5 Ways to Survive (+ Enjoy!) Candy Season

This time of year presents a great opportunity to wipe the slate clean, make some changes, set new goals, up the ante on the workouts, and recommit to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. You might be thinking: Halloween is on the horizon. This is the hardest time of year. Holidays are around the corner, etc. 

Many of us have a pattern of going from one extreme to the other between Halloween and the New Year with the best of intentions to play catch up on January 1st…well, actually January 2nd. However, we are also forgetting the fact that January is not actually a clean slate because… 

C A N D Y  S E A S O N 

I am a firm believer in the word moderation, however I think this word can get twisted, turned and used as a justification if we aren’t clear with the definition. Candy should be enjoyed but should not take over our minds, progress or hard-work mentality. Before we get into some strategies on how to stay on track and out of the danger zone, take a look at this candy season timeline for more specifics on how food marketing experts attempt to manipulate our health-conscious efforts for over half of the calendar year.

Pretty insane, right? Food marketers know what they are doing….bait and switch, y’all. However, with all of that said, it is important to realize that it is possible to find a nice balance between candy and salads without sabotaging your diet, workout and “healthier you” efforts. We do not have to be so rigid or restrictive, we just have to increase our self-awareness, educate ourselves on the facts and have a solid game plan.

I am a math girl. I do freaking equations in my head all day because I enjoy it (and I might be slightly ADD). Therefore, we are going to do some calculations right now…with candy. Two of my favorite things, whoop whoop!

Equation #1: Peanut M&M’s

  • One fun-sized pack =  90 calories, 4.7 grams of fat, and 9.1 grams of sugar
  • One regular pack = 250 calories, 13 grams of fat and 25 grams of sugar
  • 3 fun-sized packs = 270 calories, 14.1 grams of fat, 27.3 grams of sugar.

*Three packs of the Fun-Size has more than 1 regular pack. 

Example #2: Snicker’s

  • One fun-sized candy bar =  80 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 9 grams of sugar
  • One regular candy bar = 250 calories, 13 grams of fat and 25 grams of sugar
  • 3 fun-sized candy bars = 240 calories, 10.5 grams of fat, 27 grams of sugar

*Three fun-sized bars  have less than 1 regular bar. 

Example #3: Butterfinger

  • One fun-sized candy bar =  85 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 8.5 grams of sugar
  • One regular candy bar = 250 calories, 10 grams of fat and 24 grams of sugar
  • 3 fun-sized candy bars = 255 calories, 10.5 grams of fat,  25.5 grams of sugar

*Three fun-Sized candy bars have more than 1 regular pack. 

Example #4: Reese’s Cups

  • One fun-sized cup  = 44 calories, 3 grams of fat and 5 grams of sugar
  • One regular-sized cup =  110 calories, 6.5 grams of fat, and 10.5 grams of sugar
  • 3 fun-sized cups = 132 calories, 9 grams of fat, 15 grams of sugar.  

*Three fun-sized Reese’s cups have more than 1 regular cup. 

I have created a list of tips that my clients (as well as myself!) have found helpful throughout the years, and I hope you can use these strategies to not just find your healthy balance, but also to enjoy candy season in all its glory without letting it take over your mind or health-conscious efforts.

5 Ways to Survive + Enjoy Candy Season

  1. If you’re going to buy candy, don’t buy the 10 pound bag of fun-sized candy just because it is there. Buy a candy bar – one or two. Do you need to buy the big bulk bag 2+ weeks before Halloween? No, you do not. Are you going to keep it in the drawer that long? Or put it out in a bowl, and grab a few pieces every time you walk by it? See above for mathematical reasoning and appropriate rationing.
  2. Avoid ingredients that really just say trans fat, aka partially hydrogenated oils, fractionated oils, and interesterified oils.
  3. If you’re going to analyze a label, make sure to look at the sugar grams ahead of the calories or fat grams. Aka twizzlers, gummy bears, sour gummies, sweet tarts, etc. promote themselves as being low-fat or fat-free, but what about the bigger picture? Know what you’re eating.
  4. Stick with a normal, balanced diet. Don’t try to manipulate calories to eat more candy. Aka, don’t skip meals. It will only backfire.
  5. Skip the guilt trip. This is a fun time of year, and beating yourself up is not going to help you stay on track. Know that we all struggle with temptations, and it’s important to not only enjoy the holidays, but also the food because it’s a part of it! Be kind to yourself this holiday season and if you overdo it, just get back on-track and resist the temptation to procrastinate.

MVP Quiche + Random Kitchen Tips

Savory Spice Shop recently invited me to be their guest chef for a Back to School cooking demonstration. Whenever I do one of these, I always like to remind my audience that I am a Registered Dietitian by occupation, and self-proclaimed chef taught mostly by…the internet. Plain and simple: my cooking demos are more like Mr. Wizard meets Molly Shannon and nothing like Martha Stewart decorating a gingerbread house.

