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The Tricks to Treating: Healthy Halloween Tips for You and Your Family

October 20, 2014

Chocolate bars, jelly beans, and taffy, oh my! Since January we’ve made strides to keep a healthy diet during the year’s festivities. We limited our chocolates on Valentine’s Day, we kept Easter dinner portions a reasonable size, and we held to a one hotdog maximum on the Fourth of July. But next thing we know its October and there are unavoidable candy bowls tempting us everywhere we look.

And while it’s okay to occasionally indulge in a bite-sized treat, the problem lies when one turns to two and two turns to…well, you get the idea. Eventually, we find ourselves with unintentional weight gain and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Meanwhile, the threat of an increase in hyperactivity and cavities in our children is giving us a bigger headache than our neighbor’s talking pumpkin.

Like in all things health and nutrition, careful planning is the key. Nutrition Lately has pulled together some simple tricks to help you and your family successfully ‘treat’ this Halloween.


Eating a healthy meal pre-‘trick-or-treating’ is your first defense against overindulging later. We often turn to candy first because our blood sugar is low and as a result we feel hungry. Before leaving home, serving a high-protein, high-fiber meal for you and family should keep temptations at bay for the next 2-3 hours.

A suggestion would be grilled chicken breast, wholegrain rice, broccoli florets, a glass of skim milk, and apple slices for dessert. Drinking plenty of water is also important for keeping cravings at bay. Revert back to your MyPlate guide for other suggestions and tips.


There are several alternatives to passing out candy on Halloween. Here are some suggestions that will make your neighbors both admire you and think twice about what they hand out next year:

  • Mini Toothbrushes
  • Halloween stickers
  • Rubber Balls
  • Party Favors
  • Colored Pencils
  • Raisins Packets
  • Key Chains


When kids get home from trick-or-treating, allow them to use their newly acquired candy as a sort of currency.  First, have kids pile through and choose favorites and non-favorites.  Then, make a wager with them that for every piece of candy they fork over they get a penny or nickel. Then kids can use their newly acquired money to buy something (non-food focused) at the store.  With the candy that is left, be sure to immediately stash out of sight. Allow kids to choose one piece a day and preferably after a meal.


Not all candy is created equal. When you do indulge, try to pick out the lowest calorie and sugar options available. Check out our list for some suggestions:


  • 3 Musketeers Miniatures- 24 calories– WINNER!
  • Milky Way Mini- 28 calories
  • Snicker Mini- 42.5 calories
  • Two Twix Bars- 160 calories
  • Peanut Butter Pumpkin- 180 calories
  • Almond Joy/Mounds- 200 calories


  • Include dark chocolate when possible for an antioxidant boost
  • Choose hard candies, which you can’t eat as quickly
  • Opt for the sugar-free candies, if provided

For more nutrition tips, suggestions and family friendly recipes, visit Kids Eat Right.

Elise Truman, MS, RD

Tips to Having a Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2014

Right smack dab in the midst of American Heart Month and just more than a month after our New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more comes yet another holiday that threatens to sabotage all progress made: St. Valentine’s Day.

Dinner invitations and chocolate-infested work places can easily distract us from our daily healthy eating plans. In light of the American Heart Health month Nutrition Lately has put together a heart healthy action plan to help lighten the load, literally, this Valentine’s Day.


Heart disease is the number one cause of death for the American population. This is because the disease is often tied to several other health risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association recommends a combination of good nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation, and stress management to be truly armed against this disease. Here are some staples of the heart healthy DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet:

  • Consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day
  • Consume 6-8 servings of grains a day. Make half of the grains whole grains.
  • Consume 4-5 servings of both fruits and vegetables a day. Get a variety!
  • Consume 2-3 servings of dairy a day. Choose low-fat options.
  • Choose lean meats, poultry and fish.
  • Add nuts, seeds, and legumes to your meals.


Start out with a healthy breakfast…

You’ve probably heard at least once before that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, it’s the truth. Eating a nutritious, protein and fiber-packed breakfast not only starts our metabolic engines, it helps us to avoid over eating later in the day which is especially important on a day like St. Valentine’s Day.

