It’s that time of year again….Halloween…the kick off to unhealthful holiday eating. You may have worked all year to maintain your New Year’s resolution to healthy living; and in just a matter of 2 months, you may find yourself back where you started.


In honor of Halloween tomorrow, I would like to help you to stay mindful of your Halloween candy choices so that you don’t become haunted by the effects of those devilish treats.


Here is a list of popular Halloween candy, their nutrition information, and some healthier alternatives:

  1. Snickers Bar: 280 calories; 14 grams fat
    • Healthy Alternative: Fun Size Snickers Bar (72 calories, 3.7 grams of fat)
  2. Kit Kat (3 bars): 200 calories; 11 grams fat
    • Healthy Alternative: Kit Kat Snack Size Bar (133 calories, 7 grams of fat)
  3. Peanut M & M’s (1 pack): 250 calories; 13 grams fat
    • Healthy Alternative: Fun Size Peanut M & M’s (100 calories; 4.5 grams fat) OR
    • 10 M & M chocolate candies (34 calories; 1.5 grams of fat)
  4. 4. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: 260 calories; 15 grams of fat
    • Healthy Alternative: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Snack Size (90 calories, 5 grams fat)



5.  3 Musketeer Fun Size (3 bars): 190 calories; 6 grams of fat

  • Healthy Alternative: 3 Musketeer Fun Size, 1 bar (63 calories; 2 grams fat)

6. Candy Corn (22 pieces): 140 calories, 0 grams fat

  • Healthy Alternative: 11 pieces (70 calories; 0 grams fat)



Other ideas for healthy Halloween treats include:  

  • 1 cup lowfat popcorn, 10 peanuts, + 5 candy corn = 100 calories, 5 grams fat
  • 1 Kashi Granola Bar = 140 calories, 5 grams fat
  • Any 100 calorie- snack pack
  • Vitamuffin Vita-tops= 100 calories, 0-1.5 grams fat
  • Jolly Time 100-calorie bags popcorn
  • Apple dipped in 2 Tablespoons of fat free caramel dip
  • 1 York Peppermint Patty= 53 calories, 1 gram fat


Keep in mind, PORTION is key. Even the healthy options can add up to too many calories if you don’t stay mindful of the portion.  Consider spreading the treats out for several days and limiting yourself to one or two treats per day….that way you can enjoy the holiday treats, without much of the guilt. It only takes 500 extra calories per day to gain one pound in a week!

Next week I will have the honor of speaking at the American Dietetic Association Conference in Chicago. The title of my presentation is “Probiotics: Basics & Applications for Dietitians”. With the growing interest in probiotics, practicing dieticians need to understand how this “new” science will impact our field and patient treatment. The fundamental concepts of probiotics rely on the mechanism in the human body that is most closely associated with our work: the digestive system. As an advisory board member for the world’s leading probiotics science company, Yakult, I have been asked to present to dietitians at the ADA event on October 28.  For those who don’t live in Southern California, Las Vegas, or other parts of the world, or are not familiar with Yakult, I would like to share a bit about the history and health benefits found in this tiny little bottle.


The probiotic strain, now known as Lactobacillus Casei Shirota was successfully cultured by microbiologist, Dr. Minoru Shirota at Kyoto University. He was looking for a way to solve Japan’s common health issue which involved infectious disease due to poor nutrition. One of the primary reasons Dr. Shirota selected this strain is that it was powerful enough is to survive harsh stomach acids and reach the intestines alive, where it may be able to provide health benefits. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. There are hundreds of probiotic strains found in our bodies and used in various food products and supplements, however, not all have the ability to reach the intestines alive.  So, in the 1930’s, Dr. Shirota came up with the idea of mixing the strain into a tasty beverage that everyone would want to enjoy and it became known as Yakult.


Seventy percent of our immune system is located in the intestinal tract. Many experts believe that an “unbalanced” digestive tract affects the immune system (i.e. increase in illness and disease).  Yakult works in the intestines to “balance” the digestive system by adding more of the beneficial bacteria and also by making it difficult for the bad bacteria to grow.


Yakult is the most clinically studied probiotic in the world and has the potential to:

  • Balance your digestive system
  • Keep your digestion regular
  • Enhance your immune system


One little bottle of Yakult contains 8 billion probiotic bacteria (the approximate amount needed to have health benefits) and contains only 50 calories. Millions of people around the world drink Yakult each day.


As a Nutritionist, I recommend Yakult (and other probiotics) to my clients who suffer from digestive issues or who are interested in staying well and optimizing their health.


Yakult can be consumed by itself anytime of day. It can also be blended with ice to make a cold smoothie.


