By Katie Johnson
Halloween is right around the corner! Cooler weather, festive fall décor and creative costumes mark the holiday as one of ghoulish fun. Deep down though, we all know that dress-up and pumpkins take a back seat to the candy—mountains of it! Have you ever considered the total number of calories that can be held by one smiling jack-o-lantern-shaped loot bag?
On Halloween, the average trick-or-treater, according to a study by Loyola University Medical School, collects 4,800 calories and more than three cups of sugar. For some, who make collecting candy their primary goal, the caloric number can be much higher, even into the tens of thousands.
Authors of The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook (The Experiment, 2014) Catherine Jones and Elaine Trujillo, MS, RDN, believe that occasionally indulging can actually be a way to keep your daily healthy eating habits on track by avoiding feelings of deprivation. So parents and adults, this Halloween question is for you: Do you have a smart plan in place to avoid over-indulging in the chocolate-covered, sugar-coated temptation lurking all around you?
From school and office parties, to grocery store aisles and your cupboards, Halloween can turn a comfortably-controlled, health-focused environment into a calorie minefield lined with goodies enticingly marked “mini“ and “fun size,” urging us all to dig in for a tiny treat. Candy ad campaigns are at their prime right now, placing a premium on getting into the spooky spirit.
Jones advises that “if you feel the candy bowl or trick-or-treat bag tugging at your sweet tooth, don’t fight it. Before the doorbell starts to ring, and gaggles of kids come dressed to scare, charm, or humor you into giving them sweets, have a plan for yourself on what to do with any leftovers, and any loot bags that enter your home with your children.”
Savor the Flavors—Halloween Comes Once a Year
You know yourself better than anyone else. If you’re prone to mindlessly grabbing a few pieces of candy, pick your favorites, put one or two pieces aside and plan to enjoy it during a quiet moment, or for dessert. You may realize that having just one or two pieces is enough to curb the craving for more. In fact, “fun” and “mini” sizes can be a dieter’s friend—allowing you to have a few bites of some of your favorite treats without eating a full-size candy bar.
Two things to try to avoid are reaching into the candy pile from boredom. This is never a good idea at any time. And, gobbling on the go for quick energy, unless, of course, you are really on the move with intentions to burn it off by walking, jogging, or some form of exercise. If all else fails and you find yourself heading toward over-indulgence, journaling can be a great way to keep yourself in check. By simply writing down what it is that you’re eating, you can avoid unnecessary calories.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
As for the gobs of calories that will remain in your home beyond Halloween-night, here are a couple of suggestions. Best case scenario: Convince your kids to share their booty through the Halloween Candy Buy Back Program sponsored by dentists to support our troops, or with the Halloween Candy Program Operation Gratitude, which donates collected candy to our troops, vets, wounded warriors, and others.
Parents can limit everyone’s exposure to the sugary snacks by placing them in a high cupboard or container that is out of sight and easy reach. You can also freeze some of the chocolates to consume slowly over time. And, consider buying your kids a new toothbrush to remind them of the sugar-tooth-decay-cavity connection.
How ever you plan to prepare for the sugar blitz of Halloween, be easy on yourself. Treat yourself to temptation wisely and with compassion. Deprivation and guilt surrounding food may only trick you into eating more. Halloween calories will all need to be burned off somehow. So find those walking or running shoes before the doorbell rings. Happy Halloween!
1 mini Twix Bar: Calories In = 50 calories; Approximate Calories Out for adults weighing 150 pounds: Running 5 minutes; Walking 9 minutes
1 mini M&Ms Bag: Calories In = 88 calories; Approximate Calories Out for adults weighing 150 pounds: Running 9 minutes; Walking 15 minutes
1 mini Snickers bar: Calories In = 40 calories ; Approximate Calories Out for adults weighing 150 pounds: Running: 4 minutes; Walking: 7 minutes
1 fun-size bag of Skiittles: Calories In = 80 calories; Approximate Calories Out for adults weighing 150 pounds: Running 9 minutes; Walking 14 minutes
1 mini box of Nerds: Calories In = 50 calories. Approximate Calories Out for adults weighing 150 pounds: Running 5 minutes; Walking 9 minutes
1 fun-size Butterfinger: Calories In = 85 calories. Approximate Calories Out: Running 9 minutes; Walking 15 minutes