How we minimize the Hallowe’en candy coma at our home

Another Hallowe’en has come and gone.  Isn’t it fun?  Driving through the downtown of Barrie yesterday was awesome as I watched fully grown men and women walking around in full costume.  And then later that evening, helping my kids get into their own costumes, as they could barely contain their excitement made me so happy.  Leading up to the big night, they both had Hallowe’en parties in their classrooms, so the fervour that was in the Ryan home was at an all time high.  It even seemed to rub off on Maggie.  She would squeal with delight as her brother and sister ran around the living room dressed as a Spanish Dancer and a Minion.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe’en!

As much as I love the fun of dressing up, I find that the onslaught of Hallowe’en candy can be totally over the top.  Hallowe’en night and parties aside, as I ran errands yesterday every single location I went into had free candy to give out to people.  Had I eaten them, it would have been the equivalent of two large chocolate bars by the time I got back to our office.

I can hear the protests now, “But it’s Hallowe’en!  It happens just once a year!”  Yes, yes it does.  But the treats we are exposed to are out year round.  A while back I wrote a blog post about how it’s not just one treat. As our kids get older, I am more and more aware of how much sugar and junk food they are exposed to on a daily basis.  It really isn’t just one night a year.  It’s every day of the year.

So, we took some proactive steps this year and made some agreements with our kids to cut down on the amount of pure sugar, corn syrup, modified milk ingredients, and other nasty things that they were going to be ingesting over the next few days.

At school our contributions to the parties were little clementines that we drew on to make look like jack ‘o lanterns.  Very cute.  Very tasty.  Very healthy.  I was really happy to see other parents thinking the same – the kids brought home some treats but also had bubbles, pencils, tattoos, stickers, and little toys in their loot bags.  Glad to see I’m not the only parent feeling the candy craze out there!

Clementine Jack 'o Lanterns for Hallowe'en

Clementine Jack ‘o Lanterns for Hallowe’en

On Hallowe’en night, after our kids had done the rounds of our neighbourhood, they amassed a huge amount of candy, chocolate and chips.  They dumped them out on the floor and we agreed they could have two of something – whatever they wanted.  When Caleigh grabbed a full-size chocolate bar, we brought that number down to just one.  I honestly don’t know if she’s ever eaten a full-size chocolate bar before.

Then we reminded them of an agreement we had made in the days leading up to Hallowe’en.  For each piece of candy they decided they didn’t want, they could give it to us and we would pay them for it.  They could in turn decide what they wanted to do with the money.  As I was going over the rules with them, I was interested to see if they would take us up on the offer.  Caleigh (7 years old) has been saving for an iPod for the last six weeks so this was a good opportunity to get some more easy money in her piggy bank.  Blake (4 years old) wasn’t really saving for anything particular but he is always willing to do big chores around the house for some coin.  It’s one thing to agree to sell some candy before Hallowe’en is here.  It’s an entirely different agreement when you have a pile of treats sitting in front of you that are now yours.

Caleigh started the ball rolling.  She doesn’t like chips so that was easy for her.   Ten bags of chips at 50 cents each and she had $5.  Her eyes widened and she kept bringing more and more of the junk into her sell pile.  Mini chocolate bars sold back garnered a quarter.  Little random candies were a dime.  The monster chocolate bars we agreed at $1. It may seem like a lot but for me, I was totally okay with the exchange.  It was worth it for me to not have that candy eaten over the next month.

By the time she was done, she had forked over all but 10 treats, all by her own choice.  And she had pocketed $33.50.  (Do the math, she had a HUGE amount of loot).  Blake was less willing to part with his candy but he still gave us a lot and ended up with $13.50.  He was pretty excited about the pile of treats that was still his – his eyes got wide as he looked at his loot and I believe he might have murmured “candyyyyyyyyyy” a few times under his breath.

This was the first year we did something like this.  In the past, the kids were not really aware of what treats they had amassed.  Tom and I would agree to letting them have two treats a day but we would take away more than that and toss them as the days went on.  Eventually the kids forgot they had candy to begin with.  But with them being older, I wanted them to take on the responsibility for their candy and the impacts it can have.  I’ve heard of the Switch Witch which is another great idea on how to eliminate the candy in the house.  However having just come off birthday parties, and knowing how much Caleigh wants her iPod, the money exchange works better for us.

