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October 31, 2016

How to Make Halloween Healthier (and Still Enjoy Some Candy!)

by Amanda MacMillan

Halloween means candy -- and lots of it, especially if you have kids in the house. But here’s a scary thought: More and more research suggests that a diet high in added sugar (the kind in candy bars and other processed foods, not the variety that’s naturally present in fruit, dairy and some other foods) can be seriously unhealthy. In fact, studies suggest that people who regularly eat lots of added sugar are at higher risk for heart disease than those who consume less.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Halloween or the candy that comes with it -- you just have to figure out how to indulge without going overboard, says Jacqueline Zimmerman, RDN, a nutritionist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. Fortunately, Zimmerman has some tricks that can help when it’s time for treats.

Don’t trick-or-treat while hungry!

It’s better to enjoy your candy after a healthy snack or meal – one with a balance of protein and healthy carbohydrates, Zimmerman says. So, before you head out to trick-or-treat with your little ones, make sure they have a satisfying meal or snack. That will help keep blood sugar stable, meaning no sugar rush -- and, later, no sugar crash to lead them (and you) back to the candy stash.

Keep it out of sight (and out of mind)

When your kids bring home their candy, don’t leave it sitting on the table for the next month. Let them indulge a bit on Halloween, then stash the rest away; continue to let them enjoy a couple of pieces each day, and feel free to do the same. Putting the candy out of sight will lower the odds that you and your family will keep going back for seconds and thirds. “A lot of behavioral research shows that if something is there in front of you, you're going to eat more of it,” Zimmerman says.

Ditch the loose candy

One good thing about Halloween candy, according to Zimmerman: It tends to be mini- or fun-sized, and individually wrapped.

“When you have to open each piece separately, you have to pause for a moment and actually pay attention to how much you’re eating,” she says. “It's not as easy to mindlessly eat a whole bag or box.” For the same reason, she’s not a fan of keeping bowls of loose candy, like M&Ms or candy corn, around the house – that’s a set-up that makes moderation harder than necessary. Instead, arrange your environment to make healthy eating easier, Zimmerman suggests. That way, you can enjoy your treats without suffering for them later.