Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Energy Bites

Your new favourite nutritious, delicious high protein no-bake snack!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Energy Bites

Chocolate protein balls

Fall, to me, means pumpkin-spiced everything.  I can't get enough of these pumpkin-spice muffins these yummy pumpkin waffles, and of course, pumpkin-spice lattes. Not only does pumpkin add a delicious flavour and vibrant colour, but it also adds loads of nutritional value, containing lots of potassium, beta-carotene and fibre. 

Because I'm all about "quick and easy" these days, I've been making lots of no-bake energy/protein bites (or "balls" depending on what you like to call them). My kids love them, they pack and punch when it comes to nutrition and they're super easy to make. I find that they are the perfect after-school, or on-the-go snack on busy days. Naturally, I had to make a pumpkin-spice version of these, and decided to add chocolate (of course), oats and maple syrup for a bit of sweetness. 

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Energy Bites

Makes 24-36 balls


3 cups rolled oats
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup nut butter of choice
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt


Add all ingredients to a large bowl, mix well. 

Form 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Cover and freeze for one hour before eating! 

Store in the fridge or freezer. 

* inspired by these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Energy Bites by Clean Food Crush

 RELATED: Chocolate Chia Protein Balls 


Nutrition News: Health Canada is Revising & Updating Canada's Food Guide!

A new food guide as well as improved nutrition labels will hopefully make it easier for Canadians to eat better

Nutrition News: Health Canada is Revising & Updating Canada's Food Guide!

Health Canada Guidelines

Many Canadian Dietitians (including myself) have opted not to use Canada's Food Guide as a nutrition teaching tool over the past 10 (or more) years. In fact, since opening my private practice doors in 2007, I don't think I've ever given out a copy of the food guide (to be honest, I developed my own), and here's why: 

  • The recommendations are too simplistic (and yet confusing,) and don't take into account someone's personal lifestyle, life stage (ie. pregnancy) or specific dietary needs.
  • I disagree with some of the food serving recommendations and food placement within the food groups (ie. in my mind, vegetables and fruits should be in their own groups and potatoes belong in the grains and starches group vs. the fruit/vegetable group). 
  • Certain foods (ie. fruit juice), in my mind, should not even make the cut when it comes to "food groups."
  • There should be more education around added sugars. 
  • Canadians should be encouraged to consume more whole foods vs. processed foods (in a bigger way).
  • The recommendations should be based on current evidence (ie. fat is not the enemy!)
  • The food guide should be more user-friendly, so that it's easier for Canadians to implement into their daily lives. 
  • Food serving recommendations for older babies and younger toddlers, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women should be included. 

The good news is, there are changes coming. Health Canada announced today that they will be releasing a revised and updated Food Guide in 2018-19, to better meet the needs of Canadians, health professionals and stakeholders.  In fact, you can submit YOUR input here: Online Questionnaire For Canada's Food Guide. Testing of a new policy and consumer tools will take place in 2017-18. 

Not only will Health Canada be releasing a new and (hopefully) improved food guide, but they have said that they will also be making much needed tweaks to nutrition and ingredient labelling (including sugars and food colours!), reducing sodium in packaged foods, eliminating processed trans fats from food products and — my personal favourite — placing new restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.

This is good news! Here's a breakdown of what Health Canada plans to change:

1) A New and improved Canadian Food Guide: 

The new food guide will communicate two points in particular (that they say are supported by the newest research): that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats will lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and that a higher sugar-sweetened beverage intake is associated with obesity in children (I think this is just scratching the surface). It will also take into account the fact that Canadians, on average, are consuming way too many foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar and salt and not consuming enough nutrient dense foods, in particular foods high in calcium and fibre. They also plan to make the food guide more user-friendly and personalized. 

You can read a report that summarizes Health Canada's evidence review for dietary guidance. New guidance will reflect the latest scientific evidence on diet and health. More information is available in the backgrounder on the Revision of Canada's Food Guide.

