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Five on Friday: 5 Better-for-You Halloween Treats

Five on Friday: 5 Better-for-You Halloween Treats

Each Friday, we share five things that are getting buzz around the Cooking Light offices—from what we’re reading around the Web, to what’s hot on Instagram, or even our latest favorite ingredient.

I love to peruse the Halloween shelves at supermarkets looking for the newest, spookiest offerings candy companies are coming out with each year (Starburst candy corn, anyone?). This year, it's been exciting to see some great healthier Halloween treats pop up in stores. Now, I'm not saying anyone needs to completely give up their traditional, beloved Halloween candies. Perhaps, just mix a few of these in with your go-to trick-or-treat mix.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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What will you be handing out to trick-or-treaters this year?

Starbucks Copycat – Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I defy you to saunter into Starbucks and not drool over the carb counter. I dare you. That’s a bet I’m not willing to make because I’m a sucker. S to the Ucker. Like the lemon loaf – so good, feels so right – kinda like that favorite pair of jeans you have that feel awesome, despite the fact that they’re totally mom-jean-esque CK’s you bought at Costco and you should be abhorently embarassed by them, but you wear them anyway…Uhh… Moving on. Well now they have their new Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake with cream cheese frosting slathered on top, thick as Henry Cavill’s Superman ‘do that I want to run my fingers through (yup, I just officially came off as creepy). If this pound cake had a butt-chin like Henry Cavill, I’d probably marry it.

*wipes frosting from face* A whole lot just happened here. Moving on.

I am in need of a Starbucks Anonymous group – because I have had a three slices in the last week and a half. It’s stupid. Ridiculously, fat pants be damned, kind of stupid. And then I went and made it myself – even worse!

Hello, I’m Megan. It’s been .38 days since my last Raspberry Swirl Loaf.

All together now — *Hi, Megan.*

What finally got my gumption up to make one of these one my own was Julie’s Copy Cat Lemon Loaf from eons ago. I’ve been pining over it for one year, three months and five days, and willing myself not to make it because I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN! I wouldn’t be able to stop. I made two loaves of this – For Science! – since my first Raspberry loaf encounter at Starbucks and now it’s a legit sickness.

This is beyond easy – which makes it all the more dangerous to know how to make. And heck, go all Henry Ford on this and make an assembly line of Raspberry Loaves and you too can sell this for $2.95 a slice. Entreprenuership at it’s FINEST!!

Slap a Made with Love sticker on it and you could even bump it up to Three Fitty! Just helping you out here… Or not.

Chicken nuggets

Chicken nuggets might not be the mystery meat they used to be, but according to former McDonald's employees on Reddit, "Fast food workers of Reddit, what should we NOT order at your restaurant? Why not?", many still give nuggets a miss. At least, they make sure they're not grabbing some off the stack of food that's ready and waiting to be served.

Employees say that pre-made batches of nuggets are kept warm by a dual-purpose timer that's supposed to encourage employees to toss nuggets that have been sitting. But multiple employees say that while they used the timer (it also turns on the warmer), they would rarely throw the nuggets out and make fresh ones. Instead, they'd just reset the timer.

Some say the nuggets tasted just fine even after sitting through several turns of the timer, while others describe the old nuggets as questionable at best. Ask for fresh nuggets, they say, or opt for something else.

Category: The New Healthy Bread in 5

When we wrote our books, we were aware of the controversies surrounding food consumption and its effect on health, and over the years we’ve received many questions related to health claims made in the media and in popular books. The answers are complex and the science is often inconclusive. Given that, we don’t make any specific health-promotion claims about the breads in our books. When we first wrote Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day in 2009, we knew that it’d generate lots of questions. Below (scroll down), you’ll find part of the introduction to that book, which addresses the state of the science related to nutrition and bread ingredients. In Healthy Bread, we baked with lots of whole wheat and other whole grains, and had a whole chapter on sourdough baking. But bread is a carbohydrate food, and the best advice that scientists give us is this: don’t binge on it. Eat bread and other energy-rich foods in moderation or you’ll gradually gain weight and put yourself at risk for diabetes and other chronic conditions. That’s the best science-based advice we can give. Two specific topics on which we get a lot of questions here on the website:

Sourdough? Are there health benefits, compared with breads made with commercial yeast? Short answer: the science is far from clear on this, and mainstream researchers aren’t promoting sourdough as having any particular health effects, despite it’s natural bacteria and yeast, and supposed effects on acid balance or glycemic index–the evidence just isn’t there. Like all breads, sourdough loaves are a carbohydrate food, and should be eaten in moderation. The main reason to eat sourdough is its wonderful flavor, and that’s the thinking that drove most of the choices in our books.

Gluten-free? We wrote Gluten-Free Bread in Five Minutes a Day primarily for people with celiac disease, a well-documented medical condition that may affect as much as 1% of the population. People with celiac cannot eat bread made from wheat or anything with gluten. For other folks who feel better when they don’t eat wheat or gluten, the science is newer, and less clear. We can’t make any claims about health benefits of gluten-free bread, other than that it’s the only option for celiacs. There’s no credible evidence suggestiong that everyone needs a gluten-free diet.