Learn more at my seminar on October 28, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago. To register, go to

Happiness with Happy Foods

October 14, 2008

Have you ever found yourself reaching for food when you’re tired, stressed, sad, or bored? You may have recently if you turn on the news or think about our nation’s economy.

Well, it turns out this may not be such a bad habit (as long as you’re not overindulging or eating mindlessly) because certain foods may have positive mood enhancing effects. J

Complex Carbohydrates: Foods such as oatmeal, brown rice, high fiber cereal, potatoes, and fruit contain complex carbs that help to raise levels of serotonin (good-mood chemical) which give a calm and relaxed feeling.

Fats: Vegetable fats (mono- and poly-unsaturated fats) increase endorphin levels. Olive oil, almonds, and avocados are all excellent choices to improve your sense of well-being. Research has even linked very low fat diets with an increase in depressive symptoms.

Proteins: High protein foods (such as poultry, fish, eggs, and lean meats) stimulate dopamine and norepinephrine production, which can improve cognitive function (i.e. your ability to handle complex mental problems).

In addition, turkey and chicken are good sources of tryptophan, which convert into serotonin (the good-mood enhancing chemical).

Omega-3’s– EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that has been associated with less depressive symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the basic building blocks of the brain and are needed for healthy brains and nervous systems. Good sources include walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, halibut, and other seafood.

Folate, Vitamin B6, and Zinc– These vitamins/minerals are needed to make serotonin. Spinach is one of the best sources of folate and zinc. Banana’s are one of the richest sources of Vitamin B6.

Chocolate– There is actual evidence that proves chocolate is an aphrodisiac. The combination of sugar (which triggers serotonin), fat, and a substance called phenylethylamine (which leads to endorphin release) contribute to chocolate’s “happy-feeling”.

You can also help to keep your moods on an even keel by keeping your blood sugar levels steady (since fluctuating blood sugar effects mood): Avoid skipping meals, choose balanced meals and foods that are high in fiber.

So next time, you’re feeling “moody”, try a handful of almonds or walnuts, a slice of avocado, a banana, or a bowl of oatmeal or high fiber cereal. And, DON’T go for the fried foods, donuts, cookies, or other high fat, high sugar foods (will only make you feel good temporarily).

For the ultimate mood-enhancing meal, try:

a piece of baked salmon

1 cup of brown rice,

1 cup of steamed spinach,

and a piece of dark chocolate (for dessert).

By now, most people have heard about the heart-healthy benefits of eating chocolate. So, does that mean we all should be eating a chocolate bar each day “for health”?

There have been many studies on the health effects of chocolate. Some of the studies showed a reduction in blood pressure; while other studies indicate that the saturated fat in chocolate doesn’t raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as much as other saturated fats. But, not all studies show a health benefit.

Here are 6 tips to keep in mind when choosing chocolate:

1. The Darker the Better: Research shows that darker chocolate contains more cocoa solids (labeled as “% cacao”) and more flavanols (components found in plants that have antioxidant characteristics ) But keep in mind, “% cacao” can be increased by manufacturers by adding extra cocoa powder (good); extra cocoa butter (bad), or extra chocolate liquor (in the middle).

2. Pay Attention to Saturated Fat: The fat found in chocolate is cocoa butter, which is a saturated fat (“bad”). While some research shows less of an increase in LDL cholesterol from cocoa butter compared to butter, it appears not as good as olive oil and other types of unsaturated fats.

3. No Trans Fats: Many chocolates have trans fat, which are thought to be more harmful than saturated fats. The ideal amount of trans fat to consume is zero. Check the labels for trans fat (it’s now required by law to be there!).

4. Save on Sugar: Many manufacturers add sugar to improve the taste of chocolate, but, ‘au naturale’ can be just as tasty! To reduce sugar, choose chocolates without fillings, with a higher “% cacao”, or try it wrapped around fruit or nuts.

5. Calories Count: Regardless of what type of chocolate you choose, most are calorie-dense (small volume; high calorie). Primarily, the calories come from sugar, fat, or both. One way to enjoy chocolate without all the calories, is to keep the portion small. As a general rule, have no more than 1 or 2 squares or individually wrapped chocolates each day (approximately 60 calories each).

6. Gotta Get Ghirardelli & Love Lindt: The best choices for chocolates (those with the highest % of cacao and lowest % of calories from sugar) are Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bar (100% cacao + 0 sugar); Lindt Excellence, 99% single serve chocolate bar (99% cacao + 0 sugar); and Lindt Excellence Dark and Extra Dark, 85% chocolate bars & candy (85% cacao + 9-11% calories from sugar).

The bottom line: Until more research is done to clarify the health benefits of chocolate, enjoy a small amount of high-quality chocolate when the desire hits and hold off from making it an important part of your diet!