For a healthy Halloween, moderation is key

HOUGHTON – Halloween is closely associated with two things – costumes and bags full of candy. While a few pieces may not be bad for you, excessive indulgence in Halloween candy can lead to weight gain going into the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, where unhealthy foods are also common. There are a few tricks that can allow you to enjoy treats without the negative consequences and have a healthy Halloween.

“The biggest problem is how much candy people are having over a long period of time,” said Kelsae Eliszewski, registered dietitian at Portage Health. “The first day you’ll have some candy on Halloween, but all that extra eating goes on for weeks. Then all of those extra calories add up – even 300 to 500 extra calories per day can lead to weight gain.”

Eliszewski laid out a few preemptive measures for candy lovers to curb their cravings, such as giving out candy you don’t enjoy and only purchasing candy the day you need it. That way the candy will only be in the house for a short period of time.

“If you buy it, you will eat,” she said. “If you prefer chocolate, buy sugar-based candy, such as Skittles. You will be less inclined to overindulge if the candy in the house does not appeal to you.”

If having candy in the house for any period of time is too much of a temptation, Eliszewki suggests simply not buying it. That doesn’t mean closing your door to trick-or-treaters, however. She suggests many healthy alternatives, including:

Sugar-free gum

Fruit bars

Halloween themed pencils or stickers

Temporary tattoos

Bubbles or small toys

Despite these techniques, Halloween candy may end up in the house even after the holiday is over – especially if children bring home a bag of trick-or-treating treasures. The key to staying healthy in the face of this temptation, Eliszewski said, is moderation.

“Halloween is a great time to reiterate the importance of moderation to your children – and possibly yourself,” she said.

Moderation, however, is not always easy to enforce, especially when there is a bowl of candy to snack on. To aid portion control, Eliszewki suggests creating a treat schedule.

“Explain that you are going to divide the candy over a period of time and discuss beforehand when and how much candy is allowed in a day,” she said.

An easy way to accomplish this is to divide the leftover or trick-or-treat candy the day you get it.

“When you get it all break it up into snack size bags with three pieces of candy in each bag,” she suggested. “That way you get a controlled amount of candy every day.”

When that extra candy is calling out to you, Eliszewski suggests thinking about how much exercise it would take to burn off your snack before consuming it. The thought of running 33 minutes at 10-minute mile pace to make up for the calories in just two Reeses pumpkins might stop you from opening those wrappers. Even a handful of candy corn can add up.

“How fast can you eat 19 pieces of candy corn? Even though 140 calories may not seem like much, it can add up fast,” she said. “Eating extra candy every day can add up fast – an extra 100 calories a day can easily end up being over a 10-pound weight gain in a year.”

Swearing off all Halloween treats is not necessary, Eliszewski said, but being aware of your calorie intake and focusing on moderation will help keep the holidays healthy.

“It’s okay to have treat once in a while, however moderation is key,” Eliszewski said. “When indulging in candy, try to pair it with a healthy alternative. For example, instead of having two fun-size snickers, have one snickers and an apple.”