Read on for some basics on bread ingredients, from the introduction to Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (copyright 2009, 2016, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois):

1. Whole grain flour is better for you than white flour: Because whole grains include the germ and the bran, in addition to the starch-rich but fiber- and vitamin-poor endosperm whole grain flours bring a boatload of healthy substances into your diet, including phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals), vitamins, and fiber. Those are pretty much absent from white flour. Iron, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine are added back in enriched commercial white flour, but no other nutrients—so whole wheat delivers more complete nutrition than enriched white flour. But there’s more—because bran and germ in whole grains dilute the effect of pure starch in the endosperm, the absorption and conversion of starches into simple sugars is slowed, so blood glucose (the simplest sugar) rises more slowly after consumption of whole grains than it does after eating refined white flour products. Complex, high-bran carbohydrates are said to have a lower “glycemic index,” a measure of how fast your blood sugar rises after eating a particular food. The evidence for better handling of blood sugar, better digestive function, and heart health convinced the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make two recommendations in their current guidelines:

  • Consume a high-fiber diet, with at least 14 grams of dietary fiber per 1,000 calories consumed in an ideal-calorie diet each day. For a 2,000-calorie diet (appropriate for most women), that means about 28 grams of fiber a day. For a 2,500-calorie diet (appropriate for most men), that means 35 grams a day). 100% whole wheat bread contains a little less than 2 grams of fiber per slice if you cut a thin 1-ounce slice, and 3 to 4 grams if you cut a 2-ounce slice. White bread contains a quarter of that.
  • Make sure that at least half of your grain intake iswholegrain.

2. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils are better for you than saturated and trans fats (like butter and hydrogenated oil): Switching to these oils or other heart-healthy fat sources can benefit those with high blood cholesterol.

3. Low-salt breads will benefit people with hypertension, heart failure, and kidney failure: This applies to all our breads—they all can be made with less or even zero salt, though the flavor will of course be different.

4. Nuts and seeds contain heart-healthy oils: Though they’re concentrated calorie sources, nuts and seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats).

5. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources for protective phytochemicals and vitamins: In Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, we have a whole chapter of breads enriched by fruits or vegetables, which are fiber-rich and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants.

And one final word of advice about diet and health: Please don’t obsess about food. This is supposed to be fun. If you can put some healthy ingredients into your bread and you like the flavor, do it. Most of all, enjoy your food!

My family quit sugar: How we survived cutting out the sweet stuff

This fall, I did the unthinkable: I banished sugar from our house and asked my kids to give it up, too. Here’s what happened.

Photos: Roberto Caruso, Food Styling: Eshun Mott, Prop Styling: Mandy Milks

Last summer, my five-year-old son and I were walking home from the corner store as he merrily licked a giant Sour Key candy. I glanced at him, the sugar crystals sparkling off his nostrils in the sunlight. Research has shown that sugar can be as addictive as cocaine, and at that moment, the comparison was a little striking.

My boy smiled and gave the key another lick. “I love sugar, Momma.”

Then he added, “You love sugar. You just wish you didn’t.”

Ouch. This little candy trip was our ritual—Friday afternoon “special treats.” Truth be told, that summer was an endless parade of treats: Freezies and Popsicles Starbucks dates and who says no to ice cream in August? Not this family. When I stood back, I realized my kids and I had been freebasing sugar for months. Halloween morphs into Christmas, which is followed by Easter, and the rest of the year is sprinkled with birthday cupcakes, sugary snacks at sporting events, Girl Guide cookies and candy in loot bags. It’s everywhere.

Worse, it’s in things we think are healthy: granola bars, yogurt, and breakfast cereals that proudly proclaim they’re whole-grain yet are jammed with sugar. My kids had also been chugging back lemonade at breakneck speed, and experts say liquid sugars are the worst culprits. My kids don’t drink pop, but I know many do. Your average can of Coke contains nine teaspoons of sugar—well over the six teaspoons of added sugar that’s the recommended daily total for kids. But we ingest four to five times that, with the highest consumption among teenage boys, according to Statistics Canada. Type 2 diabetes is showing up in younger populations, as well as myriad associated health risks, such as strokes, kidney failure and heart attacks.

I started wondering how we got to this super sugar-saturated state. Family doctor Yoni Freedhoff, founder of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute and a public health advocate who blogs at, says he’s seen the amount of sugar in our diets increase steadily over the course of his career.

“Ultimately, what we have done as a society is create a normal situation where people feel entirely comfortable, especially around children, using sugar as a means to pacify, reward and entertain,” says Freedhoff. “It’s difficult to find an event that doesn’t include sugar in some capacity.”

Nearly one-third of Canadian kids are overweight or obese statistics show an overweight teenager is not likely to outgrow this as an adult. Though sugar isn’t the only culprit, it has a lot to answer for. It’s present in many processed foods. The healthcare costs associated with what are called non-communicable diseases (NCD), like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, are staggering, and the problem is sweeping the globe: It is predicted that by 2020, NCDs will be the cause of seven out of 10 deaths worldwide. At the rate we’re going, some researchers predict that our kids will have shorter lifespans than we do, due to diet and inactivity.

