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INSPIRE TO MOVE - Inspire to Change, Simple Swaps
NOURISHING YOU - Chicken Taco Poblano Rice Bowls
HEALTHY HARMONY - One Degree of Change – Starting small is better than not starting at all
GOOD DECISIONS - Creating a Balanced Budget
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Wellness Connection Interview with Dr. Dana Gillon

Feedback - SOWellness@uillinois.edu
The System Office Wellness Committee strives to cite relevant information from reputable sources. Employees should always consult with their physician before making any kind of health decision or change.

INSPIRE TO MOVE - Inspire to Change, Simple Swaps
Photo Credit: kate hliznitsova of Unsplash 

By Lydia Schillinger
Happy New Year everyone! Did you make your New Year’s resolution? Mine is to swap out choices for healthier alternatives. I want to share with you how easy it is to make small changes that have a huge impact. Many years ago, I swapped soda pop for water and I haven’t gone back! While that is a bit extreme, I am proof that it can be done. If you love soda pop and don’t want to give it up, the great news is that you don’t have to! This article is not about giving up the things you love, but rather making small adjustments to make great changes in your overall well-being. Instead of drinking two soda pops a day, try drinking just one and swapping the other for tea, coffee, or water (which you can always flavor with fresh berries, mint, or cucumbers). If you really enjoy a glass of wine from time to time, but want to decrease some calorie intake, a healthier swap is kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented, lightly effervescent, non-alcoholic, sweetened black or green tea drink that is rich in antioxidants and beneficial probiotics. I especially love Kevita brand grapefruit flavor, which may be found at your local grocery store. If you pour it in a tall champagne glass, it bubbles up just like the real thing – only a much healthier, non-alcoholic version.

These simple swaps are not just for food and beverage choices. Simple swaps are for everyday life choices. Do you usually meet up with friends for lunch? If so, consider meeting a friend for a walk instead of a meal. Do you sit and watch television shows in the evening? In this case, you might plan to get up during commercials, do some couch exercises, take a walk around the house, or do squats or lunges. Do you like to play video games with (or without) your kids? If so, look for more active games. I like to play Wii Sports, which may be a bit old school nowadays, but there are other options to consider. Choosing games like these helps to get us up, out of the chair, and keeps us active. I should mention that my kids love Wii Sports. If you work at a desk, instead of sitting the whole day, set a reminder and get up every hour and walk around for at least 1 minute. When we can all get back into stores again, forget online shopping, go walk around the store. Instead of parking in the closest spot, park further away from your destination and walk the extra steps. 

Some simple swaps to be healthier in 2021:

Orange juice  ⇒  Eat an orange (Skip the added sugar and calories and get more fiber.)

Sugary cereal  ⇒  Try oatmeal (Instant oatmeal packets take 2 mins in the microwave.)

Adding brown sugar to oatmeal  ⇒  Add berries, almond butter, or an apple and pecans instead

White bread  ⇒  Whole grain bread

Wine  ⇒  Kombucha (Kevita Master Brew in grapefruit is my favorite!)

Sugary candy  ⇒  Dried fruit or dark chocolate-covered fruit  

m&m’s  ⇒  Peanut or almond m&m’s

Coffee creamer  ⇒  Steam skim milk and add sugar free flavoring like Jordan Skinny Syrups (I asked Santa for a milk steamer for Christmas!)

Yogurt  ⇒  Greek yogurt (Adds protein! I love Two Good mixed berries, and I mix in berries!)

Elevator  ⇒  Take the stairs

Drive a car  ⇒  Ride a bike

Standing on two feet  ⇒  Stand on one (While you wait in line, stand on one leg for a minute and then switch to the other. This will help improve your balance and strengthen your core.)

I hope you try out some of these simple swaps with me. Start with one at a time to keep the changes manageable. Let’s bring in the New Year with a new perspective and healthier life choices. Cheers (with kombucha) to a healthier and happier 2021!

 Photo Credit: Skinnytaste.com with link to recipe

Recipe by Leana Coffey
Prep Time: 10 min. | Cook Time: 15 min. | Total Time: 25 min.
Serves 4

Here is an easy and healthy dinner recipe that you can have on your table in less than 30 minutes. Meal prep this recipe by storing it as individual servings that are ready for reheating at meal time. This recipe is versatile and can be made with steak or ground meat; or you can add black beans for more protein and fiber; substitute cauliflower rice instead of brown rice for less carbs; or add avocado or guacamole for additional healthy fat. The original recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked brown rice, which I lowered to 2 cups. Splitting it four ways gives you a ½ cup of rice in each serving and lowers the calories and carbs from the original nutrition information.  


