Halloween is celebrated with costumes, scary movies, haunted houses, decorating pumpkins and of course candy. Grocery stores are stocking their aisles, bins and every square inch near the check out counters with bags of options. We are tempted at every turn. Let’s dive into the candy (not literally) and make some wise choices this weekend.
It is reported that the average American eats 24 pounds of candy each year and most of that is likely consumed right around this time. Yes, 24 pounds of candy. If you want to put that in perspective, go pick up a bowling ball, a huge bag of dog food or big screen TV. Small, even bite-sized bars add up when consumed hour after hour, day after day. Do you really want to eat a dog food bag of candy this season? It sounds funny, but it will help you visualize.
It’s a great time of year to revisit some healthy eating philosophies and practices. In my coaching business and at my health club, we talk about eating 100 percent healthy 80 percent of the time. That means, that 8 out of every 10 meals, snacks and beverages that you consume in one day are healthy. Eating healthy means something different to everyone, depending on where you are currently starting and what your goals are. Start by taking an inventory of what you eat now and make your best guess how much of your intake is healthy. You’ll have a good baseline.
The goal is to find your own 80 percent. It might be swapping a soda for water. It might be skipping the burger and making a wrap with lean meat and veggies. It might be eating half a banana and oatmeal for breakfast instead of a pop tart. It might be enjoying a hardboiled egg for a snack instead of a bag of chips. This time of year, it might be skipping the king-sized bar and having a small handful of candy corn.
These examples are relevant for kids and adults. Show your kids by your own example. Eating junk food, including Halloween candy, in excess is not helping you feel good or live your best. Food is fuel. That is true for all ages.
Before you start unwrapping those treats, consider how candy fits into your new “80 percent plan” for the day. A daily diet without a plan bound to go awry, especially around the holidays. So, if you choose to have one or two small pieces of candy per day, than plan to eat clean the rest of the day. That can fit our rule and you can still indulge your sweet tooth.
How do you do you? Make breakfast, pack a healthy lunch and plan ahead for dinner. Carry veggies or fruit or nuts for a snack. Drink lots of water. Then your small bag of gummy worms is your 20 percent “choice” in your day. Amy Schomann, a registered dietician in Milwaukee, shared with me that viewing a splurge, like candy, as a conscious choice in our day is wiser than calling it a cheat. We aren’t cheating if it is part of a plan. So do not cheat, make a choice.
As you are planning ahead for your candy, it is also helpful to recognize what kind of physical activity is needed to burn off these choices. For example, the amount of calories consumed in a bite-sized candy bar would require the average person to run for about 10 minutes. If you eat a whole bag, you would need to run a marathon to take it off. Most of us are not going to do that, so it is smarter to just limit the intake.
I polled the ladies I’m working with in a strength-training program at my health club about their plans for Halloween. The majority of women actually said that they stay away from Halloween candy altogether because it is a slippery slope for them and one piece easily turns into eight pieces. A few women said that they will indulge in a piece or two for a few days and teach their kids to do the same. Then they donate or pitch the rest, or stash it away for later.
The skinny on Halloween candy is simple. Make a plan. If you choose to have a piece or two per day, eat healthy for the rest of the day and stay away from processed sugars in your other meals. Do not overindulge by eating a whole bag of “dog food.” You now understand. Enjoy.