The Halloween Candy Survival Guide

Confession time: I have a weakness for candy, especially chocolate.  I mean, what woman doesn’t?  I’ve gotten pretty good about only eating it in moderation in recent years.  You know, a couple teaspoons of crushed heath bar on my frozen yogurt, or the occasional Dove chocolate after dinner.  It helps that we don’t keep a candy bowl at Longevity and I rarely bring it into my home, instead opting for an all-fruit popsicle or a cup of all-natural ice cream for those times I want dessert.

With Halloween just a few days away, temptation to overload on refined sugar is lurking around every corner.  To make matters worse, they stock the store shelves earlier and earlier every year, so Halloween candy starts haunting us around the Fourth of July!  If you have children, it’s even harder to resist all the goodies (really should be called baddies) from class parties, fall festivals and of course, trick-or-treating.  I’m all for indulging in occasional treats in moderation, but when one-day holidays turn into a month-long excuse to eat junk, well that’s what’s really scary!

I wish I could give you some kind of magic trick for overcoming all this temptation, but the truth is, it’s just going to come down to some good old-fashioned will power.  (Go back and read my post, Going Out With A Bang, for a little end-of-year motivation.)  However, I can give you a few ideas for making wiser choices and hopefully controlling some of the Halloween damage!

  • Don’t buy Halloween candy too early. The fewer days it’s in your home, the fewer days you’ll have to resist eating it. I have to admit, I made this mistake this week.  I bought a bag of candy corns to put out at a party about five days in advance, and my husband and I ended up getting in to it.  I blame him, as he was the one who opened it as soon as I walked in the door from the grocery store.  I guess he felt deprived after these ten months of being married to a nutrition nut!  Next time, I’m waiting until the day of an event to purchase candy, or even better, skipping it all together and opting for a healthy trail mix or yogurt-covered raisins instead.  We live and we learn!
  • Eat a nutritious dinner before heading out to Halloween parties or trick-or-treating. If your stomach is already full with something wholesome, you and your kids will be less likely to fill up on all the junk.

Make sure your kids eat a good dinner before maxing out on sweets!

  • Store candy in a high cabinet or pantry. If it’s out of sight, your family is more likely to forget about it, and the faster you can throw it out!  After all, the Thanksgiving and Christmas sweets will immediately follow Halloween, so why still have all that orange candy sitting around your house?
  • Set limits on consumption. Decide in advance how much candy you are going to allow yourself and your children.  Maybe it’s one piece a day, or maybe everyone gets to enjoy it for just a day or two before the rest is thrown out.  Maybe you want to stick to giving your child candies that take longer to eat, such as jolly ranchers, tootsie rolls and lolly pops, so they get to enjoy a smaller amount of candy for a longer amount of time.  You decide, but carve out some kind of boundary and stick to it!
  • Take the focus off the sweets. Most kids associate Halloween with two things – costumes and candy.  Take a healthier approach with your kids this year by focusing on the other fall rituals, such as pumpkin carving, picking apples and fun autumn art projects.  You’ll create great memories for your family and help everyone eat a little healthier.  You can also give out fun prizes like pencils and stickers instead of candy.  Also, resist the urge to purchase more candy the day after Halloween when it all goes on sale.  No matter how little it costs, it’s still harmful to you and your family’s health.
  • Remember not all sweets are created equal. When it comes to candy, it’s not just about fat and sugar.  Many brands of candy are also full of harmful dyes, soy, preservatives and hydrogenated oils.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that the ones containing nuts, raisins or coconut are better for you either!  As you decide which candies you’re going to allow your kids and give out to trick-or-treaters, read those labels and choose wisely!  You can tell a lot about the quality of a product by just looking at the first two or three items on the list of ingredients.  I mean, if I’m going to eat chocolate, I want to see cocoa as the first ingredient on the list, not the seventh, ya know what I mean?

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about check out this list of ingredients in a Baby Ruth bar.  Ingredients are listed based on highest quantity, so that means a Baby Ruth has a lot more hydrogenated oils and corn syrup and sugar than it does cocoa!  I’m not just picking on Baby Ruth, as there are many other brands with a similar list of ingredients.

Sugar, Roasted Peanuts, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel and Coconut Oils, Milk, Cocoa, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Glycerin, Whey (from Milk) Nonfat Milk, Salt, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Soybean Oil, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Carrageenan, TBHQ and Citric Acid (to Preserve Freshness) Caramel Color.

When I really look at what's in it, the Baby Ruth bar is so not worth it to me. We can find treats in a more pure form at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Even some of the mainstream brands are a lot healthier than this.

As we all know, we’re embarking on the most challenging time of the year when it comes to our nutrition.  You might be tempted to just give up and start back over at the New Year, but don’t do it.  We can’t be perfect all the time (Hence, the candy corns that defeated me this week!), but we can finish this year strong and make better decisions for our health than we did last year.

Do you have any Halloween or general holiday nutrition tips?  I don’t have any kids yet (just loads of nieces and nephews), so I’d love to hear some ideas from my mommy readers!  We all need all the inspiration and support we can get!

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Filed under Healthy Tips, Rants and Cravings

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