Halloween is just a few days away – meaning one thing.
Copious amounts of sugar laden goodies devoid of any (real) nutritional value, amazing costumes and the spirit of the holidays kicking off the next 2 months is here. While I love the holiday season for its ability to challenge our societies to slow down, to be more kind, more patient and giving towards one another… I struggle with the temptations of that delicious genetically engineered plastic wrapped opioid hit that comes around every October 31st.
I’m here to help you avoid succumbing to the buckets of Halloween candy taunting you.
Take a look under the plastic wrapper and follow these five simple tips to foil the candy monsters in you.
Whats 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.
Sugars are simple carbohydrate sources that come in all shapes and sizes, going by many different names on the wrapper. These include but not are limited to: 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). There are a a lot of sugar types!
Candy is laced 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 – my kids love the new hybrid apples at Trader Joes – crunchy outside, soft inside.), 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.
When you read a label. Processed oils should terrify more than the fake blood your neighbor left on his door steps for this weekend. Partially hydrogenated oils (Trans Fat) allow for our favorite candies to have a longer shelf life. 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 (2). Avoid this scary ingredient that is still found in an assortment of Halloween products.
5 Tips to Curb the Candy Crave
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. I use this principle in buying potato chips. I do not buy them until i’m ready to eat them. I don’t want them sitting in my pantry all week getting ready for an event they may not make it to because i’m craving on a Tuesday night.
2. Pick your least favorite candy: If you have a least favorite candy, pick that one for your trick-or-treat selection. The only candy we keep it my house is the candy that my kids get from parties. And I usually toss out the stuff that is good and keep the stuff that sucks. Candy Corn, Smarties and Tootsie rolls anyone (Barf)? You will be less likely to pick at the candy you do not find delectable.
3. Splurge on Sweet Fruit: 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.
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 or in the closet and only pull it out for your visiting friends once the doorbell rings. Out of sight out of mind.
5. Toss it: As hard as it may be to part ways (I know some of us are hoarders), donate or give away any leftover candy. There are plenty of others that would appreciate a candy donation, your blood glucose levels not being one of them. Or practice the Chang family way. We let our kids choose a few they’ll eat and I throw away the rest. Yes it’s wasteful but it could also be potentially “waist-full”. Ha. Happy Halloween.
Have a Boo-tiful rest of the week.
1. Insel P, Ross D, McMahon K, Bernstein M. Nutrition. 4th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2011
2. 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.