Halloween Candy That Won’t Give You a Bump in the Night

I didn’t really miss Halloween candy until about three years ago when I decided to start eating better. Because I couldn’t eat loads of junk food without feeling guilty and I, unlike my college peers, wasn’t terribly interested in dressing up like a woman of compromising values, Halloween, my favorite holiday, left me sitting on my couch watching horror movies all night. No candy. Just “The Candy Man.” This year, in spirit of my new-found Cat Hair in my Coffee philosophy, and after discovered a great Fitness Magazine article, I’ve discovered that I can have some of my favorites without the bulge.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

“If you’re craving chocolate, then the darker, the better,” says Katie Cavuto Boyle, RD, owner of Healthy Bites. “Dark chocolate has less sugar, is dairy-free, and is rich in antioxidants that have been shown to reduce blood pressure and decrease your risk of cardiovasculardisease.”

  • Nibble: Hershey’s Miniatures: Special Dark
    Serving Size: 5 pieces
    200 calories; 13g fat; 7g saturated fat; 25mg sodium; 24g carbs; 18g sugar; 3g protein

    Image courtesy of Hershey's.

  • Nix: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures
    Serving Size: 5 pieces
    220 calories; 13g fat; 5g saturated fat; 130mg sodium; 26g carbs; 23g sugar; 4g protein

Go Nuts!

“Chocolate that contains nuts may be even better for you, because the nuts contain a variety of nutrients and healthy fats that may displace some of the total chocolate, sugar, etc.,” says Marie Spano, RD, owner of Marie Spano Nutrition Consulting in Atlanta.

  • Nibble: Dove Silky Smooth Almond Milk Chocolate Bar
    Serving Size: 1 bar
    190 calories; 12g fat; 6g saturated fat; 20mg sodium; 18g carbs; 16g sugar; 3g protein
  • Nix: Twix Caramel Cookie Bars
    Serving Size: 2 cookies (1 pack)
    250 calories; 12g fat; 9g saturated fat; 100mg sodium; 33g carbs; 24g sugar; 2g protein

White? Out!

“White chocolate is your least healthy option,” says Boyle. “It doesn’t actually contain any cocoa — only cocoa butter — and it’s packed with sugar and added fat from the extra milk products used.”

  • Nibble:Kit Kat Snack Size

    Image courtesy of Fitness Magazine.

    Serving Size: 3 packs
    210 calories; 11g fat; 7g saturated fat; 30mg sodium; 27g carbs; 21g sugar; 3g protein

  • Nix: Hershey’s Bliss White Chocolate Meltaway
    Serving Size: 6 pieces
    230 calories; 14g fat; 9g saturated fat; 70mg sodium; 24g carbs; 24g sugar; 3g protein

Go to Grape Lengths

If you love chocolate-covered anything, opt for raisins over pretzels or marshmallows. “Raisins are rich in antioxidants and provide extra fiber that you won’t get from chocolate alone,” says Boyle.

  • Nibble: Raisinets, Snack Pack
    Serving Size: 1 box
    150 calories; 6g fat; 3.5g saturated fat; 10mg sodium; 25g carbs; 22g sugar; 1g protein
  • Nix: Milk Duds
    Serving Size: 1 regular-sized box
    230 calories; 8g fat; 5g saturated fat; 135mg sodium; 38g carbs; 27g sugar; 2g protein

Lighten Up

“Some of the unhealthiest candy choices are loaded with sugar, fat, and artery-clogging saturated fat,” says Boyle. “3 Musketeers is a good alternative, as it is significantly lower in calories and fat.”

  • Nibble: 3 Musketeers Minis
    Serving Size: 7 pieces
    170 calories; 5g fat; 3.5g saturated fat; 80mg sodium; 32g carbs; 27g sugar; 1g protein
  • Nix: Snickers Bar Miniatures
    Serving Size: 4 pieces
    170 calories; 8g fat; 3g saturated fat; 80mg sodium; 22g carbs; 18g sugar; 3g protein

Chew on This

“Caramels contain a high percentage of saturated fat, so if you’re looking for something chewy, you’re better off with a low-calorie candy, like Now and Later, that takes longer to eat,” says Boyle.

  • Nibble: Now and Laters
    Serving Size: 9 pieces
    120 calories; 1g fat; 0g saturated fat; 40mg sodium; 28g carbs; 22g sugar; 0g protein
  • Nix: Brach’s Milk Maid Caramels
    Serving Size: 4 pieces
    150 calories; 4g fat; 3g saturated fat; 90mg sodium; 25g carbs; 15g sugar; 2g protein

For the complete list of Nibbles and Nixes.

Have a Happy Halloween!

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Happy Kat Soup

A coworker sent me this recipe recently and I thought it sounded delicious. To lighten it up, simply omit the butter and replace with a light cooking spray or olive oil. Remember, the soups with no cream are always the healthier option!

