How to handle your leftover Halloween candy

Halloween can be a tricky holiday for those of us trying to maintain healthy eating habits – from the bags of candy purchased in advance for trick or treaters to the leftovers and/or candy our kids come home with. And, when you think about it, Halloween is kind of a kick off to a whole season of sweet temptations leading up to the New Year. But, let’s start with what to do with that leftover Halloween candy, because these are strategies you can use for other occasions as well.

1. Out of sight, out of mind

If we’re being realistic here, it’s not as simple as just dumping the candy in the garbage, especially if it’s your child’s hard-earned haul. Studies have proven that we are more likely to eat treats if they are visible and readily accessible to us, even if we have healthy options in front of us, too. So store those candies away out of your sight so that they’re not constantly staring you in the face and tempting you. Somewhere like the back of a cabinet you rarely open or behind some healthier snacks are good places. This might cut down on how often your children beg for that candy as well….maybe…possibly…

2. Set limits

Having clear boundaries is critical for success in almost any situation. So set those boundaries for yourself and your family. I recommend agreeing to only keep the candy in the house for a week and then disposing of the leftovers by donating them for care packages, etc. I also strongly recommend setting limits for daily candy consumption as well. For the “fun size” candies, I suggest a limit of two per day for that week.

Now, the thing with boundaries is they only work if you stick to them. So it’s important to set those boundaries, make them clear from the outset, and stick to them, especially if your children give you pushback. Think of this as an opportunity to teach your kids about balance.

3. Donate the leftovers

If throwing out the leftovers doesn’t sit well with you (and I totally get that), find a way to donate that candy. In many communities, there are collections for military care packages, etc. Or maybe your college alumni association puts together final exam care packages for current students and they could use the candy. Lots of options out there beyond tossing it in the bin. An added bonus to donating leftover candy after a week is it’s a great chance to teach your kids about sharing and charity. Here is a listing of North Shore donation spots for your candy this year. 

4. Don’t beat yourself up

Most importantly, if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Getting down on yourself is a recipe for a downward spiral and kicking your own butt at the gym isn’t going to undo it – that’s just not how the human body works. The best thing you can do for yourself in situations like that is to own that you didn’t do what you had hoped you would and resolve to do better going forward. This is important not just for yourself but for your kids who, whether you know it or not, watch your every move and hear your every word. This is a chance to teach them how to love themselves and have a healthy relationship with food. Here are some more tips on what to do after you overindulge.

Bonus Advice: How to Talk about Food Choices with Your Kids

While we’re on the topic of setting an example for our kids, watching the language that you use around food is also really important. Dubbing some foods “bad” or saying they’ll “make you fat” can really hurt your child’s relationship with food going forward and can create feelings of shame or guilt around eating. At the same time, it is important to convey that some foods are healthier choices than others. So when you’re talking to children about why you’re giving away the leftover candy or limiting how much you eat, I suggest using language along the lines of:

This isn’t everyday food so we are only going to have a little and then share with some other people. Foods like fruits and vegetables help keep us from getting sick and help us do better in school, but candy doesn’t do any of those things for us so we don’t need to eat a lot of it. Instead we have a little and we focus on eating more of the foods that help us grow bigger and smarter.

Notice that the above example does not say that candy is bad for you or candy will make you sick, etc. It just says that we don’t need it and that other foods do more for us. So we can have a little but should focus on the things that help us the most.

Beat the Bloat

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced that awful feeling after a day when we’ve overindulged: your belly is distended and feels like it’s been pumped overfull with air, your clothes feel too tight, it’s uncomfortable to move around, and all you want to do is cover up with some baggy sweats. It’s a horrible feeling and, when it happens, it can’t be over soon enough. The good news is that there are ways to expedite that process.

1. Hydrate

Drink plenty of water. That will help your body flush everything out.

2. Get moving

Walking, yoga, or other gentle exercise can help get things moving for you, especially if you are experiencing constipation or gas.