My motivation to get my family off the sweet stuff is twofold: to research the consequences and to tame the sugar beast. I am a realist, however. I know I’m not giving up chocolate chip cookies forever. So we resolve to focus on the first four weeks, with hopes of continuing beyond the initial no-sugar boot camp period. We also have a head start, as we’re already an active household. I’m a fitness and health coach, and Lily, 7, and Teague, 5, do gymnastics and dance. My kids willingly run hill repeats in the park while I’m training for half-marathons. They love to skate, bike and go tobogganing—but they also love hot cocoa with marshmallows after.

I always look at back-to-school time as an opportunity to get organized and tweak our habits, which is why we start our project at the beginning of September. We set some house rules, removing all refined sugar from the kitchen, including all juices. Snacks will be savoury or protein. We decide that if the kids are offered sugar at a friend’s house, they can choose whether or not to have it.

As we begin our new regime, I get nervous. Can we do it? Is it sustainable? And what will we do about my son’s birthday, which is smack in the middle of our sugar-free experiment?

Photos: Roberto Caruso, Food styling: Eshun Mott, Prop styling: Mandy Milks

Are all sugars created equal?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that we get only five to 10 percent of our daily calories from sugar. Sugar comes in all forms—from the ones you find naturally in fruit and carbohydrates to all the added sugars. In the US, as of July 2018, “added sugars” or “free sugars” (sugar removed from its natural source) must be boldly labelled to help consumers stick to the WHO guidelines there is no such policy in place in Canada. This fall, researchers at the University of Toronto looked at 15,000 packaged foods found on Canadian grocery store shelves. Their findings were a wake-up call: Nearly two-thirds of the foods analyzed contained added free sugar. They also found 152 names for free sugar, including cane juice, fruit juice, corn syrup, molasses, malted barley syrup, agave and good old-fashioned glucose and fructose. How do you keep all them straight? Is maple syrup any better for you than high fructose corn syrup?

Toronto naturopathic doctor Jennifer Tanner, a mother of three, has a rule of thumb. “If you are eating real-life, natural foods that have been picked from the ground or from trees, you will not have to worry about consuming too much sugar,” says Tanner. She also says baking with dates, bananas and more natural sweeteners has other benefits, such as vitamins, antioxidants and added fibre, and that it can help satisfy sugar cravings. “Stay away from fake sugars—like sucralose and aspartame. Those are worse than sugar.” Why? “Because if your body doesn’t recognize a molecule, or require it for immediate use, it stores it. And excess aspartame stored in your cells contributes to chronic disease,” says Tanner.

She highly endorses fruit, which contains fibre and slows down how the body takes in sugar. “Sugars are all initially processed by the body in the same way, but all sugars are not created equal. Things like fruit and maple syrup have benefits to a growing body and can satisfy the sugar craving without going overboard,” says Tanner. This isn’t to say you should eat a bowl of oranges, but if you’re going to indulge your sweet tooth, opt for natural sources that are easier for the body to process, and that don’t leave you feeling even hungrier.

On Labour Day weekend, I purge the pantry and fridge. Gone are lemonade and juices, graham crackers and chocolate chips. Our baking basket is reduced to buckwheat flour and unsweetened coconut. I check the labels on our breakfast cereals—even our organic whole-grain flakes with spelt have sugar! Granola bars, yogurt, ice cream, condiments? Gone. I hide the ketchup, knowing this might cause Armageddon in my house the next time we have burgers, but I am committed. The garbage bag is full, and I’m a little disgusted at how much sugar was lurking in our home.

Week 1
The first week starts well. Breakfast is now oatmeal with cinnamon, and eggs and toast go on high rotation, too. But my son sulks when he doesn’t get a treat at the grocery store that gives out free cookies to kids. I watch him fume in the rearview mirror the whole way home.

Our project is time-consuming. At the supermarket, I’m reading all the labels. We can’t buy our go-to, sugar-loaded mini pita breads, so we settle on lots of crackers, pretzels and popcorn and stock up on fruit and veggies, string cheese, plain yogurt and dried snap peas. I already cook most of my meals from scratch, but if you rely on ready-made products, you’d be shocked at how much sugar is in everything from jarred pasta sauce to chicken fingers. So that we can still have PB and Js after school, I start making chia seed jam with frozen berries. I’m feeling quite proud of myself.

And then, on day two, a setback: I’m running late so my mother picks up the kids with her standard “half water, half juice” mixture in a chilled Thermos. She also has a pocketful of butterscotch. The granny cliché is cute, but she looks like a drug dealer. “I’m Grandma, I’m supposed to give them treats,” she says. My kids merrily suck the Werther’s.

We make it through the first week and celebrate with a playdate at a friend’s house. The snacks are yogurt tubes and lemonade. I tut-tut and then remember my rule: At someone else’s house they can make their own choices. They choose lemonade. My kids look so excited as the glasses get poured. On Friday we have movie night with a big bowl of popcorn but no chocolate.

You win some, you lose some.

