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How to deal with Halloween candy and everything afterward

Posted Oct 19 2011 12:00am
This post first ran on Make Friends With Food in Oct. 2009, and it made another appearance last year. I don’t recycle my blog posts as a rule, but with the holidays approaching, it’s an ideal time to pause and think about how you’re going to deal with the avalanche of sweet treats headed your way. These are my favorite strategies for enjoying holiday goodies without regrets.

Have you ever eaten too much of something, gotten sick, and from that day forward, you could never go near the stuff again? I overdid it on candy corn one Halloween, long after I was old enough to know better. The consequences were, uh... unpleasant.

The weird thing is, I still love candy corn.

But I don’t need very much of it. All it takes is two or three pieces, and I’m done. I enjoy a little taste of the season, while dodging the negative effects of too much sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors, colors, and carnauba wax (which, in addition to being an ingredient in manufactured sweets, is also used to polish floors, cars, and surfboards).

Obviously, it wouldn’t hurt me if I never touched another piece of candy corn. While I’m at it, I could also swear off pumpkin pie, marzipan cake, Christmas cookies, and all the other holiday-related treats that loom on the horizon.

But I’m not going to do that. And neither should you.

For most of us, the holiday food season starts with Halloween, runs through Thanksgiving, and culminates with a week of overindulgence between Christmas and New Year’s. This is also the time of year when schedules get busier, stress levels rise, and flu germs start to fly. It's a time when we really need to pay more attention to good nutrition, not chuck it out the window.

On the other hand, we all look forward to those once-a-year goodies that help make the holidays special, unhealthy though some of them are. I’m sure you don’t want to say “no” across the board to all those foods -- I know I don’t. So here are some strategies for enjoying Halloween candy, and subsequent holiday treats, without compromising your health.
  • Are you super-disciplined about sticking to your health program? That is, until you slip and throw your hands in the air and abandon the whole thing? This all-or-nothing approach doesn’t work very well during the holidays - not that it ever works. Just because you ate a couple of fun-size Snickers bars doesn’t mean your whole day (week, month, season) is shot.
  • Go out of your way to eat good, nutritious meals during this time, and don’t ever let yourself get too hungry. This was my Halloween mistake. I was stuck at the office, working late, and there wasn’t anything to eat except a bowl of candy corn on someone’s desk. When you’re well-fed, sugary snacks don’t call to you quite so loudly.
  • Be choosy. At every festive occasion, there are usually one or two goodies that are truly special, and the rest you can pass up or eat any old time. Survey everything on the menu and then take only those things that you absolutely don't want to miss.
  • It’s easy to ignore feelings of fullness when there’s so much food around and other people are overindulging. Forget what everyone else is doing and focus on how your body feels. If you were home right now finishing up an average dinner, would you go for a second piece of pie, or would you get up from the table and do something else?
  • Sometimes, taking care of yourself means scheduling time for a workout. Other times, it means savoring life’s little pleasures. If you love gingerbread cake and it only comes along once a year, save room for a piece and enjoy it without guilt!
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