as a “quick” energy source without an insulin surge, allowing the body to burn fat.

Why it’s slimming savvy: Fermentation
Kombutcha contains “beneficial” bacteria that helps keep your gut in check. Research declares a strong link between bad gut bacteria and weight gain.

Why it’s slimming savvy: Enzyme called bromelain
Bromelain found in pineapple aids in digestion and banishing bloating. The more a food is broken down during the digestion process, the less bloating we feel and the slimmer we look.

Why it’s slimming savvy: Gingerols
Research suggests ginger plays a critical role in weight management by enhancing thermogenesis and reducing feelings of hunger post ginger consumption.
Bonus: Ginger reduces stress, which can result in less emotional eating.

Reach out to your Registered Dietitian, Jessica Dogert RD, LDN, CPT by email: or cell: (708) 351-9536 to help you craft simple recipes with the above slimming savvy foods.

Free Nutrition Seminar | Super Slim Down Foods

Summer-Slim-Down-lose-weightJoin your Registered Dietitian, Jessica Dogert, RD, LDN, CPT every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30PM in the cafe for a complimentary nutrition seminar – Summer Slim-Down Foods. Seminars will be hosted during the months of June & July.

Free Nutrition Seminar | Super Slim Down Foods

Summer-Slim-Down-lose-weightJoin your Registered Dietitian, Jessica Dogert, RD, LDN, CPT every Monday and Wednesday at 5:30PM in the community room for a complimentary nutrition seminar – Summer Slim-Down Foods. Seminars will be hosted during the months of June & July.

Got Allergies?

Nutrition-best-weight-loss-ChicagoThis time of year is the height of allergy season for many people, but for some, allergies are a year-round burden. In this instance, we’re talking about food allergies – adverse immunologic reactions to proteins in certain foods that the body mistakenly recognizes as harmful or dangerous. Nearly 15 million people are affected by some kind of food allergy, and while any food could potentially be problematic, the most common culprits are peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, milk, eggs, fish, and shellfish. A reaction can manifest externally by affecting the skin or internally by causing respiratory, gastrointestinal, or potentially even cardiovascular issues.

Alternatively, but in addition to allergies, many people suffer from food sensitivities or intolerances. These do not involve an immune system response, but can still cause undesirable physiological reactions. Symptoms can be similar, but are often more subtle and typically include gastrointestinal distress (nausea, stomach pain, heartburn, intestinal cramping, bloating or gas), headaches, and/or irritability.

Allergies can be diagnosed by a physician via skin prick tests, blood tests, or oral food challenges, however intolerances and sensitivities can be harder to pinpoint and may require elimination diets, food diaries, and some trial and error. Treatment is always individualized, but usually requires eliminating or reducing your intake of problem foods and addressing the associated symptoms.

Looking for more nutritional guidance? Contact Carrie Linke, MS, RD, LDN at


FFC Gold Coast and Lincoln Park Have a New Registered Dietitian!

Meet Jessica Dogert, RD, LDN, CPT

A lover of coffee, coconut everything, almond butter, avocados and green smoothies, I am passionate about sharing my nutrition expertise and inspiring others to fuel their bodies with natural, wholesome foods so they can power their passions in life.

I understand that we are all busy.  As a young woman, I have gone through hardships (haven’t we all?!)… and as a result, I put my health in the backseat of my life’s priorities. I lacked energy, had difficulty thinking, and was forever frazzled. My health affected not only my life, but also those around me.

Thankfully, now I know better, and nutrition is a key part of the solution for all of us. I have learned how to truly care for my body and my life. As a Registered Dietitian, I walk the talk and know firsthand how much of a difference healthy eating can make.

  • I choose to eat healthy because it gives me a clear mind, a joyful glow, and puts me in an upbeat mood.
  • I have energy to get through my day with ease.
  • I exercise daily because it makes me feel good and eases my stress levels.
  • I don’t overcommit. I set priorities and focus only upon a limited number of things, which I am passionate about so I can excel at those things. I do things daily that bring me joy.

Each of us has talents which, when used to our full potential, can really change the world and those around us.  To fully utilize these talents, we all need to be good stewards of our bodies. By taking care of ourselves we place and keep ourselves in a healthy place.  Subsequently, we can be more selfless by caring and supporting those we truly love and fulfilling our purpose and passions in life.

Do you desire more energy, to think more clearly, restore your metabolism, sleep like a baby, stress less, have enhanced athletic performance… or all of the above?! If so, lets chat!