Week 2
Just over a week since quitting sugar, I’m feeling hopeful, because I’ve read it takes only 10 days for kids to show dramatic health improvements after cutting out sugar. One study, published in 2015 in the journal Obesity, removed sugar in obese children’s diets and replaced it with carbohydrates (keeping the total calories the same). Cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels dropped dramatically, turning the participants’ metabolic health around.

Of course, sugar isn’t our only problem, says Freedhoff. “We are eating more of everything, and we are eating more ultra-processed foods. As parents, we have to control our home turf. Are you cooking for your family or relying on restaurants and takeout? We should minimize liquid sugars, like juices, pop and chocolate milk, and focus on cooking. Do these two things, and you don’t have to sweat the small stuff.”

Freedhoff also says we have to encourage our schools, institutions and coaches to cut back. September is full of birthdays at my kids’ school. If every kid in their classes celebrates with a sweet treat brought from home, you keep the sugar beast well-fed.

“Point out to the teacher how much you value their care and concern for your child’s well-being and the great lessons they provide, and give them ideas for non-junk food treats,” says Freedhoff. (One example: granting extra recess time instead.)

I’m somewhat lucky in this regard: My son’s teacher also follows a sugar-free lifestyle at home with her family. In her classroom there is a treasure box of notepads, stickers and erasers for rewards.

This same week, a huge story about sugar breaks: In the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard researchers to turn the public’s attention to cholesterol and fat when looking at heart disease, despite several emerging studies pointing to sugar as the real culprit. And for decades, their research continued to focus on fat instead of sugar. I’m not surprised by the role Big Sugar plays, but the news strengthens my resolve.

By the end of week two, I notice we’re craving sugar less and we’re less grumpy about all the rice cakes, crackers and dips. I’m upping their carbohydrates and searching the Internet for snack ideas to curb sugar cravings, like adding more protein and fat to our diet. I make guacamole and tortilla chips one afternoon, and they gobble it up.

The Relapse
I think long and hard about Teague’s fifth birthday mid-month and google “cake made out of fruit.” I’m considering carving a watermelon into an elaborate fruit cake when I realize I don’t want to be that mom.

Freedhoff thinks preserving a balance is wise. “We celebrate with food, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is research that suggests being overly strict and authoritative about food has the reverse effect, and it teaches kids to be disinhibited when they are faced with choices. Dietary disinhibition is a cause for concern: If there’s a constant battle around sugar at home, then when kids are by themselves they eat to excess because they don’t know when they are going to get it next, or they take a position of oppositional defiance.”

My plan was to bake homemade cupcakes sweetened with honey and bananas. But life happens, and I run out of time. Grandma (now going by the moniker “The Harbinger of Sugar”) comes to the rescue with cake mixes and a big bag of icing sugar. Ouch. I have made each of my kids’ birthday cakes from scratch for the past seven years, but we don’t have a drop of sugar in the house. My kids happily beat eggs into the mix and make icing, licking the beaters with glee. I don’t think we’ve tamed the sugar beast yet.

However, I take the virtuous route for Teague’s classroom celebration and bring in healthy cookies made with dates. Some of the kids turn up their noses, but my boy scarfs his. We’re back on the wagon.

Week 3
Our dentist knows us well—my daughter had six cavities before she turned seven. I frequently console myself with the fact that she has porous teeth (it’s genetic), but I know she also loves candy. Even if I get in there with a toothbrush, it isn’t enough.

At our checkup, our paediatric dentist is thrilled to hear about our mission. “Cavities are a manifestation of a bacterial infection,” says Aisha Romain of Danforth Children’s Dentistry in Toronto. “The bacteria require an acidic environment and sugar to multiply and grow. When the bacteria colonize the mouth, they latch onto the teeth. When a child eats sugar, the bacteria ingest it and emit an acid that wears away the teeth. Over time it causes a hole. That’s a cavity.”

Romain cautions parents to stay away from juice. “Juice is acidic and also has a high sugar content, which helps increase the number of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth and wears away the teeth. No juice!” She also recommends minimizing gummies like fruit roll-ups and “real fruit juice” snacks, and even gummi vitamins. “These are all very hard to remove and cause a marked increase in cavities.” At the end of our appointment, we have a victory: No cavities!

Week 4
My kids have not been 100 percent sugar-free, but we have definitely changed our habits. More important, I know it’s sinking in. On a walk to school my daughter notices a boy eating Smarties. “That’s gross—he’s eating sugar for breakfast!” she says. Driving to piano lessons, we pass a freight truck painted with an image of sparkling fruit juice, advertised as “100 percent natural” and “healthy.” Lily says, “But Mummy, aren’t those just filled with sugar?”

Photos: Roberto Caruso, Food styling: Eshun Mott, Prop styling: Mandy Milks

I’m not going to lie: October 1 hits, and my kids both shout, “Yes!” To them, the sugar-free experiment is over. Little do they know, we aren’t going back to the way things were.

But I’m mindful of not restricting them. “The last thing you want to do as a parent is introduce any element of ‘dieting’ to your kids,” Tanner tells me. “Treats are fine—so long as they are treats.”