3. Get back on the healthy eating wagon as soon as you can

When we feel awful, we tend to want to curl up and comfort ourselves however we can and sometimes that means continuing those same eating habits that got us where we are. Put an end to the cycle by avoiding simple carbohydrates and sugar as well as excess sodium. This means no soda, juice, or other carbonated or sugary beverages, avoid alcohol, avoid sweets and salty snacks, and try not to add much salt to your food. This will help cut down on gas and water retention.

4. Have a cup of tea

Peppermint and chamomile tea both may help alleviate symptoms of gas and bloat. Enjoy a cup or two of these to help you get more comfortable.

5. Avoid healthy foods that can cause bloat

If you’re already feeling bloated, you may want to avoid certain healthy foods that may worsen your situation…at least until it’s cleared up. These include cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and brussels sprouts as well as dairy and beans.

6. Avoid sugar-free foods

In the wake of the backlash against artificial chemical sweeteners, many sugar-free foods now contain sugar alcohols instead. These ingredients, while not linked to the same health concerns as chemical sweeteners or sugar, have been known to cause gastric upset for many. Skipping out of these ingredients will help you avoid uncomfortable gas and bloating.

 

What to do if you are dealing with chronic bloat

1. Journal it

Begin to keep track of the foods you’re eating and how you’re feeling before and after. This can help you determine if you’re sensitive to certain foods so you can avoid them later.

2. Work with a nutrition professional for an elimination diet

A nutrition professional can help you remove common problem foods from your diet to test your reactions to them.

3. Work with your physician to diagnose any underlying medical causes

Chronic bloating can be caused by a number of conditions, including IBS, Crohn’s, and Celiac. Only your physician can diagnose these conditions so, if bloating and gas are commonplace issues for you, I suggest speaking to your physician about it.

 

How to Support Healthy Habits for Your Children

As a parent seeking to support your child’s health, you have quite a lot to work against: clever advertising of sugary foods, video games that all their friends are playing, and handheld devices that make it all too easy to sit and watch a show any time any where, just to name a few. Fortunately, there are a few simple, concrete things you can do starting right now to help support your child’s health even in the face of these obstacles.

1. Make a pick plate

Each day set out a plate of cut veggies, fruit, and nuts and leave it out in an accessible place so that your kids can grab from it as they come and go. You could also put some dips out to entice them further, like guacamole, hummus, salsa, or peanut butter. Having those healthy foods visible and accessible makes it more likely that they will eat them. Ideally, they will fill up with these and not even ask for the less-than-healthy snacks later. But, even if they don’t, at least they are eating more fruits and veggies than they were before. Further, the more they eat these healthy foods, the more of a taste they will develop for them.

2. Get the whole family active

Find some fun active activities your whole family can do together, like hiking or biking. For indoor active time, try heading to your local trampoline park together or pick up the game Hyperdash to play inside and get everyone moving (according to some reviews, parents enjoy it for their solo workouts without their kids as well!).

3. Talk about food choices in the positive

We now know the potential harm that using the wrong language and pressure around food choices can cause to children as they grow older, particularly in a world where we are constantly bombarded by images of what we ideally should look like. Instead of focusing on foods that your child shouldn’t or can’t have, focus on what they can have. Use the word “we” as much as possible when describing eating habits to create a sense of unity around those habits and to take the focus and pressure off your child and their eating habits. For example, “we eat grilled chicken because it makes us stronger” or “we eat vegetables at every meal because they help us not get sick.” This type of language used regularly normalizes healthy eating even when TV commercials are screaming about snacks loaded with sugar and artificial dyes.

4. Get the kids involved in food prep

Young children tend to be much more enthusiastic about things they’ve played a role in, especially if they see that task as being “grown-up” or important. Try to get your kids involved in the groceries and meal prep as soon as you’re able to. In the grocery store, let them make decisions by giving them choices, like blue potatoes, orange potatoes, or white potatoes; yellow string beans or green string beans; long squash or round squash – you get the picture. This gives children a sense of control over decisions and they’re more likely to eat something they chose. When it comes to dinner prep, give them age-appropriate tasks to do to help you cook, like rinsing spinach, breaking the tops off the green beans, or helping you measure out ingredients with measuring cups and spoons. You could even get your children their own kid-friendly cookware sets like these.  When kids play a role in cooking (something very “adult”), they are really proud of that and are more likely to eat the food they prepare. This also provides you with valuable bonding time and helps kids get more familiar with different foods.