2) Stronger nutrition and ingredient labelling, which will include sugars and food colours

Nutrition labels on packaged and processed foods will be updated, to help Canadians better understand and use this information to make healthier choices in the grocery store.  Food packages will have more simplified labelling, providing easier-to-understand information on three ingredients in particular: sugar, saturated fat and sodium. 

Health Canada proposes that they will be:

  • Regulating serving sizes on packaged foods (to better compare one product to another),
  • Providing more information on sugars in the nutrition facts table and the ingredients list
  • Identifying ALL food colourings by their common name 
  • Making the list of ingedients and allergen information easier to read
  • Allowing a new claim on the front of certain food packages that communicated that diet rich in fruits and vegetables lower the risk of heart disease. 
  • Health Canada will finalize the proposed changes to the nutrition labelling regulations by the end of 2016.
  • In addition, Health Canada will engage the public and stakeholders over the coming weeks to seek feedback on a proposed front-of-package labelling approach aimed at helping Canadians make healthier and more informed choices, particularly on sugars, sodium and saturated fat.

3) Reducing sodium (salt) in foods

In 2012, Health Canada published sodium reduction targets for 94 food categories and asked industry to meet those targets by December 31, 2016. This month, Health Canada held a symposium to discuss the progress with industry and stakeholders, as well as discuss next steps.  They plan to release a report of the outcomes of this symposium as well as publish a full evaluation of the food industry's voluntary efforts to meet the targets. In Spring 2017, Health Canada, along with stakeholders, will establish new targets for sodium (salt) in processed and restaurant foods. 

4) Eliminating processed trans fat  

There has been quite a bit of progress made in reducing trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) in the Canadian food supply, however not enough--Canadian's continue to consume more than the daily maximum that the World Health Organization recommends. This Spring, Health Canada reached out to the food industry to find out why hydrogenated fats are still being used, and plans to take that feedback to move forward with the plan to eliminate processed trans fats from our food supply. 

5) Restricting marketing to children 

The commercial marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children is — not surprisingly — out of control. Health Canada has committed to consulting with the public, stakeholders and the government to implement new restrictions on marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to kids. 

6) Nutrition North Canada

Isolated northern communities will have better access to nutritious perishable foods and will have access to more funding for culturally appropriate nutrition education initiatives. This will hopefully increase knowledge of healthy eating, develop skills choosing and preparing healthier foods and strengthen food retail partnerships in these communities. 

I'm hopeful that these changes (and more) will be implemented in the coming few years (although we might be looking at 5-10 years realistically), and that this will have a positive impact on the nutritional intake, and status of Canadians (especially our kids!). What do you think? What's your biggest beef with Canada's Food Guide (or our current nutrition labels) now? What changes would you like to see in the new version of the Food Guide? 

I'll keep everyone updated on these changes over on my Facebook page (where I also post free nutrition tips for kids and families daily!)

 RELATED: Why We Need to Start Eating Like Our Babies and Toddlers


Why Your Child Isn't Eating at Meals (and What You Can Do About it)

Eight Dietitian (and mom!)-approved strategies that will help!

Why Your Child Isn't Eating at Meals (and What You Can Do About it)

Eight Dietitian (and mom!)-approved strategies that will help! | Nutrition | Parenting | YummyMummyClub.ca

“I don’t like that, it’s yucky!”

Sound familiar? 

I hear it often enough in my house, so I'm guessing that many of you do too.

In fact, just last night, after making a huge batch of our family-favourite Roasted Squash Macaroni and Cheese, my oldest--who usually gobbles it up and asks for seconds--turned his nose up to it and said "I don't like this".  Just as my daughter was about to take her first bite, she heard this and promptly put her fork down and pushed her bowl away (clearly influenced by her older brother). Although it was the same mac and cheese that I usually serve, I used different shaped noodles and a different variety of squash--so it looked different. 

Some common replies to food rejection might be: “But you’ve never tried it before—how do you know that you don’t like it? Take a bite.” Or, "you DO like it--we've had it before and you ate it up!"

