Halloween brings many sweet temptations, each luring you away from heart-healthy eating. Our tips will help you navigate the ghoulish season with confidence -- from treat shopping to dealing with candy leftovers.
Rule No. 1: The basics of healthy eating don't go away during a holiday.
"Eat well," says Joanne Larsen, M.S., R.D., L.D. "Three nutritious meals with no more than four hours between them will keep you sated." Satisfied, with your blood sugar in check, the sight and smells of Halloween temptations -- be they waving from the grocery aisle, your candy-stocked cupboard, or a friend's party -- are less intense.
Most of us do better with healthy snacks between meals, so be sure to include them in your eating plan, Larsen says. Planning (not grabbing) is the key to keeping your overall daily intake of calories, fat, sodium, and cholesterol on track
Another tip: Stay hydrated, because thirst often masquerades as hunger. You may be tempted to eat a Halloween treat when you're really just thirsty.
Read on for smart ways to stay on track this Halloween season.
Buy Candy Late
Having tempting candy around can be a big diet challenge. "There's no logical reason to purchase candy in advance of trick-or-treat night," says Jane Hemminger, R.D., L.D.
Resist the urge to buy a bag of Skittles a month before the big night. By only storing the goodies for 24 hours, you can save yourself a lot of temptation. Also, you can usually find big discounts on candy sold that late.
Buy Candy You Don't Like
Keep cravings at bay by purchasing treats that won't interest you. "Select trick-or-treat candy that you don't personally enjoy," says Jane Hemminger, R.D., L.D. "Then you won't be tempted to eat it."
Not a coconut fan? Buy coconut-filled chocolate candy for your trick-or-treaters. Or maybe nut-filled treats don't tempt you -- Snickers or peanut M&Ms may be a good solution for your candy dish.
Store Halloween Treats Out of Sight
Joanne Larsen, M.S., R.D., L.D., notes that we're much more likely to dip into food, regardless of whether we're hungry, when it's within view and in 2 yards' reach. So, store treats in drawers, behind doors, on high shelves, or in out-of-the-way pantries.
Better yet, resist the temptation to open the bag. Once it's open, it's too easy to slip in for a quick bite.
Take Time to Enjoy Your Halloween Treats
You can still enjoy the season's treats by taking time to savor them. By slowly eating your treats, you'll have a better handle on how much you're eating, plus you'll really appreciate the goodie. This is important, says Joanne Larsen, M.S., R.D., L.D. Just as you do for meals, sit, eat, savor, enjoy. Multitask if you must, but not while eating your Halloween treats!
One of our best weight loss tips:
Eat Just the Best Parts of the Treat
Baking Halloween treats at home can be its own temptation. Here's a trick: Don't eat the whole treat, just go for your favorite part. For example, if you love the tops of cupcakes best, eat just them; there's no rule saying you must also eat the base of the cupcake. It's not a free ride -- you're still consuming calories and fat -- but you're slimming down your totals with the smaller portion.
Also, get rid of additional servings of Halloween candies. It's not budget-conscious, but it is belly-conscious. For example, if you love mellowcrème pumpkins but can't find them in a single-serving pack, set aside your allotted amount, then sit and nibble at each one, slowly, attentively. Then toss what remains
This may seem wasteful, but in lieu of eating the whole bag during a sweet craving, give yourself permission to let the rest go. Or have a back-up plan like a friend at work who also enjoys the treats and will take the extras off your hands.
Enjoy Parties for the Atmosphere, Not the Food
Attend Halloween parties for the fun and friends, not the food. Note: Parties are full of fun distractions, including fun decor, making it a challenge to fully enjoy food and drink. Why waste allotted indulgences then?
Joanne Larsen, M.S., R.D., L.D., suggests these Halloween party tips:
- Have a healthy snack before you go so you arrive sated.
- Plan ahead what you'll allow for food and drink, then stick to your plan.
- Choose a small plate, allow yourself one trip to the spread, and sit and savor your food.
- Position yourself away from food during the Halloween party.
Make Your Own Halloween Treats
A Halloween party is going to be full of tempting treats. Bring your own dish that you know you can healthfully enjoy.
Be sure to bake shortly before the party rather than in advance so the dish won't tempt you for days. Divvy up any leftovers right at the party -- don't plan to take any home with you.
Some popular heart-healthy party recipes:
Handle Halloween Temptation at the Workplace
In a meeting where treats are served? You're a captive candy audience. "It's really, really difficult to pass up treats when someone brings them to the morning staff meeting and plops them on the table," says Jane Hemminger, R.D., L.D. "If you just can't resist, sample one small goodie or even just a bite-sized piece. Once everyone's had their turn at the offering, say, 'These look so good!' and move them to a side table where anyone wanting more will have to be deliberate about it or wait until the meeting's dismissed."
This may seem a gutsy move, but most likely others will be grateful.
If your workplace is a Halloween-treat offender (either before the season when coworkers are shopping or afterward when they dump their extra treats on the office), then hold off people by stocking the communal treat dish yourself. Hemminger suggests stocking the dish with treats you don't like so you won't even be tempted or fill it with healthier choices, such as plain nuts or small portions of these Heart-Healthy-approved candies.
Another strategy is to reroute your normal walking path if you pass baskets of tempting candy. If you don't see it and aren't reminded of the treats, it's a lot easier to say no.
Pack Sugar-Free Chewing Gum
One simple, cheap strategy that works wherever temptation strikes -- at home, the workplace, or while shopping -- is to keep a stash of sugar-free gum on hand.
"Faced with a temptation -- say, a sweet-smelling candy aisle or a pan of goodies awaiting departure to a party -- you can pop a piece of gum, deflecting temptation with bit of sweet chewing," says Jane Hemminger, R.D., L.D.
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