  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced, optional
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cored and diced
  • 1 lime, halved
  • taco seasoning, see below
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, heated (use cauliflower rice for low-carb)
  • 1/4 cup cheddar-jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup 2% sour cream or Greek yogurt, optional

Taco seasoning:

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano


  1. Dice the chicken into small pieces. Combine taco seasoning in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. To make the Pico de Gallo, set 3 tablespoons of the diced onion aside and place it in a bowl with tomato, cilantro, 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.
  3. Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken and cook until it starts to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining onion, poblano pepper and taco seasoning to the skillet and cook until it softens, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a 1/2 cup of water and corn. Cook 1-2 minutes then remove from heat.
  5. Divide rice into four bowls, top with chicken, cheese, Pico de Gallo and optional sour cream.

Nutrition Information: (serving size) Calories 340 | Carbs 28g | Fat 9g | Protein 38g

HEALTHY HARMONY - One Degree of Change – Starting small is better than not starting at all
Starting small is better than not starting at all. Link to article source too. 

By Jackie Billhymer
Is it just me or does January feel a little different this year? Maybe it’s because it is the first month of a new year and more notably, the year after 2020. Last year brought so many changes with it – COVID, remote work, at-home learning, an election, increased racial tension, and feeling less connected and too connected all at the same time. Every single one of us has had to adapt in some way over the last 11 months. As 2020 rolled over to 2021, I had time to reflect on what I have learned about myself and what I want from life in 2021.

I find myself thinking less about creating resolutions and more about how I can implement positive changes that will support my overall well-being. According to a concept from Richard Tyler, all it takes is one degree of change. The idea is that you shift just one degree by making one small change. The effect of that change down the road can be greater than you think.

The shift can be in your mindset, your physical activity, your eating habits, your intentions towards something or someone – it can be in any area of your life where you want more joy. If you think about it, shifting, even slightly, has possibly already happened to you in some way. What worked well for you last year? What did not work so well? What do you settle for? How can you thrive?

Sometimes the weight you need to lose is not on your body. Sometimes we stand in our own way of accomplishing what we most desire. Less screen time, more activity, better self-care, whatever it is you want to accomplish requires change. We often think change has to be hard or dramatic in order to make an impact, but that is simply not true.

If you have just one minute and 45 seconds, listen to Tyler’s concept and decide what your one degree of change will be this year. Let’s make the most of 2021!

GOOD DECISIONS - Creating a Balanced Budget
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska - Pexels 

By Christina A. Worthington
Bouncing back financially after the holiday season can be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. Creating a budget is a great way to understand what available money you have, where your money is being spent and how you can allocate your money for future expenses (e.g., bills, savings, investments, holiday shopping). Getting a jump start on saving for the next holiday season can greatly reduce the stress and dread surrounding holiday spending.

Here are some tips and tricks for managing your money throughout the year:

Make a Budget. Consumer.gov created a worksheet to help get you started. You can start by adding your monthly income and then listing all of your monthly expenses. Making these lists will help you acknowledge where your money is being spent. This is a great way to categorize and prioritize the money you’re spending. Breaking down larger categories into more specific subcategories may help you identify where to modify your spending behaviors.

Budgeting Systems. It’s important to choose a budgeting system that’s right for you and your family. Every person or family has differing financial goals, needs, and habits. These are some common methods of budgeting that may point you in the right direction:

  • 50/30/20 Budget – This is a great budgeting system for beginners. This method helps you to simply divide your monthly income into needs, wants, and savings.
  • The Envelope System – This method is an excellent way to curb excess spending using a cash-based approach. The Envelope System allows you to physically portion out your monthly income into categorized envelopes and you put the amount of money you plan to spend on those things into the envelopes.
  • Pay Yourself First – This is a reverse budgeting strategy where you build your spending plan around savings goals, such as retirement, instead of focusing on fixed and variable expenses.

Budgeting Apps There are many financial services that are out there and available to you! Downloading a free or low-cost budgeting app to your mobile device can help you keep track of your spending regardless of what method you’ve decided to use. Here are a few examples of budgeting apps that could work for you:

  • Mint – Mint offers an array of features to help you track and manage your money. The app automatically categorizes transactions from linked credit and debit cards and tracks them against a budget you can customize to meet your needs.
  • PocketGuard – This app is great to help you prevent overspending. It tracks how much you're earning, follows what you're spending on recurring bills and everyday expenses, and tracks deposits into your savings account. PocketGuard can even help you find better deals on monthly service costs!
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB) – Rather than relying on traditional budgeting categories, YNAB helps you build your budget based on your income, giving every dollar a job in your budget. These jobs include everything from living expenses to debt payments, savings, or investments. Leaving no dollar unaccounted for forces you to think about every dollar you acquire and spend.

