3 Tips for Avoiding a Halloween Candy Binge

Halloween is coming friends! With that comes the joy of costumes, spooky decorations and more candy than anyone really needs.

Candy can be a tricky thing (see what I did there?). On one hand, Halloween is only one day out of the year so why all the fuss? Some might argue that it’s silly to put a limit on candy and celebrating in schools because “let kids be kids”.

On the other hand, we are all familiar with how early grocery stores start rolling out the candy, and how long it can linger around the house. So is it really just one day?

As with most controversial issues, I find myself somewhere in middle. I encourage my clients to take candy off of the pedestal where it often resides. I also understand the power of creating a supportive environment, and I realize that as humans we often make decisions out of convenience. Today I wanted to share a few manageable strategies for avoiding a candy binge using one of my favorite models - the ABC assessment tool!

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Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence

When I was still working in an office, I clearly remember the break room conversation that started around this time of year and continued all the way through the new year. It was basically equal parts contemplation, restriction and guilt.

I find that most people:

  1. Don’t think they should be eating candy

  2. Have a hard time completely abstaining from it

  3. End up overdoing it, then

  4. Feel totally bad about themselves for doing so.

The Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence (or ABC) assessment tool is just one way to observe problematic behaviors and then get to the root cause.

 ABCs of behavior observation
  • Antecedent: the events, action, or circumstances that occur before a behavior

  • Behavior: the behavior

  • Consequences: the action or response that follows the behavior

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Knowing this, if the goal is to change the outcome (or consequence), the first step is to modify the antecedent! Use this simple model to think about a current behavior that you want to change. Then think about what circumstances could be shifted around to make the behavior easier.

Here are three different ways you can change an antecedent using the candy example so you head into Halloween feeling prepared and empowered!

Buy only what you need

The giant bags of candy are perfectly arranged and waiting for you at the store and if you have a sweet tooth, it can be tempting to buy more than you need to make sure you get some too. However by doing this, you might be setting yourself up to make a difficult decision every.single.time you walk by the candy bowl.

As an alternative, buy only how much you think you’ll need, and and then come up with a plan for what to do with the leftovers. Here are some ideas:

  • Donate it to a local dentist office or charity

  • Freeze it for later use

  • Bake something that you can bring to a game night/football watch party/any other social event and distribute the wealth!

Focus on regular meals & snacks

If you know you’ll start seeing more candy in the days leading up to Halloween, be extra diligent about eating regular, balanced meals and snacks to keep yourself nourished and energized, sans the sugar.

The benefits are two-fold: this prevents you from getting overly hungry and can also help prevent the inevitable sugar crash that comes from eating sweets on an empty stomach.

Along with timing, make it a point to include high fiber (fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains), high protein eats for your main meals and snacks on these days. Wondering what this might look like? Here’s an example:

Breakfast - Whole grain toast + scrambled eggs + avocado

Snack - Yogurt with berries

Lunch - Fall Salad in a Jar (I’m obsessed with this salad!)

Snack - Apple + peanut butter (might include a piece of candy or two here)

Dinner - Parmesan crusted salmon with brown rice and asparagus

 balanced breakfast of eggs, muffin and peach

Come up with a game plan

Lastly, if you really love and look forward to a certain type of candy, come up with a game plan for how you can enjoy it in moderation. If you vow to completely restrict, there’s a good chance you’ll think about it even more and let me tell you, you have better things to think about!

Here are some ideas for how to strategically include your favorites:

  • you might commit to eat a full meal before having any candy

  • you might decide to pair the candy with some fruit

  • you might plan to sit down and enjoy any candy you do eat, free of distractions

Hold yourself accountable by writing down your game plan and hanging it somewhere visible as a reminder. If you need some assistance, I’d be happy to help!

What are your thoughts on Halloween? I would love to hear them in the comments 👇👇


If you struggle with situations like this on a regular basis, you might be a great candidate for 1:1 nutrition coaching and support! Schedule your free 15-minute intro call to learn more.


Breakfast-Worthy Apple Crisp

 Breakfast-Worthy Apple Crisp

Well this is a fall recipe if I’ve ever seen one

I’m just going to go ahead and say it - I’m one of those weird people that doesn’t really care about dessert. It’s not that I don’t like it, more so I could “take or leave it” and nine times out of ten I would go for a glass of wine after a meal instead. Apple crisp is one seasonal treat that I really do enjoy and one of the few “desserts” that I actually make at home. Probably because you can’t really mess it up. Those always tend to be my favorite dishes!

