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Healthy Treats for Halloween

Growing up, I loved trick-or-treating. As an adult, I still love trick-or-treating with my daughter. Breathing in the crisp fall air and feeling the leaves crunch under my shoes as I tromp down the street with my little princess – literally – always brings back the excitement I experienced in pursuit of the perfect Halloween haul. As a kid, time was precious, only a few short hours to knock as many doors as possible and fill up our pillow cases. And then, without fail, each year, there was always that one house that gave raisins, or an apple, or any number of other sham treats. An odious time waster, delaying us from our search for the house that gives king-size candy bars.

As an adult, I appreciate the motivations behind these well-meaning neighbors. Due to the risk of obesity, chronic disease, dental disease, and displacement of vital nutrients in the diet, the World Health Organization earlier this year proposed a new recommendation that added sugar should be no more than 5% of an individual’s daily calories. This means younger elementary-school-aged children should limit their added sugar to no more than 15g, while older elementary-school-aged children may be able to consume as much as 30g each day, bearing in mind all forms of sugar count. One fun-sized snickers contains 17g added sugar, more sugar than a young child should consume in the entire day! Wouldn’t it be commendable then to curb the sugar binging and offer a healthy treat to the neighborhood children this year? I couldn’t agree more, provided you actually give a “treat.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines treat as, “an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.” I would argue that raisins, for most children, are not a treat. At school, it was common to open the lunch my mother packed and find the little red box featuring the Sun Maid. I can’t recall it ever once bringing me great pleasure. In fact, attempts by neighbors to pass those desiccated atrocities off as treats elicited the opposite emotion – feelings of resentment that tainted my opinion of raisins for years after. I sometimes think these negative associations may have been responsible for my dislike of the California Raisins TV show and my dislike of Raisin Bran® throughout my teenage years. I am happy to report, however, that I have healed and now enjoy eating raisins, despite these traumatic experiences of my youth.

This year, as you contemplate what to give out for Halloween, consider looking for a healthy treat. Find something that doesn’t contribute to the already excessive sugar consumption that is gripping our children. But, still make it a treat. Consider giving puzzle games, magic tricks, sticky hands, glow sticks, or any number of other trinkets that can be purchased through the Oriental Trading Company. Remember that events are included in the definition of treat. A spook alley in your back yard, Halloween carnival with fun games, or free entrance passes to local attractions may all be suitable substitutes for candy. Food items aren’t completely taboo. Nuts can be a great treat for kids and many are made with few added sugars. Cocoa (not chocolate) coated almonds with little added sugar, lightly candied walnuts, marcona almonds, or pistachios are all great options. Veggie crisps and fruit leather may also be appealing to some. As with raisins, however, they may come with some resentment. Consider having a few options so children can choose the treats that most appeal to them. No matter what you choose to offer this year for Halloween, above all, remember to make it a treat.

By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Nutrition Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease.
 

PUREtrail Mix, a Tasty Treat!

Looking for fun, creative ways to use your PUREtrail Mix?   Check out our new PUREtrail Mix document available on our recipes page.

 

 

 

Add Flavor to Your Recipes with Essential Oils

Essential oils can make a great addition to many recipes. A very small amount of oil is all it takes to enhance the aroma and flavor of a variety of dishes. While you may be able to find many recipes that incorporate essential oils, the following tips can be used to modify your favorites or create some of your own. 

Be cautious when selecting essential oils to use in your recipes. While many essential oils are generally recognized as safe by the FDA and frequently used by food manufacturers, others may be toxic if ingested. Always follow the recommendations from your essential oil manufacturer, and only use ones intended for human consumption in your recipes. Also, essential oils may be contaminated by pesticides, so always look for organic essential oils, which are extracted from crops where pesticides are not used.

  • Start with one drop essential oil. Remember, essential oils are potent. Too much essential oil can ruin a recipe. Where possible, add the oil at the end, so you can gradually increase the amount of essential oil, according to taste.
  • Heat and time will diminish oil efficacy. Another benefit of adding essential oils just before serving is that heat and time will cause the oil to vaporize from your food. Another name for essential oil is volatile oil. The name is very appropriate, as oils will begin to vaporize even at room temperature. Adding a little heat will cause them to vaporize at a faster rate and may even distort the beneficial properties of the oil. Using lids on cookware may slow the vaporization process slightly; however, it does nothing to maintain the oils beneficial properties.
  • A little heat may be desirable for some recipes, however. Vaporization not only diminishes the potency of the oil, but it also subtly changes the flavor and aroma of the oil. When heated, the lighter fragrances of the oil vaporize first, leaving the deeper, richer parts of the oil. Strong oils such as basil, coriander, oregano, rosemary, and sage may taste and smell better when simmered over low heat to make the flavor more subtle.
  • Add the oil to a liquid. Essential oils are best when added to sauces, dressings, marinades, or other liquids. When added to a liquid, the oil disburses throughout the entire liquid. Applying oils directly to non-liquid ingredients will cause uneven disbursement of the oil, with some parts of the dish being more flavorful than others. Adding the essential oil to a cooking oil before mixing it into your recipe can be a good way to ensure a consistent flavor throughout the dish.
  • Many spices can be replaced by essential oils. While the amount of oil required to substitute spices in a recipe will vary depending on the oil used and the recipe, there are some general rules of thumb that can get you started. One teaspoon dried herb can typically be replaced by one drop of essential oil. 1 tablespoon citrus zest may be substituted for 1/8 teaspoon (about 8 drops) of essential oil.


The uses for essential oil in cooking are limitless. Get creative! Try adding a hint of lavender to melted chocolate then dip strawberries; a few drops of citrus oil may enhance chilled drinks; try a little peppermint in your cocoa or tea; dip a toothpick into clove oil and mix it into peach jam; a drop of cinnamon oil in oatmeal can be a great way to start your day. Give your foods the flavor and aroma you crave by preparing them with essential oils.

By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Nutrition Specialist

 

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease.

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year; the colors, cooler weather, fall-inspired food, smells, and of course football season. Some of my favorite memories growing up involved eating with the family and watching the Dallas Cowboys play…those were the days. Game day used to mean giving up on a healthy diet for the entire day and eating fattening, calorie-laden foods. Tailgating is another popular football experience that is all about creating new memories with family and friends, but often revolves around food to enhance the experience. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized tailgating no longer means throwing my healthy lifestyle out the window, and living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean giving up on delicious foods and drinks. Try tackling some of these healthy tips and alternatives without a personal foul to your health: 

  1. Go to your tailgate with a plan in mind. Many calories are consumed while mindlessly munching away, watching the game and talking with friends and family. If you know you’re an out-of-control grazer, allow yourself to fill a small plate and then situate yourself away from the food to reduce temptation. By eating your food away from large serving dishes, it’ll give you a chance to think about whether you really want that second helping, while controlling your caloric intake.
  2. Some people may find that hunger is the primary motivation to eat at a tailgate. Arriving satiated may be a good way to improve self-control. If this is you, eat a snack or meal before you go, focusing on lean protein; some healthy fats, such as nuts; and drink plenty of water to avoid being dehydrated, which could also lead to hunger.
  3. Unless you’re one of those standing (and possibly yelling) at the television during the entire game, then you probably are not moving much during the game. Find ways to be more active! Get a game of touch football or catch going during pregame and/or half-time. Grab a friend and go for a walk! Get away from the food and enjoy the refreshing fall weather.
  4. Before diving in, survey your options and find the healthy choices. If the fruit and vegetable trays leave you less than enthused, other options include a deli tray with small pieces of cheese, turkey or ham; a small bowl of chili (sans cheese or sour cream); or a hearty soup or stew.
  5. Be a team player and contribute to the party! Bring a delicious guilt-free main course or side dish that both you and other guests will enjoy. This is especially helpful if you have food sensitivities or allergies.
    • Choose chicken kabobs with veggies over sodium-laden wings. If you must have your chicken wings, grill or bake them using a dry rub with lemon or lime juice and seasonings. As an alternative twist to the typical dip and glaze, you can also create your own honey mustard recipe.
    • Create some sliders with ground turkey or lean beef instead of regular size burger patties.
    • Use whole wheat buns and bring fixings such as lettuce, tomato, avocado, and mustard.
    • Substitute Greek yogurt in recipes that call for mayonnaise or sour cream.
    • Create a chili full of healthy beans, vegetables, and chicken or lean beef.
    • Create some stuffed bell peppers or make individual pizzas packed with vegetables on whole wheat crust.
    • The opportunities are endless!
  6. Choose your dips and sides wisely -- skip the basic ranch dip and use guacamole, hummus or salsa for your vegetables. Stick with the fall theme and try an artichoke or pumpkin dip. For different sides, try a slaw made of Brussel sprouts and a black bean corn salad. Bake your own pita or kale chips, or try baked sweet potato fries.
  7. You’ve made it this far; don’t blow it on dessert! Get creative and dip strawberries in dark chocolate. You can then use white chocolate to make seams and call them mini footballs. Create fruit skewers using your team colors. Use spiced pumpkin or bake some fresh fall apples.
  8. What about alcohol? Sometimes, nothing sounds better than wings and your favorite fall beer or cider. However, alcohol not only contributes to extra calories, but it lowers inhibitions and dehydrates your body. If you do choose to drink alcohol, use club soda as a mixer instead of sugary juices or syrups. Pace yourself and alternate with plenty of plain or fruit-infused water to avoid dehydration. Don’t let alcohol derail all your hard work and ruin your game plan!

Remember, living a healthy lifestyle does not mean you have to deprive yourself. If you’re hosting the tailgate, create your own recipes, so no one knows they are getting healthier options. If you’re a spectator, volunteer to help out and bring a dish or two! Small changes and adjustments can go a long way toward nourishing your body. Enjoy your food while cheering on your team. See you on Super Bowl Sunday!

By Amy Kurtz BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach
Wellness Education Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease.
 

 

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