Due to my line of work, people often assume that I do not eat sweets. However, I love chocolate and eat it in some form daily. That is one of the many reasons I enjoy Halloween. Halloween has a couple of positive aspects, even from a nutrition standpoint.
The best part of Halloween and trick-or-treating (for your health) is going for a walk. Admittedly, I grew up in a rural area and was driven around for much of the trick-or-treating, but we were encouraged (possibly forced) to walk between houses that were within reasonable distances on quiet roads.
Obviously, walking is a healthy form of physical activity, but the benefit of doing it on Halloween is that you are walking in cold, dark weather. To explain, being too cold and getting out in dark conditions are often reasons why people do not take regular walks in the North Country outside of our three months of summer. If you can manage to walk around on Halloween while dressed up (but not necessarily for the weather), you should be able to pull off walking outside until there is significant snowfall or ice buildup, no problem. No, there will not be candy waiting for you at every doorstep, but that should never be your motivator for keeping active.
If you are the one dishing out candy and are worried about having lots of treats hanging around your house afterward, plan to pass out healthier or non-food treats. Some ideas are apples, oranges, pretzels, pencils, spider rings, monster finger puppets or little note pads. If you want to do candy, just plan to either give the bulk of it to the last lucky kids or donate it after Halloween.
Once you are back at the house with your child and the Halloween loot, make a plan. The best advice I have is to get rid of any candy you do not really like. What a waste of calories to eat the candies that are not your favorites. There are some candy buyback programs in our area, which is nice, especially for children who think simply throwing their candy in the garbage is cruel.
Keep some candy. You child will probably binge on candy if allowed, especially on Halloween night. Set limits on how much candy they (and you) can eat. Forbidding any candy, ever, is probably not a great idea. At some point your child will be able to buy their own candy and decide how much to eat, so allowing them some treats — when and how much you deem appropriate — is a good way for them to learn how to regulate their eating.
If you are having a hard time sticking to the rules and regulating how much you are eating, here are a few adult tips. Check out the nutrition facts. Most Halloween candies will not have calorie amounts or other nutrition information printed, but that is easy to find online. Look it up, and do the math. If one fun-sized candy bar has 80 calories, and you eat six of them, you have consumed 480 calories. You can also calculate the amount of sugar or fat, which, if you actually measure the total out, can be a good deterrent for overeating. Another thing to consider is bagging appropriate portions. It is easier to stop eating if you allow yourself “one bag.”
Happy Halloween! Have fun, be careful, and do not eat too much candy.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.