You and Your Health
Managing Halloween Treats
It’s almost Halloween! Everyone is talking about costumes, parties and plans. It’s a very fun, festive time of the year. As with most other holidays, however, what else always seems to be a focus of Halloween? Food! Treats, mostly, in the form of delicious chocolate, caramel, peanut butter or just plain old flavored sugar. It’s everywhere. So, how can we enjoy the Halloween atmosphere without gaining 5 pounds in the process?
I used to buy my Halloween candy early, that’s mistake #1. Buying it early often means buying it again, because the first bags get eaten before any trick-or-treaters show up! If you buy candy to hand out to neighborhood kids on Halloween, don’t buy it until the last minute. Or, if you’re worried about stores running out, buy it a little early and put it somewhere that it won’t be challenging you to a showdown everyday - such as a storage closet or the trunk of your car. Studies show that people are much less likely to eat something when it is out of sight and/or difficult to get. Also, don’t buy your absolute favorite candy to hand out. After all, it isn’t for you anyway, correct? I LOVE chocolate, so I like to buy suckers to hand out, because I know I won’t eat them. Or, because I know the neighborhood kids are already making a haul and getting a TON of candy, I’ll hand out small bags of pretzels or crackers.
When the kids bring home the candy, have a conversation about how much candy per day is appropriate and agree on it. Maybe the kids can pick out their favorites and donate the rest? There are various community organizations that may accept candy. Try Meals on Wheels, nursing homes, shelters, agencies that work with children such as foster care or transitional homes, churches, veterans homes, local pediatric hospitals, or Ronald McDonald House.
While you’re establishing a rule for the kids, set one for yourself too. Can you allow yourself two pieces a day (or whatever number you might choose)? Many of my clients laugh at that and tell me that if they have it in the house, they will eat it. Ok, the best solution to that is don’t have it in the house. But, if that isn’t an option due to other family members, then doesn’t it make sense to at least have a plan for yourself with how to manage it, rather than not think about it at all and just eat away? Try to set some guidelines, or make a plan to not eat any candy until after a meal complete with lean protein, whole grains and veggies. Then allow yourself a small treat. If your plan backfires, think about why your plan didn’t work and adjust to try again. You may try saving the candy wrappers - keep them in a pile, as a visual reminder of how much you’ve eaten. This is a good strategy too for the candy bowl at work. As you see that pile of wrappers growing, you will be more likely to slow down.
If you like to make some Halloween treats for around the house, there are many ways to season pumpkin seeds, which are a great snack! One ounce of pumpkin seeds provides 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat (mostly the healthier unsaturated kind). You can cook them in the oven, microwave or in a skillet, and season with garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, whatever you like. Just limit the use of butter and salt. An easy way to prepare them is to rinse them to get rid of the pulp, sprinkle with seasoning of your choice and roast at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do an internet search and you’ll find plenty of ideas. If you’re up for cooking the pumpkin yourself too, make sure to get a pie pumpkin (they are smaller, and the inside is less grainy, making it nicer for cooking/baking). Use the pumpkin itself to make a soup, combine it with some vanilla yogurt and pie seasoning for a smoothie, or stir some into your oatmeal in the morning. It’s only 25 calories per 3/4 cup and is an excellent source of vitamin A. Lastly, if you like to make (or just eat) caramel apples, consider a slight modification. Instead of dipping the apple and rolling in nuts and/or candy, how about drizzling with caramel and sprinkling with nuts? Each bite will still contain the sweet and crunchy deliciousness, but for less calories.
Managing the sweets at Halloween is good practice for the even more challenging holidays to come!