Better Halloween Candy Options

Let’s face it, it’s next to impossible to completely avoid candy temptations around Halloween especially if you have young children. The harmful effects of excess sugar consumption have clearly been demonstrated and pushed into the public eye, however Americans continue to spend an outrageous amount of money on candy each year around Halloween (2.5 billion dollars’ worth to be exact).  While nobody wants to be *that house* handing out raisins and pencils to trick-or-treaters, you can compromise by offering healthier alternatives to the traditional candies given out this time of year. Let’s take a look:

What to avoid:

-Artificial colors: While the jury is still out on the safety of food dyes, numerous studies have linked artificial colors to health problems such as allergic reactions, behavioral issues, and cancer. Luckily, they are easy to spot on ingredients labels with names like Red #40 and Yellow #5.

-Full sized candy bars: Fun-sized portions allow for much better portion control than their fill sized counterparts.

-Allergens: Even if you’re allergy-free, many of your trick-or-treaters may not be so lucky. Choose candy that is free of the 8 common allergens to give kids with food allergies.

What to look for:

-Organic ingredients: Organic candy might not be more nutritious, but it will keep out any unnecessary pesticides and chemicals.

-Ingredients you can pronounce: The shorter the ingredient list, the better!

-Nutrition: If you’re going to be eating all that sugar, you can at least get some nutritional benefits like vitamins, minerals, and protein! Compare nutrition fact labels to find more nutritious options.

With this in mind, here are some brands that offer healthier options for you and your trick-or-treaters:

Yum Earth Organics Sour Twists

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Yum Earth carries a variety of candy including sour twists, lollipops, gummy bears, licorice, fruit snacks, and hard candy. The sour twists are organic, gluten-, dairy-, nut-, soy-and egg-free. They are also free from artificial colors and instead are colored with carrot, black currant, and turmeric!

Trader Joe’s Organic Pops

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These lollipops from Trader Joe’s are organic and free from common allergens. They are colored with red cabbage, purple carrots, turmeric, and annatto instead of artificial sweeteners which makes them a great choice for kids!

Surf Sweets Organic Watermelon Rings

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Surf Sweets offers a variety of candies such as DelishFish (their version of Swedish Fish), fruit chews, gummy bears/worms, jelly beans, and peach rings. These watermelon rings are vegan, free of artificial sweeteners, and even include 100% DV of vitamin C!

Justin’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups

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These peanut butter cups but Reese’s to shame by being organic, gluten-free, sustainably-sourced, and containing 5 grams of protein per serving! There is even a dark chocolate option for people who want to boost their antioxidant intake!

UnReal Milk Chocolate Gems

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UnReal products are made with sustainable and organic ingredients in addition to being vegan and free from artificial colors. These are a great option for M&M lovers out there (and yes, these are the candies that TB12 Tom Brady is a spokesperson for).

Kind Fruit Bites

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These new Kind Fruit Bites have no added sugar because they are made completely with fruit! They are all organic and some flavors have up to 2 grams of fiber per pouch!

How to Reduce Sugar Cravings

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Since October is a notoriously sugar-friendly month, there’s no better time to get real about sugar cravings. We’ve all had them, however the question becomes whether it’s a true physical desire for food or a mental one. When I see clients who tell me they have sweet tooth, there are usually some common threads:

Lack of sleep

Many studies have linked a lack of sleep to weight gain, and the reason has to do with hormones. When you’re not getting enough sleep your body increases production of a hormone called cortisol (aka the stress hormone), which causes the body to store fat.  People who are sleep deprived also tend to feel hungrier, which is an effect also explained by your hormones. Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite is higher in those who are sleep deprived, while leptin, the satiety hormone, tends to be lower.  Cravings are highest for simple carbohydrates and sugar because they provide the quickest jolt of energy.

Not eating enough during the day

In an attempt to restrict calories, people often severely limit their food intake earlier in the day only to end up overeating later on in the day because they’re starving! It’s also much harder to make rational food decisions when your body needs something right away. To avoid this trap, make sure you’re going no more than 4-5 hours without eating and listen to your hunger cues.

Following a restrictive diet

Chronic dieters tend to develop all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to food. They label foods as “good” and “bad” and feel like they completely blew their diet if they have even a little bit of the “bad” stuff. The guilt that comes with failing the diet leads to overindulgence and the promise to start fresh on Monday. Healthy eating is not that black and white though, so start to look at your eating habits as shades of gray. Your diet will be much more sustainable if you include treats in moderation!

Emotional Eating

Often times, people use food to cope with their emotions whether it be boredom, sadness, loneliness, or even joy! The types of food the person turns too depends largely on the person and what they are feeling, but rarely have I seen a client turn to salad when they’re feeling sad. Next time you go to grab a late night cookie, stop and ask yourself whether you’re angry/bored/etc., or actually genuinely hungry. Then, learn to cope with your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food.

Should I Avoid Nightshades?

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With the TB12 book coming out a few weeks ago, I’ve had quite a few questions about the claims that he makes in the book. One of claims Tom Brady makes is that he avoid nightshade vegetables to reduce inflammation. I did some research, and here is what I found.

Nightshades are a group of vegetables that are in the Solanceae family of plants. The Latin name stems from the plants’ production of the compound solanine, which is toxic to insects and thus acts as a defense system for the plants. Although many nightshades are inedible, like tobacco for instance, there are a few that are staples in most people’s diets including potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers (including spices made from peppers like paprika and red pepper flakes).

After reviewing the research, I can firmly say that there is no need for the general population to avoid nightshades. There is very little research on the topic, and the research that does point to nightshades being harmful is flawed. The studies either fed an outrageous amount of solanine to the mice in the study (one study replaced 2/3 of mice’s diets with green potatoes), or straight out failed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship by basing their results on surveys or anecdotal evidence.

There is some evidence that a small amount of people may have a sensitivity to solanine which could cause inflammation if ingested. I can’t say if this is the case for Tom Brady or not, but just because it may be an issue for some doesn’t mean you should avoid these vegetables. If you do, you’ll be missing out on beneficial compounds including a variety of antioxidants like vitamin C and lycopene which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects!

10 Apple Recipes for Fall

Apple season is upon us! I go apple picking almost every year and, even as someone who loves to cook, it can be hard to find ways to use up all those apples. If you find yourself in a similar predicament this fall, no need to panic! Here are 10 tried and true recipes that are seasonal and delicious!

1- Apple Crisp Baked Oatmeal

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2- Crock Pot Stuffed Apples 

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3-Butternut Squash Apple Soup

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4- Apple Cider Sangria 

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5- Crock Pot Applesauce 

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6- Fall Kale Salad with Honeycrisp Apple

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7- Autumn Braised Chicken with Roasted Apples and Grapes 

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8-Zucchini Carrot Apple Muffins 

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9- Apple Cider Baked Chicken 

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10- Apples and Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa 

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Healthy Homemade Apple Cider Donuts

After taking a summer hiatus from blogging, I am back with a bang with these delightful apple cider donuts! They are made a bit healthier by using whole wheat flour, reducing the amount of sugar most recipes call for, and by baking them instead of frying. In fact, there is only half a tablespoon of added sugar per donut which comes almost entirely from honey, not refined sugar! I have to give my husband the credit for the idea to make a healthy apple cider donut. He is an absolute donut fanatic and gave these the thumbs up!

Healthy Homemade Apple Cider Donuts

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cinnamon (divided)
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil (divided)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • ½ Tbsp. sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray donut pans with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
  3. In a small bowl, combine 3 Tbsp. coconut oil, apple cider, honey, and egg and whisk to combine.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to combine.
  5. Spoon mixture into donut pan until each well is evenly filled about half-way.
  6. Bake for 7 minutes and allow to cool before removing from the pan.
  7. Meanwhile, make the cinnamon sugar topping by combining sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon. Stir to combine.
  8. Brush 1 Tbsp. coconut oil over the tops of the donuts. Dip the oiled-side of the donuts in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Enjoy!

Total Body Circuit Workout

This is supposed to be a fitness and nutrition blog, but so far I’ve focused primarily on nutrition. Today I wanted to share a total body workout that will strengthen your muscles and boost your heart rate. This workout will take about 45-60 minutes, but be sure to include a warm up and cool down. Feel free to modify as needed!

Complete each circuit 3 times through before moving to the next one.

Circuit #1:

-shoulder press into a bicep curl- 12 reps

-walking lunges with weight- 15 down, 15 back

-lat pulldown- 12 reps

-high knees- 30 seconds

1 minute plank

Circuit #2:

-chest press in bridge position- 12 reps

-single leg bridges- 15 each side

-scissor kicks- 15 each side

-mountain climbers- 30 seconds

1 minute plank

Circuit #3:

-reverse fly- 12 reps

-goblet squat- 12 reps

-deadbugs- 10 each side

-power jacks- 30 seconds

1 minute plank

 

 

*Please note that even though I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your trainer. Consult with a doctor and/or personal trainer before starting an exercise routine.

