CALS Wellness Committee tip: Halloween candy advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist

H-A-double-L-O-W-double-E-N spells Halloween! As a registered dietitian, sometimes people assume that I have will-power made of steel, drink only wheat grass smoothies, and never, ever over indulge…. they would be wrong. Ask my mother, husband or college roommate and they will confirm that this dietitian has sweet tooth for candy.  I admit, I’m guilty of raiding my kid’s candy stash on Halloween night after he’s asleep to pick out my favorites. If I’m lucky my son’s favorites won’t be the same as my favorites which means more for me!  So what to do if you’re a candy-loving individual that wants to buy all of the half-price candy the day after Halloween at the drugstore, and not share?  Well here are few tips from one candy lover to another, while still promoting some semblance of “everything in moderation”:

  • When it comes to your kid’s candy stash (and yours) sit down and make piles. The “I really love those” pile to “those are just meh” pile. Set the non-favorites aside.
  • The favorite candy should go in opaque containers, on the top shelf in your cupboard or better yet in the freezer. This can help distract you from grabbing a piece every time you walk by the bowl if kept on the counter or table.
  • For those with kids, consider letting them pick one or two small pieces to eat in their lunch or as dessert. Eating sweets as part of meal, with other food components such as protein or fiber can help prevent those blood sugar spikes, while encouraging moderation. This goes for you too!
  • What to do with those non-favs? Often local area businesses (think dental offices) participate in Halloween Candy Buyback programs where they give you $ for every pound of candy donated or similar. Some other options might be donating to a homeless shelter, to your office for the front counter candy dish, or checking into other local organizations that may use them in care packages to those serving overseas such as Operation Shoebox. The point is to share – not keep for yourself – especially when you don’t care for a particular kind of candy. It’s not worth the calories!
  • If you would like to avoid contributing to the sugar frenzy during trick-or-treating, consider pre-packaged items like, gold fish crackers, trail mix, fruit snacks made with real fruit, sugar free hot cocoa or apple cider, applesauce pouches, raisins or even clementines. Or aim for non-food treats – think fun kid trinkets such as bouncy balls, plastic vampire teeth or wax lips, spider or skull rings, pencils toppers or erasers, fancy stickers, glow sticks, or bookmarks. These items can also be a safe grab for children with food allergies or sensitivities.
  • I know Halloween is about the candy, so some choices that have less sugar: Sugar free gum, or mints, mini-individually wrapped items like Pay-Days, 3 Musketeers, Kit Kats, Reese’s PB cups, Twizzlers or Nestle Crunch.  Dark chocolate options can be lower in sugar as well such as  Dove Promises’ Special Dark or Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate squares. While dark chocolate may be more expensive, and may not be a child’s favorite, it could be your favorite.
  • Candy that has a strong flavor (like dark chocolate), or candies that are spicy or sour – can take more time to eat, and may help limit consumption. Same goes for candies that require more work to eat-like hard suck candies or jawbreakers.
  • Lastly, choose the bite-size options instead of the fun-size candy bars, sometimes you just need a little sweet, and can get by just fine with a smaller size.

Will these tips help you when you are wallowing on your couch over another cancelled Freakfest with a large left-over trick-or-treat bowl on Halloween? Maybe, but they’re good to keep in mind. 🙂  Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Taiya Bach is faculty associate and registered dietitian nutritionist with the UW-Department of Nutritional Sciences, and a member of the CALS Wellness Committee.