By Sarah Davis, Texas Woman's University Dietetic Intern
It’s almost that time of year again! Halloween is quickly approaching as stores stock up on bags and bags of sweet treats and costumes, pumpkins go on sale for decorating and pie, and the weather is getting cooler (slowly). But many people watching their weight and sugar intake may be dreading Halloween for one reason: candy. Does living a healthy lifestyle mean no candy or Halloween desserts are allowed in your diet? Absolutely not! But, moderation is the key to any long-term healthy lifestyle. Deprivation will only backfire and lead to a binge. Keep in mind that sugar only serves one purpose for us: it tastes good!
Remembering this, it is easier to become a pickier eater when it comes to sweets. When you think about how too much sugar will make you feel after you eat, you may not want to reach for that third or fourth piece of candy or dessert. Here are some tips to make Halloween fun for the kids and still friendly to the family’s waistline.
Choose candy that has less calories or sugar such as:
*dark chocolate over milk chocolate
*plain chocolate squares over chocolate filled with high calorie ingredients such as caramel and nuts
*sugar free gum
*fruit snacks made with 100% real fruit
*low sugar mini granola bars
Even non-edible items can be passed out for Halloween, such as plastic rings, bouncy balls, vampire teeth, and stickers for a twist on trick-or-treating!
Health experts have estimated the average bag of Halloween candy could have between 3,500-7,000 calories! That is 1-2 lbs that could be gained from a single Halloween bag. Is 3,500 calories of candy worth it? A strategy to avoid this sugar high and calorie splurge is to help your kids choose their absolute favorite candies, eat a few, enjoy them, and give or throw the rest away. You can practice this too and set a good example! Tossing out the candy that is not a favorite in the house will lessen the temptation to eat it, just because it’s there. Here are a few treats to enjoy in moderation that won’t bust your streak of eating healthy and fits into a balanced lifestyle:
*2 Tootsie rolls: 50 calories
*1 Milky Way Mini: 35 calories
*1 Reese’s Mini Cup: 44 calories
*3 Hershey Kiss: 75 calories
*3 Lifesaver’s: 30 calories
*10 Candy Corn: 75 calories
Looking to make some homemade treats? Here are two recipes to try. Making treats at home is a great way to control ingredients and portion sizes. While these have sugar, they also provide some other nutritional benefits without all the extra calories candy has to offer. These can be portioned out and stored individually in a plastic bag.
Chocolaty Pretzel & Cherry Popcorn Balls
6 heaping cups popped corn
1/4 cup agave nectar (see Note) or honey
1/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter or almond butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely chopped dark chocolate-covered pretzels
2 tablespoons finely chopped dried cherries (try to use non-sweetened cherries for less sugar)
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Prepare a medium bowl of ice water. Put popcorn in a large bowl.
2. Combine agave (or honey) and peanut butter (or almond butter) in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring gently but constantly. As soon as the mixture starts to lightly bubble, cook, stirring constantly, for 15 seconds more.
3. Immediately pour the mixture evenly over the popcorn; gently mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until well coated. Gently stir in dark chocolate-covered pretzels and finely chopped dried cherries.
4. Dip both hands in the ice water. Working quickly, press small handfuls (heaping 1/4 cup each) of the popcorn mixture firmly into 2-inch balls. (Make sure each ball gets a little bit of the pretzels and dried cherries.) Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. If they seem too fragile, rinse hands with cold water and press and squeeze each ball again to help keep it together.
5. Let cool completely before storing. To store, individually wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container.
*Note: popcorn can be simply popped without any extra butter or salt by putting kernels in a brown paper bag and placing in the microwave for a minute or two, depending on the amount to be popped.
*The honey or agave provides a sweetness that is more natural than refined white sugar. The peanut or almond butter will provide a little protein and fat to make this recipe satiating, and the dried cherries provide a boost of antioxidants.
*If your family is not a fan of chocolate, leave out the chocolate covered pretzel and just use regular.
Per ball: 89 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat , 0 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 6 g added sugars; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 34 mg sodium; 18 mg potassium.
1 cup Wheat Chex cereal, (2 ounces)
1 cup pretzel sticks broken in half, (2 ounces)
1/4 cup salted roasted almonds, (2 1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips, melted (see Tip)
1. Combine Chex, pretzels and almonds in a medium bowl. Drizzle with melted chocolate; stir to combine. Spread the mixture on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
TIPS & NOTES
Make Ahead Tip: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Tip: To melt chocolate: Microwave on Medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on Medium in 20-second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval. Or place in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted.
*using bittersweet chocolate will provide less sugar than milk chocolate chips
Per serving: 218 calories; 8 g fat (2 g sat , 3 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 35 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber; 397 mg sodium; 176 mg potassium.
Halloween doesn’t have to be a day of unbalanced, chaotic, sugar-high’s with your kids! Shifting the focus of Halloween and the Fall season from food and candy to the experience of family, friends, costumes, and traditions will help you and your family find the balance of celebration and healthy living this season! Happy Halloween!
About Me: As an intern, I have learned an invaluable amount of information about nutrition, but I also have my own personal experiences with food choices on a daily basis. I love sharing my knowledge and personal experiences with those who are looking for ways to eat healthier and feel better. Once I realized in high school how much better I felt when I started putting the right foods in my body, I was convinced nutrition was the career for me! But it is more than a (future) career; it is a lifestyle, and good habits start when we are young. I hope to one day work with parents to provide practical ways to teach their children how to grow positive, healthy habits that will lead to a lifetime of good health!