[NL] Tip: Start V-Day nutritiously: We recommend a delicious bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is packed with soluble fiber which binds like a gel to cholesterol to help flush it out of our bodies  We like One Hungry Mama’s suggestions for turning oatmeal into an appetizing way to start the day.

Dining Out…

Dining out is often fun and romantic part of Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, because someone else is preparing our food, we do not know exactly what is going into the preparation. Restaurant food often has hidden artery-clogging saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol.

[NL] Tip: Choose the right restaurant: Avoid restaurants that offer all-you-can-eat buffets because this often leads to over-consumption of fat and calories.

[NL] Tip: Decode the menu:  Words like au gratin, fried, sautéed and buttered should be clues that your meal will be prepared in fat. Opt for menu options with the words grilled, broiled, or roasted. Also, ask your server how foods are prepared and what ingredients they contain. Most restaurants are happy to prepare food to order to keep your business.

[NL] Tip: When all else fails, share. Sharing is caring, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. So this Valentine’s Day if you must indulge in high calorie dining options, such as steak or chocolate cake, share with the table. An easy way to keep portions in check is to start with dinner salads and share a main entrée and/or dessert.


Whether it’s the lingering candy bowl at the office, dinner out or our own home-baked treats, less-than-healthy temptations have us surrounded on Valentine’s Day. Here’s our heart healthy advice on common indulgences:

  • Chocolate: Though chocolate has a bad rep for being high in fat and sugar, research has linked cocoa and the flavonoids in dark chocolate to heart health. Opt for the darker pieces in that box of chocolates.
  • Alcohol: It is important to avoid over consumption of alcohol because it can raise the levels of some fats in the blood stream called triglycerides. However, studies have shown that there are potential benefits to the heart found in red wine called antioxidants. Skip the cocktails and choose a cabernet or merlot.
  • Baked Goods: Are you the type who likes to bake goodies for your loved ones? We suggested some healthy alternatives to some popular recipes. Check out these recipes for baby tiramisu, chocolate bliss marble cake, and Strawberry Schaum Torte.

Whether you’re a seasoned health pro or just kick-starting healthy lifestyle changes, it’s important to know the facts that will protect you and your family against heart disease. Visit up-to-date resources for weight management, healthy eating, and physical health.  Have a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day!

Elise Truman Bio

Coffee Drinkers Have More than One Reason to Perk Up

January 14, 2014
Find Rob Masterson, RD, CNSC on Twitter @RobMastersonRD

Whether you drink it to get a lift each morning, to maintain focus during a late-night study session or simply to enjoy the taste, coffee (and the caffeine found in it) has long been documented for its stimulating effects. But that’s not the only benefit coffee can provide – that’s good news for the millions around the world who drink it, including the estimated 83% of adults in America1.

Recently, a study examined the effect of caffeine and memory.  Specifically, the human brain’s ability to discriminate between similar but non-identical images or items in a process known as pattern separation. During the study, participants studied a series of images and were then either given a placebo or a 200-milligram caffeine tablet (about the equivalent amount found in a cup of coffee) five minutes later.


The researchers ultimately found that caffeine appears to have the cognitive-enhancing ability to improve certain memories at least up to 24 hours after consumption.

In another recent study, researchers debunked the popular wives’ tale that caffeinated beverages, including coffee, can lead to dehydration even at moderate consumption due to the diuretic effect of caffeine. The results of this study, although noted to be limited in its design by the researchers themselves, concluded that caffeine in moderate amounts (up to four cups per day) did not pose a detrimental effect in regards to hydration status and was actually quite similar to that of water.

Among the other health benefits coffee can potentially provide include a reduced risk of stroke2, lowered risk of type II diabetes3, protection from cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia4, as well as a decreased risk of certain types of cancer5.