One of the many things I love about cooking demos is that I can 100% relate to my audience and vice versa. I know what it’s like to feel a little overwhelmed or flustered in the kitchen, and I’m not trying to hide it. Instead of saying, “check this out, so easy, happy trees,” my approach looks more like, “Oh, that didn’t turn out so great…but here is how we can fix it.” Truth bomb: you are going to mess up…a lot. BUT there is always a way to make it right. I have learned so much about cooking through trial and error; therefore, I bring a not-so-traditional perspective to the kitchen table.  Not only do I incorporate ways to add nutritional value to meals without losing the flavor or quality of the dish, but I also share pointers that your glorified Top Chef may not think to share because it seems like common sense.

Let’s be real…you can feel like a real idiot in a kitchen pretty quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s a humbling place for many…including myself. If only these little kitchen walls could talk…

Home Depot: $3. Click picture to purchase. Disclosure: Not an advertisement. You’re welcome.



Self-Taught Chef Tip #1: Never cut an onion again without a pair of these babies…







In preparing for a cooking demo, I like to come up with fun, relatively simple recipes that I have yet to share on P&P. This gives the demo attendees first dibs on tasting the new treats, and for this particular event, attendees also received little goody bags containing the recipes and spice samples used in each one.

Today I am sharing the recipe for Miniature Veggie Pizza Quiche, aka MVP Quiche.  The other three recipes from the cooking demo will post soon, so make sure to check back to grab those as well. The MVP Quiche recipe can be a little bit tricky; therefore, I have included a few tips to help you stay out of the disaster zone. Good luck!

MVP (Miniature Veggie Pizza) Quiche *Crustless

Serving size: 1-2 mini quiche; Servings approximately 6
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25-30 minutes
  • extra virgin olive oil spray
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups chopped vegetables (I used bell peppers, red onion, broccolini, & mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup marinara or pizza sauce
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon Savory Spice Pizza & Pasta Sprinkle *salt free
  • 1 teaspoon Savory & Spice Granulated Onion
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Generously coat silicone muffin pan with olive oil spray and set aside. *
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and spices.
  3. Sauté vegetables and evenly distribute into 12 muffin cups.
  4. Pour egg mixture over vegetables into each muffin cup. **
  5. Dollop each cup with 1/2 tablespoon of pizza sauce.
  6. Top pizza sauce with a little sprinkling of mozzarella and spices.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  8. Allow quiche to cool in the muffin pan (~30 minutes) before carefully removing each one with a spatula or small knife.

Recipe Notes

*You will need a silicone muffin tin. The standard muffin tin simply doesn’t cut it. Trust me. I’ve tried. Purchase one here on Amazon. 

**Before you pour egg mixture into muffin cups, place a baking sheet underneath the tin. This will help you transfer the pan into the oven without slinging your uncooked eggs all over the kitchen. Been there, done that.

Storage: Place quiche in an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator. For desirable freshness, eat within 2-3 days.

Freezing: If you’d like, place quiche in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for longer keep.

Spicy Rosemary + Maple Crunch

I often hear that baking granola is easy. But I disagree. Things that require eye-balling and provide a somewhat generous temperature range are a lot easier to me than baking…which is why baking is my favorite. It’s much more scientific and precise, and therefore, it’s a challenge. Who doesn’t love a good challenge? I know I’m not the only nerd out there. And if you’re reading this…clearly you are a nerd, too. So fold your cards, please.

I have burned so many batches of granola that I would be embarrassed if there was an actual running tally. Let’s just keep it at this…CPI has called a handful of times asking if they needed to dispatch fire trucks to my place.  I had to explain that I burned granola but everything was under control.

My point here is, granola isn’t easy because you can’t just throw it in the oven and walk away from it. You must pay attention. So…pay attention!

Here’s one of the dandiest granola recipes I’ve ever tried and it all came together while I was experimenting with what I thought would turn out to be a huge fail. And I was oh so wrong.

Spicy Rosemary + Maple Crunch

Yields approximately 4 cups
Servings approximately 16 (1/4 cup = 1 serving)
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
  • 1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 ½ cups mixed nuts, coarsely chopped (½ cup almonds, ½ cup walnuts, ½ cup pecans)
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons Pour Olive’s Rosemary Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 300 degrees F. line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the oats, walnuts, pecans, almonds, fresh rosemary, cayenne pepper and sea salt; set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil over low heat; stir in the olive oil and maple syrup until reaches a syrup consistency.
  4. Add liquid to the dry ingredients and stir well until everything is well coated.
  5. Spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, or until the granola is lightly golden.
  6. Remove from the oven and transfer parchment paper off of the baking sheet to allow cooling completely.

*Store in an airtight container. Keeps for up to one week…maybe more! 🙂


Baby Kale & Quinoa Bowl

Salads don’t have to suck. For a long time (well before my nutrition career), I believed that salads were a form of self-punishment. I tried to like them. I couldn’t do it.

