Your Mom Was Right

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Mothers and food are like love and marriage. It’s almost impossible to have one without the other. Some of the fondest memories we carry are centered around food, childhood and our mothers. They play an integral role in our nutrition habits because their beliefs are ingrained  into us at an early age. To this day, I use the essential nutrition advice that my mom bestowed upon me. Growing up, I was always the kid who wolfed  down my food, finishing before anyone else. At the rate I ate, you’d think I came from a family of 12! I can still hear my mother’s voice urging me to slow down and enjoy my meal. She simply wanted me to practice mindful eating. As a mother and nutritionist, it’s a value that I instill in my own children and clients.  Practicing this core value can help your diet in three essential ways:

1. You become less  likely to overeat because your brain has a chance to send a signal to your stomach that you’re full. Don’t be shocked: You may find food left behind on your plate!

2. Food becomes enjoyable again, and you actually taste what you are eating. Often, we sit down and polish off our plate without even tasting the meal. Eating should be a source of enjoyment, not just mechanism to fuel our bodies.  Just relax, take small bites, and chew! I promise, the food on the plate isn’t going anywhere.

3. You can gain control of your diet again. The pickable, poppable, unstoppable foods suddenly become manageable to integrate back into your regimen. When you actually take the time to evaluate what you are eating and the quantity, binges becomes less desirable.

Eat Your Illnesses Away

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Before you pick your poison, albeit Advil, Excedrin or TUMS, you may want to take a trip to your refrigerator, pantry or spice rack before you pop a pill. There are certain items in there that can treat your everyday ailments. They may not work for everyone but these easy home remedies often work better than over the counter drugs with way fewer chemicals and potential side effects. It should ‘t come as a surprise that food has the power to heal because what you eat and drink dictates your long-term wellness, so it only makes sense for it to be medicine too. Read up on these easy Secret Kitchen Cures from Whole Living and find out why you should reach for the sesame oil instead of sleepy time for your insomnia and so much more!

Leaders of the Packed

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The first day of school represents more than just the embarkation of your child’s academic journey. Yes, there are new things to learn, skills to master and goals to achieve but it’s also important to remember your child’s mind is not the only thing getting bigger… they are too! No one wants their child to merely survive, you want them to thrive, and that starts with adequate nutrition. You may be able to prepare them for almost everything: freshly sharpened pencils, an endless supplies of neon highlighters, Lightening McQueen folders, Star Wars notebooks, Cinderella backpacks and anything else you can buy in the back to school section at Staples, but unless they are prepared to stay energized throughout the day they are merely objects, not the tools that will help them excel.

By now, we are aware of how preservative-, trans-fat-, sodium- and high-fructose corn syrup- laden all of the processed foods once infiltrating lunch boxes are, but kids still want these familiar tasting foods and we want the simplicity and ease of simply tossing items into a lunchbox. One thing is for certain: they definitely don’t want to be different than their peers who are still eating these chemically processed foods. We now know that these foods will only slow down your child, physically and academically, as well as contribute to the rising childhood obesity epidemic unfortunately sweeping the nation. At the end of the day, kids want what other kids are having, but whether its food allergies or adequate nutrition on your mind, you know you can’t send your kid off to school with those foods in their packed lunches. There are so many factors to keep in mind when you’re packing your child’s lunch- it needs to be fun and engaging, delicious, and healthful.  There are a few things we need to tackle, so let’s start with food allergies.

As I mentioned in Allergies: A to Z, the number of children suffering from food allergies is on the rise- eight percent of children until age 18 have a food allergy (that’s one in 12!). The most common food allergies include peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat and tree nuts, and they the peanut allergy has become so severe that some schools have started banning peanuts all together. It may take an excel sheet with pivot tables and pie charts to keep track of which friend can’t eat what at the lunch table or the classroom food policies, so why not be proactive and pack a school lunch that won’t land you in allergy detention?