5. Don’t give up

According to current data, it takes a child  being exposed to a new food about 12 times before they are willing to even try it. Be patient and just keep re-exposing them to that food. Continue to put healthy snacks into their lunches, but don’t be surprised or upset when those snacks come home at the end of the day. Keep putting them back in there.

6. Find opportunities to work in more vegetables

I’m not necessarily saying to be sneaky and hide veggies in your kids’ food. What I’m saying is that there are foods out there that are great opportunities for enriching them with even more vegetables and it won’t be a big deal in terms of flavor or texture. For example, pasta sauce can be loaded with different veggies, like peppers, mushrooms, even carrots and broccoli, and you can always toss it in a blender if it’s too chunky with those veggies added. Another great option are sweet potato brownies. You cut down on the sugar and flour and use sweet potato instead – it creates a brownie that is always fudgy in texture and your child gets to eat lots of fiber and phytonutrients. Here is my favorite sweet potato brownie recipe.

7. Eliminate sugary beverages

Perhaps the greatest thing you can do for your child’s health is to eliminate soda, juice, and other sugary beverages from their diet. Yes, even juice. When you juice a fruit (or a vegetable) you are destroying the fiber in it and that leaves little to nothing to buffer against the sugars in it. So essentially you end up with a glass of sugar with some nutrients in it. The American Heart Association recommends that children ages 2-18 consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day but the average American child consumes over 75 grams of added sugar a day and soda and fruits drinks are 2 of the biggest contributors to that. Without going into scare tactics, we know that excess sugar consumption as a child leads to chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension just to name a few. Instead of sugary drinks, try giving your child water with fresh or frozen fruit in it or seltzer instead of soda. And, if you are going to allow them to have soda or juice, make sure that it is on a very rare occasion.

How to Motivate Your Family to Be Healthier

It’s a tale as old as time. One parent wants to start eating healthier, maybe lose some weight, get more active, etc. but they’re thrown off track time and time again because the rest of the family isn’t on board. Maybe the problem is that you have to keep a package of certain cookies in the house for your partner. Maybe it’s that you’re tired of preparing 2 dinners, one for you and one for everyone else. Maybe you’re missing your after-dinner walks because everyone would rather watch TV and you don’t want to miss out on valuable family time. Whatever the big issues are, it can make it very challenging to work on your healthy habits when the rest of the household is not working on theirs. So what can you do?

Start Small

You can’t expect everyone to jump right on whatever plan you have right off the bat. Instead, start small. Maybe find an outdoors activity your whole family enjoys doing together, like bike-riding or hiking. Maybe you can get your kids to choose a healthy recipe and cook it with you. Maybe you can swap out those favorite store-bought brownie bites for some homemade ones with less sugar and some sweet potato in them. The easiest way to create big change is to start with little ones.

Use that Team Mentality

It may sound silly but language is super important. It can help unify your family around your goals. Practice using “we” and “our.” For example, “these are the foods we eat,” “we like to get moving outside,” “we are taking good care of ourselves.” This is especially important when it comes to your kids.

Use Relatable Justifications

Telling a child that they should eat broccoli because it’s good for them will get you nowhere fast. You know this. “Good for you” means nothing to a child. The same goes for “healthy.” But, if you can relate the benefits of that health food to something your child wants or enjoys, then you may be in luck. For example, instead of telling your child to eat the chicken because they need the protein, explain to them that eating chicken will help them get stronger and better at biking. Or instead of telling them that their vegetables are good for them, tell them eating vegetables will make them run even faster at their soccer game. Or their avocado will make them do well on their test tomorrow because it makes their brain grow.  These are relatable things that makes sense in a child’s mind.