We have real cake for Grandma’s birthday and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but our low-sugar habits have stayed, with lots of veggies, dips and crackers in school lunches. We decide we’ll have one night a week when we enjoy something sweet homemade brownies (I substitute maple syrup) are a favourite. But the juice and the lemonade have been banished permanently.

The big night—Halloween—looms large, and even before the kids have decided on costumes, we debate how many pieces of candy they get to keep. We decide they can have all the candy they want on Halloween and a piece in their school lunches every day that week, but then it all goes to Grandma’s house. (I get the feeling requests for visits to Grandma’s are going to increase.)

I’m torn about what to give out to the trick-or-treaters and suggest to Lily that we go to the dollar store for stickers. She rolls her eyes. “Really, Mum? We’re going to give out stickers?” But when I price it out at the store I realize this will set me back $100 (we get at least 300 kids in our busy ’hood). My budget wins out, so we distribute lollipops instead. I reconcile my guilt with the thought that it’s only one day of the year.

Halloween night, my kids rip through the streets with manic looks in their eyes, begging to eat from their stashes. I get it: Halloween was one of my favourite holidays. Staying up late and gorging on candy? What’s not to love? I let the kids indulge.

But the next day, my daughter has a tummy ache. I look at her and raise an eyebrow. She knows.

“I ate too much candy last night,” she tells me. I give myself a mental high-five.

Something else happens. The week after, both of my kids have the sniffles. It could just be that time of year, but Tanner offers another explanation. “We see a dramatic rise in colds and flus right after Halloween and Christmas.” Immediately after eating sugar, your immune system drops for as long as five hours. So if you get on the subway having just had a giant cookie from Starbucks and sit next to someone with a raging cold, you are more likely to catch it than the person who didn’t eat sugar. Wow.

What’s next?
The WHO has called for a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks, a motion supported by the Canadian Diabetes Association, Dietitians of Canada and others. According to the Heart and Stroke Association of Canada, a soda tax could introduce $1.8 billion in revenue. Mexico instituted a soda tax in 2014, and consumption levels dropped 12 percent. Berkeley, Calif., saw a 21 percent reduction after its soda tax. The Canadian government has looked into doing this as well, but the Canadian Beverage Association opposed it. We have to continually pry at the powerful grip that food lobbies have on our laws.

In September 2016, Canadian Senator Nancy Greene Raine put forward Bill S-228, which would ban marketing junk food and sugary drinks to kids. “The list of ingredients in processed foods should be clear in stating the total sugar added,” says Senator Raine. “Surely we can come up with a way to include the Percent Daily Value for sugar on our Nutrition Facts label.” (The bill is still before Senate.)

Realistically, sugar is never going to be entirely eliminated from our lives. I love chocolate. I’m also an emotional eater. But this project has made me more aware of my triggers. I think twice before reaching for the mixing bowl to bake away my sorrows. Come Christmas, I will let my kids decorate a gingerbread house, but their stockings will have no sugar. Changing our habits is hard, especially when you have to make a million decisions every day as a parent. But I do know I want my kids to live long, healthy lives—the sweetest reward of all.

Both kids and adults will love the Frito pie—and no bowl or plate is required, so clean up is as quick as prep. The concept is simple: just add chili and grated cheese to the center of an open bag of Fritos for a portable meal. Fair food at home for a fast filler-upper!

How Does The Meal Plan Work

Basically, it all comes down to eating healthy foods in moderation and slightly limiting your calorie intake.

Some treats are still allowed to help keep cravings at bay, and your meals will be spread out to reduce hunger symptoms.

The advantage of this short-term approach is that your body won’t go into full starvation protection mode.

See, the longer you reduce your calorie intake for, the more your body will try to hold onto the flabby fat you actually want to get rid of. During these shorter 7-day shred periods, your body will react by burning fat for energy.

While it does take commitment, it’s so much easier to succeed over 7 days, than facing into an endless starvation diet. It wouldn’t be uncommon to lose 2 to 3 pounds in just one week, and after that, you can increase your calories again to normal levels.

So, let’s take a quick look at what you can and can’t eat during a shred week.

What Types Of Foods Can You Eat?

You can still eat carbs, protein, and fat, but you want to get them from healthy sources. I’ll provide more details of these in the next section, but it mainly comes down to lean meats, fatty fish, and plenty of veggies.

The good news is that you’ll be eating enough to fill you up to make sure you don’t constantly have to battle food cravings.

What Foods Should You Avoid?

High sugar and processed foods are what you want to avoid the most. You can still satisfy your sweet tooth with some fruit, but for the most part, it will come down to preparing your meals from healthy raw ingredients.

Anything that was highly processed in a factory is off limits, basically.

The problem with banning food

Issues around banning junk food start with defining what that term even means. For Prouse, it covers fast food as well as products like chips and chocolate bars. While that’s a definition most of us can get behind, where does something like a homemade cookie fall? For Holland, “It depends on the recipe.” She points out that we all have different definitions of what’s healthy. For example, for some people, cheese is a nutritious snack while others would say it’s too high in salt and calories.