Passing on Peanuts:

Does your child love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Try a peanut-free alternative like SunButter, which is made from sunflower seeds. Healthy homemade trail mixes can always been a tough one to tackle but are great snacks, try pumpkin and sunflower seeds mixed with dried fruit and flaked coconut instead of store bought trail mixes which not only have peanuts but tons of sugary chocolate. Here are some of my favorite peanut free packaged foods:

-        Snackers crackers- seedlander (free of peanuts and tree nuts)

-        Enjoy Life soft baked cookies (nut and gluten free)

-        Trader Joe’s Soft-baked Snickerdoodles (free of all of the 8 common allergies)

Peanuts may be the most dangerous and common food allergy but one of the trickier food sensitivities is excluding eggs especially since mayonnaise is a popular condiment, try switching to hummus or honey mustard in your turkey cucumber wraps (whole wheat of course) or sandwiches (have you seen this adorable whole wheat goldfish shaped bread by Pepperidge Farms?). Also these Kidekals water-restistant, washable, personalized labels are great for informing others of your kids allergies.

Aside from allergies, our biggest concern is providing healthful lunches and snacks that will give your kids the energy they need to make it through the day. Studies show that if you equip your children with healthy food to eat at school, they will be better prepared to study and learn. And it’s not all serious- lunch making can be a fun activity as well as a great way for kids to feel independent. Before we get into some specifics, some general suggestions to healthfully spice up your kids lunch box are swapping whole grains for refined, simple carbohydrates and trying flavored drinks or waters without added sugars in place of sodas and sugary juices.

Pack Pass
GoGo sqeeZ applesauce: individual sized, mess free, 100% real fruit and no sugar added. And its fun! Motts Apple Sauce or any apple sauce with added sugar and tons of preservatives
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunnies: the perfect fun snack that are baked with no artificial ingredients. Comes in a variety of flavors, whole wheat and pretzels! Cheez-It Crackers and Teddy Grahams (they have partially hydrogenated oils eventhough they claim to have 0 g of trans fats)
Pirates Booty, Lentil Chips, Hummus Chips, 365 Soy Crispettes or Pop Chips: all of these come in a ton of flavor combinations and are never friend. They have more fiber, are all-natural and have less fat than regular potato chips. Any potato chip!
Stretch Island Fruit Company and Annie’s fruit bites are great ways for your kids to enjoy anywhere from ½ to 1 whole serving a fruit naturally and with no sugar added. Fruit by the foot or fruit roll ups (they all have tons of high fructose corn syrup or heaps of added sugar).
Horizon Organic low moisture, part skim string cheese. Polly-O string cheeses (or any non organic, part skim string cheeses) because they contain food coloring and preservatives.

And all the while, your kid has to have the coolest lunch box in class; Parenting brings us the 12 best kids lunch boxes that are too adorable (and environmentally friendly) for words!

 

Allergies from A to Z

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It’s that time of the year again, the thing kids dread and parents love… the first day of school! Whether your child is in preschool or high school, if your kid has food allergies it’s always a struggle to figure out what to pack in their lunch and make sure they avoid eating, but ensure they get the essential nutrients they need to stay focused in school and have enough energy to go out for the sports. Now, allergies may be as common as Starbucks locations but it’s always better to over-prepare in these situations. The prevalence of food allergies in the world is actually astounding; 4-8% of children under the age of 2, 1-3% of 3-10 year olds, and 3-4% of adults are food allergic. And while 2/3 of children will lose their food allergies over time (most frequently egg, milk, soy and wheat), peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish allergies tend to be life long.

Food allergies are classified as Type I Hypersensitivity, and specific food allergies fall under two umbrellas: 1. Immune mediated (Gastrointestinal allergy) or 2. Non-immune mediated (Gastrointestinal intolerance). When you typically think of food allergies you think of peanuts, wheat or eggs, and these fall under the 1st umbrella (immune mediated). The most common acute symptoms are hives, flushing, itching, eczema or swelling, but immediate GI hypersensitivity symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and cramping within 1-2 hours of ingestion or diarrhea within 2-6 hours of ingestion, also commonly occur. Most of these reactions occur within minutes to up to 4 hours after exposure. Milk and wheat are the two big guys that may compromise your nutritional adequacy and are on the forefront of young children growth concerns. Approximately 50% of young children with food allergies do not meet the recommended number of servings for milk and fruit, 75% do not meet the requirements for meat, grains or vegetables and intakes were low (less than 67% of the recommended daily allowance) for calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E and zinc. What I like to call the “G8 Allergens” are the eight most prevalent food allergies that cause 90% of all allergic reactions.

