You meant to just eat one piece of candy from the family-size bag. But in the blink of an eye, half of it is gone. The truth is, most people have been there. Halloween candy is delicious, and a holiday is a great reason to indulge in something sweet. Halloween candy might bring up nostalgic memories of your childhood, or be a way to bond with your kids over trick-or-treating for the best goods in the neighborhood. But how do you avoid an empty candy bag and an uncomfortably full stomach? Here are the strategies nutrition experts recommend to enjoy your Halloween treats without overdoing it.
FOCUS ON YOUR FAVORITES
“Be intentional about picking out your favorites,” suggests Kacie Barnes, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “You’ll enjoy them the most, be more satisfied, and end up eating less.”
You might even consider giving away any candy you don’t really love. “Drop it off in the breakroom at work, hand it out to the community, or give it to your neighbors, friends and family,” recommends Megan Byrd, a registered dietitian.
HONOR YOUR CRAVINGS
It might seem counterintuitive, but eating some candy right when you crave it can be a better move than trying to put it off and ignore the craving. “What tends to happen is we avoid the craving, often saying to ourselves, ‘I’m trying to be good.’ Then later, we end up eating half the bag of Halloween candy because we spent the day obsessing over how we couldn’t have it,” explains Victoria Whittington, a registered dietitian. “Satisfy the craving when it comes, and move on with your day.”
EAT YOUR CANDY MINDFULLY
When you’re not paying attention to what you’re eating, it’s easy to shovel candy on autopilot. That’s why Emily Zorn, a registered dietitian and health coach, recommends a more mindful approach. “Really sit down and take the time to focus on your piece of candy. What does it look like? How does it smell? How does it taste? Turn off the TV and put away the phone when you’re enjoying your candy.” The end result: More satisfaction and feeling more in control.
DON’T SET A “TOMORROW” DIET GOAL
“Avoid the temptation to set a diet goal for yourself,” Barnes advises. In other words, don’t tell yourself, “Today I can have candy, but tomorrow, I’m throwing it all away and starting a new diet!” When you tell yourself you can’t have any tomorrow, you’re way more likely to overeat today, Barnes says.
EAT SOMETHING ELSE FIRST
Eating candy on an empty stomach is a recipe for overdoing it, according to Zorn. “If you’ve already eaten a balanced meal of carbs, protein and veggies, and then choose to eat a piece of candy afterward, you’re less likely to want to continue eating because you’ll already be feeling some fullness.”
COMBINE CANDY WITH HEARTY FOODS
“The trick to moderating your trick-or-treat candy is to add volume with other nutritious foods,” notes Lisa Moskovitz, a registered dietitian. “Don’t just grab some candy and walk away. Combine it with fresh fruit, yogurt, nuts or anything else that can pack in additional fiber or protein. This approach will satisfy your urge for something sweet, sour or chewy but also prevent feeling as though you overdid it.”
STORE LEFTOVER CHOCOLATE CANDIES IN THE FREEZER
It’s hard to overeat candy when it’s frozen solid. “When you want a piece, take it out and let it thaw on the counter for a few minutes before enjoying,” says Tara Tomaino, a registered dietitian and nutrition director at The Park.
REMEMBER: YOU CAN EAT CANDY WHENEVER YOU WANT!
Making foods “off-limits” makes overeating more likely when you do allow yourself to eat them, Zorn explains. So try to keep that in mind: If you’re really loving the candy you’re eating, you can always have a little now and have a little tomorrow. Then, there’s no urgent need to eat as much as possible now.
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SET SOME BOUNDARIES
If candy is a food you have a hard time controlling yourself around, try setting some food boundaries to help yourself out. “Go through and choose your favorite kinds, then separate it evenly into four or five ziplock bags,” Byrd says. The idea is you’ll eat one bag per week. “After your candy bag is empty for the week, then wait until the next week to open up the next bag. By having physical boundaries around your candy, you’ll be better at rationing it out.”
Another option: “Pick a number for the day,” suggests Chris Henigan, a registered dietitian. “If three pieces is your allotment for the day and you eat them all at lunch, then you’ll have to forgo after dinner. I like to have one after lunch and two after dinner, personally.” Sometimes, having a mental limit in mind can make all the difference.
KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE
Feeling guilty over your candy consumption can make the urge to overeat worse. “Give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite foods and understand that a few pieces of candy is not going to derail your healthy eating efforts,” Moskovitz says. Similarly, one candy binge isn’t really going to derail you. How you eat most of the time is much more important than how you eat occasionally.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s not always easy to practice moderation when it comes to Halloween candy, but by focusing on and maximizing the enjoyment you get out of eating it, you’re more likely to be able to stop at just a few pieces. Most importantly, when you don’t make candy off-limits, it feels less urgent to eat as much of it as possible. So remember: Enjoy some candy today, but there’s always tomorrow, too!
Originally published October 2021, updated October 2022
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