Contact me via email: or cell: (708)-351-9536 or find me at the Lincoln Park and Gold Coast FFC locations. Allow me to help you live a healthy, happy life one small lifestyle change at a time!


How to Get Your Protein!

Nutrition-Protein-WeightlossVegetarian and Vegan Protein Sources

We all need protein, not just for building muscle, but also for growth and development, organ and tissue repair, and immune system function. While the exact amount that’s right for you depends on your gender, age, and physical activity level, it is generally recommended that adults get 10-35% of their total daily calories from protein. Meat, poultry, and fish typically get the credit for being the best sources, but what about vegetarian and vegan options? Is it possible to get enough protein without eating meat?

The answer is yes! Those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet can still get adequate protein by consuming protein-rich foods, such as the ones listed below:

Serving Size

Grams of Protein

Calories per Serving

Lentils, cooked

1 cup



Tempeh, cooked

½ cup



Yogurt, Greek, plain

6 oz.



Beans, black or kidney

1 cup




1 cup



Cottage cheese, 2%

½ cup



Veggie burger

1 patty



Tofu, firm

½ cup



Quinoa, cooked

1 cup



Green peas, cooked

1 cup



Soy milk

1 cup



Edamame, cooked

½ cup



Peanut butter





1 oz.




1 large egg




1 oz.



Even if you eat meat as part of your normal diet, try experimenting with the above protein sources and adopt Meatless Mondays. Not only will you get to try out new recipes, you’ll also reduce your carbon footprint!

Learn more healthy eating habit tips at our Ten-Week Nutrition Series to be held at FFC Union Station.

Join FFC’s Registered Dietician, Carrie Linke, MS, RD, LDN on Tuesdays at 5:30pm starting April 8 to participate in this 10 part nutrition series.  You will come away with a better understanding of foods and new habits to help you eat healthier. Reaching your fitness goals is a factor of the amount of exercise and movement conducted daily plus the type of food we eat, amount of food we eat, and our minds connection with food.

The Ten-Week Nutrition Series topics include:

• Nutrition 101

• Understanding your Metabolism

• Decoding Food Labels

• Portion Distortion

• Carbs

• Fats: Good, Bad, & Ugly

• Protein

• Vitamins, Minerals, & Supplements

• Behavioral Modification/Mindful Eating

• Dining Out

Sign up for the entire series or select courses that meet your needs.  Attend all 10 sessions for $200 or pay $25 to drop into the sessions of your choice.  Contact for more details and to register.


Spring Into National Nutrition Month®

In addition to the official start of spring, March is National Nutrition Month®. This year it’s all
about enjoying the taste of healthy eating – it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing on flavor. Try
these simple tweaks to classic “diet foods” to make them not only nutritious, but also delicious!

  1. Yogurt
    Flavored yogurts are often high in sugar, but plain yogurt can be a little boring. Try adding a handful of fresh berries or some sliced up banana for some natural sweetness. Added bonus: plain yogurt can also be a healthy substitute for sour cream.
  2. Salad
    Jazz up your salad with healthy toppings – hardboiled egg, edamame, artichoke hearts, beets, orange wedges, pomegranate seeds; the possibilities are endless! Instead of croutons, add some crunch to your salad with walnuts halves or slivered almonds for a heart-healthy benefit.
  3. Chicken breast
    Chicken doesn’t have to be bland to be healthy. Herbs can go a long way in dressing up even the simplest dish. Rosemary, sage, and thyme pair especially well with baked chicken breasts, and they’re available in the grocery stores year round.
  4. Oatmeal
    Instead of scrimping on taste, add some healthy toppings to your oatmeal! A small
    handful of mixed nuts not only adds flavor, it also adds protein and healthy fat to make
    for a well-rounded, balanced breakfast. For a little sweetness, try adding some dried fruit.
  5. Spinach
    Looking to increase your vegetable intake but not a big fan of steamed greens? Add a
    couple handfuls of spinach to your morning smoothie. Spinach is tender and slightly
    sweet, making it an easy ingredient to mix in. The color isn’t the most appealing, but we
    promise the taste makes up for it.

Lecture Series

FFC’s Registered Dietitian will be conducting a 10-week nutrition seminar series beginning in early April. Seminars will cover several topics, ranging from the basics of metabolism and macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) – to tips on portion control, label reading, and mindful eating practices.

Single seminar: $25
10-week series package: $200 (20% off!)

Looking for a more individualized approach? Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle, boost your energy, or simply to live a healthy lifestyle, a Registered Dietitian can be a valuable asset to optimizing your health and fitness goals.

