Author Archives: eversc

Non-sweet Treats for Halloween Fun

soap-bubble-439103_1920Is indulging in candy the reason kids love Halloween? Or is it more about dressing up in funny or scary costumes, decorating, parties and socializing that make the day? My view is that kids love having fun and the treats and sweets are simply a bonus.

To prove this point, I once used my neighborhood trick-or-treaters as a science project. In addition to offering a bowl of the smaller “fun-sized” candy, I also offered a bowl filled with items such as stickers, pencils, colorful shoelaces, arcade tokens, sugar free gum, bubbles, small packs of nuts, trail mix and lower sugar cereal bars. I asked the trick-or-treaters to choose one item from each bowl. I kept a record of how the kids responded and how many actually took something from the non-candy bowl.

My first trick-or-treater of the evening was so excited about the bubbles, he almost forgot to take candy. He actually ran from my house screaming “I got bubbles!”

By the end of the evening, 43 total kids had visited my house. All of them made a selection from both bowls. The most popular items in the non-candy bowl:

  1. Bubbles (by a landslide!)
  2. Cornnuts
  3. Sparkle stickers
  4. Low sugar cereal bars
  5. Crayons

The young children were especially thrilled by the non-candy “treats” & some even had to be reminded to take candy! I declared my experiment a success and have continued this Halloween tradition ever since. It’s also a great option for children with allergies or other special diet needs.

Below are a few more tricks that parents can use to encourage healthy habits and cut down on the candy “goblin.”

  • Make sure kids eat a balanced dinner prior to trick-or-treating. Eating candy instead of a meal often results in upset tummies and crabby moods. Your child may be more interested in eating if you cook a hearty soup or stew in your “cauldron” and call it Witch’s Brew.
  • Don’t send kids out trick-or-treating with a pillowcase! Instead, use a smaller bag or bucket. If kids can’t lift their bag at the end of the night, that’s a sign they have too much candy.
  • Set a policy for eating trick-or-treat candy. In my view, it’s better to eat candy moderately over several days as a substitute for dessert or one or two pieces along with a healthy snack. It’s also been my experience that the kids get bored and actually forget about their candy after a few days.
  • At Halloween parties, include healthy snack choices such as air-popped popcorn flavored with pumpkin pie spice and a light coating of honey, roasted pumpkin seeds (see below), whole grain pumpkin muffins (recipe below), whole grain crackers and hummus, baked tortilla chips and guacamole, punch made from a mixture of 100% fruit juice and seltzer water, fruit chunks, and cocoa made with fat free or 1% milk. The healthy choices will help balance out the treats.
  • To get into the Halloween spirit, try one of the following fun food activities with your kids:

Using either light and dark breads (e.g. light and dark rye), white and orange cheeses, or thin melon slices (e.g. cantaloupe and honeydew), create contrasting designs with cookie cutters. Carefully cut identical sections out of both slices of cheese or bread. Insert the dark cutout into the light piece and the light cutout into the dark piece.

PUMPKIN SEEDSpumpkin-seeds-201098_1920


Save the seeds when you clean out your pumpkin. Rinse the seeds well. Mix 3 T. of olive oil, 1/4 tsp. garlic salt and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Mix together with the seeds. Spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until the seeds are brown and crispy.


Offer delicious savory dips such as hummus, guacamole, salsa, tzatziki or cheesy bean dips as an alternative to sweet treats. Pair with carrot strips, orange pepper strips and baked whole corn tortilla wedges cut in fun Halloween shapes. To make crispy corn tortilla wedges, spray both sides lightly with olive or canola oil spray and bake 5-7 minutes in a 400º oven.

Savor the Flavor of Seeds

Nutrition For Kids

Edible seeds are a super source of nutrition

Seeds are some of the most nutrient dense, yet overlooked sources of nutrition in our diet. Edible seeds are packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats and a wide variety of vitamins, NNM2016_700x550_5minerals and antioxidants. They also add flavor, texture and interest to a wide variety of foods. The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month® is Savor the Flavor of Eating Right and seeds add a savory, crunchy, interesting addition to all kinds of meals and snacks.

Here’s a look at just a few healthy seed choices:

Flaxseed – Flaxseed is loaded with cancer fighting lignans and plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, which aid in lowering triglycerides.  For the best results, buy the seeds in their whole form and grind as needed (whole flaxseeds go through your system undigested). Ground flaxseed can go rancid (spoil) quickly and should be kept refrigerated or frozen. A…

View original post 406 more words

Polenta Stuffed Peppers & Squash

September in Western Oregon is my favorite month in the garden because I finally get to harvest, harvest, harvest! This has been a great year for peppers, squash (summer and winter), green beans, tomatoes, eggplant, onions, herbs and really everything else I planted.