At the end of it all, it was interesting to hear what Caleigh had to say.  Not only did she say that she thought that the candy from Hallowe’en was a lot but she understood why it wasn’t good for her.  Then, what I thought was a brilliant revelation, she said “Mama, I know I won’t get the iPod right away, but when I save up enough to buy an iPod, it will last forever.  Candy can be gone tomorrow.”

Pretty smart kid.


Nut free Snacks? No problem.

We’re into the final part in a four part series of our eat by design school lunch series.  You can check out the previous steps here:

A Full Fridge

School Lunch Basics

Making Lunch Fun

Okay, okay.  Yes, if we get the kids to eat the proteins, veggies, fruits, and fats it’s awesome.  But they are kids.  And at school they are surrounded by other kids.  Other kids with lunch boxes that contain candy, chocolate chip cookies, chips, chocolate bars, crackers, and other things that just don’t equate in my world to stuff I want my kids eating.

Case in point.  I took this picture at the grocery store the other day.  What used to be on the shelves for one day a year, is now marketed towards kids and their parents for back to school “treats”.

Gross, right?

Gross, right?

I don’t know about you but if a big box of 95 candy bars are in my home, most will be consumed in a short amount of time.  That’s why I don’t keep them in the house.  Period.

Here are my food rules.  I want my kids to grow up with an appreciation for good food. I want my kids to grow up with the understanding of why we choose to eat healthy food.  I want my kids to grow up with a healthy relationship with food.  But I also remember what it’s like to be a kid, see lots of other kids (if not every other kid) with a treat in their lunch box, and be happy that I have a treat too.

So, I feel like part of my compromise with Eating by Design is that I give my kids something that makes them smile each time they open their lunch box.  They may be healthier versions of a treat but they are still a treat.  The first goal of eating by design is to eat real food.   To me that means that I choose whole foods over and above processed ones.  But the 80/20 rule means that I send a treat in my kids’ lunch boxes.

[Side note: Eat by Design recipes are very similar to Paleo recipes.  One of my biggest beef with many paleo bloggers and foodies is that they have tried to “paleoize” some of the worst foods on the planet – doughnuts for example.  I eat by design because it’s the way I was designed to eat.  My body functions at its absolute best when it’s fed eat by design foods.  It does not function well on a paleo doughnut.  Stepping off soapbox now.]

Back to my kids lunch boxes….

Some of the treats that my kids and I agree upon are:

  • nut-free homemade granola bars
  • homemade dark chocolate bark
  • by design muffins
  • by design cookies
  • nut-free trail mix
  • fruit leather  (how easy is this!!)

You’ll notice I keep mentioning “nut free”.  Of course any parent sending their kids to school these days knows of “peanut free” or “nut free” schools.  This hampers some of the treats I make at home, including granola bars & trail mix because nuts are completely out of the question.  Here’s the good thing – seeds are okay.  So is coconut.  So, stick with those two base ingredients for treats and you’re golden.

EBD Granola Bars


(modified from Paleo Chewy Granola Bars from PaleoMom)

  • 2 cups finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup pepitas
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil  melted
  • ¼ cup sunflower butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 1½ Tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup your favorite chopped dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, etc.)

1.    Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease a 9”x13” baking pan with coconut oil.
2.    Mix ground flax seed with water and let sit for 3-4 minutes.
3.    Pulse pepitas in a food processor a couple of times to break up to the size of sunflower seeds.
4.    Add coconut oil, almond butter, eggs, honey and vanilla to flax goop and mix well.
5.    Add coconut flour and baking soda and stir to combine.
6.    Add shredded coconut, pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chocolate chips and dried fruit.  Stir to combine.
7.    Spoon batter into prepared baking pan.  Spread out and flatten well with your hand or the back of a spatula.
8.    Bake for 22-23 minutes, until golden brown.  They will puff up slightly while baking, so immediately after removing from the oven, flatten the bars with the back of a spatula (or something else heat resistant and flat).
9.    Let cool completely in pan before cutting into bars (I actually like to refrigerate before cutting).  Cut into bars (I usually get 18-20) and wrap individual bars in plastic wrap.  I prefer to store these in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Bark


I don’t make this often because it doesn’t last long.  It’s that freakn’ good.