Consultation Rates
60-minute consultation: $99
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) test: $59
RMR test + 60-minute consultation: $125
30-minute follow-up: $50

Contact FFC’s Registered Dietitian, Carrie Linke, at if you’re interested in taking your health and fitness to the next level and learning more about nutrition programming. After all, your workouts wouldn’t be complete without proper nutrition!

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in a Healthy Way

Healthy_Valentines_bannerValentine’s Day brings not only feelings of love and joy, it also brings high-calorie chocolates, candies, cookies, and other treats. Since February is American Heart Month, which aims to encourage adopting permanent lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy, let’s try to celebrate the love-filled holiday in a heart-healthy way. Here are some tips:

  • Indulge in homemade heart-healthy desserts, such as fresh fruit dipped in dark chocolate, which contains antioxidants that protect your heart.
  • Make healthy substitutions when baking, including using whole-wheat flour, using oil instead of butter, reducing the sugar called for in a recipe by a third, or replacing half of the fat with pureed fruit, such as applesauce or canned pumpkin.
  • Ask your significant other not to buy you chocolates or other treats. Drop hints about other presents you’d like that aren’t food-related.
  • Celebratory foods don’t have to be off-limits if you exercise portion control and maintain your usual exercise regimen during the holiday.
  • Instead of going out for an intimate dinner, prepare a healthy, romantic, candlelit dinner at home with your special someone and enjoy a glass of heart-healthy red wine together.

Try this healthy dessert recipe below for Valentine’s Day:
Spiced Chocolate Cake

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 ½ cup teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cup teaspoon baking soda
2 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon clove powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup skim milk
1 cup warm water


  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. In large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. Combine this with the flour mixture, and blend it together.
  4. Mix in the milk and then the water. The mixture will become quite runny.
  5. Equally distribute the batter among the two cake pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Let the cake cool completely, remove the cake from the pans, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  7. Optional: Top with light or fat-free whipped topping instead of frosting, and refrigerate the cake afterwards. You’ll save a lot of fat and calories by using whipped topping rather than frosting. Another option is to spread a little marshmallow cream on top of the cake. Marshmallow cream still contains a large amount of sugar, but it is fat-free, whereas frosting is not. Since it’s so rich, use only a thin coating of marshmallow cream because a little bit goes a long way.

    This recipe also makes great cupcakes. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Erica Varner, RD, LDN, CPT
Registered Dietitian
Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist
Certified Personal Trainer

Don’t Forget to Read the Food Packaging Ingredients!

food_packaging_bannerWhile many of you may be conscious of reading the nutrition facts panel on food packages, the ingredient list needs some much needed attention as well. Today, food companies often mislead the consumer with marketing claims that leave one to think they are purchasing a quality, healthy product. However, reading the ingredients of your food product can tell you a lot more than you think. The ingredients are always listed in descending order of predominance by weight, meaning that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. This makes it easy to access whether a product fits into a nutritious, “real food” diet.

Here are a few key guidelines to follow when assessing a label:

  1. No added sugar in the first 5 ingredients!
    There are two kinds of sugar, naturally-occurring and added. Naturally-occurring sugars are found in many foods. For example, dairy products, such as yogurt and milk, and fruit (both healthy choices) contain naturally-occurring sugars. Lactose is the sugar in milk and yogurt; fructose is the sugar in fruit. To determine if a food product has added sugar, look for these words: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, lactose, maltose, sucrose, syrup and table or raw sugar.
  2. No trans fat!
    Manufacturers are allowed to claim zero grams of trans fat on the nutrition facts panel if there is less than 0.5 grams per serving. If there is an ingredient called “partially hydrogenated…,” that is a sign that man-made trans fats are hidden in the box.
  3. Whole grains only!
    This is one of the most confusing concepts for consumers, thanks in large part to clever front-of-package marketing. Companies are suddenly using the word “wheat” whenever possible, but it is important to make clear that most bread, cereal, or cracker products are made with wheat. The question is whether it is WHOLE wheat. If the word “whole” is not in the name of the ingredient, it is a refined grain. Additionally, look at how much fiber the food product has. The general rule of thumb is that you want cereals, breads and energy bars with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  4. No artificial colors!
    Artificial colors have been linked to a myriad of health conditions, from ADHD to cancer. They are heavily-processed and not very nutrient-dense, providing absolutely zero health benefit. They only exist to attract people to eat more of a product.
  5. If you don’t understand the ingredients on the box, don’t buy it!
    Unfamiliar ingredients are often chemicals or additives that are not worth your money. An extremely long list of ingredients often signifies that a food is highly processed.