Other Options Your financial institution may offer additional services to help you budget your money. Check with your bank or credit union to see what services are available.

  • Specialty Saving Accounts – Check with your bank to see what programs they have to help you save for special events and holidays. Many banks will help you set up a fund specifically for holiday spending or paying for college.
  • Budgeting or Bill Pay Programs – Some financial institutions have programs to help you get on track with creating a budget and paying recurring expenses on time. They can provide you with resources they’ve developed or send a friendly reminder for an upcoming due date.
  • Use Employee Resources – The University of Illinois System has many budgeting and financial planning resources to offer its employees:
    • Money Mentor: Assist individuals with personal finance strategies, including budgeting, establishing financial goals, building savings, managing credit, paying down debt, and organizing finances.
    • Guide to Choosing a Financial Professional: Assistance in making an informed decision about choosing a financial professional and understanding how to inquire about their qualifications and expertise.
    • Retirement Planning: Regardless of where you are in your career, having a plan for retirement is important. There are a variety of resources in place to help you plan.

Hopefully these tips and resources help you to kick off the New Year with a financially sound mindset! As with all new things, budgeting takes practice and persistence. Remember to give yourself grace as you begin your budgeting journey. Your success will come with time!

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Wellness Connection Interview with Dr. Dana Gillon
Dr. Dana Gillon 

By Seth Yoder

Q. Could you please tell me what your job title is and describe what you do in your role?
A. I am a Coordinator of Occupational Safety for Facilities and Services at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In my role, I plan, organize, develop, and implement occupational safety and health program elements, including ergonomics, campus medical surveillance, and safety training.  

Q. We often hear about the importance of setting up an ergonomic workstation. What might an ergonomic workstation look like in our homes and why do ergonomic workstations really matter?
A. Whether we are in the home or the office, ergonomics is about fitting the working conditions to the individual, and in doing so, improving overall performance on the job. Conversely, when we try to put ourselves into conditions that don’t fit us, performance is likely to decline. We may experience discomfort, pain or even soft tissue injuries. An ergonomic workstation is going to take into account our posture, how often our tasks are performed, and the level of effort required to perform those tasks. If we are doing a lot of reaching and bending, that is going to put pressure on our soft tissue and could potentially lead to discomfort and/or injury. For example, when we are using a computer, the position of our head and neck is very important. An ergonomically correct computer set-up requires the screen to be in front of your face at about an arm’s length away, and your head should be level. Additionally, your keyboard should be level so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. When our workstation is set-up correctly, it helps take pressure off our joints, which helps prevent injuries and improve overall performance.

Q. To stand or not stand – is it imperative that we spend a portion of our day standing, and, if so, is it possible without a standing desk?
A. Movement contributes to well-being and there are advantages that come from shifting from sitting to standing. Whether or not you have standing desk, you should be getting up every 20-30 minutes and moving around. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to have a standing desk to still be able to get work done while standing. For example, you can take a phone call while standing or if you need to read something, stand up while you are reading. Just keep in mind that regardless of whether you are standing or sitting, the posture of your neck is important. When we extend our neck in the downward position for too long that can cause strain.

Q. While it may not occur to many of us while we are working from home, accidents and injuries can occur. Are there any specific things we can do to prevent accidents or injuries while working from home?
A. We should take the same types of precautions at home that we would take in the workplace. You should stand up in your workspace and do a review of what is immediately around you. Are there trip hazards? Are there cords that need to be managed? Is there an excessive amount of clutter? These are things in the workspace that we call slip and fall hazards, which happen all of the time. At the beginning of each day, review your surroundings. Also, remember to use the same type of judgement you would use while working in the office. For example, if a light bulb needs to be replaced, use a stepladder and not a chair to get up and change it. Be mindful of making smart choices about how you engage with your workspace so you can limit injuries.

Q. Within the University of Illinois System, are there any specific resources available to assist staff with work from home set-up?
A. The Employee Safety and Health Webpage on the Facilities and Services website provides a number of resources to assist in employee safety practices at home or in the office.

This one-page Ergonomics Self-Help Guide will help you set-up a more ergonomic workstation at home or in the office.

In this collection of safety awareness and compliance trainings called Toolbox Talks you can find information on topics that range from stepladder safety to housekeeping for safety.