Clearly Communicate Why these Changes are Important to You

Your partner needs to know how important these changes are to you so that they can support you. Really get down to your big WHY about these changes and share that with your partner. Knowing how important getting healthier is to you makes it more likely that they will be more supportive of your efforts.

Keep It Collaborative

Unilaterally taking certain foods away or trying to secretly swap them out for healthier ones can be a recipe for disaster and meltdowns. Try allowing your family to pick a food they are willing to try a healthier option for and let them choose a substitution from a small selection. Remember to only incorporate one food swap at a time so that you’re not overwhelming them with overhaul and creating pushback and resentment.

Make Healthy Foods More Accessible than Unhealthy Ones

You may find that if you leave a plate of cut veggies and fruits out and ready, your family will be more likely to grab those as they are right out in front of them than to hunt around for or demand junk food snacks. Once they start eating healthier foods, they will begin to become part of the routine.

Model the Behavior You Want to See

Lead by example. If your family perceives that you are not taking these changes seriously, then they won’t either.

Have you ever struggled to get your family on board with healthier habits? What techniques worked for you? Share them in the comments below!

 

What to do with the Halloween candy scaries

If the thought of storing several jumbo bags of “fun-sized” candy in your house for the next couple weeks has your despairing, if you’re wondering how you’re going to resist eating your child’s candy loot, if you’re thinking of just skipping Halloween for the sake of your diet altogether, then read on. If not, power to you, but read on anyway in case you know someone this would be helpful to 🙂

Halloween is just the first of several upcoming holidays known to fill our homes with less-than-healthy temptations. From the giant bags of candy you buy to pass out to the trick-or-treaters to the orange bucket of candy your own child brings home, this can be a tough time for those of us looking to watch our waistlines, reduce our sugar intake, or just eat healthier in general. So here are my tips for having fun this spooky season without going off the rails completely.

1.Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Once you’ve bought your stock of candy to give out on Halloween night, don’t keep it out in the open or in an easily accessible location. Each of us probably knows all too well how easy it is to pop open one of those bags for “just a few” pieces of candy and have that turn into needing to go buy more candy. It’s not you and it’s not all just a lack of willpower. Our bodies are programmed to crave those caloric, sugary, fatty foods, especially this time of the year and junk food companies known exactly how to capitalize on that from the ingredients they use all the way down to the packaging.

Take those bags of candy and store them somewhere out of the way and out of your sight until Halloween night (make sure you remember where you put them, of course). It has been proven that when junk food is within our vision or easily accessible to us, we will choose that over healthy options most of the time (even if we don’t really want to). Putting those bags of candy away will help keep you on track and eliminate that extra temptation.

2. Participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project

If candy is your arch nemesis and you would prefer to just not have it in the house at all, then grab a teal pumpkin and hand out non-candy items (like glow sticks, bookmarks, funky erasers, etc.) on Halloween to help include children with food allergies in the spooky fun. This will keep your stress about overindulging at bay and will also benefit kids with food allergies who just want to trick or treat like their friends. Learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project and register your address online here.  

3. Have some fun and then be done

Life is all about balance and you should absolutely get a chance to enjoy some sweets this Halloween season. The key is setting a stopping point and sticking to it. One of the best parts about Halloween as a kid was always bringing a piece or two of candy with you to school in your lunch box. So I suggest keeping the candy around for just one week after Halloween. Allow yourself and/or your kids, just one or two pieces a day (assuming they’re the “fun size”) and stick to that. Once that week is up, get rid of the candy. You can throw it out (I know, I know) or you can donate it, which is what I recommend because it’s also a great way to teach your kids about helping others and sharing. There are loads of veterans organizations that collect leftover candy to send to troops overseas in their care packages. A simple Google search should point you to one near you.