However parents define junk food, Holland recommends they avoid presenting it as bad. She suggests parents explain junk food as items that don’t have any health benefits, so they shouldn’t be eaten too often. That’s because categorizing foods as “bad” or severely restricting them can make them more alluring. “Whenever children feel deprived, the tendency is to push back and want it even more,” says Sara Dimerman, a psychologist in Thornhill, Ont., who sees children in her practice .

And when kids do get a taste of something forbidden, research shows they can end up overindulging. A 2002 study published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition journal revealed that girls whose diets and access to junk food were tightly controlled by their parents when they were five were more likely to overeat at age seven. The girls who overate were also 4.6 times more likely to be overweight when compared to their peers who were more in control of their snacking.

But not all kids react this way. Those who don’t want to disappoint their parents might develop negative emotions around eating the banned food. “A child who is very compliant might feel very guilty or ashamed, like they’ve done something bad [when they eat junk],” explains Dimerman.

In some cases, restricting certain foods and labelling them as “bad” also has the potential to scare kids, explains Corinne Eisler, a registered dietitian and paediatric nutrition expert at Leap Therapy for Kids in North Vancouver. She recalls one five-year-old she worked with whose parents had banned sugary foods: “The child actually began to view food with fear.” She explains that young children don’t have the maturity to decipher the degree of the issue and may react to negative labels and restrictions by tightly narrowing what they will eat, sometimes to the point where they refuse to try new foods, even if parents tell them these new dishes are healthy.

While binging or developing severe aversions to new foods is extreme, even sneaking treats can signal an unhealthy relationship with food. “Tightly restricting or banning doesn’t mean that your child will choose a healthy alternative,” notes Dimerman. In fact, they’re likely to opt for sugar and salt if given the chance—say, when they’re at a friend’s house.

Revolutionary Mac & Cheese

In a small saucepan, add pasta and milk. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, until pasta is soft, stirring frequently. Be sure milk does not boil.

Turn heat off, add cheese & salt. Stir to combine. Stir in the mustard a little at a time to taste. Cover and let stand for about 5 minutes, then stir again and serve. Add a tablespoon or more milk to your desired creaminess level. Gently stir.

Oven Finish (Optional)
Place in a baking dish and top with a generous sprinkling of cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 10 minutes until cheese has melted.

***Notes - I have tested this recipe using white and a whole wheat pasta. The amount of milk needed may vary depending on noodle. Add more as needed until the pasta is al dente.

***I have only made this recipe using cheese I have shredded myself. The bags of shredded cheese in the store having a coating on them. Using pre-shredded cheese could impact the results of this dish.

***I have not tested this recipe using American or Velveeta cheese. I have used cheddar only. Shredded by hand.

***I have only tested this recipe on an electric stove top.


So glad you posted this again. My boys will love this! I plan to make this for tonight! :-) Thank You!

I am so going to try this! Much better than the box stuff.

Interesting recipe. I've never heard of cooking the macaroni in the milk.

Sounds like a yummy way to prepare mac & cheese. Pinned. Would love for you to share it on The Yuck Stops Here! recipe link up.

I haven't seen this before so thanks for re sharing! Looks creamy and delicious, yes please.

pasta cooked in milk! i've never done that! this looks supremely cheesy and so delicious, i'm converted already. :)

Sounds amazing! Love that it's cooked on the stovetop too. Thanks a million for sharing at Weekend Potluck. Please be sure to come back again soon.

GURL! I can't wait to make this!

I adore mac and cheese <3Thank you for sharing at Simple Supper Tuesday <3 Nettie

This looks as delicious as it does easy!

I am making this tonite for dinner, I was wondering if I can make it a head of time and then put it in the over for a few minutes just before the family comes home from work? Thanks

Sorry if I am repeating myself, I don't see my message to you. I just wanted to know if I can make this early and then put in oven for a few before the family gets home? Thanks Kathi

Kathi - I have not prepared it that way before, so I can not say for sure. My thought is that it won't be as creamy when you go to serve it, so if you do try it that way, I would be ready to add some additional milk.

Meilleur si servi des que prêt sinon, les pâtes absorbent trop la sauce.

I have made the tuna mac and cheese where you boil the noodles in chicken broth then add other stuff, I'm wondering if you could use 1/2 broth and 1/2 milk. Broth will give much more flavor and the milk will keep it creamy? Thanks for the recipe, I will try it, great easy go to without the box powder.

This was the creamiest and cheesiest home made mac and cheese I've ever made. It's my favorite food so I've tried a lot of mac and cheese over the years. Will definitely make this again. I would add some extra milk at the end, like recommended above, because it's a little thick before it goes into the oven.

Do it yourself and simple,what could be better.And you control exactly what ingredients you use

simple and you can improvise like adding spinach or broccoli to it.Let your kids choose

The mustard makes the mac-and-cheese taste much more interesting. I had a similar recipe that was more complicated, but I will try this top-of-the-stove one.

Can't wait to give this a try. About how much cheddar is that by weight?

I would use somewhere around 12 ounces.

In my cooking experience 4 ounces of cheese equals 1 cup

I just made this and wow! It was amazing! I added some fresh basil leaves in after the mustard and it added a nice flavour. This was so simple to make, and such a delicious meal! Thanks for the great recipe, I'll definitely be making it again!

