The Kitchen Think: Before You Buy Your Halloween Candy, Read This!


Halloween CandyDo you hand out goodies on Halloween? Here’s something to think about before you stock up.

Petroleum-based synthetic food dyes, the preservative sodium benzoate and aspartame are in a lot of the candy that we hand out to trick-or-treaters. Studies have shown that these dyes can trigger hyperactivity and allergic reactions in sensitive children.

The FDA acknowledges that there is a problem, because they have a committee looking into the evidence linking the dyes to behavioral disorders. But they still haven’t forced food companies like Kraft, Wal-Mart, Mars and Coca-Cola to remove these things from their products or even require them to place a warning notice on labels.

Here’s the stunner: Those same companies have voluntarily removed many of these things from the products they sell in Europe. Yes, that’s right. M&M’s loaded with artificial dyes are apparently hazardous to the health of kids in Europe… but not here at home.

Kraft, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart and Mars removed these ingredients from their products sold in Europe but not here. Why not?

Before you buy your Halloween candy, read the ingredient label and don’t buy products that contain sodium benzoate and aspartame and artificial dyes Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has an amazing amount of information about this issue. They’ve started an online petition to get the artificial dye out of M&Ms. Click here to find out more!



Kitchen Think: Top 5 Most Unhealthy Chain Restaurant Dishes


The Golden Globes kicked off awards season on Sunday so, not to be left out of the mix, the Center for Science in the Public Interest is ready with its “Xtreme Eating Awards.”

The nutritionists at CSPI have been out scouting America’s chain restaurants in search of the worst meals… but not from a “taste” point of view. No. I’m sure all of these meals are amazingly delicious because they are loaded with saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

Some of the components of the meals do have nutritional value (like the eggs), but it’s just the massive combination of food that makes this, well, obscene. (Ever seen the TV show “Man vs. Food”? Those are the kind of meals we’re talking about here.)

These “Awards” present the best argument yet for requiring calorie-labeling rules for all chain restaurants.

Here’s the list, in no particular order of extreme-ness. What do you think?

  • Johnny Rockets: Bacon Cheddar Double Burger, Sweet Potato Fries and Big Apple Shake (which actually contains a slice of apple pie). 3,500 calories. Nearly two days worth of total calories in one meal.
  • Uno Chicago Grill: Deep Dish Macaroni & 3-Cheese. Cheddar, Parmesan and Romano Cheese, Alfredo sauce with a Ritz Cracker Topping. 1,980 calories. That’s like eating an entire Stouffer’s Family Size Mac and Cheese with a half a stick of butter melted on top. Yum.
  • The Cheesecake Factory: Bistro Shrimp Pasta (shrimp, mushrooms, tomato, arugula). 3,120 calories. You might think you were “eating healthy” if you ordered this, but there’s enough saturated fat in there to equal three orders of Olive Garden’s Lasagna Classico AND a Tiramisu for dessert.
  • Maggiano’s Little Italy: 18 oz. Veal Porterhouse, drizzled butter sauce, half pound roasted, fried and garlic buttered Crispy Red Potatoes. 2,710 calories. Add a slice of Zuccotto Cake, and you can tack on an additional 1,820 calories. And that doesn’t include the Ciabatta Roll that comes with the meal.
  • Chili’s: A Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ Sauce and Homestyle Fries with Cinnamon Apples. 2,330 calories… and more than a 4-day supply of sodium.

If restaurant menus had calorie labeling, would that help you make wiser choices? Or would you fall back on the “Well, I’m eating out and it’s a special occasion” excuse? Remember, the choice, ultimately, is YOURS!


I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: