Thoughts of October conjure up visions of cool Fall air, changing leaves, football games, and, of course, the celebration of Halloween. Costume parties, haunted houses, carving jack-o’-lanterns and little ghosts and goblins trick-or-treating are standard October festivities. All typically include some readily accessible concoction of sugar-laden, chocolaty, calorie-dense deliciousness. It’s hard for even the most disciplined “dieter” to avoid Halloween weight gain. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow our 10 steps below, you might just make it through the month without budging the bathroom scale.
1. Plan ahead. Let's face it, we all eat a little more sugar than normal around Halloween, and that's ok. But, remember to plan ahead -- eat a little bit healthier and exercise a little bit more to make room for the "candy calories." Encourage your family to do the same in anticipation of the kids' upcoming, almost unavoidable, candy binge.
2. Shop last minute, and buy what you don't like. This is one holiday where it pays to procrastinate. Put off buying the Halloween candy until right before the trick-or-treaters arrive. That way, the whole family will have less temptation to break into the candy early. When you do get to the store, buy your least favorite candies so you'll be less likely to indulge in any leftovers.
3. Avoid setting up a desk-top candy jar at the office. If the candy is sitting in front of you, you’re going to eat it. If you must have a desktop dish to show your holiday spirit, fill it with fruits and vegetables instead. Of course, you’ll likely still have ready access to the stuff from other less health-conscious colleagues. Try to take a walking break before going after their candy stashes.
4. Manage your hunger. Make an extra effort to eat a well-balanced diet with regularly spaced meals to ensure adequate nutrition (a candy-only diet will leave you lacking in many essential vitamins and minerals). This sensible eating will also help to stave off hunger pangs which could inadvertently be calmed with consumption of the too-easily-available candy binge if you’re not careful.
5. Tweak your favorite treat. If you're having, or going to a party, make a healthier version of your favorite snack to share. Plenty of healthy recipes are available online that makeover a bad snack into a much healthier one and tastes just as good.
6. Choose the "healthier" candy options, or better yet, give out inedible treats. You can help the kids to avoid Halloween weight gain while at the same time helping yourself by trying to choose “less-unhealthy-treats.” As you know, not all candy is created equal. When buying the candy aim for the healthier options such as sugar-free gum, fruit chews or lollipops as smarter alternatives to candy or at least go for the smaller size of the "better" chocolate candies such as mini Milky Way, Mini 3 Musketeers, and Tootsie Roll Midgets. This year the American Academy of Pediatrics and the “why milk?” campaign are pushing chocolate milk as a relatively healthy Halloween “treat”. Better yet, trade unhealthy Halloween treats for non-edible trinkets like mini play-doh, stickers, bouncy balls, eye balls, and tiny storybooks. If you go this route, try to get something you’re pretty sure the kids will like so you don’t make your house a bull’s eye for eggs and toilet paper.
7. Take the Kids Trick-or-Treating, on foot. Take advantage of this fun-filled family time, and great opportunity to exercise together by covering a large area while out trick-or-treating -- and encourage the kids to sprint to the next doorstep (while, of course, making safety a top priority).
8. Ration the Goods. Help the kids ration the treats so as not to eat them all at once. Also set limits for yourself and how much candy you will "allow” each day. For example, make a deal with yourself that you’ll only eat one small portion-controlled indulgence per day.
9. Freeze It. Freeze some of the kids’ leftover candy for later. Not only does this put the candy out of site, but frozen candy takes longer to eat, and if you opt to wait for it to get to room temperature, the urge might pass.
10. Lighten up. Remember that Halloween, like other holidays, is a single day on the calendar. If your family eats sensibly during the rest of the year, it will have a more lasting impact than a few days of overindulgence.
By Natalie Digate Muth
Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDNatalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD is the Senior Nutrition Consultant for the American Council on Exercise, a community pediatrician, registered dietitian, mom, and author of “’Eat Your Vegetables!’ and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters.”