I’ve been on a polenta kick lately (Southerners know them as grits) so I began with a recipe from Vegetarian Southwest: Recipes from the Region’s Favorite Restaurants, changed it up a bit and ended up with some delicious results.

It started with my garden peppers and straightneck squash:

garden pepperssummer squash

I cut the tops of the peppers, discarded the stem but saved the lids. I then cut the squash in half and used a melon baller to scoop out and save the inside of the squash.

ready to stuff

Here is my version of the recipe:

1 cup uncooked polenta
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1  – 4 oz. can fire roasted green chilies
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4-6 sweet peppers and 2 large summer squash
Canola oil or butter
Fresh cilantro for garnish

Cook polenta according to package directions.  Chop pepper lids, scooped inside of squash and onions and sauté in oil or butter. Stir sautéed vegetables, cumin, pine nuts, chilies and the Monterey jack cheese into the cooked polenta. Fill peppers and squash with the mixture and place in shallow casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350º F.

Remove from oven, top with cheddar cheese and bake until cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh cilantro right before serving.

Makes Approx. 4 Servings

ready to eat

And here is my dinner, complete with fresh garden greens. Yum!





Digging up Nutritional Roots (history, not vegetables)

20170730_181137Several years ago, as I was sorting through the books at a shop of old treasures near Santa Fe, New Mexico, I came across  a 1941 book titled “Nutrition and Physical Fitness” (3rd edition, W.B. Saunders). Written by noted Kansas State University* nutrition scientist, L. Jean Bogert, Ph.D., the book was not intended as a textbook, but rather, for the “adult with at least average intelligence, a fairly wide non-technical vocabulary, and a desire to have useful facts presented in the most direct manner.”

In other words, this book was targeted for the lay public — long before the shelves of bookstores were lined with diet and nutrition books.

Because nutrition is a relatively young science, this 76 year-old book is a potent reminder of how far nutrition knowledge and research have evolved. The B complex vitamins (there are 8) were lumped together as one “Vitamin B.” What we now know as the vitamin riboflavin was classified as “Vitamin G.” Several minerals, including zinc, selenium, chromium, and others, had not been identified as essential nutrients yet.

No mention was made of cholesterol and heart disease, the link between nutrition and cancer prevention, antioxidants, phytonutrients or trans fats. Instead, great attention was paid to Iodine deficiency and goiter (those were the pre-iodized salt days), vitamin D deficiency and rickets, and an almost obsessive concern with digestive difficulties, including an entire chapter devoted to correcting constipation!

The More Things Change . . .

More striking than the differences though, are the uncanny similarities of the nutrition issues and practices that continue to affect the health of Americans in 2017. Bogert expressed great concern regarding “the alterations in the character of the national diet.”

“The machine age has had the effect of forcing upon the peoples of the industrial nations (especially the United States) the most gigantic human feeding experiment ever attempted,” she wrote.
20170730_182053She saw the results as disturbing, mentioning specifically the over reliance on highly milled cereal grains, the high proportion of sugar in the diet, more highly refined foods, the decline in consumption of dairy products, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, and, in her words, “too prominent a place given to muscle meats.”

Her predictions, we now realize, have largely come to pass. Bogert’s words are sobering in light of the chronic diseases that continue to disable and kill Americans.  Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and many types of cancer all have a nutritional basis. It’s no coincidence that the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans urge us to return to a diet that features more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein foods.

Advice For Children

In her “Diet for Children” chapter, Bogert again offers advice which rings true today. Years before the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) were established, she recommended children take in 880-1000 milligrams of calcium each day. (The most recent RDA for calcium advises 700 milligrams for 1 to 3 year-olds, 1000 milligrams for 4 to 8 year-olds and 1300 milligrams for ages 9-13). She also came close in her recommendation for iron, a nutrient that continues to concern modern-day kids. She advised 6-15 milligrams of iron per day for children, which corresponds closely to today’s RDA, which ranges from 8-15 milligrams per day, depending on age and gender.

According to Bogert’s recommendations, children of yesteryear were advised to take a daily dose of cod liver oil to meet vitamin A and D requirements. She likely didn’t realize this was also a good way for children to receive healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health and development.

Bogert also recommended that children eat plenty of fiber and drink enough water.

“Fiber is best obtained as an integral part of foods…in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods…,” she wrote.

Positive Feeding Strategies
The current thinking on behavioral strategies for feeding kids is not really so new either. Bogert alludes to the importance of parental role modeling in the following passage:

“Adults should be careful not to make disparaging remarks about certain foods before children. If everyone is accustomed to eat cheerfully at least a small amount of all the foods which come on the table, a better esprit de corps and saner attitude toward food will prevail. One will be surprised in such an atmosphere to see how food prejudices are gradually overcome and what it is possible to accomplish in learning to like many useful foods.”

