It was a beautiful fall morning and I was especially rested from the extra hour of sleep granted by turning our clocks back, so I decided to check out the Annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival. My first time there, I wasn’t prepared for the suffocating mob in the single auditorium space. I should have expected it at a free event offering lots of free food. The variety of vendor booths affirmed how vegetarianism covers a broad scope, whether focusing on health, the environment, religion, or cruelty in animal slaughterhouses. I noticed quinoa, flax, organic t-shirts and…the desserts! The last thing I’d associate with vegetarianism is amazing desserts, but I was captivated by some impressive sweets displays, particularly Vegan Treats Bakery, a celebrated Philadelphia bakery hopefully soon to break into the Boston market. I’ve had many a dairy-free cake because of my nephew’s allergies, all tasting like sawdust, but whoa!—these cakes were simply spectacular. My frosted triple chocolate mini-cake was very moist, very chocolately, and beautiful to behold. I daresay it was better than regular chocolate cake and made me suspicious that it was missing any butter or eggs. I scored several freebies of hummus snack packs, organic energy bars, vegetarian magazines, and dairy-free chocolates. I tasted new items like African bean cakes (reminded me of the fried taro dumplings at a Chinese dim sum) and Teather, a kind of adult fruit roll-up made with tart organic pressed fruits rich in phytonutrients. I curiously checked out a massive line in one corner and chuckled when I saw it was for Tribe Hummus, a common product found at any supermarket! Oh well, hungry people love free food. For those expecting to eat lunch, many vegetarian restaurants were present, selling plates of their most popular items. Expert chefs and researchers offered educational talks. After a dizzying hour to survey all the booths, you leave with a heavy bag of nice samples, coupons, and inspiration to eat green, or at least appreciate that vegetarians and even vegans are serious foodies too.
Ok, so I’m a week late celebrating World Pasta Day, which was created in 1995 by the World Pasta Congress in Rome (who knew there was such a thing?). Every October 25th, World Pasta Day is celebrated internationally with events, tastings, and education of this high carb wonder. Did you know that pasta is eaten on all five continents and that the average person in North America eats 15 pounds of pasta annually, whereas the average person in Italy eats more than 51 pounds each year? And that the Chinese are on record as having eaten pasta as early as 5,000 B.C.? It’s an easy dish to love, and here’s an easy recipe from Christina! Click here for Bell Pepper Pasta with Chicken.
Out comes my party pooper hat—a nutritionist speaking about Halloween. No, I won’t lecture you to not let your kids collect their sweet treats. I won’t even ask you to throw out the leftover candy. I just wish the holiday could have more meaning, like I do with others: that Christmas didn't spotlight big glittery presents, and Thanksgiving wasn’t about gorging ourselves into a food coma. I wish Halloween were more about having spooky fun get-togethers with friends or cute dress-up parties with the neighborhood tots than collecting mountains of chocolate. I don’t like seeing the greedy eyes of young trick-or-treaters ogling my basket of candy and frowning when they get two pieces (many are bolder and yell “that’s it?”). I don’t like being compared to my kindly elderly neighbor whom all the kids flock to because she doles out full-size Snickers.
With the epidemic of obese kids whom we’re fighting to save from early health problems, the issue heightens during this season. The major holidays from Halloween through New Year’s Day add thousands of extra calories to our usual diets. In addition, the cold weather and shorter days may discourage the physical activity needed to balance out that extra intake. So, now that I’ve spoken my peace, here are some ideas:
Give out treats with a little less fat and calories. The cute pretzel packs are best but I doubt most kids see them as treats. Miniature or fun sizes of 3 Musketeers, Peppermint Patties, Tootsie Rolls, candy corn, and dark chocolate are appreciated. And yes, two or three pieces of this size are enough per child! For your own kids, allow a few pieces each night but with the agreement that they brush their teeth extra carefully afterward as all candy, regardless of calories, has lots of sugar.
Organize a fun costume party for your child inviting a few kids over, with small prizes and games. Make sure to include dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Or attend a dress-up Halloween or Harvest Party held in your community or local church.
If you go trick-or-treating, plan to eat supper first or at least a snack so your kids aren’t starving for sweets. Set a time or location limit of a half-hour or 1-2 streets, which controls the total amount of candy your child collects. Take some attention off of the candy by admiring all the fun spooky decorations at your neighbors’ homes and the creative costumes the other trick-or-treaters are wearing. Include time for some great photo sessions.
- Try ghoulishly delightful recipes like Maggoty Pumpkin Soup, found at Kaboose.com. Find other Halloween activities and craft ideas at Apples4theteacher.com.