Brace yourself: a seven-year study from the University of Colorado found that, on average, kids haul home 22 pounds of candy on Halloween night — and gain 2.2 pounds in just three days following that night. For the record, experts recommend keeping candy consumption under 22 pounds over the entire year! Even though this data is drawn from children, it’s still indicative of the massive candy binge come Halloween. Luckily, Halloween doesn’t have to be a diet or nutritional nightmare. Plan ahead with these tips to resist temptation and a few extra pounds.
Buy your least favorite candy, and buy it late
Remember, as a kid, when you would trade your least favorite candy for your favorite candy, so you could essentially double your winnings? The same idea applies here, but in reverse: buy your least favorite candy so that you won’t be tempted to snack on it. If you know you have a weakness for chocolate, buy a grab bag of Skittles, Starburst, and DumDums; if you fall for sweet-and-sour candies, stick with fun-size chocolate candy bars. You’ll be less likely to overeat candy you don’t like. Or, buy only one type of candy: research from the Universities of Buffalo and Vermont found that when people are exposed to the same food day after day, they begin to eat less of it — up to 100 calories, at the end of the study. The repeated exposure causes a decreased pleasure response, known as habituation. Too many choices, on the other hand, offer different textures and tastes that cause us to overeat and that spur even more cravings.
And buy your candy late, as in the day before Halloween: it may be more expensive, but you won’t be snacking on seemingly tiny treats (that add up!) during the weeks before the big night. Out of sight, out of mind!
Treat yourself; then throw it away
Enjoying a Halloween treat for a few nights surrounding Halloween is fine: in fact, research has found that treats, in moderation, may help with weight loss, increase motivation for maintaining a healthy eating pattern, and reduce the risk for bingeing. But eating the same candy day after day not only adds an extra 100-200 calories to your daily diet — it starts to become downright boring and routine, and you’re not even enjoying your treats anymore. To literally throw away temptation, pick a date that you’ll throw (or give away) your candy–say, November 7. You’ll still have a full week to enjoy your candy without feeling deprived, but having a defined point in the future will help restart your healthy eating habits.
Eat a healthy lunch and dinner
Just because this time of year is rife with pumpkin muffins, caramel apples, and heavier fall foods doesn’t mean that you should ditch your healthy diet. In fact, the availability of these tempting foods makes eating healthier an even more important goal: to make up for the excess of processed foods, make it a point to balance out your diet with whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and dairy, nuts, and seeds.
A healthy dinner is especially important on Halloween night for both you and trick-or-treaters; staying satiated throughout the night will help you resist cravings for high-calorie and high-sugar foods.
Ditch the deprivation mindset
Candy is available year-round; the only difference is the packaging and marketing that accompanies Halloween candy. Those who believe that Halloween candy is in limited supply may end up eating more in an attempt to “get their fill.” But if you know that your favorite candy is always a supermarket’s drive away, you may be less inclined to eat it. Listen to your body: do you really want those Peanut M&Ms, or do you just want them because it’s Halloween? If you don’t want them, tell yourself you can have them tomorrow night, or the next…
Also, just because Halloween candy is in every office bowl and counter come October doesn’t mean that other sweet treats aren’t available. If you’re a fan of chocolate, pick relatively unprocessed, non-Halloween dark chocolate over orange and black M&Ms; you’ll take in fewer added sugars and more flavonoids. If you feel like you must get in the Halloween spirit, spruce up your favorite healthy baking recipes with festive touches: try whole wheat pumpkin pancakes, homemade Almond Joys, or homemade Pumpkin Pie Reese’s. Making your own treats allows you to choose quality and unprocessed ingredients, as opposed to the cheap corn syrup, fillers, and flavorings of Halloween candy.
Don’t fall off the wagon
If you suddenly find yourself halfway through a bag of candy corn, remember: half a bag of candy corn (or one more cookie, or another slice of cake) will not ruin your diet or healthy eating plan. Healthy eating isn’t all-or-nothing; just because you already deviated from your healthy plan doesn’t mean you should throw healthy eating by the wayside for the rest of the day or the week. Vow to begin eating more healthfully right then: put away the candy, shrug it off, and don’t let it ruin your day. Focus on making healthy food choices from that point forward, focusing on quality, nutritious calories — and try not to excessively deprive yourself, which may lead to a cycle of bingeing.
Have a Happy and Healthy Halloween!