  • 2 c dark chocolate
  • 2 1/2 c of add-ins (raisins, cranberries, coconut, bacon [oh yes, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it], goji berries, pepitas, etc.)
  • coconut oil

Melt chocolate in a double boiler.  While melting, grease an 8×12 dish with coconut oil.  Pour melted chocolate into dish and sprinkle add-ins on top evenly.  Let cool completely and break apart.

By Design Banana Muffins 


My favourite EBD muffin is the Simple Blueberry Muffin by Paleomg but they contain almond butter and almond flour so they are out for school lunches.  But honestly, they are awesome for breakfast or snack around the house.

So I give you a delicious (modified) banana bread recipe, which I make into muffins, from Civilized Caveman instead.  A note on using sunflower butter.  When heated & combined with baking soda, sunflower butter turns green so if your muffins have a greenish tinge, it’s all good.  Eat and enjoy.

  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c sunflower butter
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Combine your bananas, eggs, and nut butter, and grass-fed butter in a bowland mix well (if using a mixing bowl I use a hand mixer)
  3. Once all of your ingredients are blended, add in your coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and sea salt and mix well
  4. Grease a 9×5 glass pan with a fat of your choice (I used coconut oil). If you use a metal pan it will probably bake in 35-40 minutes so start checking at 35 to ensure the middle stays moist
  5. Pour in your batter and spread it evenly throughout
  6. Place in your preheated oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  7. Remove from oven and flip your bread out onto a cooling rack
  8. Slice and serve

Ginger Cookies from Paleo Parents


  • 1/2 c sunflower seed butter
  • 1/2 c grass-fed butter
  • 1/4 c soaked dates
  • 3 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/3 C coconut flour
  • 1/3 c tapioca flour (not by design….it’s a compromise)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 oz (1/3 c) crystallized ginger, diced finely diced

1.  Combine wet ingredients in food processor

2.  Add dry ingredients except for ginger to wet ingredients and pulse until combined.

3.  Fold in crystallized ginger.

4.  Form balls with your hand, about the size of a tablespoon

5.  Set dough balls on cookie sheet and press down with palm of hand to flatten.

6.  Bake at 325 for 10-14 minutes.

7.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

EBD Trail Mix


I make a batch of this and keep it in a large mason jar in our fridge.  So delicious and easy to grab a handful for a snack.

  • 1 1/2 c shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 c pepitas
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c sesame seeds
  • 1/3 c cranberries (or raisins, dried banana chips, dried apple chips, etc.)
  • 1/3 c dark chocolate chips

Mix together and enjoy.  If you want some flavour changes, roast the pepitas on a frying pan for 10 minutes at 325 with a bit of cinnamon.

So, there you have it.  Some treat recipes to add into your kids lunches.  I hope this series of posts has helped in getting your kids lunches prepped.  I love the conversations that have evolved from friends, emails, comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the office as a result of these posts.

Parents, know that you’re not alone when it comes to feeling overwhelmed with healthy school lunches!  You’re in great company!  Keep evolving.  Try new recipes.  Get your kids involved.  And remember…even if something bombs with your family, it’s a step in the right direction.  And that direction is BETTER HEALTH.  And you’re a rock star for starting a movement in your own home towards it.

It’s Not Just One Treat

This is a conversation I’ve had with many parents both in and out of the office.  Regardless of how careful I am with my child’s nutrition at home, when they get out into the world, I can’t control how many treats (cookies, chips, candy, sugar, hot chocolate, etc.) they are being exposed to.

Let me be very upfront here.  Our kids don’t eat by design 100% of the time.  They are probably about 80%.  But here’s the kicker – that stat is for when we are at home.  What I am becoming increasingly more aware of is just how many crappy foods my kids are being exposed to when I’m not there.  School parties, special days, birthday parties, holidays, during activities, during classes, after sports,  sharing on the bus, at friends’ homes, at family’s homes, and even after a visit at a health professional (for being so well behaved!).

Where does it stop?

Where does it stop?

Sidebar: We give stickers out to the kids after their adjustments at ACG and fun things like swirly straws or pencils on holidays! 

While I think that the estimates by the author of the article (at end of post) are a little high, I have no doubt that my kids are being exposed to or offered treats on average 5-7 times per day.  And that adds up.  Plus, they are only 6, 3, and 4 months.  We’ll see where those numbers go when they are older.