Weekly Meal Plan 9

Hi everyone! Another short week of meals here on the blog because I spent the last 6 days in Canada! Nonetheless, I had a short week of homemade meals as well as some delicious meals eaten out in Vancouver.

Sunday- Turkey burgers with zucchini with a side salad

I usually make my favorite Greek turkey burgers with spinach and feta, but to mix it up I made these turkey burgers with grated zucchini. I love sneaking an extra serving of vegetables into my meals to make them more nutritious and add some extra flavor! This would be a great way to get picky eaters and kids to eat more veggies.

Monday- Creamy lemon spring vegetable pasta

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I’ve made some sort of “spring vegetable” grain dish for a few weeks now. Since spring is usually short lived around these parts, I love taking advantage of spring produce while it’s in season. Not only do seasonal fruits and vegetables taste better and fresher, it is also cheaper to buy them in season and better for the environment!

Tuesday- Grilled chicken bruschetta

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This is a go-to dinner of mine once the weather gets nice enough to grill. The tomato, mozzarella, onion, and basil salad that goes along with this recipe is so simple yet so flavorful! For those of you who don’t love the typical garden salad, this would be a great side dish option.

Wednesday- Kale Caesar salad

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Since I knew we would be on vacation for the next 6 days, I wanted our last meal to be something light (and something that wouldn’t leave us with leftovers!). I used this Caesar dressing (minus the anchovies, plus 1 Tbls. capers) and mixed it with kale, parmesan cheese, and homemade whole wheat croutons. My intention was to throw in a can of chickpeas for protein, but must have skipped them on my grocery list so we were chickpea-less. I did have some sunflower seeds though, so I tossed quite a few in for a bit of a protein boost.

Thursday- Vegan burgers and fries from MeeT

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Thursday night was our first night in Vancouver so Michael and I went downtown to explore. We checked out a part of the city called Gastown around dinner time so we checked out the menus of a few restaurants until we walked by a burger place called Meet that had a line out the door. You know that if a place has a line it must be good, so we put our names in and was told it was only a 20 minute wait. While we were waiting, we realized that these burgers weren’t your typical beef burgers, but vegan burgers that are made with a base of barley and vegetables. This kind of place is right up my alley, so it made the experience that much better! We even started with “chiggin’ wings” which were the vegan equivalent of chicken wings but made with pea and soy protein. I wouldn’t say the chicken wings and burgers tasted exactly like their non-vegan counterparts, but they tasted awesome and came pretty close.

Friday- Poke

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If you’ve never heard of poke, it’s essentially sushi in bowl form with a rice base, raw fish, and various vegetables/sauces. The seafood in the Pacific Northwest is out of this world, so I actually ended up getting poke twice during the trip. The one in the picture is from lunch the day before and was made with brown rice, salmon (that the owner said was caught and cut that day), seaweed salad, avocado, dried seaweed, sunflower seeds, scallions, and most likely a couple more things that I’m forgetting about.

Saturday- Wedding!

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I won’t say too much about the wedding food, except it was some of the most delicious wedding food I’ve ever had! They had tons of veggie options including 2 types of salad and cooked vegetables as well as lean proteins like chicken and salmon and some pasta dishes. Congrats Chris and Sienna! Your wedding was amazing!

Tropical Overnight Oats

I am certainly not the first person to post an overnight oats recipe on the internet, but there are so many variations on this quick and easy breakfast recipe that it can’t hurt to throw my two cents in. Oatmeal is my absolute favorite breakfast, but as the weather is warming up I’ve been trading my piping hot bowl of oats for nice and cool overnight oats. Overnight oats are great because you can put them together the night before and have breakfast ready for you in the morning, or even as a meal to take on the go. They are loaded with protein from the Greek yogurt and fiber from the oats and chia seeds. Although I opted for a tropical variety, overnight oats are easily customizable. To make the base, combine equal parts rolled oats, plain Greek yogurt, and milk (I usually aim for 1/3 to ½ cup each) with ½-1 Tbls. chia seeds. Some of my other favorite combos include peanut butter and coco powder, strawberries and almonds, and banana and walnuts.

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Tropical Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • ½ Tbls. chia seeds
  • ½ banana, sliced
  • ½ cup pineapple, diced into small pieces
  • 1 Tbls. unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients, except coconut, into a medium sized bowl or mason jar. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Add in coconut when ready to eat and enjoy!