I'm going to toy with it one or two more times, but this didn't even seem as good as my basic souped up Kraft. Not good or special at all. There are some simple improvements like mixing in some whipped philly cream cheese, or using a softer cheese than cheddar but this was really bad.

Thank you so much for pointing out the importance of avoiding processed food. I truly believe it's the root cause of obesity because the body remains hungry as it has not been given any real vitamins and minerals. Our poor bodies are just trying to make sure we are healthy but we are not giving it any real food.

Even though you follow a recipe by the exact directions, it doesn't always mean that it will turn out the way you're expecting. I'm trying this recipe tonight. Hopefully this "recolutionary mac & cheese" is actually revolutionary.

Can this be done in the slow cooker? I have a sister who can't boil water, so I'm thinking if she could just dump this in the slow cooker, she wouldn't burn it.

Do you think this can be done in the slow cooker. I have a sister who can't boil water, so I'm thinking that if she could dump this in her crock pot, she wouldn't burn it.

Gosh, I just don't know. You could always try it and give it a test run for her. I personally don't think the noodles would end up with a good texture. But in the end, it might be better than a burnt dish!

Yes! I know this is 2 years on but for anyone else wondering, it is possible. Google "slow cooker mac and cheese" and a bunch of recipes will pop up!

Try pre-cooking the pasta so the excess starch can be rinsed off then reduce the liquid ingredients accordingly and finish it off with baking it in the oven.,

Thank you for this recipe. I discovered your first post about it over 2 years ago on Pinterest and it really is a winner, one of my favorites that I plan on passing down to future generations :) Like someone posted above, I also usually stir in frozen spinach or broccoli. One question though: I find that the noodles just don't get soft enough. Too firm to be dismissed as "al dente". Do you also have this? I use whole wheat pasta, is that the cause? Thanks!

Thank you! Glad you have enjoyed the recipe. Regarding the noodles, I have never tried making this with a whole wheat pasta. But, I would be suspicious that might be the reason the noodles are to firm. Maybe with whole wheat pasta, increase the amount of milk? I will test this for you, so check for an update in the next week or so.

Thank you so much! Yeah I usually need to add more milk as well. I'll be sure to check back here :)

I did try this with a whole wheat pasta tonight, and had good results. I used 2 cups of Full Circle Whole Wheat Rotini and 2 1/2 cups whole milk. The cooking time was approximately the same, and I did add a couple tablespoons of milk at the end. I found the pasta to be al dente, as did my husband. I don't know how Full Circle pasta compares to other whole wheat brands, but that is the only brand that my store stocks.

Great vegetarian food, nice,creamy, and has no meat

I haven't tried pasta cooked in milk, yet, but I make my grits in milk (shhh. It's my secret) and people who ordinarily hate grits love mine! ❤️

I tried this tonight and thought it was awful. I allowed the shredded cheddar cheese to come to room temperature before adding it and it was a big glob much like bubble gum. It simply wouldn't mix in and so I had to put the pot back onto the heated burner to get it to finally mix. Also, I had to pour off some of the milk and then put the mess into a bowl. Before I was half-way through eating it, it was cold. I do not understand why one would add the cheese to the macaroni with the pan off the heated burner. I found it to be quite tasteless as well. Very disappointing. Are you sure you cooked everything as per your directions? And you ate it?

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your comments. I am sorry to hear about the results you had with this recipe. I can assure you that yes, I did eat it! :) I would never share a recipe that was not enjoyed by all of my family.
I wonder if you used a sharp chedddar cheese or a milder cheese? Did you try doing the oven finish on it? I hope next time it turns out better for you! Thanks again for the feedback!

I believe the clumping happens if you add the cheese to a liquid that is still too hot.

I made this for our side dish tonight because we are getting tired of mashed pototoes. I liked the addition of the mustard. That is clever and gives it a bright summery flavour which is needed in January! (I think I might try adding mustard to other dishes as well to brighten them up in the winter.) One thing I did differently: I used my handheld rasp shredder to grate the cheddar right over the top of the noodles.

is a very delious dish , i can i cook it on stove top or can i use aicrowave.

I wonder if I can freeze this meal

so do you put milk and macaroni at the same time or you boil milk first?

You would add pasta and milk to your saucepan, then bring to a simmer.

I didn't read all the posts, but was wondering if anybody tried using the pre shredded cheese anyway and how it turned out

Did you add red pepper or some other spice? Your picture looks yummy but the pasta appears to have red/brown bits in it. Or is that from the mustard?

The bits are from the stone ground mustard.

Good recipe with the milk idea, however I used 2 cups of elbow macaroni and still needed that extra cup of mil and it came out just perfect.

Just eating it at the moment very nice simple to do.

I made this recipe but after 10 minutes the milk burned at the bottom of the pan. I was able to scape off the unborned part, which cooked during this time, but the results were far from creamy or special.

I just made this and now I see what you mean by the processed cheese. I just dumped a cup in and it got so sticky I had to add more and more milk just to make it eatable. I will make this again and shred my own cheddar cheese. We're going to eat it anyway.

