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Coping with post-Halloween candy madness

Halloween is only one day out of 365…so what’s wrong with a few pieces of candy? Absolutely nothing…and this is coming from an unofficial ‘food cop.’ Halloween is fun – for children and adults. A few sweet treats won’t do much harm. The problem isn’t just about ‘one day.’ It’s about the days after….when all of the leftover candy you have in your home is staring you in the face – from the stash you doled out to neighbors to the bucketful your little ghost brought home. If you are like most American adults, you buy what you love…just in case there are a few pieces of candy leftover. I mean, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with candy you don’t like! These strategies work great for kids but also can be modified for ‘adult children…’

The best strategy when it comes to dealing with your child’s Halloween ‘earnings’ is to have him/her pick out their absolute favorites. Of course, you should have a (limited) quantity in mind ahead of time. These treats can be doled out carefully, prudently and sparingly after meals over the next few weeks. Just limit the quantity. If you have generous neighbors that gave out large candy bars, unwrap them, cut them into small pieces and freeze them. They’ll last and defrost in a lunchbox. In general try to avoid hard nougat, toffee and taffy candies that grind into teeth and are ‘sticky’ as they are prime cavity-causers. Best bet: dark chocolate pieces which offer some antioxidant benefits and less butter-fat than milk chocolate.

Just because your child doesn’t like all of the candy he/she was given doesn’t mean they’ll part with it easily! Offer something better. This might even work with the beloved candies. Use pieces as ‘currency.’ Set a price (pieces of candy) to purchase or trade in for a new game, toy or even an outing (such as a bowling party with friends). If your child wants a treat for a treat…have him trade in a few pieces for a better choice that you buy, such as a Nabisco 100-calorie packs® (portion-controlled). Oreo Thin Wafer Crisps™, Honey Maid Cinnamon Thin Crisps™ and Chips Ahoy! Thin Crisps™ are reasonable options. Make sure to serve a snack pack with something healthy, like a glass of milk or a piece of string cheese.

To keep things in perspective, all of these treats (in quantity listed) provide approximately 100 calories:

  • 15 jelly beans/22 jelly bellies®
  • 1-oz licorice
  • 25 plain M&Ms®
  • 1 Kind 100-calorie bar
  • 2 Tootsie pops®
  • 5 Werther’s Original® candies
  • 13 gummy bears®
  • 10 York Peppermint Patty® bites
  • 16 pieces of candy corn
  • 4 bite-sized 3-Muskateer® candies

When planning your ‘treat’ (or your child’s treat) keep calories in mind, and in control.

Comfort Foods Revisited

Comfort foods are foods that make us feel good eating them, like a warm hug. Classic comfort foods include Mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza, mashed potatoes, creamy pasta dishes, cheesy casseroles, stews and rich desserts, for example. If it is comforting and delicious, it can live in this category. Unfortunately, many classic comfort food dishes are high in fat and calories and typically high in carbohydrates, usually refined, which offer fewer nutrients and dietary fiber. However, you can make a few modifications to decrease the fat and calories so you can still enjoy occasionally, without feeling as though you are compromising on your efforts to maintain a healthful diet.

Adjust your comfort foods for health with these 4 tips:

  1. Make substitutions: Swap out ultra-rich, heavy ingredients for lighter alternatives. Even if you substitute only 1/2 of the original ingredient, such as cream (and leave the other half untouched), that is an improvement. Lower fat milk, olive oil in place of butter (typically 3/4 of the amount), Greek yogurt for sour cream, part-skim cheese, etc.
  2. Add healthful ingredients: Try adding healthful ingredients to make the dish more nutritious, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains or beans. Diced or pureed veggies work well in sauces. Remember, even small changes are worth making. Don’t overdue, you still want to preserve the original mouthfeel and flavor.
  3. Serve smaller portions: Consider serving a comfort food dish as a side versus a main dish. Or cut it down by 1/3 to 2/3 and serve with a healthy pairing, such as a large green salad. You are preserving the integrity of the dish but, by cutting down on the amount eaten, are saving on a significant amount of fat and calories.
  4. Save some dishes for special occasions: Some recipes are very difficult to modify while preserving flavor and texture. If you are craving a cheeseburger with French fries, sure, you could opt for a turkey burger with baked potato fries, but it is definitely a different dish. For these types of comfort dishes, eat smaller portions and reserve them for special occasions or celebrations.