What's scarier: creepy costumes, or candy corn?
Tempting treats, probably, whether you’re following a strict weight-loss plan or just aiming to eat healthy without too much added sugar. But there are ways to ease the damage Halloween can do to your diet, from when you buy your candy to how you portion it out. Here, some of the best tricks we’ve heard for sticking to a skinnier Halloween.
Buy candy the day of or before Halloween.
If you’re stocking up for trick-or-treaters, minimize the number of days the candy is in your house beforehand. Research shows just looking at food triggers the circuitry in our brains that makes us imagine eating it, says Susan Albers, PsyD, a psychologist and author of the book Eating Mindfully. If you’ve already bought candy, keep it out of sight in the back of your pantry until your doorbell starts ringing.
Also, many stores offer steep discounts on candy in the days following Halloween—resist the urge to buy just because it’s on sale!
Take the three-minute test.
About to bite into that Reese’s? A study in the journal Appetite found that the mood-enhancing properties of candy last only three minutes, says Albers. So before you rip open that wrapper, ask yourself if the indulgence is really worth it.
Look at sugar grams, not just calories and fat.
Many of us avoid fat-laden candies thinking it’s healthier to stick to fat-free choices, but those candies tend to be loaded with sugar, which isn’t exactly a diet free pass. (Your liver converts some sugar into fat, which your fat cells then store). A serving of Gummy Bears, for example, has 30 grams of sugar, writes Hollywood fitness and nutrition expert David Kirsch on HuffingtonPost.com. Compare that with the 9 grams of sugar in two or three red licorice strips.
Kirch’s all-time favorite sweet indulgence: Tootsie pops. They have just 60 calories and 10 grams of sugar, but also take a long time to eat, so you’re less likely to dip into that plastic pumpkin for seconds or thirds.
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Act like a kid.
Remember when you’d get home from trick-or-treating, dump out your entire loot, and sift through it creating multiple piles: candy you love, candy you sorta like, and candy you hate/want to trade? Apply that same filter when you’re about to dig into the office candy bowl. If it’s not on the “candy you love” list, don’t eat it.
Also, chances are your parents had some rigid rules around how much candy you could eat each day after Halloween—consider setting them for yourself now. For example, you can have one or two mini candies a day for week, then you’ll get rid of the loot.
Follow a normal eating routine.
Whether you’re manning the candy bowl at your own house or taking your kids out trick-or-treating, it almost goes without saying that going out hungry is a recipe for a Halloween sugar hangover. Make sure you follow a regular day of eating (typical breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner) and don’t “save up” calories for all the candy. This makes you much more likely to binge and overdo it, especially since candy is typically low in protein and fiber, the two ingredients that help make you feel satisfied and full.
Trick your brain into eating less.
Albers recommends this simple move to her clients: Just chew gum about 15 minutes before you plan to have some candy. Research shows that the very act of chewing helps curb cravings, so you’ll eat less.
Ditch the pillowcase.
The smaller the bag your kids trick or treat with, the less candy they’ll tote home, and the fewer sweets lying around you’ll be tempted to eat.
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Turn trick-or-treating into a workout.
Walking around for an hour or so does burn calories! So as long as you have a good, safe place to do it, don’t drive your kids around to satisfy their sweet tooth. Take advantage of the many health benefits you’ll reap from a leisurely neighborhood stroll.
Try a candy corn meditation.
Those love-‘em-or-hate-‘em Halloween staples are a perfect example of how we can mindlessly munch candy, says Albers. “You often eat so many so fast, you don’t even really taste it,” she says. To retrain yourself to eat more mindfully, follow this exercise: Line up three candy corns, away from the rest of the bag or bowl. Eat one at a time, noticing the taste and texture, focusing on the piece in your mouth instead of the one that’s coming next. Then apply this slow-and-savoring method to all the candy you indulge in.
Know what 150 calories of candy looks like.
This is a relatively harmless amount to enjoy. But it’s easy to overdo it with those fun size treats. Keep this list from Shape.com in mind: 150 calories is approximately three mini York Peppermint Patties, two fun-size packages of milk chocolate M&Ms, six mini Musketeers, six rolls of Smarties, seven Hershey’s Kisses, and five snack-size Twizzler twists.
Another smart trick: Leave the used candy wrappers in your eyesight (on your desk at work, the kitchen counter, etc.) Research shows that you eat less when you can see evidence of the damage you’ve done.
In a candy coma? Give yourself a clean slate.
If, despite your best efforts, you still wake up in with a candy-triggered Halloween hangover, don’t beat yourself up over it. Have a filling breakfast with fiber and protein to help steady your blood sugar (try oatmeal with some berries and nuts) and go for a nice, normal, healthy workout at your usual time. Don’t use exercise as a punishment, but rather as a way to recharge your energy levels and confidence after a not-the-best eating day. Bring healthy snacks from home so you can avoid temptation at the office candy bowl.
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