6 Tips for a Healthy Halloween

(Published Oct 30, 2014)

Does Halloween start the downward slippery slide off of your health goals? It is easy to get derailed this time of year when so many holidays fall in succession. Every January, I see a spike in the number of clients trying to lose weight after a torrent of holiday parties and excess but it typically begins with Halloween. Here are 6 strategies that can help you keep on track.

  1. Give out non-candy treats. I know you don’t want to be known as “that” house but hear me out. Consider offering something kids think is really cool but still contributes to their wellness, like glow sticks or reflective wristbands, which can help keep them safe while they are out at night. Word will spread as they pass all aglow on the sidewalk and they will be thrilled to visit you – it’s worked for me several years in a row.
  2. Stock your supplies with candy you CAN resist. Personally, I have a weakness for peanut M&M’s so I don’t give them out at Halloween. You can’t be sure you will have enough treaters to empty your supply and being left with a stash of your favorite sweet can weaken anyone’s resolve.
  3. Offer dark chocolate. Steering clear of the sticky stuff is definitely easier on the teeth and dental work but dark chocolate – in moderation of course- can actually be healthy. Look for chocolate with 70% cocoa to benefit from chocolate’s antioxidant properties.
  4. Out sight out of mind. Keep candy out of your line of sight, before and after Halloween. The more often you see the brightly colored packaging, the more tempted you will be – there is a reason for the vibrant colors. Marketing research suggests that reds and yellows in particular stimulate your appetite (take note of the candy isle the next time you are shopping).
  5. Indulge in moderation. Constantly avoiding treats tends to backfire and may even lead to bingeing. So plan ahead of time to enjoy one or two pieces of candy. Give yourself permission to appreciate the indulgence without attaching any guilt but commit to stopping at the pre-designated amount.
  6. Don’t supersize it. Buy the fun size or mini packages. Those calories add up really quickly so it is easy to get to a few hundred extra calories. It only takes an extra 500 calories a day to gain one pound in a week. It is disarmingly easy to eat 500 calories. For your frame of reference, one king size Reese’s peanut butter cup has 407 calories, a regular has 210 calories and a single regular cup has 86 calories. Just choose less.

What if you totally blow it and feel yourself sliding down that slope? Dust yourself off the next day; forgive yourself and get right back on track. It is common for folks to adopt the attitude “oh well, I have already screwed up my eating this year, I’ll start over in the New Year.”  It is infinitely easier to keep weight off versus taking weight off. Those few pounds added during the holidays tend to stay there and then they get company during the next holiday season. So keep your slope sliding to your skiing vacation and keep on track with your health goals with small, easy steps in the right direction.

Katherine2By Katherine Matutes, Ph.D., JCC Indianapolis Director of Health and Wellness

Katherine is a food advocate, mom, culinary nutritionist and science lover who is a regular contributor to the JCC’s blog on nutrition.