Halloween is just around the corner, which means just one thing, copious amounts of sugar-loaded treats void of any real nutritional value—the splurge that is all in the spirit of Halloween. But is it worth the results you and your clients have worked so hard to achieve? We doubt it! We’re here to share ways to escape those temptations, helping you to avoid succumbing to the buckets of Halloween candy taunting you. For those of you with a steady parade of trick-or-treaters, your task becomes even more challenging. No one wants the neighborhood stigma of being the candyless house. The house kids point at, the house that is the wrath of Halloween pranks, and a reputation that sticks well into the new year. Perhaps for you, candy for the sake of the holiday may be a necessary evil, an evil that tempts the sweet tooth of even the purest of souls. Take a look under the wrapper and follow these five simple recommendations to foil the candy ghouls.
What’s Underneath the Wrapper?
As part of a healthy diet, almost everybody knows candy should be avoided or eaten in only small and infrequent doses. Candy is synonymous with sugar. However, many people don’t understand the direct repercussions of the sugars, and the fats, within these products. You may be familiar with many sugar terms, but it is also important to be knowledgeable on what these ingredients do within the body. Sugars are simple carbohydrate sources that come in all shapes and sizes, going by many different names on the wrapper. These include brown rice syrup, brown sugar, concentrated fruit juice sweetener, cane sugar, confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, granulated sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, invert, lactose, levulose, maltose, mannitol, maple sugar, molasses, natural sweeteners, raw sugar, sorbitol, turbinado sugar, white sugar, xylitol (1).
Don’t be tricked into thinking that candy labeled as “fat free” is better for you. They're laden with simple sugars that quickly elevate blood glucose levels after consumption causing insulin levels to rise. These elevated insulin levels cause the sugars to be stored in fat cells (adipose tissue), which can increase the risk of diabetes and obesity if consumed excessively (1). Simple carbohydrates work contrary to complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in fruits (apples are a great choice this time of year), vegetables and whole grains. These healthier alternatives take longer to digest, increasing feelings of fullness, causing a slower rise of sugars in the blood stream, and less of an insulin spike and storage in fat tissue.
Unfortunately, sugar isn’t the only corrupt ingredient in candy. Three words should strike fear into the hearts of consumers, “partially hydrogenated oils” also known as trans fats. These fats are modified versions of vegetable oils, altered so that they have a longer shelf life (2). The process comes at an unhealthy price. Trans fats significantly alter blood lipid levels by raising the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowering the levels of good cholesterol (HDL), thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease with excessive consumption (3). Avoid this morbid ingredient that is still found in an assortment of Halloween products.
Tips to Avoid the Candy Crave
For those who get an uncontrollable sweet tooth around Halloween, there are practical ways to avoid eating candy, even when purchasing for the trick-or-treaters that may be coming to your door. This is easier than you may think and it doesn’t require a lot of time or effort.
1. Wait until the last minute to purchase candy: Don’t keep candy around the house. Wait until Halloween day or the night before to go to the store to stock your treats. The less time candy is in your house, the less temptation you will have.
2. Pick your least favorite candy: If you have a least favorite candy, pick that one for your trick-or-treat selection. You will be less likely to gorge from the candy bowl if you don’t find it delectable. You’ll also notice that your favorite Halloween candies are probably available all year round or reshaped for other holidays, so you’ll never feel deprived if you pass the bag this time around. Candy corn and mellow creams have a color and shape for every season!
3. Splurge the natural way: If you want something sweet, eat a piece of fruit instead. Not only is it more nutritious, it will curb your appetite better than candy. Speaking of the splurge, evaluate how many minutes of exercise would need to be completed to neutralize the candy calories.
4. Keep it out of sight: If you feel like the giant bowl of candy is still tempting, leave it outside for the trick-or-treaters and do something active to take your mind off the candy. If your trick-or-treater entourages can’t be trusted, leave the candy bowl near the door (if you don’t have dogs, put it on the floor making it less accessible for easy pickings) and go into the other room until trick-or-treaters arrive.
5. Get rid of it: As hard as it may be to part ways, donate or give away any leftover candy. There are plenty of others that would appreciate a candy donation, your hips not being one of them.
Although following all five of these tips may be difficult for some, following a few will surely help in surviving the indulgent temptations at Halloween in a realistic and effective manner. The key is to set the stage for success. Although you may think you are missing out, just remember how good it will feel when you realize that you had the will power to evade the unhealthy temptation. Just because you aren’t joining the candy bandwagon doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Get your costume ready and enjoy!
1. Insel P, Ross D, McMahon K, Bernstein M. Nutrition. 4th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2011
2. Mortad-Belanger A, Charest A, Grenier G, Paquin P, Chouinard Y, Lemieux S, Couture P, Lamarche B. Study of the effect of trans fatty acids from ruminants on blood lipids and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Am J Cllin Nutr 2008;87:593-599
3. Mensink RP, Katan MB. Effect of Dietary Trans Fatty Acids on High-Density and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels in Healthy Subjects. N Engl J Med, 1990;323(7):439-45.
By Sam Hutchison BS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES