How to Keep Halloween From Haunting Your Diet
Halloween is right around the corner, and many of us are already grazing from big bags of Hershey's Miniatures and grabbing handfuls of candy corn from those bowls sitting out at the office.
Each October, I rationalize that extra bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups at the grocery store, even though I'm lucky if I get a handful of trick-or-treaters ringing my doorbell. This year will be different. To keep the chocolate debauchery from getting out of hand, I asked New York nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It, for tips on how to survive this kickoff to the holiday eating season.
How can you enjoy yourself, make smart choices and keep from reaching into the candy bowl 24/7?
First and foremost, whether you are stocking up for the office or neighborhood trick-or-treaters, try to buy candy that's not appealing to you, says Taub-Dix, and buy it at the last minute so there's less temptation.
I know I can resist hard candy, lollipops and Starbursts, so that's what I'm planning on giving out this year. If I was smart, I'd probably give out quarters and forgo candy entirely, but old habits are hard to break.
If you can't resist the siren song of the candy bag, Lisa Lillien's Hungry Girl diet site lists these favorite guilt-free options:
- Twizzlers Strawberry Individually Wrapped Twist. 40-47 calories and 0-.3 grams of fat
- Tootsie Roll Snack Bar. (.5 oz., or about three inches long). 50 calories and 1.25 grams of fat.
- Smarties Candy Roll. 25 calories and 0 grams fat.
- Dum Dum Pop. 25 calories and 0 grams of fat.
- Laffy Taffy Miniature. 30 calories and .4 grams of fat.
If you're buying chocolate, Lillien advises keeping the size in check:
- Minis or miniatures weigh in at about a quarter of an ounce. These typically range from 25 to 50 calories and will put the smallest dent in your diet.
- So-called "snack size" or "fun size" bars are larger, with calorie counts that run between 60 and 90 calories. If you eat a handful of these every day, you might find yourself with a 5-pound head start on Thanksgiving.
If you want a quick reality check about what it's going to take to burn off all that sugar, try About.com's Halloween Treats Calorie Calculator, which tells you how many miles or steps you're going to need to erase those snack bars from your hips. When you consider that you'd need to walk nearly a mile to burn off that puny 90-calorie "Fun Size" M&Ms packet, you might think twice about having three of them.
Rather than messing around with the small stuff that can be hard to keep track of, Taub-Dix recommends buying one full-size candy bar that you absolutely adore to relish on Halloween night.
"Sit down and enjoy it," she says. "Pay attention to the texture, the crunch, the creaminess, and you won't feel deprived."
Then the next day, move swiftly to deal with the candy hangover that can drag on for weeks.
If you have kids, Taub-Dix suggests having them sort through their bags and make two piles -- one for their favorites, and another for the stuff they don't like as much. Throw the latter away or donate them to a dentist's office that is gathering candy for shipment to military personnel overseas. Or bring them to a local community center.
"I know that my mom is in a nursing home, and people love to bring things there -- cake, candy or other treats," Taub-Dix says. "Lollipops in a nursing home are like cigarettes in prison," she says with a laugh.
After a few days, toss any candy that your kids have stashed away. By that time, they will probably have forgotten about it, Taub-Dix says.
The bottom line: Don't let a day of fun turn into a month of feasting.
SecondAct contributor Melinda Fulmer writes regularly about issues of health and wealth for publications such as the Los Angeles Times and MSN.
SecondAct Asks: What are your favorite tips for surviving the festival of food and temptation between now and New Year's? Share suggestions in the comments section below.