-Erica Varner, RD, LDN, CPT
Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer
FFC East Lakeview
Click here to contact Erica.

FFC is currently hiring Registered Dietitians. Previous athletic club, health club, fitness center, personal training studio, or gym experience is not required. For more information, contact Scott Lewandowski at

Winter Hydration

The Winter Group Fitness schedules are right around the corner.  As most of us bring our outdoor workouts indoors, it is important to remember to keep your water bottle handy.  Our thirst mechanism is reduced in colder weather, however, our hydration requirements may increase, especially for those who take any heated formats such as Formula 94, Heated and Hot yoga.  A simple way to calculate your daily water requirement is to take half your bodyweight and drink that number in ounces; a 200 lb person should have 100 ounces of water each day. For every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage add 8 more ounces to your total.

Boost Your Immunity with Nutrition!

nutrition3Winter rolls in on December 21, which means flu season is lurking right around the corner. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 5-20% of Americans develop the flu each year, which peaks in January and February. Now is the perfect time to start developing positive habits in order to boost your immunity. Staying active, getting enough sleep, minimizing stress levels, and eating right can help you stay healthy.

All foods and beverages we choose to consume fuel our bodies, and including certain nutrients in your diet can help prime your immune system for fighting off bugs. It is important to include a protein source at each meal. Choose a variety of different protein foods including lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Some of these protein foods also contain important minerals required for the immune system to function, such as zinc, selenium, and iron.

Our immune system also requires vitamins to function appropriately. Vitamins A, C, and E are especially important. Vitamin A is necessary for the health of your skin and tissues in your digestive and respiratory tract. Vitamin A can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, red peppers, eggs, fortified milk and some ready-to-eat cereals. Vitamin C jumpstarts the immune system by stimulating the formation of antibodies against bacteria and viruses. Fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries contain Vitamin C. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which helps rid the body of free radicals to boost your immune response. Nuts, wheat germ, spinach, and vegetable oils (sunflower or safflower) are all good sources of Vitamin E.

Including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet is a great way to meet vitamin and mineral requirements. Some foods, such as broccoli, contain multiple immune boosting vitamins (A and C). Adding pine nuts and/or almonds to a dish also gives you a healthy dose of Vitamin E. Pairing this broccoli side dish with your favorite protein is a great way to pack many of these nutrients into one meal.

Broccoli with Caramelized Onions & Pine Nuts
Serves: 4
Serving size: ¾ cup


  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (~1 medium)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Toast pine nuts (or almonds) in a medium dry skillet over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool.
  2. Add oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, adjusting the heat as necessary, until soft and golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, steam broccoli until just tender, 4-6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the nuts, onion, vinegar, and pepper. Toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information: 102 calories, 7g fat (1g sat, 3g mono), 9g carb, 3g protein, 3g fiber

Recipe courtesy:

Contact your FFC Dietitian, Christine Steinmetz, with questions:

Feeling salty?

salt-shakerDid you know that the human body only requires about 500 mg of sodium per day, all of which is easily consumed eating a healthy, plant-based diet without adding salt? Did you know that, on average, Americans consume 3400 mg of sodium per day? Sodium is a vital electrolyte in our bodies, but we tend to overeat it constantly. Excess consumption of sodium becomes a problem, as it can increase your blood pressure which requires your heart to work harder.

If too much sodium is not good, how can you minimize your sodium intake? Read the food label! A good guideline to follow is to choose foods that have 140 mg sodium or less per serving. Try to keep your daily sodium intake between 1500 and 2300 mg. Unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and veggies contain some sodium, but processed foods really pack it in. For example, one Healthy Choice Grilled Basil Chicken microwave meal contains 610 mg sodium, which is 1/3 of the daily recommended amount. Making your own grilled basil chicken is only 140 mg sodium for one serving. Leave the salt shaker off the table, and use salt-free spices like Mrs. Dash in your cooking.

Endurance athletes require extra sodium and electrolytes during training, but most casual exercisers do not. Are you a salty sweater? An easy way to determine this is to look at your clothes and skin after your next workout. Let your sweat dry – is there a white residue around your eyes, temples, and nose? Are there white marks on your shirt? If so you’re a salty sweater and you may have increased sodium needs post-workout. Most sports drinks, like gatorade, contain sodium and other electrolytes to help you replenish what is lost in sweat.

