It’s Halloween already, and we are officially sanctioned to go back to trick-or-treating and Halloween parties. The drugstores and grocery stores are teeming with bags of fun-size candy bars and candy corn pumpkins. Offices and schools have candy bowls and homemade cookies EVERYWHERE. You may be going to one or a few Halloween parties this weekend. This is NOT the time to white knuckle. There is a better answer.
What we want to avoid: The Halloween guilt hangover
We have all experienced a few “Halloween Hangovers” – too much sugar, maybe coupled with a few too many Bloody Mary Syringes (or other Halloween themed cocktails). Unlike when we were kids, it’s harder to bounce back from a sugar crash. It’s also easy to get into a shaming pattern, where we make ourselves feel guilty for “being bad,” and then lose motivation to keep up with a path of fitness and well-being.
Even without kids, there is plenty of Halloween candy around in stores, at the office in bowls, and of course at costume parties. It’s already there, and it is not even October yet.
And all of it may not come to an end on November 1st, necessarily – leftover Halloween candy lingers in office candy bowls and in pantries. We all know a good dopamine hit is the ultimate cure for a stressful day or just being bored, so it is easy to get into a pattern and find it hard to transition out of it.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though, if you follow the DAO guide to making smart choices in the next few weeks.*
Tip #1 : Pre-game (and eat candy as a post-workout recovery snack)
The “scarcity” mentality is what is responsible for a lot of our behavior when we are confronted with food scenarios like all-you-can-eat buffets or holidays with plenary treats. That mentality makes us go free for all because we have this mindset that this is the ONLY time we can eat like this and therefore we should make it all worthwhile. But that’s simply NOT true. You can eat candy every day, if you want. One or two pieces of fun-sized candy treats can be part of a holistically nutritious food plan that allows eating for nourishment and purely to satisfy your inner kid.
If your approach to nutrition involves suppression of every urge to eat food purely for pleasure, even if it is processed or has sugar, then you will act like a starved alley cat when confronted with sweets at every turn. No human has that amount of willpower. But giving yourself a chance to eat a few pieces of candy everyday, especially in the few days before Halloween, will make the actual event anticlimactic. Your mindset will be, “hey, I am already around a lot of this stuff, so what’s the big deal if it’s everywhere now?”
I have a candy drawer in my house. I keep a supply of all of my favorite candy (Sweet tarts, gummy bears, and Swedish fish). I share this habit with one of my friends who is a dietitian and counsels clients in intuitive eating, which I have written about in this article. Having a supply of your favorite “stuff” can give you the satisfaction knowing that it’s there and you can have it anytime you want. The key is to keep it out of sight without keeping it hidden. That way it’s not a constant temptation, but enough to make you feel that the stuff you really like is not “off limits.”
I have covered post-workout nutrition previously in this post, but as a reminder, fast-absorbing carbs are best consumed close to workouts. That’s because your glycogen is depleted and that means your muscles are in need of immediate glucose – which guess what’s in candy – just that. Which is exactly why some health and body experts recommend eating gummy bears (or gummy candy, or basically anything with dextrose as one of the key ingredients) right after you workout. My personal fave is the Trolli sour gummy worms, and since it’s only a small part of my nutrition plan, I splurge on gourmet candy mixes like these selections from Foxtrot (an artisanal grocery shop). Just be sure to brush your teeth right after. And I don’t mean house a bag. A palmful is enough!
Tip #2 : The Office, School, or Neighborhood / Friend Halloween Party
The advice for these types of parties is like the advice for going to a regular party on steroids. That’s because you are SURROUNDED by sugar. And a lot of weird costumes that go well with it.
You can have fun, though, without regret. Here is my plan of attack:
If you are involved in organizing the party, it’s a perfect chance for you to champion the healthy Halloween snacks. Even if you are not, the host always appreciates a guest who does not arrive empty-handed. You can either try a recipe like Pumpkin hummus and celery sticks, or if that’s too much effort, consider bringing one of these calorically economical picks (and in some cases, nutritious and delicious):
Lollipops, like chewing gum, keep your mouth busy for a long time for relatively low caloric value. If you already have something in your mouth, you can’t eat. Also Halloween is this suspended moment in time where it’s totally cool to eat a lolliop if you are not a tween.
- Golly Lollies: At only 15 calories a pop and 1g of sugar, this is the best weapon you have to keep your mouth busy.
- Charm Lollipops: The most popular kind being the “blow pop.” While this is not as healthy as the Golly Lollies and has more sugar, it is another good example of a treat that takes a while to melt AND it turns into gum you can chew for a good amount of time. Also, if you get the chery flavor, it’s has a cool natural looking red lip effect.
- Chupa chups: Besides having a funny name these are actually popular in other parts of the world.