Once I start seeing apples back in the spotlight at the grocery store, I always get the itch to make a crisp.

Even better, I LOVE to eat it for breakfast with a side of eggs for quite possibly the most satisfying meal of all time. It’s called moderation people. Anyways, this breakfast-worthy crisp… It has all of the same great flavors and textures of a traditional apple crisp but it’s taken down a notch to make it more on the hearty/fiber-y side and less on the indulgent/sweet end of the spectrum. It’s mostly apples so it would make a great topping for oats. It’s also vegan for my plant-based friends out there! Of course if you don’t have coconut oil on hand you can use butter and it would still turn out great.

 Breakfast-Worthy Apple Crisp

So here’s how you make it.

I chose to use a cast-iron skillet, mainly because I don’t own a casserole dish. How is this even possible? I’m not sure. Regardless, I think it’s kind of fun to use your cast iron for recipes like this and it also makes for a fun presentation - perfect for a hosted brunch.

When I said you couldn’t mess it up, I wasn’t joking. All you really have to do is:

  1. Peel and slice your apples

  2. Toss them with a little bit of coconut oil, brown sugar and cinnamon

  3. Top with the crumbly mixture (made out of ingredients you probably have on hand!)

  4. Bake.

Check out the full recipe below and let me know if you give this (or your own variation) a try. It’s a little more time-intensive than my other recipes but it’s mostly hands-off and as a bonus, it makes your house smell BOMB.

 Breakfast-Worthy Apple Crisp

Breakfast-Worthy Apple Crisp

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 6 servings | Prep time: 15 minutes | Bake time: 45 minutes | Total time: 1 hour

ingredients

  • 5 honeycrisp apples, peeled and sliced (cores removed)

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (divided)

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (divided)

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts

  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed

  • 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Toss apples with 2 Tbsp each brown sugar and coconut oil. Add them to an oiled cast iron skillet.

  3. In a small bowl, mixed the oats, walnuts, flax, flour, cinnamon and salt. Then add the remaining brown sugar and coconut oil and mix until well-combined (it’s easiest to use your hands for this step!). You want a crumbly but moist mixture.

  4. Spread the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the apples. Cover with foil.

  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly and browned on the top. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.


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Which Cooking Oil Should I Use?

 Is there a best cooking oil?

The Lowdown on Oil

Oil is a key ingredient in the home cook’s repertoire. It’s used in everything from sautéing, roasting and frying to marinades, dressings and sauces. And sure, it’s possible to cook without oil but you wouldn’t be able to achieve that signature browning on fish or crispy edge on brussels sprouts that tastes so delicious.

If there is one cooking-related question that I hear over and over again it’s this one: “which cooking oil should I be using?” I completely understand why there is confusion about this as I’ve read a lot of contradictory articles in the news of late - some sounding rather alarming! As with most things, there isn’t one perfect answer or any one oil that performs well across the board, it’s more of a question of when to use which. So how exactly do you begin evaluating your cooking oils?

There are a couple of key factors to consider when it comes to oils: flavor and smoke point.

The first one is self-explanatory, but smoke point tends to throw people off a bit.

Essentially the more unrefined and delicate that an oil is, the lower the smoke point is. This is the maximum temperature that you should hit when using it because once an oil reaches it’s smoke point, the chemical structure starts to break down which makes for an undesirable flavor and the release of some potentially harmful chemicals.

I wanted to limit this overview to the most popular oils that I tend to see in recipes. So without further ado, here is your comprehensive guide to all things cooking oil!

 Grilled Chicken Kabobs

High Heat (420+ degrees)

Avocado Oil

Flavor/use: Due to the very high smoke point, avocado oil is ideal if you plan to do any frying/deep-frying. You might also consider using it for high-heat roasting. It’s one of the more expensive options (not surprising considering how much avocados cost) and might be a little bit harder to find.

Smoke point: 520 degrees

Peanut Oil

Flavor/use: Peanut oils are great for Asian cuisine like stir-fries and all of the related sauces and marinades. It definitely has a strong peanut aroma and the smoke point is on the high end, so it also works for higher-heat roasting.

Smoke point: 450 degrees

Grapeseed Oil

Flavor/use: The higher smoke point and neutral flavor make grapeseed a good option for roasting or grilling vegetables, or in salad dressings if you don’t want the olive flavor that comes with EVOO.