G8 Allergens

-        Milk

-        Wheat

-        Soy

-        Peanut

-        Egg

-        Tree nuts

-        Fish

-        Shellfish

Cows milk allergy (CMA) occurs in 3-5% of infants, and this should not be confused with lactose intolerance. CMA is a sensitivity to milk proteins such as casein or whey, while lactose intolerance is an intolerance related to an enzyme deficiency, not an actual food allergy. The good news is 85-90% of infants with CMA can tolerate soy, and even better news, 80% of infants outgrow this by the age of 3 or 4. Individuals with this allergy cannot tolerate lactaid (lactofree milk), goats milk, sheeps milk, pediasure or 1-2% milk. Growth and adequent intakes of essential nutrients are a serious concern for this population, especially in regards to calcium. The highest non-dairy sources of calcium are: sardines (3oz) with 325 mg, canned pink salmon (3oz) with 181 mg, collards and spinach (1/2 cup cook, separately) 150-180 mg, and calcium fortified juices with 100-300 mg.

Wheat allergies are extremely serious because 4 serving of enriched or whole grains provides 50% of the recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and manganese for individuals >1 year old. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our brain so it is imparative to receive carbohydrates from alternate grains such as rice, corn, oats, rye and barley. However, 20% of those with wehat allergy may be clinically reactive to another grain because of their protein composition.

Eggs, soy and peanuts are less of a concern because they are not as nutritionally dense and therefore do not have as much of a nutritional impact. However, specifically with eggs, vaccinations should be on your radar. Influenza and yellow fever vaccines are typically not safe because they contain egg proteins. The most common reaction to eggs is atopic dermatitis and the egg proteins that usually cause this reactivity (ovalbumin, ovomucoid and ovotransferrin) are primarily found in the egg white, not the egg yolk. Peanut allergies, while not the most nutritionally severe, are among the most common and illicit the most severe reactions. However, 19% of kids with peanut allergies may actually eventually develop tolerance to the nut.

From a dietician’s perspective, we want to counsel individuals with food sensitivites to effectively avoid the food yet ensure nutritional adequacy to maintain healthy growth rates. If you or your child suffers from food allergies, it is crucial to see a registered dietitian who will counsel you on how to safely and effectively change your diet. When you see your dietitian or physician, the first step is usually an elimination diet where you completely avoid the food allergy for 1-2 weeks, and possibly reintroduce each suspected food into your diet one at a time to pinpoint the allergen. Laboratory and clinical testing is also done in more severe cases in which a physician will test do a skin test for food specific IgE antibodies. However, the “gold standard” of food allergy testing is the double blind, placebo-controlled food challenge.

Did you know that depending on your food allergy, you may have a heightened risk for other food allergies? Here is a chart of the most common risk related allergies.

 

A Peachy Keen Summer

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There is nothing sweeter than the deliciousness of a juicy, ripe peach in the summer. Summer fruit really hits it out of the park and makes for the perfect addition to any dish or can stand alone as a delectable snack; however my favorite way to healthfully indulge on these oh-so-sweet summer treats is by letting my sweet tooth take the lead. This Sultry Summer Peaches & Cream recipe from My New Roots blog is so good there really isn’t much to say aside from, it’s that good. Holistic nutritionist and vegetarian chef, Sarah Britton, always knows how to combine the mouth-watering dishes you crave with the healthful lifestyle we should all be living, and she gives you the nutritional information on what you’re eating too. After reading this article you’ll learn all about the essential mineral potassium found in peaches and why it’s so good for you, but when you make this recipe you’ll forget all about that and it’ll take to you beachside on a hot, summer day.