Like lollipops, hard candies also take a long time to melt and so you basically can eat several pieces for under 100 calories. Some of my favorites are:
- Jolly ranchers: I mean, have you ever tried to bite into one even halfway dissolved? Yikes. Plus they have so much flavor. You can go through 3 pieces for just 70 calories
- Werther’s originals: Another pleasurable experience for the mouth and only clocking in at 20 calories a piece. They are delectable and they last quite a while!
Candy you have to unwrap
That extra step of unwrapping builds in a pause that prevents you from inhaling candy mindlessly. Think Hershey’s kisses, Starbursts, or Now and Laters (which take longer to chew), or mini Laffy Taffies.
Dark chocolate in moderate amounts is actually really GOOD for you, but if you hate the harsh taste, it’s generally ok to be 55 percent or over. Some “non-bitter brands” include:
- Dove promises dark chocolate
- Godiva dark chocolate ganache heart
- Brookside dark chocolate covered pomegranate
Dried fruit (without the extra sugar).
Dates are, after all, nature’s candy. You can buy a big box or to be more COVID-friendly have a bulk amount of these individual packets from Joolies. Other great dried fruit options are dried sour cherries, dried apricots, and figs. Just make sure there is no additional sugar added. You can even combine the dried fruit with some nuts, pumpikin granola and dark chocolate to make a healthy halloween trail mix!
More party tips
Besides the good influence you can have, just follow other standard party guidelines:
Don’t hang by the buffet or bar, get your drink and what you can fit into one hand. Once you finish your nosh, then hold your drink napkin in your hand so you will not feel empty-handed.
Definitely have a few treats, but go by the rule of 3. After the third one, pop some cinnamon gum in your mouth
Be sure you eat a healthy snack an hour before, ideally with some protein and fat and low in carbs. A great option is nuts, because it also will slow down the candy and treats from spiking your blood sugar
If you are a woman (or like to wear makeup), make that the night you wear a bold lip color or a super glassy lip gloss. Then you will be more reluctant to mess it up, and more choosy about what you actually mess it up for!
Trick or treating tips
Dr. Anthony Fauci has officially cleared trick or treating for this year, so it’s back on and so are the big bags of Halloween candy inevitably left over after your kids stuff themselves silly. So how do you keep the constant presence of candy in your home at bay? Here are some suggestions:
- Share the wealth! Give extra Halloween candy to your officemates, friends, the postman
- Pack the candy into a ‘care package’ for older kids that are at college, whether they are yours or relatives/family friends.
- If that would cause a riot, I suggest tossing the bag of Halloween candy into your FREEZER. You are a lot less likely to give into the temptation of breaking your teeth and it’s more out of view. Then pick a night once a week where the fam can have candy and a certain portion of candy for the kids that day for them to have as an afterschool or after dinner treat. If you are freezing a lot of chocolate, bake that into a recipe for holiday baking, like a chocolate cake, pie, or even homemade cookie dough! You can find some healthier recipes HERE.
- Really, the simplest way is to donate the candy to one of many good causes, including for overseas troops and less fortunate kids.
Tip # 4: How to come down off your sugar high
Realistically, we will all probably consume more sugar this week than most other times of the year. Here’s how I like to transition back to eating more whole foods under my 80-20 approach:
- Fruit is your FRIEND. Especially in-season fruit, like persimmons (pronounced Pur-si-munz). Pre-wash and store fruit in clear glass containers at the front of your fridge, and in a decorative fruit bowl (like apples, bananas and oranges)
- Sweet potatoes incorporated into meals, like lunch bowls and as a dinner side, can help fight the yen for something sweet after a meal. By consuming a sweet starchy vegetable that provides a rich source of carbs, you will deplete your body’s need for more carbs later. You can also make sweet potatoes dessert-y by baking them and drizzling them with honey and cinnamon. You can do the same with pumpkin or papaya!
- Take advantage of the lesson on “health” halloween candy and invest in a box of dates and prunes. Both are very satisfying sources of gooey sweetness, but wholly natural and with a lot of benefits for the body. Dates are high in antioxidants and key minerals, like copper and manganese. Prunes as many know are helpful for digestion and are also a high source of potassium. Nature’s candy!
- Eating a lot of fermented and/or sour foods dulls my sugar cravings. I eat a lot of pickles (like Mt. Olives’ Simply Pickles). Kombucha also is a great way to drink healthy probiotics and keep sugar cravings at bay. The next issue of DAOFitLife will explain more about the benefits of Komboucha and review of the major Kombucha brands!
- Make chewing gum your friend. Chewing gum will keep your breath fresh and less likely to give into sugar cravings
How to have a healthy Halloween (American Heart Association)
*This may not be suitable suggestions for individuals that have issues with binge eating, or other health conditions, like diabetes. Always consult a doctor before making any substantial changes in diet. As with all articles on this blog, none of the content in this article constitutes medical advice.