Can Halloween candy and healthy eating coexist?

By Jenni Wolf

The short answer: Absolutely.

The long answer: Read on!

As a practicing registered dietitian, I believe all foods fit. I want you to know you have permission to eat all the food choices. This means Halloween candy, carrots, hamburgers, kale, cereal — you name it.

I know that might sound wrong and hard to believe, especially coming from a dietitian.

But that makes sense as most of us have been raised in a society where food rules regarding what to eat, ideas about “good” foods and “bad” foods and messages promoting the latest diet trends are everywhere.

Instead of tying up your thoughts around what you should or shouldn’t have, try to remember that all foods can have their place and that taking a balanced approach is helpful. Too much candy won’t make you feel well, just as too many carrots won’t either!

I bet many of you would agree that finding a balance with preferred, tasty foods like sweets and candy feels more difficult than, say, finding a balance with fruits and vegetables. Often this stems from not giving yourself permission to eat and enjoy these foods.

When we think we shouldn’t be eating candy, that creates a scarcity mindset and often makes us want it more. We are then more likely to overconsume when we have the opportunity to do so.

Remember the great toilet paper hoarding of Covid? When things are in short supply, we want to stock up. In the case of candy, you might view it as a “special treat” that doesn’t come around often, making it scarce to you. Add in the fact that Halloween candy only comes around once per year, and, so the scarcity stakes are even higher.

Bonus, food for thought: Is Halloween candy actually only available once per year? No! I like to think Halloween candy is available all year long, just not in cute little orange wrappers.

Remembering this can help lessen the scarcity mindset around it.

So, now to the question you’ve all been likely waiting for me to answer: How do you find balance with Halloween candy in a healthy way?

Ignore the messaging around candy being “bad” and the negative thoughts that might surround it.

Remind yourself, candy is food and is made up of the macronutrients we all need — carbs, protein and fat. A Snickers bar and an energy or hearty granola bar have practically the same nutrition when it comes to carbs, protein and fat. But I bet you’d be more apt to label a Snickers bar as “bad” and an energy bar as “good.” Try viewing them both as just “food”!

Don’t “save up for later.” Don’t skimp at meals or limit intake throughout the day to “save room” for candy in between or at night. This will only lead you to feel ravenous, as food has now been scarce throughout the day and will make you more vulnerable to eating more candy than what may authentically feel and taste good to you. If you’ve missed a meal, it makes sense then that you’d be prone to eating a meal’s worth of Snickers Minis.

Be sure to honor your cravings and preferences. Don’t settle for a low-calorie or low-fat option or something you think is “healthier.”

By doing that you, again, make the opportunity to enjoy candy scarce, which can lead you to eat more food as you are chasing what you really want and can leave you feeling out of control when you do have the candy.

If you want the Reese’s pumpkin, eat the Reese’s pumpkin. Because if you don’t, you’ll likely come back later, or the next day, and eat the whole bag. Which sounds more enjoyable to you: Having several pieces of Halloween candy every day or eating a bag’s worth over a day or two and then swearing off it for the rest of the season?

So, now I’ve got an action step for you: Go to the store, pick out a couple of your favorite Halloween candies (my picks would be the mini boxes of Milk Duds and health bars!) and practice having a few pieces every day. Pack some in your lunch, eat a piece with some cheese and crackers for a snack, or enjoy a couple after dinner for dessert.

Then notice how you feel. Do you feel satisfied? Do you want more? If so, try another piece or try reminding yourself that you can have more later, more tomorrow… there will always be more candy. 

Jenni Wolf regularly writes about food and nutrition for the Bugle. She is a practicing registered dietitian who is passionate about helping others nourish a positive and balanced relationship with food.

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