In good health!

 

Gluten Freedom

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Health crazes and diet trends may come and go but every so often there are advances in the nutrition and medical field that are true game changers. For decades, individuals diagnosed with Celiac disease were simply characterized with ghastly gastrointestinal problems, but with further research this multisystemic autoimmune disorder is now known to be caused by permanent intolerance to gluten, predominately found in genetically susceptible individuals. Gluten is the main storage protein of wheat, rye and barley. While gluten is mainly found in foods, shockingly it is even an ingredient in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, lip balms, play dough, toothpastes, and adhesives. Gluten wears many hats- it provides elasticity to dough, acts as a binder in many recipes, adds flavor and protein and lends that much beloved chewy texture to delicious baked goods.  With the increasing prevalence of diagnoses of Celiac disease in America, the demand for gluten free products has skyrocketed; the food industry has strongly met those demands by putting out numerous gluten-free products, making the life of sensitive to gluten easier. But, those burdened by this disease are not the only ones scooping the gluten-free brownies off the shelf of your supermarket, health conscious individuals are buying them too. So should you reach for your inner gluten freedom as well?

Well, truth be told, the only incontrovertible evidence showing the benefits of a strict gluten-free diet have been a result of research investigating its effectiveness in individuals with gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. These individuals, when introducing gluten into their diet for a prolonged period of time, have flattened villi in their small intestine, meaning they are unable to absorb many of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are necessary for optimal health. Including gluten in their diet leads to a slew of gastrointestinal problems and, more often than not, can cause iron-deficiency anemia, reduce bone mineral density and chronic fatigue, and that’s only the beginning. Currently, the only scientifically proven treatment for Celiac disease is a strict lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet and after sticking to this diet for a few months, the villi of the small intestine return to normal and the signs and symptoms begin to disappear.

Gluten-free diets have also been put under the microscope as possible treatment options for individuals with autism, ADD/ADHD, and IBS. Some parents, doctors and researchers say that children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome have shown mild to dramatic improvements in speech and/or behavior when following a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet. Also, while a gluten-free diet may alleviate some symptoms, it is not proven effective as the sole treatment option for ADD/ADHD and IBS, and it is best to consult your dietician and physician before completely removing gluten from you or your child’s diet.

So what about the rest of us? Oprah eliminated gluten from her diet during her “21-day cleanse” and claimed astounding results, is she personally responsible for deeming gluten the latest dietary bad boy? While doctors estimate just 1% of the population have Celiac disease, marketers estimate that 15% to 25% of consumers want gluten-free foods. Why? Surprisingly, even if you don’t have full-fledged gluten intolerance you still may be slightly sensitive to it, causing symptoms ranging from bloating and discomfort to rashes. So, if you think you and gluten don’t mix, you may actually be right. However, the health craze may not even be gluten-related but rather a placebo effect. Gluten shunners may actually be feeling better and lose weight because they are consuming fewer processed and fast foods and reaching for healthier options like fruits, vegetables and certain whole grains. A high gluten diet may mean that you are over-consuming simple carbohydrates and sugars, two things that are digested quickly making you eat more often than you should, upping your caloric intake causing you to gain weight.

Clearly there is a fad aspect to the diet, but if it gets college kids off pizza, bagels and beer, in my opinion, the fad doesn’t seem to be so bad. What we have learned is that what is more important than minimizing your gluten intake, is what you are replacing it with. A well-balanced diet full of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and lean protein will do the trick. And you have to be weary of gluten-free products. Many of them have an outrageously high fat content to compensate for the lack of flavor in gluten free products. Also, giving up too much gluten when you aren’t gluten-sensitive may actually put you at risk for not getting enough vitamins, most commonly iron, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate, and decreasing bone mineral density.