4. Hand out healthier snacks instead

I know that neighbor tends to get a bad rep, but you could hand out healthier options such as mini boxes of raisins, snack bags of pretzels, or clementines to toss out just a few ideas. Doing this will keep more sugar out of your house and you might actually be doing another parent or child a favor as well.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

Most importantly, if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Getting down on yourself is a recipe for a downward spiral and kicking your own butt at the gym isn’t going to undo it. The best thing you can do for yourself in situations like that is to own that you didn’t do what you had hoped you would and resolve to do better going forward. This is important not just for yourself but for your kids who, whether you know it or not, watch your every move and hear your every word. This is a chance to teach them how to love themselves and have a healthy relationship with food.

 

Bonus advice:

While we’re on the topic of setting an example for our kids, watching the language that you use around food is also really important. Dubbing some foods “bad” or saying they’ll make you fat can very adversely affect your child’s relationship with food going forward and can create feelings of shame around it. So when you’re talking to children about why you’re giving away the leftover candy or limiting how much you eat, I suggest using language along the lines of: this isn’t everyday food so we are only going to have a little and then share with some other people. Foods like fruits and vegetables help keep us from getting sick and help us do better in school, but candy doesn’t do any of those things for us so we don’t need to eat a lot of it. Instead we have a little and we focus on eating more of the foods that help us grow bigger and smarter.

 

Quick and Simple Tomato Sauce

As I was just writing my review of Flatzza sprouted grain pizza crusts, it occurred to me that I should share my recipe for a quick and easy pizza sauce. I prefer to make my own sauce for pizza and pasta for a couple reasons: 1. it’s cheaper than buying store-bought sauce, 2. I can avoid that added sugar and sodium found in jarred sauces, and 3. I can make it taste however I want. I came up with this in a pinch one night and it’s been my go-to ever since: simple, quick, easy, yummy.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tsbp tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsbp of fresh or dried oregano
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Process:

  1. In a large sauce pan, heat about 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring and mashing it in the oil.
  2. Add the oregano and stir around, cooking for about a minute.
  3. Using your hands, squish and smoosh the tomatoes into the pan (be careful of splatter!) and pour in the liquid from the can.
  4. Further smoosh up the tomatoes with your spoon or spatula and bring to a low simmer. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Allow sauce to cook for at least 5-10 minutes. The tomato paste will thicken it as it cooks and the flavors will further incorporate the longer it goes. You can add any additional seasonings you’d like!

Super easy, right?!

Load it up for a veggie-loaded pasta sauce

Have a hard time getting your kids to eat their vegetables? Working veggies into your pasta sauce is a great way to get them to. Simply take this pasta sauce and add the following veggies to it. If your kids are super picky and will balk at chunks in the sauce, simply dump it in the blender and puree it all together.

  • 1/2 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 bell pepper (any color but green), diced
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup broccoli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped

Simply sauté these veggies in the pan until they’re soft before adding the tomato paste in Step 1 above. You can add other vegetables to this as well, like finally chopped spinach or kale. Adding a chopped mushroom with a meaty texture, like oyster mushrooms, can give this sauce a bolognese feel.

How to Handle the Leftovers

Let’s be honest, our big holiday dinners aren’t a one-time event – we end up with refrigerators full of leftovers for days. Either way, despite your best efforts, during the holiday season you may very often find your home full of temptations and those can be the undoing of many health goals. For most of us, if it’s there, then we are going to eat it. So how should you handle having those leftovers, whether they’re appetizers, from the meal, or candy?

Food waste has long been an issue that bothers me to the core so, for a long time, I was the type of person who would keep it in the house and eat it, even if it wasn’t good for me. Then, at the beginning of my weight management journey, at a meeting of a weight loss program that I will not mention here, I was given one gift. In that meeting the group leader was talking about throwing away junk food and many of us were visibly not cool with that idea. Then she said something to the effect of the following: food contains nutrients that nourish, heal, and support your body and your health. Junk food does not contain anything that does any good for your body. Therefore, we need to stop thinking of junk food as food and get comfortable with putting it in the garbage.

Am I saying to throw all of your leftovers out? No. What it really comes down to is balance.

We, as human beings, eat for two reasons: 1. to survive, and 2. for enjoyment. If you’re not eating any foods you enjoy, if you’re not treating yourself, then you’re only getting half the experience and, on top of that, you’re going to feel deprived and unhappy….and maybe a little cranky.