Have a great Friday and check back this weekend for healthier candy options to enjoy this Halloween.

Yummy Roasted Squash Soup (Happy Kat Soup)
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2 butternut squash
1 acorn squash
1 ½ lbs (or so) carrots
1 yellow pepper
2 shallots
Large sweet onion, diced
Most of a celery heart, diced
½ – 1 cup spinach, leaves or frozen
½ – ¾ tbsp tomato paste
1 clove garlic
*olive oil, for sautéing
Spices for seasoning, cumin, curry, paprika, etc. (Whatever you prefer!)
64 oz vegetable broth
Thyme, palm full
Parsley, palm full

1. Season the squash, carrots, pepper, shallots, and garlic with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 400-425° oven until very soft and roasty-toasty (very good color and the squash is easily scooped out of the skin). The pepper is done when the skin is nearly black and ready to peel away.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, sauté sweet onion and celery heart in a little butter (or olive oil) until soft.
3. While sautéing the onion and celery, add some spinach, spices of your choice (cumin, curry, cinnamon, ginger, fresh nutmeg paprika, or poultry seasoning), tomato paste or tomato paste concentrate, and pepper. Cook until the tomato darkens a bit.
4. Add chicken broth (or vegetable broth) (I probably used about 64 oz), thyme, parsley, and simmer. Add the roasty, squashy, vegetables.
5. Hit with stick blender or puree in batches in the food processor. Check for seasoning and add a splash of Cognac.

Notes:
If you use low sodium, fat-free broth you may want to simmer it with a mirepoix and herbs while the vegetables are roasting to boost the flavor.
If you slice the carrots rather than do big chunks, you could probably get away without using the blender.

Recipe by Lisa Montgomery

Breast Cancer Myths

I’ll be the first to admit that until recently, I hadn’t given breast cancer a second thought. Sure my mom would mention annual mammograms and my own doctor has suggested regular self-breast exams until she was blue in the face, but the risk never seemed likely. In fact, for a long time I believed breast cancer was only something that occurred with women who had a family history of the disease and who wore heavy deodorant. (Just kidding about the latter.) I definitely fell into the “uninformed” category when it came to the disease. However this October, I decided it was time to become aware.

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In spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness month, here are some common myths about the disease that have been busted.

Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at risk.

Reality: Roughly 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors for the disease. But the family-history risks are these: If a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) has had or has breast cancer, your risk of developing the disease approximately doubles. Having two first-degree relatives with the disease increases your risk even more.

Myth: Most breast lumps are cancerous.

Reality: Roughly 80% of lumps in women’s breasts are caused by benign (noncancerous) changes, cysts, or other conditions. Doctors encourage women to report any changes at all, however, because catching breast cancer early is so beneficial. Your doctor may recommend a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy to determine whether a lump is cancerous.

Myth: Small-breasted women have less chance of getting breast cancer.

Reality: There’s no connection between the size of your breasts and your risk of getting breast cancer. Very large breasts may be harder to examine than small breasts, with clinical breast exams—and even mammograms and MRIs—more difficult to conduct. But all women, regardless of breast size, should commit to routine screenings and checkups.

Myth: If you’re at risk for breast cancer, there’s little you can do but watch for the signs.

Reality: There’s a lot that women can do to lower their risk, including losing weight if they’re obese, getting regular exercise, lowering or eliminating alcohol consumption, being rigorous about examining their own breasts, and having regular clinical exams and mammograms. Quitting smoking wouldn’t hurt either.

Some high-risk women also choose to have a prophylactic mastectomy to decrease their risk by roughly 90%. They can take other proactive steps such as having regular MRIs, exploring chemoprevention with treatments such as tamoxifen, and participating in clinical trials.

Myth: Women with lumpy breasts (also known as fibrocystic breast changes) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Reality: In the past, women with lumpy, dense, or fibrocystic breasts were believed to be at higher risk of getting breast cancer, but there doesn’t appear to be a connection after all. However, when you have lumpy breasts, it can be trickier to differentiate normal tissue from cancerous tissue, so you may experience false alarms. Women with fibrocystic breasts often follow up their mammograms with an ultrasound.

Myth: Fertility treatments increase the risk of getting breast cancer.

Reality: Given estrogen’s connection to breast cancer, fertility treatments have come under suspicion. But several studies have found that prospective moms are likely to have no higher risk of breast cancer. As yet, no large, long-term, randomized studies have eliminated this concern entirely; it merits more research to find a definite answer.

For the complete list of busted myths, visit health.com and see their 25 Breast Cancer Myths Busted slideshow.

Healthy Tip of the Day: Instead of grabbing your usual head of lettuce at the store this week, try some darker greens like spinach, arugula, or kale. Dress them up with some oil and vinegar for a new flavor.

