Friday, October 29, 2010

7 Ways to Prevent a Halloween (Caloric) Nightmare

Q. I'm dreading Halloween because I always pig out. When my kids were small, I'd steal some of their candy. Now I buy too much candy and eat a bunch of it of it both before and after the holiday. I can't afford the calories this year.  I don't want to be a old grump, not buy candy and turn off the porch light. How can I celebrate (survive!) Halloween without it being a diet disaster?

                                                                                                       Linda H.

What is it with Halloween?

Willpower wilts before the spectre of candy corn and fun-sized candy bars both before and after the young ghouls have come calling. Candy that one can resist with little difficulty the rest of the year is irresistible now -- and it's the last thing some of us need as we battle our middle-age spread.

So what to do -- to keep the fun in the holiday and the fat off your hips?

1. Give candy you don't like or can't eat. 
For me that would be chewy caramels or tough nougets or sticky nut clusters -- all guaranteed to remove thousands of dollars of my dental work in record time. I don't dare even think of indulging. Whatever your least favorite candy -- sour drops, hard candy, licorice -- that's what should be in your Trick or Treat bowl this year. Whatever culinary horrors you offer, there will be kids who will be delighted.

2. Don't give out candy -- try stickers or small toys instead.
Granted, it can be risky, but some kids are happy to get something a little different. It's a good idea to check with your favorite child first before you buy anything to find out what's cool and what's likely to get your car egged.

3. Freeze the candy until Halloween.
When you can't grab a piece of candy on impulse, you're less likely to over-indulge!

4. Allow yourself a small indulgence.
Totally denying yourself candy on Halloween may whet your appetite for sweets and derail your diet for weeks. Decide which variety of candy you really want,  count out a (reasonable) number of pieces -- then give the rest away.

5. Limit your quantities of leftover sweets.
Do you buy enough candy to feed half the population of a major American city? Cut back! Buy less! Give away more to the little ghouls.

6. Keep giving -- and get the leftovers out of the house.
After the trick or treaters have come and gone, bundle up any leftovers. Take them to work with you the next day (but don't keep the giveaways on or in the vicinity of your desk!). Donate the candy to a food pantry. Even throw it all out. It's better in the trash than expanding your waistline.

7. If celebrating Halloween is important to you, go ahead and celebrate -- with fewer calories.
Some of us over-indulge on Halloween because it gets us back in touch with our own fondly remembered trick or treating past and the joy of achieving the ultimate sugar high one night a year. Remember what you enjoyed about Halloween besides devouring a sackful of candy? Maybe it was a costume? So dress up and join a local Halloween party or parade. Maybe it was a special family ritual that you could re-create.

My neighbor Louise has fond memories of the many Halloweens she made costumes for her kids and grandkids, decorated the house and yard with her own special holiday creations and, before sending the little ones off for a night of trick or treating, she served her family their traditional Halloween meal of chili and cornbread. (They loved it and it cut down a bit on their candy consumption later!)  This year, while we're all hoping for lots of kids at our doors, the rumor is that young tricksters rarely venture into our new neighborhood. Undeterred, Louise is decorating her front yard with a variety of ghosts, spider webs and other traditional ghoulish decor. And she is serving up chili and cornbread to the neighborhood, as we celebrate not only the memories of Halloween past -- but Halloween present in a new but wonderful way.

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