Ila Fennie is a dietitian at Aramark. She understands busy days and hectic lifestyles and knows that eating on the go isn’t always the best. Whether you’re on a business trip or just eating out at your neighborhood restaurant, Ila has some expert tips to feeding your potential through healthier options.
Q: When you’re on the go and want to eat healthier, what tips do you have to help identify the most nutritious options?
A: Eating healthy extends beyond meal time; it has long-term benefits. Whatever I order on the go, I pair it with a vegetable on the side.
Another rule of thumb, don’t be fooled by entrée salads. Sometimes they have unhealthy toppings and creamy, fatty dressings. If you do go with a salad, beware of high-fat toppings like bacon, cheeses, and croutons, and remember you can augment your salad to be healthier! Get your dressing on the side. One of my favorite healthy hacks is dipping my fork in dressing before I take a bite of salad. So I get the flavor and don’t have a dressing-soaked salad. I recommend that condiments, in general, be served as items on the side so you can regulate what goes on your plate and into your body.
Q: What are the most common challenges in maintaining a healthy diet/lifestyle?
A: I think managing time is the most common challenge when trying to eat healthy. To overcome this, I plan for the week. Ideally, I plan during the weekend, but if you can just plan a few days ahead, that can be a huge relief.
Q: How does healthy eating fit into your daily routine?
A: In general, I try to have a healthy and active lifestyle. I opt for the stairs versus the elevator, especially if it is only a couple of flights. Also, if I can bike somewhere, I do. These small changes make a big difference.
Q: What does “feed your potential” mean to you?
A: I interpret it literally. Food fuels our body. The potential you have in life is fueled by the foods you eat. If you choose to feed your body healthy food, you will have more potential to do things versus putting less healthy things into your body.
Q: What are your health goals?
A: My health goals are actually food goals. I try to maintain a healthy diet. I try not to think about tracking calories. I don’t believe in good food or bad food, I just try to make sure that I have a variety. I try to make sure that I get fruits and vegetables and cook for myself during the week. On the weekend, I may go out and have a burger – that’s life.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: My favorite part of what I do is the fact that is very dynamic. It is fast-paced. Things change a lot and you have to stay on your toes and change with it. You have to do things one way one day, and another way the next. I like the fact that I work around food and nutrition and occasionally my role does factor in working directly with food, which is never a bad thing.
Q: How did you end up in this profession?
A: I have always been interested in food and I remember learning at a young age that eating healthy is important. When I think back, I can remember being in school, my mom made my sandwiches with wheat bread versus white bread and I’d look around and all my friends had white bread. I just wanted to be like them, but this is something I have clearly grown to appreciate!
Q: What are some unique trends you’re seeing right now?
A: Making salads with different types of greens is yummy and fun! I like to mix things up with shredded broccoli, kale, lettuce, and romaine. Changing up the veggies can spice things up.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration for new foods?
A: I am always trying to learn about new foods and new ways to prepare them to keep it interesting. Social media is a great place to discover new food trends and stay motivated. My recently-discovered favorite is cauliflower wild rice. Healthy food that looks good also encourages me to try new things.
Q: Do you have any tips for hectic mornings? What’s your go to breakfast?
A: Recently I started drinking my breakfast. I know that sounds weird, but I love making healthy smoothies. They can take a few tries to nail the flavors you like, but they are a quick, easy, and tasty way to get a nutritious breakfast.
Q: Any tips for how to make classic comfort foods a bit healthier for you?
A: Add vegetables to things when you can. For example, adding spinach to lasagna sprinkles some healthy into a classic family dish. Also, veggies and pasta dishes pair well. Another healthy hack I use all the time is replacing butter with healthy fats like olive oil or coconut oil.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.