And, she also addresses the issue of allowing a child to decide how much to eat:

“The safest general rule for normal children seems to be: make sure the diet contains plenty of the tissue-building materials and vitamins, and then to let the appetite take care of the quantity consumed.”

In other words, no forcing or mandatory “bite rules.” Not so different from the advice I recently offered here.

A Holistic Approach

Long before the terms “holistic” or “wellness” were coined, Bogert understood that nutrition was only one aspect of total health. With words that ring true for today – written in yesterday’s language – Bogert pretty much sums up our present-day lifestyle:

“Strain, worry, too little exercise and fresh air, lack of sunlight, hurry in eating, eating when tired, irregular habits, and insufficient rest are all such familiar evils that we fail to appreciate their significance and are inclined to accept them as inevitable. We need to recognize the fundamental importance of such factors in nutrition, and to endeavor to substitute favorable conditions for the present unfavorable ones.”

*In 1941, Kansas State University was known as Kansas State Agricultural college.












Smart Eating for a Successful School Year


Beginnings are a great time to review your child’s eating habits. A new school year offers opportunity for making some healthy changes that will impact your child’s performance, health, growth and even his or her mood.

For best results, involve your child and keep it positive by explaining how healthy habits can lead to success, whether in the classroom, on the playing field, or in the music room. Focus on the following areas and your child will be fueled for a year of success!


For optimal school performance, breakfast is a “must-have.” Whether your child eats at home, at school, or munches on a baggie of berries and peanut butter/whole grain toast at the bus stop, fueling up is a necessity to recharge brain cells to full capacity. While researchers can explain the scientific importance of breaking the fast, teachers can tell you firsthand about the impact breakfast-skipping makes on late-morning behavior and school performance. Kids need a balance of nutrients, so include sources of complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, a protein source (dairy and fortified soy beverages count too), and nutrient-boosting fruits or vegetables as part of the breakfast plan. A recent study showed that kids miss out on nutrients for the day when breakfast goes missing.

School Meals
Parents may be surprised to learn that in many cases, school lunch provides a wider array of nutrient-rich choices than a packed lunch. This is especially true when packed lunches contain highly processed chips, packaged cookies and crackers, white bread sandwiches and juice boxes. (see below for tips on packing a nutrient-rich lunch).

Ever since USDA revised the school meal regulations (which took effect in 2011), students have seen more fresh, healthy choices at school. School meals now include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

Planning For Snack Attacks
Afterschool is when the appetite really kicks in for school kids. Children often head off the bus and straight into the kitchen. Take advantage of this hunger surge by offering plenty of healthy snack choices. Keep foods such as fresh fruit, cut-up veggies, string cheese, hummus, bean dips, yogurt, nut butters, and whole grain breads and crackers within easy reach. Add fresh citrus slices, cucumber or watermelon to a pitcher of water to encourage kids to drink water over sweetened beverages.

Family Meals
Family meals are a must-have for healthy, well-adjusted kids. When families make the time to sit down and eat together at home, everyone tends to eat better. Kids and teens who eat with their family a few times each week tend to do better in school and even get into less trouble. Plan ahead for those times when family activities leave you scrambling to get dinner on the table. Prepare healthy soups, stews, lasagna and enchiladas in double batches and freeze, or serve sandwiches on whole grain bread with simple side dishes such as fruit, salads and yogurt.

Finally, remember that parents are the ultimate role models for healthy habits. Make nutritious, whole food choices part of your daily routine and your children will become better eaters as well.

Packing a Nutrient-Rich Lunch

Colorful, Varied, Fun – these are the ingredients for a lunch that will please your child. Think beyond the nut butter sandwich to include a variety of kid-friendly foods that will end up in your child’s tummy instead of the garbage. The tips below will get you started.

Kids like compartments
Bento boxes or other divided containers are popular with kids and a perfect way to insure variety. Make sure to include an ice pack or frozen food item. Include at least 4 food groups in every lunch:

  • Colorful vegetables such as snap peas, carrots, celery, grape tomatoes, pepper strips, cucumber or zucchini slices, broccoli or cauliflower florets, spinach leaves
  • Easy-to-eat fruits like pineapple chunks, apple slices, grapes, kiwi slices, avocado chunks, cut-up melon and berries, clementines
  • Protein such as tuna pouches, natural deli meats, natural jerky, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, yogurt, nuts, seeds, hummus, edamame, or sunflower seed butter
  • Whole grains including the whole grain versions of crackers, flatbread, mini-bagels, pasta/quinoa salad or whole corn polenta squares served with salsa.

