9 Tips to Avoid Overindulging in Halloween Treats

For all too many of us, Halloween marks the beginning of junk food season. You know, the time of year when we throw out all of our healthy eating habits because it’s the holidays. We get it. It isn’t exactly popular to eat healthily on October 31st. Nobody wants to hear about your ultra-restrictive, no fun, carb-free diet on Halloween. And absolutely no one will be serving steamed lentils over fresh baby greens at the neighborhood costume party this year.

We’ve been thinking ahead though. This year, there are no excuses for falling into the old Halloween trap. In fact, we’ve put together a list of some wickedly effective strategies to help you avoid some of the usual pitfalls associated with junk food season. And you won’t have to miss any of the ghoulish holiday fun.

Group of friends in halloween costumes having party in the night club

#1 – Eat a healthy and balanced meal before you go out. Some witches and a few vampires invite your family of zombies over for a festive evening. Awesome. But you’re pretty sure the dinner menu will consist of pepperoni pizza with nacho corn chips on the side and an array of fizzy 2-liter beverages. No need to decline the invitation on account of your unwillingness to eat garbage. Instead, plan to prepare a nutrient dense dinner at home for the family before the party. Eat your fill of the best foods around the table. Then apply your frightening makeup and hightail it to the spine-chilling soiree. Take along a bottle of water so you aren’t reduced to drinking soda for hydration. And have a great time.

Little girl in witch costume playing in autumn park. Child having fun at Halloween trick or treat. Kids trick or treating. Toddler kid with jack-o-lantern. Children with candy bucket in fall forest.

#2 – Give the kids one small bucket each for collecting candy. If you’ve got kids that are young enough to go trick-or-treating, door to door, resist the urge to send them on their candy hunt with a rolling suitcase to fill with treats. Rather, pick up one of those orange, plastic, jack-o-lantern shaped buckets at the dollar store. They’re festive looking and fun for the kids. And they will only hold a couple of pounds of candy. The hard plastic buckets won’t stretch. So when they’re full, trick-or-treating is over and it’s time to head home.

#3 – Store Halloween candy out of sight. If you have a leftover bowl full of candy the neighbor kids didn’t take, or you’ve got a few little ones that brought in a nice haul of sweets, don’t keep it out on the kitchen counter. If you have to pass by the candy bowl every time you head toward the sink, one of those peanut butter cups is bound to catch your eye. Consider storing the snack sized temptations up in a high cabinet (the kind that requires a step-stool) or out in the garage. The less often you have to see the candy, the less often you’ll feel a sudden need for red licorice.

#4 – Negotiate a trade deal with your children. After a long, haunted night of candy collecting, the kids will likely be so tired they can’t think straight. Now’s the time to whip out your super smooth grown-up negotiation skills. Give your little hobgoblins an option to trade half their loot for a trip to the movies on the weekend or three days of staying up an extra half-hour at bedtime. Some sugar-busting parents even create a system where they offer their kids money for that hard-earned candy. Go low though – a penny a piece adds up if the kids have been collecting candy all night. Then send the happy little tikes off to bed and either toss the surplus candy in the outside trash can, or seal it up in a box to take to your local food pantry in the morning. You can’t eat junk food if it’s no longer in the house.

Fresh fruits salad on white background

#5 – Stock up on fresh fruits and prepare them for easy access snacking. Truly, this is a good idea for anytime of the year: Buy all sorts of fresh fruit like apples, strawberries, melons, baby oranges and grapes. Then wash them and keep them out on the counter in bowls. Keep these delicious and healthy sweets around the house and within arm’s reach. Anytime you have a hankering for a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth, grab a handful of red grapes or a juicy peach. Problem solved. It’s also helpful to keep a large bowl of fruit salad in the refrigerator for the same reason. It’s bedtime and you’re still a little hungry? Grab the fruit salad and go to town. Eat all you want. It’s good for you!

