Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Surviving candy season

Oh, Halloween. Classically a fun and exciting time for ghosts and goblins old and young -- the costumes, the parties, and...the candy!  It’s the one day of the year where you knock on strangers' doors and demand free candy. It's true that candy is a central part of the Halloween tradition, and little ones everywhere would be devastated if the sweet treats were removed from this spooky celebration. But the scary part for parents is thinking about what all that extra sugar does to kids' health, your health, and not to mention our teeth! 

Which perfectly portioned Halloween candies are worth the indulgence and which ones should you leave at the bottom of the bag? 

  • Three miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups fill your belly with more sugar than a glazed doughnut.  What a disappointment.  I know I am not the only one that can devour 8 glazed doughnuts worth of these bad boys.
  • Half a pack of Skittles has more sugar than a scoop of Haagen-Dazs Cookies and Cream Ice Cream.   
  • Nine Twizzlers -- the advertized ‘fat-free candy’ -- carry as many calories as a Wendy’s Double Stack Burger. Note to self: steer clear of the ‘fat-free candy.’ 
So how do we survive the dreaded Halloween?  After all, it is only the beginning of the eating season: Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.  Seems like we are set up for failure?  Not quite -- take note of these seemingly no-brainer tips for you and your family and put them to good use!

For the Kids
Trade up. Set up a trading station with some of your kids' favorite healthy treats, like dried fruit, packaged fruit bowls, or good-quality dark chocolate squares.  Encourage them to trade in their least favorite candies for healthy treats they know they love.

Split and save. It's tempting to gorge on a huge pile of treats. Teach your kids how to make good things last by splitting their haul into several smaller portions stored in plastic bags. Each week, they'll have a whole new supply of candy to enjoy, all while maintaining calorie and sugar control.

Share or donate. Cut your child's candy consumption by encouraging them to donate a portion of their candy to the food bank, or share with family members. They can feel like they're taking positive action, rather than being deprived.

Bottom line: Halloween can be just as fun without the sugar-fuelled temper tantrums, or an emergency trip to the dentist.  Never try to fool your kids -- they're smarter than you think. Explain to them what you're doing, and how they benefit, i.e.; "the candy will last longer."  This is golden in a child’s ear, making it a much better benefit than "it's healthier this way." 

For You
Don’t hand out your favorite candy.
Standing in the candy aisle, it is so easy to grab a bag of Milk Duds, Now and Laters, and then another of Butterfinger Minis (can you tell where my weakness is?!). That last thing you need is to have the temptation of handing out your favorites all night.  You will more than likely end up with a stomach full of empty calories by the evening’s end, and that’s not even adding  in how many candy miniatures you’ll sample as they sit in the pantry in the days leading up to Halloween. Set yourself up for success by choosing something less tempting, and you’re less likely to nosh on the stash.

Chew the Dubble Bubble.
You know those small pink cubes wrapped in old-fashioned, twisted candy papers?  Drop your hand in any given trick-or-treat bag and in any handful you pull there will result a Dubble Bubble. Instead of inhaling through the gummy candy and filled chocolates, pop some gum in your mouth. The chewing can suppress your candy cravings, and each piece has only about 15 calories. That’s sweet!

Keep the candy calorie load to a minimum.

The fewer calories you take in during candy season, the better off you’ll be heading into turkey season. My suggestion is to set a limit and hold yourself to it. Four hundred seems like a good number -- generous yet not overly destructive to your hard work.

Don’t skip dinner.
Candy-craving plus hunger pangs = key ingredients for over-indulgence.  Eating a balanced and healthy dinner will satisfy your belly and take the edge off your candy craving.  Focus on a meal rich with fiber and lean protein.  If there would be any time I would suggest limiting your carbohydrate intake, this would be the night to do it -- think chicken breast with fresh vegetables.

Leave it at the door.
The worst thing you can do on Halloween, after most of the trick-or-treaters have cleared off the street, is set your candy bowl by the door or on the counter where you can grab a handful (or two) every day. Consuming just 300 extra candy calories a day will add a pound of to your frame in less than two weeks. Instead, set the bowl on the porch before you go to bed. The leftover candy will be gone by morning, guaranteed.

Bottom line: Halloween is a one-day event.  A study in the Journal of Nature Neuroscience found that eating junk food doesn’t just satisfy cravings -- it creates them. That’s right; junk food is addictive. Limit your sugar splurging to October 31. If you start a week early, you’re going to have a serious candy habit to break after Halloween. You might find it to be frightfully difficult.

For questions or comments for the dietitian, please visit www.texashealth.org/askamber.

Amber Massey, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian
Executive Health Program
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth

No comments:

Post a Comment