But enough talk about gluten this and gluten-free that, what we all really want to know is which gluten-free products are best. And to save you from having to read a novel, I’m not going to list everything that gluten-sensitive people cannot eat, and rather the things they can. As I mentioned before, cutting out or reducing your gluten consumption has never been easier. Restaurants and bakeries have gluten free options on their menu, some have even devoted their entire menu to being gluten free, there seem to be more gluten-free products in your grocery store than not and gluten-free blogs are among the most visited on the internet. There are some things to be mindful of when choosing gluten-free foods, mainly fat content and fiber, so always check your nutrition labels on the packaging. Here is a little gluten-free cheat sheet to start you on the right foot and remember all fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, battered or marinated) and most dairy products are gluten free! Reach your inner gluten freedom by trying out these delicious and healthy products.

 

Gluten Freedom Foods

Gluten-Free Grains and Starches:

-        Amaranth

-        Arrowroot

-        Buckwheat

-        Corn/Cornmeal

-        Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)

-        Hominy grits

-        Polenta

-        Pure corn tortillas

-        Quinoa

-        Rice

-        Tapioca

Bars: Renew Life Organic Fiber bar, Oskri Fiber bar (both offer 50% fiber), and The Simply Bar

Cereal: Mesa Sunrise Gluten Free cereal

Bread: Food for Life Wheat and Gluten Free breads

Waffles: Van’s Natural Foods Waffles Gluten-Free Mini’s

Crackers and Rice Cakes: Health Valley Original Rice Bran Crackers and Mother’s Natural

Nut Butters: MaraNatha

Snacks: Sea’s Gift Roasted Seaweed Snacks

Frozen Meals: Amy’s Brown Rice and Black Peas and Organic Bistro Sesame Ginger Wild Salmon Bowl

Sauce: Amy’s Premium Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce (Light in Sodium)

 

Guilt-free Pasta Salad

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One of my favorite summer recipes is a mouthwatering pasta salad. It’s great for picnics, casual dinner parties and always a hit at a potluck dinner party; everyone from your kids and their friends to grandparents love to eat it. But odds are that most of the pasta salads you eat are pretty heavy on the mayo and that’s definitely not part of our healthful eating plan. This amazing recipe for Macaroni Salad from acclaimed health-focused, natural foods chef and cookbook author, Heidi Swanson is not only mayo-free but whole wheat, easy to whip up and uniquely delicious. It’s also more of a salad than most pasta salads with large bunches of arugula. To cut down on calories even more, opt for reduced-fat parmesan cheese or omit it all together. Also, be sure to set a bowl aside for yourself because it’ll be gone before you know it! Enjoy!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for Ice Cream!

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I’m not sure about you but the summer heat seems to talk to me, saying “man, I could really go for some frozen yogurt, a Popsicle or an Italian ice right now. Go on, get one you deserve a little sweetness, you look great.” I know it’s not that hot outside but I think that it may be some verbal mirage, similar to the oasis people invasion when wandering in the desert for hours.

The truth of the matter is that you really did work extremely hard to get ready for the bikini season. But that’s more the reason to silence these voices and bite into a refreshing apple for your afternoon snack. But then something else happens; either your child wants a firecracker popsicle, you pass by an overly air-conditioned ice cream shop or that the mint chocolate ice cream sundae dessert on the menu is calling your name. This is when you have to cue your super strength restraint and make sure you have one of the options below on hand or conveniently located in your freezer at home.

 

On of my personal favorite summer deserts is sorbet. It’s icy, refreshing and sweet and is most likely going to contain less calories and fat than ice creams and gelatos because there is no dairy in them. But that’s not always the case with sorbet so you need to be careful about which brand you are choosing to eat. The best option is definitely Ciao Bella. They have a line of individual sorbet cups and sorbet bars perfect when you just have to give in. All Ciao Bella products are gluten free, all-natural and organic and the individual sorbet cups and bars are perfect for portion control so you don’t end up going back for seconds and thirds. The mini cups are great for on the go and even come with a little stick! Here are your best flavor options:

  • Blood Orange Mini Cup: At 3.5 oz you get to enjoy this icy treat for only 70 calories, 0 g of fat, 17 g of carbohydrates, 13 g of sugar and it even has 20% of your Daily Value of vitamin C!
  • Blood Orange Sorbet Bar: The delicious flavor in the mini cup is now in a popsicle version, something even your kids will enjoy! It’s only 60 calories, 0 g of fat, 16 g of carbohydrates and 11 g of sugar. It also provides 20% of your Daily Value of vitamin C!
  • Blueberry Passion Sorbet Bar: When you are craving berries this will definitely hit the spot. This 70 calorie popsicle has 0 g of fat, 18 g of carbohydrates and 17 g of sugar and also includes vitamin C and vitamin A. Plus you get the astounding antioxidant benefits from the blueberries.