  1. “Home – National Coffee Association.” Home – National Coffee Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2014. <;.
  2. Kokubo, Yoshihiro . “The Impact of Green Tea and Coffee Consumption on the Reduced Risk of Stroke Incidence in Japanese Population: The Japan Public Health Center-Based Study Cohort.”Stroke 44 (2013): n. pag.  Stroke. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.
  3. van Dam, Rob, and Frank Hu. “Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes A Systematic Review .” The Journal of the American Medical Association 294.1 (2005): 97. JAMA. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.
  4. Eskelinen, Marjo, and Miia Kivipeltoa. “Caffeine as a Protective Factor in Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 20 (2010): S167–S174. Print.
  5. Sinha, Rashmi, and Amanda Cross. “Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and tea intakes and risk of colorectal cancer in a large prospective study.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 99.1 (2012): n. pag. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.

Avoid Eater’s Remorse During The Holidays

November 29, 2013

The holiday season is a time meant for joy, celebration, and spending time with family and friends. But for many this time of year can also bring stress, frustration and unwanted weight gain.

Between family get-togethers, workplace holiday parties, and with what seems to be an endless array of cakes, cookies, pies and other sweets during the holiday season often times the temptation to overindulge can seem overwhelming.  Add in the late dinners at the mall food court after a long day of shopping and it is not hard to understand why weight gain is common during the holiday season.

But with some forethought and a little resolve, it can be possible celebrate the holiday season without seeing the scale move in the wrong direction. Here are a few tips on how to do just that.


Most of us find it hard enough to find time to exercise when little is going on. Add holidays to the mix and exercise is probably not a priority on our to-do list, unless it consists of running through the mall to catch the latest sale.

By maintaining a regular exercise schedule, you can help to eliminate stress and lessen the holiday tension. At the same time, exercise will help to balance out some of the extra calories you may be eating.

Most people take a few days off during the month of December to finish last minute holiday shopping, so take the time to fit in some exercise as well. It will get you into the habit of exercising, and you can continue the regime after the holiday season is over.


Most holiday parties are planned ahead of time. This gives you the option for some healthier eating days leading up to the event. If the party is potluck style, be the one to bring the fruit or veggie tray. You’ll be surprised as to how quickly the carrot and celery sticks are eaten.

If the party is going to be at a restaurant, research the menu ahead of time. More and more restaurants are starting to post their menus and daily specials, so do some research and plan ahead to avoid falling into an unexpected, hidden calorie trap. It will save you the indecision while the waiter is staring over your shoulder and give you the opportunity to mentally prepare for self-control.


It’s easy to skip lunch or an afternoon snack if you know you’re headed to a holiday party, which is sure to have decadent desserts and plenty of alcohol. You may think that by skipping a meal or two you are saving yourself calories that can be eaten later in the day but this plan has the potential to backfire by causing you to overeat at your next meal. Ultimately, your one huge meal could be more calorie dense than the two smaller meals you would have consumed normally.

To avoid this trap, try adding protein to your lunch or afternoon snack routine, such as low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and unsalted nuts. Most people think twice about snacking, but it actually helps to spread food intake out throughout the course of the day and can often lead to lower daily calorie intake.


The holidays are a time to focus on family and friends, rather than beating yourself up over eating an extra cookie or going for seconds on the stuffing.  Focus on maintaining your weight rather than losing.

Remember that the common holiday temptations are around us all year round. The strategies to get us through the holidays are those we should be applying to our daily lives, regardless of the time of year.

Katie Serbinski, MS, RD

September 23-27, 2013 Marks “Malnutrition Awareness Week”

September 15, 2013
Find Rob Masterson, RD, CNSC on Twitter @RobMastersonRD

The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.), a leading organization for advancing the science and practice of clinical nutrition, has named the week of September 23-27, 2013 “Malnutrition Awareness Week” to help improve understanding of a condition that affects 1 in 3 patients who enter the hospital.

By raising awareness, it is the Society’s hope that clinicians can more effectively diagnose and treat a condition that can increase a patient’s risk of complications such as skin breakdown and infection resulting in longer length of hospital stay and recovery times.

Interested in learning more? Clinician’s can find out how to improve patient’s outcomes by visiting the A.S.P.E.N. website where malnutrition tools and resources are available.