#6 – Keep track of your treat intake. When you’re nibbling on fun-size candy bars here and there, it doesn’t feel like you’re really committing any major dietary evils. After all, it’s just an ounce or two of chocolate right? But if the wastebasket next to your desk is half full of the fun-size wrappers at the end of the day, it’s time to get real. If you’ve got a stash of treats in the house and you want to have a little, from time to time and in moderation, go for it. But use a small notepad or a few sticky notes to record your sweets for the day. Keep your log posted on the fridge for easy access and accountability. It gets a little uncomfortable to actually write down, “I ate 16 miniature milk chocolate almond bars today.” To help curb the entire family’s candy consumption, encourage everyone in the house to follow your lead.

#7 – For every seven vegetables, reward yourself with a favorite treat. Smart parents do this all the time. “Sure Junior, you can have one piece of Halloween candy. But you must have seven vegetables first.” This logic not only ensures that Junior won’t fill his entire belly with twelve nougats topped with caramel and peanuts and enrobed in milk chocolate before dinner, but nutritionally, it’s also a smart move. All of the fiber, enzymes and other nutrients in seven carrot sticks or broccoli florets will begin engaging the body in an efficient use of fats, sugars and calories. Then when the less healthy candy bar or serving of jelly beans comes down the chute, it’ll be used more effectively than if it was consumed on an empty stomach.

Apply this same concept to your own moderate candy consumption. Allow yourself a small treat after you’ve enjoyed a large salad or a plate full of crudités. Because if you’re going to indulge in sugary snacks a bit, it’s wise to also beef up your anti-oxidant intake with good-for-you fruits and vegetables anyway. That one falls in the category of a win-win.

Closeup of the pile of colorful sweet bonbons

#8 – Treat yourself later. Now here’s a tip with a little scientific backing. In 2012, a group of Portuguese researchers conducted a study where they observed the sweet-eating behaviors of three participant groups. While the three groups of volunteer participants were completing unrelated surveys in the lab, they were provided with several bowls of M&Ms. One group was told they could eat as many M&Ms as they wanted. The second group was admonished to abstain from eating any of the candy-coated chocolates. And the third group was told they would be permitted to eat the M&Ms later, if they felt like it. The participants in all three groups were unaware that the researchers were closely monitoring how many M&Ms they were consuming. When the groups were finished with their survey tasks and they thought the study was over, the researchers watched even closer. Here’s what they found: The group that had been allowed to snack on the candies with no restrictions ate an additional 5.19 grams of candy – after they had already eaten as much as they wanted earlier. The group that was forbidden from eating the M&Ms during the earlier lab work ate a whopping 9.81 grams of candy. And the group that was told they could have the M&Ms later ate only 5.08 grams of candy when the time came.

The researchers concluded, through this study, that if you give yourself permission to have a desired treat later, you’ll be less likely to overindulge when you finally get to enjoy it. So try this one at home. When you start to feel a craving for some snack size candies, don’t tell yourself “No.” Instead, tell yourself you’ll have some later. Chances are good that you won’t eat too much.

#9 – Brush your teeth early. If you find you’re most tempted to overindulge on sweets while you’re unwinding with Jimmy Fallon at the end of a busy day, try brushing your teeth right after dinner. Give those pearly whites a good, long cleaning so you won’t be the least bit tempted to coat them with sugar afterward.

It has been estimated that the average person consumes about three and a half pounds of candy and around three cups of sugar during Halloween. You read it correctly three cups of sugar. That’s not just from candy. It’s caramel apples, hot apple cider, hot cocoa, cupcakes at the Halloween party and the like. Halloween provides plenty of opportunities to overindulge.

Whatever you do, please don’t let this Halloween be the beginning of junk food season for you and yours. Do your best to limit the amount of garbage that comes into your house. And take measures to set yourself up for dietary success. Stock up on top quality foods now so that you’ll have much better options at home when that dark night comes. Happy healthy Halloween!


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To Resist Temptation, Put it Off