If you’re already struggling with high blood pressure or are looking to cut down on the salt in your diet, check out the DASH diet to help improve your sodium intake. Click here for the diet overview, restaurant tips, recipes, and more.

Contact your FFC Dietitian, Sara Kevern with questions:

Natural vs Artificial

Natural Vs Artificial Sweeteners – What’s the deal? Are they good or bad? The answer to this question all depends on your current weight and/or health goals. It’s true – artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Truvia, Sweet ‘n’ Low, Equal, etc are virtually calorie free. If your goals include weight loss, and you’re struggling with a sugar addiction, these “diet” options may be a useful way to wean yourself off real sugar. However, if your goals include clean eating, a healthy diet, and general well-being, artificial sweeteners probably aren’t your best choice.

The truth is that artificial sweeteners are chemicals that activate the sweet taste buds on your tongue, but aren’t recognized by your digestive system. Because of this, they are not absorbed and carry no caloric value. They also have not been conclusively studied for safety and long-term health effects. Several of them are on the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) list for now. So what does this all mean? You’re probably better off sweetening your coffee and oatmeal with real sweeteners like honey, agave, or maple syrup so long as you’re mindful of the calories per serving and the amount you’re using. All while making a conscious effort to kick the sugar habit, of course.


Acesulfame potassium, sucralose, saccharin, stevia extract, and aspartame are all artificial sweeteners. Did you know that sugar alcohols have 2.5 calories per gram? In large amounts they can contribute to your calorie intake. Some of them can also cause gas, bloating, and cramping.

Questions about natural or artificial sweeteners? Email Sara Kevern, FFC Dietitian, for more information:

Fueling for the Marathon

October brings thousands of runners from all over the world to run the Chicago Marathon. On race day, 45,000 runners are treated to an epic 26.2 mile tour through 29 neighborhoods, witnessing diverse cultures, historic buildings, and renowned architecture. For many, training for an endurance race is not just about the long, grueling months or training runs leading up to the event, it’s also about correctly fueling your body with adequate nutrition – something that can directly affect your race performance and finishing time.

One of the more popular methods of nutritional preparation – carbohydrate loading – is also one of the more misunderstood nutritional concepts. Carbohydrate loading is more than a single pasta meal the night before a race. Instead, 72 hours prior to race day, it is best to maintain a diet of 75 percent carbohydrates based foods that have adequate protein and healthful fact. In addition, runners should begin tapering their training at least two weeks prior to race day in order to help replenish glycogen stores that have been compromised from the volume of training miles. Some exercise scientists also recommend reducing your exercise time to 30 percent of normal and doing little exercise in the last seven to 10 days before the race. Correct carbohydrate loading and disciplined tapering helps runners regain depleted energy stores, allows the body time to heal, and ensures miles of smiles on race day.

Here’s a great quick and easy recipe that includes three different food groups (grain, protein and vegetables), creating that well-balanced meal to fuel you to the finish line!

Chicken with Pasta and SpinachNancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook
Yield: 5 servings

1 lb pasta, such as fettuccine
2 tbsp oil, preferably olive or canola
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 to 4 garlic gloves, finely chopped, or ¼ to 1 tsp garlic powder
1 10-oz can chicken broth
1 lb fresh spinach, washed, drained and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 10 ox mushrooms, sliced; ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
2. While the past is cooking, in a large skillet hear the oil and sauté the sliced chicken breast for 30 seconds.
3. Toss in the garlic (and mushrooms) and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Pour in the chicken broth and bring it to a simmer. Add the spinach, stirring until it wilts.
5. Drain the pasta and return it to the cooking pot. Pour in the chicken and spinach mixture and toss well. Heat for 2 minutes.

Nutritional information: 2,800 calories; 560 calories per serving; 75 g carbohydrates; 40 g protein; 11 g fat

Erica Varner, RD, CPT
Registered Dietician
Certified Personal Trainer

A NEW YOU in 12 Weeks!

New-YouIf you struggle with losing weight and/or unhealthy eating habits, or seek a group of friends striving for the same goals, come to one of our upcoming information meetings and learn how we will help you transform into the New You! Information Meeting will be Wednesday, September 11 at 6:00pm. Program begins Monday, September 16. 12-week program is $499/members. Program includes the ActivTrax Nutrition Tracking System, an FT7 or FA20 Polar Activity Computer, 24 Small Group Training Sessions, two lectures (grocery tour and dining out) and three evaluations. Register online, or contact Melissa Olenik at