Disclosure: The author of this post (Rob Masterson) is a member of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.

Upcoming Lactose Intolerance Webinar

August 2, 2013
Find Rob Masterson, RD, CNSC on Twitter @RobMastersonRD

As you are well aware, lactose intolerance, described as the gastrointestinal symptoms that may be experienced following intake of lactose (milk sugar) in amounts greater than the body’s ability to digest and absorb lactose, affects many in the U.S. However, what you may not know is that health professionals and patients perceive and communicate on lactose intolerance differently and that misconceptions related to lactose intolerance can lead to the unnecessary elimination of dairy foods from the diet.

Always at the forefront of providing the most sound nutrition resources for consumer and healthcare communities, [NL] Nutrition Lately would like to highlight an upcoming opportunity for dietitians and doctors to earn credit and learn about best practices when communicating about lactose intolerance.

Join the National Dairy Council for a free health, nutrition and medical professional webinar on Wednesday, August 7 from 12 – 1 p.m. CT. Robin Plotkin, RD, LD, and Jennifer Goodrich, senior analyst at The Hartman Group, will discuss lactose intolerance perceptions and ways to bridge the communications gap between patients and health professionals. As research suggests, health professionals and patients perceive and communicate on lactose intolerance differently, and Robin and Jennifer will highlight effective management techniques in order to help maintain good nutrition.

Space is limited, register today! CME and CPE credits* are available as well.

*CME and CPE credits available.

*CPE: This program has been approved by the Commission on Dietetic Registration for 1 CPEU.

* CME: This Live activity, Lactose Intolerance: Bridging the Knowledge and Communications Gap Between Consumers and Health Professionals, with a beginning date of 08/07/2013, has been reviewed and is acceptable for up to 0.75 Elective credit(s) by the American Academy of Family Physicians. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Bug Grub: Why a Cricket-Like Cuisine is on the Horizon

June 18, 2013
Find Rob Masterson, RD, CNSC on Twitter @RobMastersonRD

Imagine a scenario in which you are at a restaurant, enjoying a delicious meal, having a terrific time dining with a friend when you hear a conversation one table over like this:

Customer: “Excuse me, I have a bug on my plate.”
Waiter: “Yes, how does it taste?”

A response like this in a typical U.S. restaurant and a bad tip would likely be the least of the waiter’s concerns. But could this be an ordinary conversation held at a respectable dining establishment in the future? Believe me when I tell you, it already is.

Take the Los Angeles restaurant Typhoon, for example. A popular spot which has offered Pan Asian cuisine for over 18 years proudly dons a menu that includes Singapore-style scorpions and Taiwanese crickets, among other insect dishes.

The Northern Thai restaurant Sticky Rice in Chicago offers fried worms (bamboo caterpillars) on their menu. And that’s not all—they also serve a dish called khai jiaw khai mod, which is a Thai-style omelet with ant eggs. As one reviewer boasts, “It’s a delicious, fluffy omelet filled with salty, squishy half-inch-long sacs of tiny black ant eggs.”

In the mood for Mexican cuisine? New York City’s Toloache, a contemporary Mexican bistro, has a menu with several different varieties of tacos including Chapulines (grasshoppers) served with onion and jalapeños.


Don’t have the intestinal fortitude to stomach such exotic and adventurous food? You might be selling yourself short. Turns out, the average American eats around one pound of insects each year through unavoidable and allowed amounts in common foods like peanut butter and rice. These tolerable and non-hazardous amounts, regulated by the FDA, are known as The Food Defect Action Levels. But unlike the dishes mentioned above, these little “additions” to food are unintentional. So why are certain amounts of insects allowed in our food? Here’s what the FDA has stated:

“The FDA set these action levels because it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects.”

In all honesty, this sort of thing does seem unavoidable. But accidental consumption aside, some insects actually have quite an impressive resume when it comes to reasons for eating them. Just check out a few of the benefits being touted by entomophagy (consuming insects for food) supporters below and maybe you’ll see why a bug you squash today could end up being served on a plate tomorrow. Read more…

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