Weekly Meal Plan #8

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry I keep posting these late. I’ve been busy with work and traveling and have fallen a bit behind. In fact, I’m typing up a few blog posts while 35,000 feet in the air on my way to Vancouver! Without further ado, here are the meals we enjoyed last week.

Sunday- Portillos chopped salad

I’ve talked about my love of this salad before, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see it again on the blog! We had some uncooked turkey bacon in the fridge that I wanted to use up in this recipe, but unfortunately when I opened the packaged it was a gray-ish color and smelt off. Gross. Instead, I added some grilled chicken into the mix for extra protein.

Monday- Turkey sausage, kale, and white bean soup

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I had a lot of later-nights work wise this week, so I wanted my meals to be quick and able to be prepped ahead of time. I made this soup on Sunday and only had to worry about heating it up on Monday night. It was okay, but I probably wouldn’t make it again. Even though it included a hefty dose of leafy greens, there wasn’t much going on flavor-wise.

Tuesday- Chicken avocado salad with peanut dressing

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As opposed to the soup we ate the night before, this salad with bursting with flavor! I loved the Asian flavors in this salad as well as the textural variety that came from the creaminess of the avocado and crunchiness of the peanuts (I watch a lot of Chopped). I had also prepped the salad on Sunday, with the exception of slicing up with avocado and tossing in the dressing, so very little prep needed to be done the night of.

Wednesday- Panzanella salad marinated chickpeas and chimichurri

Three salad based dinner is one week! As I always tell my clients, there is no need to fear carbs as long as you are eating the right ones and doing so in moderation! The bread cubes in this salad were whole wheat (of course) and paired with lots of veggies, protein from the chickpeas, and healthy fats from the olive oil.

Thursday- Crock pot maple Dijon drumsticks with sautéed broccolini and baked sweet potato

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I had challenged my weight loss group to branch out and try new fruits and vegetables the week before, but since I had been traveling that week it completely slipped my mind to buy new fruits and vegetables to try myself! I’m sure I’ve had broccolini before, but don’t think I’ve ever prepared it at home. I’ll have to start adding it to my weekly routine because it was delicious! The credit goes completely to Michael who blanched the broccoli then sautéed it in a little olive oil, garlic, and pepper. Kudos to the chef!

Friday (Cinco de Mayo!)- Spicy fish tacos

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Who doesn’t love a good Mexican feast?? To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we made these fish tacos that were good, but not quite as good as my beloved clean eating fish tacos. The star of the show was really the chili-dusted mango margaritas we enjoyed them with.

Weekly Meal Plan #7

Tuesday- Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken with Edamame and Brown Rice

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We didn’t get back from Florida until late Monday night, so Tuesday morning was spent cleaning and doing the grocery shopping for the week until I had to leave for work. I needed something quick to make since there was no time to food prep, and this crockpot meal fit the bill. Edamame is a great side dish because all you have to do is microwave it and it’s ready to go!

Wednesday- Spring Vegetable Zucchini Noodle Soup with Chickpeas

As you know, I love making my own vegetable broth. Since it has (slowly) been getting warmer, we’ve been making less soups and our supply of vegetable scraps was starting to build up. I didn’t want to make a winter soup, so instead I made this soup that included all spring vegetables. To bulk up the protein, I added a can of chickpeas.

Thursday- Falafel with Pita, Tabbouleh, and Hummus

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I’m not going to lie, this meal took a lot of prep work, but it was worth it! Falafel that you get at restaurants is typically fried, but this falafel is baked to reduce the fat and calories. I got an extra dose of chickpeas from a homemade hummus. Whenever I have made tabbouleh in the past, I usually replaced the bulgur with another grain like quinoa or farro. I wanted to branch out a bit so I used bulgur, which is the typical grain used in the tabbouleh recipes. With some of the extra bulgur I bought, I made a warm bulgur porridge which was good too!

Friday- Chickpea, Pesto, Tomato, and Mozzarella Pasta

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I was on a roll with chickpeas last week! I took a basic chickpea, pesto, tomato, and mozzarella salad and added some whole wheat pasta to make it a feel like more of a meal. The pesto really tied all of these ingredients together. I think this would be a great, healthy dish to bring to a party or BBQ.

Saturday- Wine and cheese

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Saturday was a beautiful, 80 degree day and the best way to take advantage of that was to enjoy some wine and cheese on our freshly cleaned patio! Types Our spread included whole grain bread, Nut Thins, 4 types of cheese, dates, and dark chocolate covered almonds, peanuts, and raisins.