Some moms and dads have said in passing they think we control our kids diets too much.  Hardly.  As the author states, the number of times I hear “Oh, it’s just one treat” would boggle your mind.  This is a HEALTH issue.  The state of health in our country proves that despite all of the money and education that is dumped into our health care system, we are far from the healthiest country in the world. According to the World Health Organization, Canada ranks a measly 30th, behind countries like Oman, Singapore, Columbia and Israel amongst others (U.S. ranks 37th).   Obviously our “health care system”, which includes nutritional education and counselling, isn’t working.  I wish my kids to be healthy.  In fact, it might be the biggest thing I wish for them.  So each time I choose a healthy food at the grocery store over an unhealthy food, I’m making a conscious choice to help support my kids’ health.

It’s a constant battle however, because so many schools and activities teach the wrong things when it comes to nutrition.  The food pyramid, “whole grains are healthy”, milk does a body good, and that fatty foods are bad for you (the whole concept of ‘low-fat’ and ‘fat-free’ as being good for our health is being taught in our society at an alarming rate and needs to be stopped!) are all fallacies.  When Caleigh (our 6 year old) comes home from school and is being taught these concepts, we have to explain that our family looks at and understands nutrition differently and that just because something is taught in school or at her Sparks troop or in one of her activities, doesn’t always make it right.

So, right now, I can teach my own kids proper nutrition.  And I can feed them proper nutrition.  And I can continue to inspire other parents in our office about how to eat by design – literally eat the way our bodies were designed to be fed!  I am hopeful that people will truly start to live healthier lives…but here’s the most important lesson from this post.  If what we’re doing now isn’t working, it means making a radical shift in how we live our lifestyles in order to achieve this.  Are you willing to make a different in your life?  In your child’s life?  If so, we can help.  Check out the Life by Design seminars at our office.  A journey begins with one step.  Make it this one.

Check out THIS ARTICLE written by Yoni Freedhoff for his insights.

Who Doesn’t Love Some Santa?

Right now my 3-year-old son is hanging out in the closet.  I’m sure there is a joke there somewhere but this is his favourite place in the house to play.  He hangs out in the closet until someone comes to open it (which could literally be like an hour later) and he jumps out and says “Boo!”.  The funny part is that while he waits for someone to open the closet and “be scared”, he sings to himself and plays with whatever toy he’s brought in there with him, so we all know he’s in the closet to begin with.  Depending on how long we need some peace and quiet, we see how long he’ll last on his own.  It’s going on 15 minutes at this point.  And I’m hoping to finish off this blog post in the meantime.

This past Saturday, the day after I wrote my last post, we felt we needed a little cheer in the world, something to put a smile on people’s faces.  Thankfully we had an awesome day already planned.  It was our annual Christmas party at our office  complete with life-enhancing chiropractic adjustments to many families, apple cider, tasty eat by design treats and a visit from a special guest.

Check out the food.  Think eating by design (or as I introduce it to people, Paleo With Purpose…you have to attend our Eat by Design seminar to get more details!) is boring?  Think again.  These are treats (meaning not regular occurrences in our home) but eating the foods you were designed to eat is not only healthy but delicious and filling.  These Magic Brownie Bars were created by PaleOMG.  Fabulously, fantastically delicious if you’re looking for a fun treat that personally reminds me of chocolate cake.  Grain-free, they are actually made with dates.  Don’t get scared off, they’re really good!

Magic Brownie Bars from PaleOMG. (Not THAT kind of Magic though!)

The Chocolate Chip Bakies are from Health-Bent.  They’re awesome and technically vegan (although we don’t talk vegan here!) as they don’t have eggs in the recipe.

Chocolate Chip Bakies from Health-Bent

Chocolate Chip Bakies from Health-Bent

Probably bigger and better (according to the 20+ kids who came in to get adjusted) was a visit from Santa Claus.  Does anything get better than watching the absolute delight on children’s faces as they walk around the corner to see the big guy in red hanging out at their chiropractor’s office.  As an added bonus, we’re the coolest parents ever (according to Caleigh) because we have an IN with Santa.  We have connections!  To quote her, “Wow, mom, you’re as cool as the mall!”  I’d like to think I’m cooler than the mall but in the world of a six-year-old, I can only ask so much.  We captured a classic Santa shot with the kids – love the look on Maggie’s face for her first time meeting him.

Santa & the kids

Santa & the kids

Big THANKS and SHOUT OUT to all of individuals who donated to the Children’s Aid Foundation of Simcoe County!  We raised $50 as well as a slew of toys over the last week.