Wonder if you could use hemp milk or almond milk? :)

I love reading recipe comments, especially the fails, because it reinforces the notion that there are as many opinions as there are tastebuds. First, cheddar cheese comes in many varieties . mild, medium, sharp, extra sharp, aged extra sharp, etc. . each with its own unique taste. If you don’t like at least a sharp cheese than why would you even bother with macaroni and cheese and be surprised that using mild or medium would turn out anything but tasteless. Second, using a thin metal bottom saucepan insures certain disaster as the heat is not conducted evenly nor can it be easily controlled on gas stove tops. Third, the word “simmer” implies a very low bubble so as not to scald . burn . the milk. Fourth, whole grain pasta is much denser than regular semolina and requires a bit more liquid, a slightly longer cooking time and lends itself better to finishing in the oven. Fifth, there is technique, such as knowing when its necessary to bring eggs and butter to room temperature to be used for baking cakes and cookies but keeping the butter ice cold for pie crusts and pasteries and keeping cheese cold for easier shredding and creamier consistencies. And then there are always those things that are uniquely you like adding hot sauce or hot pepper flakes to everything to make it your own.

The classic Mac & Cheese uses a Béchamel sauce . flour roux base to which milk/broth is added till thick, then once off the burner, adding in the cheese . while this Revolutionary variation incorporates the starch from the pasta as the binder and makes it a one pot wonder. There is a No Drain Pasta on the market designed to be used for one pan meals that might work beautifully with this recipe. I found a 12-oz (about 3 cups dry) box of elbows called Pronto by Barilla on Amazon Pantry and the instructions say to pour 3 cups of cold water into a 12-inch pan, cook for 10 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and then add your favorite sauce and continue cooking until heated through. I can see how it could successfully be used in this recipe and will be giving it a try soon.

Me either. But it makes it sound so (dare I say it??) yumly.

I love simplified recipes like this. We are mac and cheese lovers too, and we have tried a ton of varieties. I made a no boil baked version tonight, but will make this next time!

This recipe is great. we have it all the time, the only difference is that I use Quinoa pasta instead of the traditional kind. It works exactly the same, but takes five minutes less to cook in the pan.

Baking 101: Natural vs Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder

Today we’re talking about chocolate! I’ve eaten two (ok, four) dark chocolate candies for this special occasion. Let’s talk about this unsweetened variety of chocolate: cocoa powder! We’re talking depth, color, and yessssss chocolate flavor. Of course, since we’re baking, nothing is simple, and we’re talking about acid reactions again. It’s important!

The difference between Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder:

Cocoa powder is just cocoa powder, right? It’s just roasted cacao beans that have been ultra pulverized for cake and cupcake purposes, that’s all. Not exactly.

There is a fundamental difference between Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder. The difference is acid. Yea! We’re talking about acid reactions again, this time by way of cocoa powder. Who knew that cocoa powder was acidic? Well.. now we do! It’s worth understanding.

Dutch-processed cocoa powder is cocoa powder that has been washed in a potassium solution that neutralizes its acidity. The Dutching process also gives the cocoa powder a darker color. Dutch-processed cocoa powder in baking is usually paired with baking powder because, as mentioned in The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder, the baking powder takes care of the acid component in leavening our baked goods.

Was that too many words? Here’s a breakdown: Dutch-processed cocoa powder, acids stripped, dark color, reach for the baking powder!

Natural cocoa powder is cocoa that has not had its acid stripped. Natural cocoa powder is usually lighter in color, and because it has all of its acids in tact, it is usually paired with baking soda because the metallic taste that is released in the sodium carbonate of baking soda is mellowed by the acid in natural cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder is what is typically found in American grocery stores. We’re talking Hershey’s Cocoa Powder… that’s natural cocoa.

Too many words again. Here’s a breakdown: natural cocoa powder, acids present, light in color, grab that baking soda!

What if a recipe only calls for ‘cocoa powder’? This happens all the time, right ? Take a look at the recipe. Does it call for a majority of baking powder or baking soda. If the recipe is mostly leavened by baking powder, reach for the Dutch-processed cocoa. If it’s a baking soda heavy recipe, go for natural cocoa powder!

In my experience, most American recipes that call for ‘cocoa powder’ are generally referring to natural cocoa powder.

Are Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder interchangeable in a recipe? Well… not exactly. As with any baking recipe, it’s best to follow it as written. When we make substitutions, we start fussing with the taste and texture. In a pinch, you can substitute natural cocoa powder if you’re out of Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Although, it’s not a good idea to substitute Dutch-processed cocoa when you’re out of natural cocoa powder. We’d be missing those precious acids!

But your Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder is like… super dark. You’re right! And you’re totally perceptive. It’s called Black Onyx Cocoa Powder. It’s ultra-Dutched! It’s the sort of cocoa powder used to make Oreo cookies. Yea. That’s really good news.

I used Black Onyx Cocoa Powder to make this Midnight Black Chocolate Pudding. Halloween… just sayin’.

On the lighter side we have Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pudding. It’s as good as it looks. Thank goodness.

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting is one of my very favorite recipes to make with (natural) cocoa powder. It’s beet pink! It’s cake with vegetables that totally doesn’t taste like cake with vegetables. IN LOVE!