Game Day Eating

For most, football season means mindlessly munching on anything from chicken wings to handfuls of greasy chips at a tailgate. Some eat in celebration and others eat in mourning for a lost game. Whatever the reason, a serious amount of junk usually makes its way into our systems every Friday and Saturday night. (Who doesn’t love greasy food, though?!)

Unfortunately, these kinds of indulgences, plus those holiday feasts from November through December, can really add up at the end of a season. So this year, try some of these healthy spins on classic tailgate and football party foods. I promise, you’ll thank your stars when you don’t have to start the New Year with yet another weight resolution!

Chile Con Queso

· 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
· 1 medium onion, chopped
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· ½ cup pale ale, or other light-colored beer
· 1 ½ cups low-fat milk, divided
· 3 tbsp cornstarch
· 1 ¾ cups shredded sharp Cheddar
· 1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained, or 1 ¼ cups drained petite-diced tomatoes
· 2 tbsp lime juice
· 1 tsp salt
· 1 tsp chili powder
· Cayenne pepper, to taste
· ¼ cup scallions
· 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and beginning to brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the beer and cook until reduced slightly, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of milk and bring to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining ½ cup milk and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the pan and cook, stirring vigorously, until bubbling and thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add cheese and cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in drained tomatoes, lime juice, salt, chili powder, and cayenne.
3. Serve warm, garnished with scallions and cilantro.

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Per ¼-cup serving: 84 calories, 5 g fat, 14 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein

Recipe on eatingwell.com

Meatball (or Mushroom) Heros with Tri-Colored Peppers

· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· 1 small onion, sliced
· 1/2 green pepper, sliced
· 1/2 red pepper, sliced
· 1/2 yellow pepper, sliced
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 1 (12 ounce) loaf Italian bread (preferably whole-grain)
· 8 meatballs or sautéed (or grilled) Portobello mushrooms
· 1 cup Marinara or tomato sauce
· 1/2 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions

1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, and salt and saute for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If using mushrooms, throw them in with during this step.)
3. Cut the bread into quarters crosswise and cut each quarter in half, being careful not to cut all the way through, so the 2 haves stay connected. Scoop the soft center out of the bread.
4. Put the bread, open-faced, on a baking sheet. Place 1 meatball (or mushroom) and some sauce on 1 side of each piece of bread. Top with some of the pepper mixture. Moisten the other side of each sandwich with a little sauce and sprinkle with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.

*This recipe was altered to accommodate a vegetarian diet.

Mountaineer Oatmeal Cookies

· 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
· 1 cup regular oats
· 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
· 1/4 cup butter, softened
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1 large egg
· **3/4 cup chunked dried or fresh blueberries, depending on preference
· 1/3 cup premium white chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli)
· Cooking spray
· Yellow and blue sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended. Add fruit and chips; beat at low speed just until blended.
3. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Sprinkle yellow and blue sprinkles on top of the cookies and put back in the oven for an additional 2-5 minutes, or until cookies are browned.
4. Remove from oven; cool on pan 1 minute. Remove cookies from pan; cool completely on wire racks.

*I took this idea from a recipe from Laura Zapalowski, Cooking Light Issue May 2007.

**Use fruit and sprinkles that match your favorite team colors.

Don’t Become the Walking Dead this Flu Season

AMC’s original series The Walking Dead is one of the hottest shows on television right now. It’s got everything from a compelling plot to the ability to make you not want to look away when something scary is happening. (A rarity for me.) Every Sunday night you can bet I’ll be glued to my couch waiting for a “walker” to come busting through my front door.

Since Sunday’s season 2 premiere of the show, I’ve been thinking about the flu-like symptoms that occur during the first stages of becoming a zombie.

· Slow movement
· Constant moaning
· Blood-shot eyes
· Excessive drooling
· Chills

What a bummer, right? But hey, aside from actually transforming into a zombie, we’ve all been there. So to prevent yet another zombie-like flu season (except on Sunday nights), here are some tips on how you can stay healthy this flu season.

1. Take time to get a flu vaccine.
2. Take everyday prevention action to stop the spread of germs. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.
Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.
4. Finally, seek medical attention if you experience any of these flu-like symptoms:
· fever
· cough
· sore throat,
· runny or stuffy nose
· body aches
· headache
· chills and fatigue

These tips were brought to you by the Center for Disease Control. (Wink!)

Suspect someone you know may be transforming into a walker? Click here for a list of real diseases that could make someone act like a zombie. For zombie kitteh symptoms, see your vet.