Smoke point: 420 degrees

Olive Oil

Flavor/use: This is definitely the workhorse of oils. I think of olive oil as one of the most used ingredients in my kitchen because I incorporate it almost daily whether it be to quickly saute vegetables, make homemade salad dressings or fry up an egg. It does have a notable olive flavor, but you usually don’t detect it when cooked. Extra-virgin olive oil has a much lower smoke point (325 degrees) so be sure to check which one you have and adjust accordingly.

Smoke point: 410 degrees (regular/pure)

 Chunky Monkey Banana Zucchini Muffins

Medium Heat (350-400 degrees)

Sesame Oil

Flavor/use: The aroma and flavor of sesame oil is incredible! Another great choice for Asian cuisine, especially crisping up tofu and stir-fry. Note that if you buy toasted sesame oil, the smoke point is likely much lower.

Smoke point: 410 degrees

Vegetable/Canola Oil

Flavor/use: These both have a neutral flavor and are great, multi-purpose oils. I tend to use them most in baked goods like muffins and quick breads. I sometimes see rumblings on the internet about how canola oil is a bad choice for your health (read this for clarification on some of the myths and facts). Overall, the research shows that the fatty acid profile is quite favorable to heart health as it provides beneficial anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.

Smoke point: 400 degrees

Coconut Oil (unrefined)

Flavor/use: It has a mild coconut flavor, is solid at room temperature and liquid when heated. Of all of the oils mentioned in this article, coconut certainly seems to have the most media buzz. While it’s perfectly fine to add it to your rotation, I wouldn’t bank on it having any magical impacts on your health. I like it best in vegan baked goods as a substitute for butter, or in cuisines that pair well with the coconut flavor.

Smoke point: 350 degrees

Low Heat (less than 350 degrees)

Toasted Walnut or flax Oil

Flavor/use: Most toasted nut and seed oils are considered to be very delicate and shouldn’t be used for cooking, but can instead add a unique flavor to salad dressings or sauces.

Smoke point: very low (not meant to be heated)

 Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Nutritionally Speaking

When it comes to nutrition, there are definitely some standouts. Here’s a brief overview of which oils have the most research to support any potential health benefits:

  • Olive oil is great source of monounsaturated fatty acids which are known to have a beneficial effect on our blood lipid profile (i.e. cholesterol & triglyceride levels). It’s definitely the most well-researched of the cooking oils as it’s a staple in the Mediterranean diet. Use this guide for helpful tips for purchasing olive oil!

  • Avocado oil is another great source of monounsaturated fatty acids but it’s also on the pricey side, which can be prohibitive to using it often.

  • Walnut & Flax oil (like their whole food counterparts) are both plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids so when it comes to high-flavor finishers and interesting salad dressings, you might consider giving one of these a try.

Remember that oils, while useful in cooking, are still recommended in small amounts relative to foundational health-promoting foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. I like to think of them as a complement to enhance flavor in home-cooked meals instead of considering oils a good source of nutrients. Your best bet is to keep a well-stocked kitchen so you can incorporate a variety of fats and oils into your cooking based on their functional properties.


Join the November Cooking Collective!

Now for a fun announcement! If you found this post helpful, I think you would love being a member of my upcoming (free) cooking accountability group.

I’ve been wanting to get this started for awhile now and luckily, my friend Mallory (<—seriously check her out on IG, her food photos are insanely gorgeous) was willing to co-facilitate with me so we are officially rolling it out November 1st.

We’ll be sharing prompts to keep everyone excited about cooking, especially once the holidays roll around and our calendars get packed to the brim.

Here’s everything you need to know:

  • Dates: November 1-30

  • Goal: to share cooking challenges and wins with the group so we can all benefit from the power of community and keep things fun and exciting in the kitchen as the holidays approach.

  • Topics covered: Meal planning, shopping, weekend food prep, batch cooking, weeknight shortcuts, Thanksgiving (!!) including recipe sharing and re-purposing leftovers plus much more.

  • Prize opportunity: one lucky participant will win one of the following cookbooks of their choosing: Dinner: Changing the Game, Food52 A New Dinner, or Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat! No pressure to track or set a goal, we just want to encourage everyone to follow along and get cooking on their own terms.


Article Sources:

  1. https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/types-of-cooking-oil

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4490476/

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24886626