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Dec 01st
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Fit or Treat

pumpykinLocal chef Lauren Hoover-West offers tips for a healthier Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, and whether dentists approve or not, that means one thing: candy—and lots of it … everywhere you look. Though few have the willpower to resist a treat or two in the spirit of the holiday (nor should we), with childhood obesity and diabetes looming overhead, it’s about time that we come up with ways to celebrate that don’t lay waste to our bodies. For tips on a healthier Halloween, we turned to local chef Lauren Hoover-West.

Hoover-West teaches classes each month at New Leaf, which center on her philosophy in the kitchen (and the name of her cookbook): no wheat, no dairy, no problem. Diagnosed with food allergies in college, Hoover-West began converting traditional recipes and coming up with some of her own that did not contain wheat, dairy or refined sugar, and instead used healthy, low glycemic ingredients, including coconut milk, almond milk, oat flour, raw honey, grapeseed oil, olive oils, agave nectar, and pure maple syrup.

“For me, being a chef and foodie, first and foremost, the food has to taste good and have good texture,” she says. “I wanted to go through life without feeling deprived because of a food allergy.”

Today, Hoover-West specializes in creating recipes for people with both food allergies and health issues, including diabetes, autism, celiac disease, autoimmune disease, and inflammatory conditions. “The more I became aware of dietary restrictions, the more I wanted to make food that more people could eat,” she says.

When it comes to Halloween treats, Hoover-West advises shoppers to avoid high-fructose corn syrup—“Since your body cannot gauge when it’s full, it’s addictive, and it contains GMOs,” she says—and white sugar—“It spikes blood sugar, contains bleach and other chemicals, and causes inflammation.”

diningLauren Hoover-WestInstead, she suggests healthier alternatives like OCHO candy bars (an organic, wholesome alternative to traditional candy bars), Coco-Roons (all-natural raw treats), Justin’s organic Nut Butters, JJ’s Sweets dairy-free and gluten-free Cocomels, Nut-Free Sun Cups (peanut-free, tree-nut free, gluten-free, kosher and organic), Hail Mary Miracle Tarts and Macaroons (raw, dairy-free, gluten-free snacks), and Enjoy Life gluten-free and allergy-friendly cookies and chocolate bars.

Another option is to make your own Halloween treats at home—“That way, you can have more control over what’s in them,” says Hoover-West, who adds that baking and fondue parties are a fun way to involve the kids. “Whenever you can, add fat or fiber to anything with sugar, that way it’s a little gentler on the body.”

Her last bit of advice? “It’s important to limit kids to a certain amount of candy each day,” she says. “[Most] candy doesn’t go bad for a couple years, so you can even make a game out of it—see how long they can make it last.”  

For more info about Lauren Hoover-West, cooking tips, resources, her cooking class schedule, and to buy her cookbook, visit Don’t miss her next class on Holiday Baking at New Leaf on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Visit for details and to register.

Trail Mix Truffles

1 cup organic nut butter or sunflower seed butter

(peanut, almond, hazelnut, etc.)

1⁄4 cup light agave nectar or raw honey

2 tsp. dark unsweetened cocoa powder (Valrhona)

1⁄4 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

1⁄4 cup dried fruit (cherries, blueberries, cranberries, etc.)

1⁄2 cup mini chocolate chips (Sunspire)

1⁄4 cup nuts, finely chopped, optional (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.)

Coating: 1⁄2 cup chopped nuts and/or 1⁄4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut


1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a spatula or mix in an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, just until combined. 

2. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. 

3. Pour nuts and coconut into separate 8x8 or 9x13 baking dishes. 

4. Using a one-tablespoon ice cream scooper or tablespoon, scoop out and place in nuts or shredded coconut. Roll in the coatings and enjoy. These can be refrigerated in an airtight container.

Coffee Toffee

1 cup coconut oil

1 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar/coconut sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP. filtered water

1 TBSP. molasses

2 tsp. instant powdered espresso, optional

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. sea salt or Himalayan salt

8 oz. chocolate (dark or semi-sweet), finely chopped or chips

Grease a cookie sheet (approx. 9x13 inches) and set aside.


1. In a medium heavy-bottomed pot stir together, with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, all ingredients except for the chocolate.

2. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon until it reaches 315 degrees. You will need a candy thermometer. Quickly remove from heat.

3. Pour mixture onto the cookie sheet and spread with a silicone spatula to smooth out into a rectangle that is about 1/8 inch thick. 

4. Cool 20-30 minutes on the kitchen counter.

5. While cooling the toffee, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a glass bowl over simmering water. Cool the chocolate for 5 minutes off the heat.

6. Pour melted chocolate over the toffee and spread evenly to cover the Toffee.

7. Let the chocolate set/harden at room temperature for about 4 hours. You can put it into the refrigerator to speed up the process, but it may be dull or bloom. 

8. Break into pieces and enjoy! Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Comments (1)Add Comment
A win-win alternative to sugar shock
written by Elizabeth, October 21, 2013
I love the OCHO acronym. And just wanted to recognize the social impact of choosing these types of alternatives. Much of the commercial chocolate on the market is made using unjust labor practices. This makes more sense on so many levels- it's worth it!

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