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Worry Wart From a Toad

Toad Angina

Growing up, my mom joked that I was hypochondriac. She constantly had to put up with me asking “Does this mole look funny to you?” and dreaded the announcement of a new virus outbreak for fear that I would start dreaming up symptoms. The week leading up to the very few times she took me to a doctor was usually spent with her trying to sooth my eye-popping nausea and assure me that they don’t usually perform surgery for stuffy noses. (No matter what was wrong with me, I was always convinced a doctor was just dying to slice into my abdomen.) When I wasn’t worrying about my health, I was finding other things to stress about. During the fall and winter of 1999, Y2K and the apocalypse left me an absolute wreck. I didn’t care that Prince had waited 12 years for that year to roll around and I certainly didn’t plan to celebrate in a purple, velvet bodysuit.

Fortunately as I got older, I did start to see things a bit more rationally. I started to realize that Bruce Willis probably wouldn’t have to save the planet in my lifetime, just as Dustin Hoffman probably wouldn’t be knocking at my door in a yellow quarantine jumpsuit. Have I completely stopped worrying about tumors and moles? No. Have I stopped fearing a Chicken Little existence? No. I now just stress and worry about more realistic things.

Now here’s the kicker: the stress of worrying I’ll get sick could actually make me sick. Check out what can happen to your body on stress:

Everyday stresses can really start to rack up.

Hair- High levels of stress may cause excessive hair loss.
Muscles- Spasmodic pains in the neck and shoulders, muscular skeletal aches, lower back pain, and various minor muscular twitches and nervous tics are more noticeable under stress.
Digestive Tract- Stress can aggravate diseases of the digestive tract, including gastritis and stomach ulcers.
Skin- Eczema or psoriasis sufferers may experience outbreak when under high levels of stress.
Lungs- Those with asthmatic conditions may be affected by stress.
Heart- Cardiovascular disease and hypertension are linked to accumulated stress.
Brain- Stress triggers mental and emotional problems, such as insomnia, headaches, personality changes, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
Source: www.stress.org/topic-effects.htm

So what can you (and I say you, because I couldn’t possibly have a problem with stress myself) do to prevent such ailments? Well, you can start by taking 5 minutes out of your day to clear your head. Just forget everything pertaining to your everyday life and enjoy the quiet time. If silence isn’t your thing, try getting outside for a short walk. Can’t even find enough time for that? Why not try simple deep, belly breathing for a while. Another great way to combat stress is to simply eliminate the possibility for it. No, don’t quit your job or drop out of school, but try getting your personal life as organized as possible to eliminate the tiny stresses that can really pile up.

Remember, when all else fails, blame your mother. After all, she’s the one who passed the mutant hypochondriac gene on to me anyway!

My Healthy Choice of the Day: Sticking to my “no candy” rule today….except for the one, tiny Jolly Rancher I had at lunch. Smile

4 Foods that Fight Breast Cancer

“Last year 269, 730 women in the United States were diagnosed with Breast Cancer.”

Breast cancer is scary. No matter how you shake it, hearing those two words can make any woman’s stomach immediately tighten. Although not limited by gender, women run a far higher risk of contracting this type of cancer than men. For example, in 2007, the new cases reported for men were 1.3 per 100,000 and 123.4 per 100,000 for women.
The important thing to remember is that all women are at risk for breast cancer and getting older increases this risk.

The risk of getting breast cancer increases as you age. Most breast cancers and breast cancer deaths occur in women aged 50 and older. Until more is known about preventing breast cancer, early detection and effective treatment offer the best defense against breast cancer mortality.
No matter your age, you should become familiar with how your breasts look and feel. If you notice any changes, see your health care provider right away. Learn about the warnings signs of breast cancer.

Younger women
Although rare, younger women can also get breast cancer. Just five percent of all breast cancers occur in women under age 40 [36].
While risk is generally much lower among younger women, certain genetic factors can put some women at a higher risk of breast cancer. Women who are diagnosed at younger ages may have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation. Women who carry one of these gene mutations have an increased risk of both breast and ovarian cancers. Learn more about these inherited gene mutations and cancer risk.

So what should you do to protect yourself? Well besides self-breast exams, regular visits to your doctor, and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle, eating these four foods can help reduce your overall risk.

1. Tuna
Organic forms of selenium, a trace mineral in plants and grain-fed animal protein, may guard against breast cancer by normalizing the body’s circadian rhythms (the internal clock that regulates how many estrogen receptors — often linked to the disease — your cells produce). Get your beneficial daily dose, 55 micrograms, with the selenium-rich foods here and double down on their other health perks.
3 ounces light, canned in oil: 65 micrograms selenium
Also contains:
B6: helps the immune system
Niacin: lowers cholesterol
Source: Helmut Zarbl, PhD, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey

2. Beef
4 ounces, cooked: 43 micrograms selenium
Also contains:
Iron: fights fatigueimage
Protein: builds muscle

3. Portobello Mushrooms
1 cup, grilled and sliced: 27 micrograms selenium
Also contains:
Potassium: regulates heart function

4. Low-Fat 2% Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup: 11 micrograms selenium
Also contains:
Calcium: strengthens bones
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2010.