Later I learned they aren’t so bad, thanks to salad geniuses like my friends at Chop’t Salad Creative Co.  But you don’t have to order takeout just to get a good salad. If you think you’re incapable of making an edible salad at home, try this recipe and change your perception. It’s a guaranteed winner-winner salad dinner!

Baby Kale & Quinoa Salad + Honey-Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette

Yields 1-2 servings *If you’re really hungry, I wouldn’t share it 🙂
  • 4 cups baby kale
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Pink Himalayan Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice, fresh
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon organic raw honey
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 medium avocado, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
For the Kale Chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Rinse and dry kale well. Toss 1 1/2 cups of the kale in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cayenne pepper. Massage the oil and seasoning into the kale leaves.

  3. Divide and spread leaves into two even layers on baking sheets.

    *Note: the more space between leaves, the crispier your kale chips will be. Therefore, try to keep overlapping pieces to a minimum.

  4. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

  5. Gently transfer kale chips with parchment paper onto a cool surface.  Allow the kale chips to cool completely.

For the Orange-Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Whisk together orange juice, remaining olive oil (3 tablespoons), honey, and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with remaining salt.

For the Salad
  1. Massage the remaining kale with 1 teaspoon of Honey-Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette. This will serve as your base of the salad. Layer this on the bottom of a salad bowl or large plate.

  2. Toss cooked quinoa with White Balsamic Vinegar. Add the cooked quinoa on top of the kale. Sprinkle chickpeas, cranberries, pine nuts, and avocado.

  3. Top with kale chips, and pour remaining dressing over the salad, or leave on the side.

An Exception to the Breakfast Rule

Breakfast is my thing. Especially on the weekends. And because it’s nearly impossible to find a place that has exactly what I want without me customizing my order to the annoyingth degree, I usually opt to create my own breakfast spread at home.

Here is my rationale:

  1. Breakfast can be simple and low-maintenance to make and clean up if you do it right.
  2. The complexity of how many ways you can order eggs (and bacon, for that matter) can put you, your server and the cook staff in quite the pickle. Side note: If I had a nickel for the number of times I have ordered eggs over medium and they end up rubbery because I over describe my preference, or like a dam just broke because I downplayed the importance of the over-medium characteristic, I’d be a rich lady. Alas, when you dine out, you have to expect these things…
  3. Sometimes it’s just too much brainpower to find something you enjoy (you need to be excited about your food!) while still maintaining some type of balanced, nutritious diet.

With that being said, every rule usually has an exception or two. In my 10+ years of living in Charlotte, NC,  I have finally found my exception to the breakfast rule.

Drumroll, please…

Put your forks together for The Suffolk Punch! This hot spot opened up in Fall of 2017 and lucky for us, they serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. This means I’m not in my kitchen as much on the weekends, and it is delightful to say the least!

In addition to being delicious, TSP is nutritionally aware, aka THEY GET IT. Their entire menu is non-GMO, organic and/or local whenever accessible, and completely soy-free.

One of my biggest things as a dietitian is not selling anyone on just the concept of “healthy.” Why? Because healthy is both complicated and too vague; it’s not a one-size fits all. Not to mention it’s not exactly top of the list when trying to figure out brunch plans with friends. The good news is that you can eat well, be healthy AND look forward to meals without being stressed out. It’s not easy, but with the right information (and dietitians having your best interest in mind!), you can find great, balanced options while navigating quickly through all the crazy myths and food marketing schemes that are out there to make things much more complicated than they need to be.

So let’s start HERE, and try one of my top three TSP brunch favorites!

The Veggie Burger is the first thing I tried at TSP. I have tried many a veggie burgers in my time, and this one is a flavor explosion and a must-try! Comes with arugula, house-made BBQ sauce, and goat cheese crema…YUM!

Usually when I find something I like on a menu, I stick with it. But my second visit to TSP I actually ventured out and tried the Chiliaquiles. Holy molé (get it???)…out of this world good, and also gluten-free! Corn tortillas (crispy!), guajillo sauce, queso fresco, pulled chicken, peppers, fried eggs, onion, salsa verde. Oh my.

The Roasted Vegetable Hash is a nutrition power house if you ask me. Gluten-free and loaded with seasonal, local farm vegetables topped with fried eggs.

If your mouth isn’t already watering enough, torture yourself a little more and check out their Full Brunch Menu.

The Suffolk Punch is taking reservations for Mother’s Day. Don’t miss your chance to check them out and wow the moms in your life. If you are a regular, you know how packed it gets on the weekends, so make sure to call today to grab your spot!

(704) 319-8650

2911 Griffith St
Charlotte, NC 28203

On the Light Rail
@ New Bern Station

*All images by Josh Vasko | www.joshuavasko.com