So here is my advice for those leftovers after you have mindfully enjoyed your holiday dinner, party, etc.:

Set Deadlines

Just like you need to set boundaries with people who maybe aren’t so good for you to be around, you need to set boundaries with foods that aren’t so good for you, too. Having those unhealthy foods in your fridge or pantry for a week is too long – that could be 7 days straight of indulging and, the longer you’re off the bandwagon, the harder it is to jump back on.

I recommend setting a deadline of 3 days. After those 3 days are up, sort through what you have and part ways with those problems foods – like gravy, candied yams, green bean casserole, pies, white bread rolls, cranberry sauce (sorry – it’s basically just sugar), etc. Keep the good things – the veggies, the turkey (not the skin), whole grains, you get it.

Moderation and Mindfulness

Just because you have the foods from the big holiday meal, doesn’t mean you have to replicate that big holiday meal every time you have some leftovers. Before you toss those unhealthy options out, you should absolutely enjoy some – but do so with moderation and mindfulness. What does that mean?

Start with smaller portions. Using a smaller plate is helpful for this. I also recommend dishing out your small portion and then putting everything back in the fridge even before you warm up what’s on your plate – this will help curb that temptation to pile more on your plate or go back for seconds.

Finally, eat that delicious, indulgent food slowly, chew it completely, really enjoy it. Eating slowly and mindfully allows you to get more enjoyment out of your food and you will feel more satisfied by it. Don’t forget that digestion begins in your mouth with the process of chewing and salivation and your stomach doesn’t register the food you put in it right away – eating slowly will help you absorb more nutrients from your food and help prevent overeating.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you have some less perishable leftovers – maybe some candy that never got opened or alcohol that wasn’t drunk – and you want to use them at your next get together, remember the old refrain “out of sight, out of mind.”

It seems simple and almost silly, but it’s been proven that if you aren’t able to see those temptation foods, you will forget about them and they won’t tempt you. With this in mind, put those treats in the back of the cupboard with lots of healthful foods in front of them, or put them on a bottom shelf with healthful foods at eye level. You could also put them in an opaque container so you can’t see them. It’s been shown that having healthful foods fully visible and unhealthful foods not visible or out of reach prevents people from opting for the unhealthy foods and getting off track.

A quick note on food donation: I deliberately didn’t suggest donating leftovers in this post for several reasons. One is that many pantries and soup kitchens will not accept homemade or opened donations for sanitary reasons. Additionally, most leftovers are perishable which makes it difficult for pantries and kitchens to take them as they will spoil too quickly. That said, if you have unopened items, then by all means, donate away.

Following these three pieces of advice will help you enjoy the holiday fun without getting completely off track. Wishing you good health this holiday season!

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

One of the questions that I get a lot is what kinds of things can you substitute for dessert that still taste good and satisfy that sweet craving. Without fail, this recipe is my top suggestion. It combines the healthy fats of an avocado with the antioxidants of cocoa and it tastes just like a chocolate pudding cup without the added chemicals and preservatives and with less sugar. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Really? Avocado? That can’t be good. Just trust me on this one. You will be pleasantly surprised.

One thing to remember with this recipe is that, just like an avocado that is left cut for a while and starts to tastes weird, that will happen with this, too. The brown avocado flavor will start to come through if you allow this to sit for too long. Fortunately, this recipe is so quick and easy to make that it won’t be a problem to just whip it up whenever you’re ready. And you definitely won’t have any leftovers!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large, ripe avocado (not overripe)
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar (optional, but recommended)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.
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The final product looks just like regular chocolate pudding and it tastes like it, too!

I think this mousse tastes better cold, personally, so I suggest popping it in the fridge or the freezer for a little bit to chill it.

Try topping it with homemade whipped cream, chopped nuts, or shredded coconut before serving. This also makes a great lunchbox snack – just scoop some into a small tupperware and you have a DIY Jell-O pudding cup.

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