I too was tempted to say: "Are you kidding me?! You love this stuff! Starting Eating!" but I didn't. I knew that any type of coaxing or pressuring would only render it "yuckier" in my kids' minds. 

Why do kids reject foods before even tasting them? 

The reluctance to try a new or unfamiliar food is called a food neophobia.  Although proven to be extremely frustrating for most parents, it is a fairly normal eating issue for kids (food neophobias seem to peak around the ages two and six). Some research shows that food neophobias are genetically linked.  So if your kid is always the one who shies away from new foods while other kids seem more adventuresome, it could very well be a hereditary trait. Some researchers also believe that food neophobias (especially when it comes to bitter vegetables) stem from hunter-gatherer times, to protect people from poisonous or toxic substance (which also tend to be bitter-tasting).

Kids judge food by its appearance, so if they know that one green vegetable was bitter tasting (which naturally doesn’t appeal to most kids), they may turn their nose up to other green vegetables. Even if it's not a true neophobia,  your child may reject a food if it looks different from what he or she is used to (which was the case with my mac and cheese).  Beyond food neophobias, there are several reasons why kids refuse to eat at meals. I have a free printable that you can download at the bottom of this post, which outlines 12 of the most common reasons (plus solutions). 

How should I react when my child rejects a meal? 

Although your first instinct is to throw your hands up and scream (or is that just me?), take a deep breath and calmly say "you don't have to eat, but this is family time, so you do need to sit at the table." Make sure there is a variety of foods served at every meal  (three to four) so that you your child has lots to choose from. Young kids should sit at the table for at least 10 minutes before being excused.  Remind your child that "the kitchen will be closed after dinner," so it's important to fill your tummy now." As much as you want to hover over your child and force them to eat, simply being at the table with your child, making mealtime less about the food and more about family time, and modeling healthy eating will all prove to be much more effective (especially in the long run). 

8 strategies to increase the chances of your child eating at meals:

Serve a meal family-style: Let your child serve himself sometimes. Instead of plating his food for him every night, let him decide what foods he is going to eat and what foods he is going to leave. The goal is to let him feel like he has a bit of control and to take the pressure off.

Take the emphasis off of the food: It's important to make the dinner table a positive and pressure-free place. This will help you child grow a healthy relationship with food long-term. Make mealtimes about family time, not all about eating. 

Include a loved food: Always serve at least one food that you know he likes. This will make unfamiliar or unaccepted foods seem a little less “yucky” or scary.

Keep on trying: Keep reintroducing unaccepted foods in different forms. For example, instead of making baked yam like you usually do, make yam “fries” and serve with ketchup to make it more fun.

Model healthy eating: Kids assume that what Mom and Dad do (and eat) is normal and healthy–they are watching you and will mimic actions that you take, such as eating healthy foods.

Slight modifications are ok: It's ok to slightly modify your child's meal to make it more appealing to him/her, as long as you're not making a special meal or modifying it drastically. Adding a dip or two, separating certain foods from others, or cutting foods a certain way (within reason) are all ok. This can be a slippery slope, so once you've made one to two slight modifications, stand your ground that "this is dinner". 

Institute the “tester” plate: Have a separate plate for your child, where “yucky” or unfamiliar foods can be placed (separate from his or her regular plate). This plate is meant for exploring foods in safe and fun way such as touching, playing with, stacking, licking or maybe tasting and spitting out foods that your child isn’t ready to eat yet.

Involve your kids: Get your kids involved in planning and prepping your family meals. The more they are involved, the more likely they will eat it! 

But, I'm still worried...  

If you're worried that your child's picky eating falls outside of what is typical or "normal", and you're concerned about his or her growth and nutritional health, read my post about extreme picky eating vs. typical picky eating

There are several reasons why a child might not eat at meals. In fact, I've outlined 12 of them (and over 30 solutions) in my free printable "12 Reasons Why Your Child Isn't Eating at Meals (and what to do!)"

For free access, click on the picture below. Happy feeding! 








 RELATED: The Extreme Picky Eater: When Should You Worry?