I am 99% sure there is candy in your house right now. I know it's in mine. Last year, I was asked by the International Food Information Council to write a blog post about how to balance some of the candy-craziness that follows Halloween. I wanted to update the tips I shared there with you here, too, and look ahead to the broader holiday season and how to balance your food and activity.
1. Know your limits. When it comes to food, it is helpful to know how many daily calories you need. Just like working within a budget, knowing your calorie limits can help you leave room for a piece of Halloween candy or two (or three?!). Most special occasions and holidays are celebrated with food. Deprivation isn’t very festive—or fun—so plan ahead and you'll enjoy your indulgences when you know that it fits within your overall eating plan. (If you need help knowing how many calories your body needs, I can help you!)
2. Get physical. The best way to counter excess sugar and calories in your diet is to be active, so schedule in some time to sweat for at least 30 minutes, five times per week. Regular physical activity can help boost your energy and for some, help you focus more on the types and amounts of foods you eat. Want an added boost from your fitness routine? Add in some strength training to build muscle. At rest, muscle uses more energy that fat so build strong muscle and burn a few more calories even when you're sitting still!
3. Remember, sugar is a carbohydrate. All carbohydrates we eat (from whole grains, fruit and sweets) are broken down into smaller pieces (sugar building blocks, mostly glucose) and made readily available to our muscles and brain to use as energy. If you can't use it, it's stored. If you've stored enough for short term energy needs, it gets stored away as fat (long-term energy storage). It's best to spread out your carb intake throughout the day, too, especially if you have diabetes. It’s fine to enjoy candy, just recognize its place within your daily carb, calorie and nutrient intake. If you have diabetes, and struggle to keep your blood sugar under control, a registered dietitian is a great asset -- I'd love to help you better balance your food and improve your numbers.
4. Out of sight, out of mind. Whether it's Halloween candy or Christmas cookies, keep it under wraps to avoid aimless munching. Remember to eat mindfully, when you're hungry. Not when you're stressed, or simply because "it's there." Sit down to meals, make reasonable choices and enjoy a sweet if you want it. Parents, remember, you are the gatekeepers for their child’s candy and cookie intake and you decide how often it can be enjoyed and keeping it out of sight will help your kids forget its there at all. Stay tuned for more parent/kid food tips on this blog.
5. Chill out. My favorite Halloween hack is to freeze the candy I love to help with portion control. I also toss out what my family really doesn't like. Why keep it?! The stuff I do enjoy (some pictured above) is kept in a zip-top bag, frozen. You can savor one frozen mini candy bar over five minutes—or about the same amount of time it takes to eat five that aren’t frozen. Try it. For Christmas cookies, freeze dough and only make a few at a time. That way you don't have dozens of cookies begging to be eaten on your counter. Instead, bake one for each family member after dinner. Nothing better than a warm cookie.
6. Embrace the season. The holiday season is JUST gearing up. Sure, sweet treats make this time of year special, but so does the abundance of gorgeous fall produce: all types of squash, freshly harvested nuts, apples (whose gone picking?!), Brussels sprouts, parsnips, turnips...I could go on. Embrace these as festive flavors that make this time of year special, too. Try pumpkin puree in a breakfast smoothie, toss sliced pears and toasted walnuts on a salad for lunch, add chunks of butternut squash into a lentil stew for dinner, roast Brussels with an onion as a dinner side, or even make a caramel apple to soothe the sweet tooth. If you focus on the healthful foods that offer holiday sentiment, you many not feel the need to over do it on the sweet stuff.
Little gems of nutrition information and meal inspiration provided by a registered dietitian to help make your day healthier one bite at a time.