 

Sometimes all you really want is a scoop of classic vanilla or chocolate. But even low-fat yogurts can be upwards of 150 calories with 3 g of fat for ½ a cup. That’s when you reach for Arctic Zero. Arctic Zero is an all natural, gluten free, dairy free, low-calorie and low glycemic frozen protein shake that satisfies your craving for ice cream. So you are not only getting that much needed scoop of vanilla but you are also getting a little protein too! Every flavor: vanilla maple, chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, mint chocolate cookie coffee, cookies and cream, and pumpkin spice are delicious. Here’s what you need to know:

  • On average, a ½ cup serving (it comes in 1 pint options) is 45 calories, 0 g of fat, 7 g of carbohydrates, 2 g of fiber, 5 g of sugar and 4 g of protein. (Not that I would ever condone eating the whole pint, but the whole pint is only 150 calories!)

 

When you’re craving chocolate popsicles that even your kids will love the flavor of, Tofutti is your brand. They are all milk free but they have even come out with a great line of fat free, no sugar added popsicles that are still sweet and delicious. The two best flavors are definitely the chocolate fudge treat bars or the coffee break bars and you’re never going to believe how low calorie they really are. This is also a great option for those who need to watch their blood sugar levels because there is 0 g of sugar in each bar.

  • One of these  fat free, no sugar added bars (either chocolate fudge or coffee break) is only 30 calories, 1.5 g of fat, 6 g of carbohydrates, 0 g of sugar and 1 g of protein.

 

But what happens you literally have NOTHING in your freezer at home, what happens then? Here are some of my favorite healthy home made icy treats:

  • Slice up a banana and lay them on a plate so they don’t overlap in the freezer for about an hour or until they are frozen. The riper the banana the better. Once our of the freezer mash them up, sprinkle with a tablespoon of cacao nibs, or crush up 1-2 tablespoons of high fiber cereal like Fiber One as sprinkles. You can even add a little packet of stevia for some sweetness.
  • In a blender mix a 1 individual 0% fage yogurt, 1 packet of stevia, some blueberries and strawberries and ice. Either pour it in ice molds or into a bowl and freeze it for an hour, then enjoy!

 

Ok, sometimes that super strength restraint just doesn’t work. If you can’t get to your freezer in time, try to find the closest pinkberry and exercise restraint there. Here’s what you should do:

  • Order a mini size and your lowest calorie and fat options are going to be original or mango flavor. These are less than 100 calories, 0 g of fat, about 21 g of carbohydrates, 20 g of sugar and 3 g of protein.
  • As far as toppings go, pick one berry and be done. 1 scoop of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries is 10 calories.

 

Have a great summer filled with all the frozen treats you love without all the guilt!

Chill Out!

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While no one in their right mind would ever elect to speed through their summer fun, on days when the thermometer soars past the three digit marks, some of us almost long for chillier days… almost.

Pretty much all of us at least crave a chillier treat.

Between spots where you can whip up your own freezy flavor of ice cream or stores where you can find milkshakes by the millions, it’s hard to resist the temptation and only made more difficult when you’re melting in to a human puddle. Add kids to the mix – be it your little ones, or just your inner child – and your doomed from the start.

Just chill out… and cool off without slacking off.

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My Halloween Survival Guide

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Over the years, I’ve written many articles on staying healthy on Halloween. Below, I’ve compiled a few that I think are particularly relevant.Enjoy!

An Alternative to Passing out Candy on Halloween

How Far Would You Go For a Snickers Bar

Don’t be tricked by your treats on Halloween

keep looking »