Autumn Healthy Tips

Think outside the candy dishpumpkin-2016

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. We grow pumpkins every year, and this year, the little guys did fantastically. Aren’t they cute?

As much as I love Halloween, I’m also a fan of balance, so more than a dozen years ago, I made the choice to stop giving out Halloween candy. A big part of it was that I really didn’t need or want to be staring at a bowl of candy the month prior and the month after Halloween. I know myself well enough to know if I see it, I’m much more likely to eat it. Instead, we gave away rubber duckies, mini-slinkies, yo-yos, and other small fun toys. My husband was initially not happy with my decision, and I was a little nervous, until my first trick-or-treater ran back to his dad and said, “Cool! A slinky!” One year, a group of girls even told my husband that she looked forward to the “rubber ducky house” every year.  Somehow, I resisted the opportunity to say I told you so.

There are plenty of good options for stickers, toys, rubber duckies, mini games or even temporary tattoos for children you know well. Amazon has a ton of fun toy assortments (glow in the dark fangs, anyone?) Oriental Trading Company has a wide selection. Another easily available non-food option is mini cans of Play-Doh, (g-free peeps, remember that Play Doh has gluten, so if you play, wash your hands very, very, very thoroughly!) Some are more expensive than candy, but it depends on how you halloween treatslook at it. When you average in the bag of candy you bought on sale in September (and ate), the one in mid-October (trust me, that one will disappear as well) and the one you have to run out at the last minute and buy, it evens out in the end.

One of my clients, Stephanie, got really creative and put together goodie bags of her own (above). She found the DIY approach was cheaper than ones she could buy. I predict they’ll be a hit!

Extra bonus–if you decide to go the non-food-treat option, Food Allergy Resource & Education (FARE) now has an interactive map so that children with food restrictions can find safe houses to visit and you can add your house to the map. The “Teal Pumpkin Project”, a new initiative for people with non-food treats to paint a pumpkin teal and put it on the doorstep, so children and parents know that safe options are available..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This isn’t a rant against candy, because of course I have great memories eating excessive quantities of candy on Halloween as a little kid. I fully trust there will still be more than enough candy to go around, even without my help. However, I’m a fan of treats when I really want them and will enjoy them, not eating treats because they’re sitting right in front of me and then *poof* where’d they go? You can also opt for healthier treats, like mini Larabars and mini Kind Bars, all fruit leathers, mini-packs of pistachio nuts, etc.

Also, if you do have children who are going trick-or-treating, it also may be worthwhile to have a plan for the excess candy. One method can be allowing children to sort their pile and choose a certain amount of candy they really want, and then bring the rest to a local foodbank, like the Capital Area Food Bank, or Food For Others.  to a group collecting candy to send to the troops, etc.

Fall recipes:

One of the things I love most about autumn is the beauty of the leaves. We’re not there yet, so the best is yet to come! The food is a close second! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Butternut Squash Bisque: The tastiest way to get vitamin A! A wonderful soup for the fall or winter. Allergen friendly with a dairy free option.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Hot Mulled Apple Drink: a favorite at our annual pumpkin carving party. It’s the perfect drink for a crisp autumn day.
  • Pumpkin Seeds: several variations on this classic snack.
  • Roasted Green Beans: So easy to get green beans this time of year. Yum yum yum!

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Wellcoach in Fairfax & Alexandria, VA.  She helps people with a range of dietary issues , including Celiac Disease, GI issues,  food allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vegetarian and vegan diets, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals and feeling great!  Email or call 571-271-8742.

G-Free October Tips

pumpkin-2016It’s hard to believe that Halloween is right around the corner when most of the leaves are green, but here we are. Because it’s been such mild weather thus far, our pumpkins are still alive and growing well!

Halloween can create more obstacles on on a gluten-free diet, so I have tips here on how to handle Halloween with food restrictions. I’m a big advocate for non-food treats for trick-or-treaters. It’s helpful both for your waistline, and it’s also a gift to have safe options for the many children with Celiac, gluten-sensitivity and/or allergies in your neighborhood. There are lots of fun options, like rubber duckies, slinkys, yoyos and other small toys, and you can list your house as a safe option for kids on special diets through the “Teal project”.  Bonus: you can save leftovers for next year. If you do choose the candy route, choose carefully–some candies that are normally gluten-free have wheat in the holiday versions.

“Made in a shared factory/shared equipment statements”
Over the past few years, these statement have been a major source of frustration and confusion for the gluten-free community. Because these are voluntary statements, it’s been difficult to assess the relative risk of these foods, and of course, the absence of a statement doesn’t mean anything, either. Most people see those as warnings of increased risk of gluten contamination, and allergy guidelines recommend removing those products, but according to a recent study, products with those warning statements are not useful for determining which products contain gluten or wheat.

Tricia Thompson of Gluten-Free Watchdog, Trisha Lyon and Amy Jones authored Allergen advisory statements for wheat: do they help US consumers with Celiac disease make safe food choices?  Surprisingly, in that study, foods with the allergen (made in a factory) statement warnings were less likely to contain gluten that packages that said nothing at all. It is a small study, but it’s an important conversation to have.

Most people I see are avoiding the “made in a factory” statements and instead choosing products without those warnings. At the very least, this provides a false sense of security.

So, best practices:wf-almonds

  1. Buy products with a gluten-free certification, such as through the GIG or CSA. This is especially important for flour and grain products.
  2. Buy products specifically marked “gluten-free”.
  3. Ask questions when you can, and email or contact the company. Manufacturers only go to the effort of labeling and testing for gluten if they believe it will influence the bottom line.
  4. Avoid all bulk bins, or situations with known cross contamination risk.
  5. Do monitor your Celiac antibody numbers yearly. They’re not perfect, but if they are positive, they’re an indicator of ongoing gluten consumption.
  6. Help advocate for change. FDA needs to do a better job and actually define those statements–or better yet, require companies to monitor and/or eliminate cross contamination with major allergens. We, collectively, can and should be doing better. So many people’s health is at stake.

Of course, ideally you also choose naturally gluten-free, unprocessed or less processed foods when possible.

Have a beautiful autumn.

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Wellcoach in Fairfax & Alexandria, VA.  She helps people with a range of dietary issues, including Celiac Disease, digestive issues, food allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vegetarian and vegan diets, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals and feeling great!  Email or call 571-271-8742.