Good news: contrary to scary news masquerading itself as fact, there is room for sugar in a healthful diet! Chances are candy will find its way into your home this weekend, so we’ve put together some tips to help you take a balanced approach to eating Halloween treats.
1. Know your limits. First and foremost, know how many daily calories you need and then make sure to leave room for a few sweet treats on Halloween, if you plan to indulge. Most special occasions and holidays are celebrated with food. Deprivation isn’t very festive—or fun—so plan ahead to enjoy the occasion.
2. Get physical. The best way to counter excess sugar and calories in your diet is to be active, so schedule in some time to sweat on Halloween. Keeping physically active regularly can help boost your energy and for some, can help you focus more on the types and amounts of foods you eat.
3. Remember, sugar is a carbohydrate. According to recent consumer research conducted by the IFIC Foundation, only 32% of consumers understand that all sugars are carbohydrates. Most of the carbohydrates we eat are converted by our body into sugars (glucose) and made readily available to our muscles (and brain!) to use as energy. It is best to spread your carb intake throughout the day, especially if you have diabetes. It’s fine to enjoy candy, just recognize its place within your daily carb, calorie and nutrient intake. For more information about all forms of sugars, take a look at the IFIC Foundation’s peer-reviewed manuscript, The Science of Sugars.
4. Don’t go hungry. The whole family should enjoy a sensible meal before trick-or-treating (or handing out candy) to help avoid reaching for the sweet stuff out of hunger. Include sources of lean protein (e.g., tuna, tofu and lean beef), healthful fats (e.g., nuts/seeds, seafood and vegetable oils), and high-fiber foods (e.g., whole grain pasta, beans and vegetables) to help fill up (and stay full) before, during and after the candy comes out.
5. Embrace the season. Seasonal fall foods help make Halloween so festive. On October 31st (and let’s be real, into November and beyond)try pumpkin puree in a breakfast smoothie, toss sliced pears and toasted walnuts on a salad for lunch, add chunks of butternut squash into a lentil stew for dinner, or even make a caramel apple to soothe the sweet tooth. If you focus on the healthful foods that offer holiday sentiment, you many not feel the need to down an entire bag of leftover Halloween treats.
6. Out of sight, out of mind. If you have kids, you may end the night with more candy than you started with. Parents are the gatekeepers for their child’s candy intake and decide how much and how often candy can be enjoyed. Store the candy-stash in a top cupboard so they (ok, and you) don’t mindlessly reach for it throughout the day.
7. Chill out. Freeze the candy you love to help with portion control. You can savor one frozen mini candy bar over five minutes—or about the same amount of time it takes to eat five that aren’t frozen.
Halloween marks the unofficial start of holiday eating so take these tips and adjust them to support your eating habits through the year-end. Just remember, know your limits, stay active, watch your portions, and enjoy what the season has to offer!
This blog was written by Kelda Reimers, a dietetic intern at the University of Maryland.