Kids like to have a say
Be sure to involve your child in lunch prep duties. When kids are in on the planning, they are much more likely to eat and enjoy lunch. This is also a great opportunity to teach your child about nutrition, budgeting and food safety.

Thinking ahead to cooler days
As the weather cools, there are many hot dishes that can be included in a thermos such as soups, stews and whole grain pasta dishes. Kids look forward to having warm foods as a part of their lunch and it’s also a great way to use up leftover favorites.


The “Rule of 3” for a Better Breakfast

School’s out for the summer but that doesn’t mean breakfast should take a vacation.

hummus fruit whole grain breakfast

Most kids and adults fall short when it comes to eating enough whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Breakfast provides a great opportunity to squeeze in more healthy foods and boost overall nutrient intake. To achieve a breakfast meal with an optimal balance of nutrients, follow the Rule of 3:

Rule 1

Include one serving of a protein-rich food such as eggs, lean meats, beans, nut or seeds (and their butters) or protein-rich dairy sources such as milk, yogurt or cheese. Protein stabilizes blood sugar, delays hunger and provides the building blocks for body growth, maintenance and repair.

  • A serving is 1 egg, ¼ cup beans, 1 tbsp. nut butter, 2 tbsp. nuts or seeds, or 1 oz. lean meat. For dairy, it is 8 ounces of milk or regular yogurt, 5-6 ounces Greek yogurt or 1.5 ounces of cheese.

Rule 2

Add a serving of whole grain to supply sustained slow-release energy, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron and other trace minerals.

  • A grain serving is considered 1 ounce. Examples include one small slice of whole wheat bread, a 6 inch whole corn or whole wheat tortilla, ½ cup cooked oatmeal or 1 oz. low sugar whole grain breakfast cereal (varies by product, check the label to determine the serving size).

Rule 3

Incorporate a minimum of ½ cup of a colorful, nutrient-boosting fruit or vegetable to strengthen the immune system with vitamins A & C, potassium, and folate, as well as hundreds of additional phytonutrients and antioxidants.

  • Examples of a 1/2 cup serving include 1 small orange, 16 grapes, 4 large strawberries, 1/2 cup fresh salsa, 1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes, or 1 cup chopped spinach. 

Mix & Match Your Morning Menu 

The table below provides simple “mix and match” menu ideas packed with nutrient-rich foods. Variety is the key when designing a breakfast that will supply enough energy to last throughout the morning.

Choose a food from each column to build a delicious “rule of 3” menu with the perfect mix of nutrients.

Protein or Dairy

Whole Grain

Fruit or Vegetable

Cheese – string,
sliced or grated

Whole grain granola






Quinoa flakes

Berries, fresh or frozen


Whole corn grits (also known as polenta)

Cherry tomatoes

Lean ham or sausage

Whole corn or flour tortilla



Whole grain
homemade muffin
Most commercial muffins are essentially cupcakes! Try my blueberry muffins or other lower sugar recipes.

Fresh Salsa


Whole grain mini-bagel

Melon slices

Nut and Seed butters
Peanut butter
Almond butter
Sunflower seed butter
Cashew butter

Whole grain ready-to-eat cereal
Look for a product with the first ingredient(s) as whole grains, at least 3 grams dietary fiber and 6 or fewer grams of sugar per serving.

Pear, peach or apple slices

Refried beans

Whole grain toaster waffle

Pineapple chunks

Sharp cheddar, grated

Whole wheat Pita bread

Potatoes with skin, baked or roasted


Whole grain toast

Sweet potatoes, baked or roasted

Cottage cheese

Whole grain English muffin



Eating a Loaf of Bread a Day!

Could you eat a loaf of bread every day for 90 days? Would you even want to? Yes, I know it sounds crazy and as a dietitian, not something I would generally recommend. Enter Lin Carson, Ph.D. She is a Portland based food scientist, mom and triathlete who runs the company Bakerpedia, a fantastic resource for the baking industry. She knows about all things baking! And Lin was tired of hearing about how wheat, gluten and bread are allegedly bad for everyone’s health.*  So she decided to fight back and begin an experiment (on herself) to see what would happen if she ate a loaf of bread every day for 90 days.

Lin contacted me before she began this journey and after my initial shock, I agreed to help guide her meal planning. I advised her to have labs drawn before this started and she weighs herself weekly. Follow her journey at She is also recording podcasts and you can hear my assessment on her progress below. (I join the conversation around 10 minutes, 40 seconds).

*For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance/sensitivity, avoiding wheat and gluten are medically necessary. Lin’s talking about everyone else.

« Older Entries