Trick or treat season is here, and you’re craving something good to eat. Your days of walking door to door with a pillowcase in tow may be behind you, but the appeal of the biggest candy holiday of the year is real. The average American consumes 3.4 pounds of candy on Oct. 31, according to 2020 Coupon Follow research. Trick-or-treaters consume about three cups of sugar.
However, candy isn’t exactly on par with fruits and veggies in the health department.
“Excessive consumption of candy can lead to weight gain, dental issues, and other health problems,” Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietician with Balance One Supplements, said. “High sugar intake is linked to various health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. People may seek alternatives to reduce their sugar intake during Halloween while still satisfying their sweet tooth.”
Is that last part possible — to satisfy your sweet tooth without going heavy on the sugar? Experts share that the answer is yes. Here are tricks to treating yourself this Halloween season sans dreaded weight gain.
There’s nothing wrong with having some candy corn or Skittles on Halloween. However, dieticians say there’s also nothing wrong with wanting to watch what you eat this time of year.
“People…are aware candy has little nutritional value,” Shelley Balls, MDA, RDN, LDN, Owner of Fueling Your Lifestyle LLC, said. “That probably doesn’t align with their nutritional goals.”
However, meeting your nutritional goals can still be sweet (and salty without making you salty). Hack your Halloween indulging with these healthy treats that are scary-good.
Think candy is off the menu this Halloween? Think again.
“Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content — 70% or more — contains less sugar than milk chocolate and provides antioxidants,” Best said. “It can satisfy a sweet craving without causing the same spikes in blood sugar.”
Though research on dark chocolate’s effect on weight is inconclusive, Best says the treat may offer sweet benefits.
“Chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids,” Best said.
Flavonoids have been associated with perks like better heart health and lower inflammation, Best explained.
“It may also help control appetite and reduce overall food intake due to its richness and bitterness, potentially preventing overindulgence in sweets,” Best said.
Green monster smoothies
Balls suggests blending a smoothie that would make Frankenstein swoon.
“Fruit smoothies are great, but if you want to pack even more nutrition into this cold treat, add some spinach,” Balls said. “If the color of the smoothie weren’t green, you’d never know there was spinach in there.”
Balls loves this recipe, which serves two.
“Start with a half cup of Greek yogurt,” Balls said. “Add a half cup of a frozen fruit of your choice, one ripe banana, a half cup of avocado, and one cup of spinach. Blend and enjoy this creamy smoothie for two.”
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Are you carving a pumpkin? Save the seeds and roast them.
“Roasted pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a nutritious and crunchy snack.” Best said. “They are low in calories, high in fiber, and provide essential nutrients like magnesium and zinc. You can season them with various spices for a tasty treat.”
Research from 2021 showed pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium, which may help regulate blood sugar levels — even on Halloween.
Best loves roasting pumpkin seeds with garlic and paprika.
“They make a delicious, crunchy snack,” Best said. “Alternatively, you can sprinkle them over salads or incorporate them into homemade granola.”
(For other pumpkin-themed dishes, consider these dietician-recommended foods that may boost gut health.)
Fall can turn into a Pumpkin Palooza thanks to Trader Joe’s and Starbucks. Don’t discount apples, though. The season is ripe for apple picking, and the fruit boasts a natural dose of sweetness and a wealth of health benefits.
“Apples are packed with dietary fiber, which can help fill you up faster and stay full for longer, helping to reach and maintain a healthy weight,” Best said. “Dietary fiber also promotes a healthy digestive system and heart health. Apples are also full of other vitamins and minerals.”
You may groan at this recommendation — fruit on Halloween? Sweeten the pot.
“One of my favorite ways to enjoy apple slices is dipped in a peanut butter-yogurt dip that’s equal parts creamy peanut butter and vanilla yogurt,” Best said. “Mix these two ingredients together well, and enjoy this protein-packed tasty fruit dip.”
Greek yogurt parfait
Lean into Mother Nature’s naturally sweet fruits by topping Greek yogurt with fruits like berries, oranges, and apples. Then, add a drizzle of honey and some nuts. Love Almond Joy candy? Add some almonds. This Best-backed recommendation is perfect for a mid-afternoon snack or breakfast.
“This parfait is not only delicious but also packed with protein and healthy fats, which can help you feel full and satisfied,” Best said. “Research [shows that] Greek yogurt is a protein-rich food that can help keep you full and reduce your overall calorie intake. It’s also a good source of probiotics, which can support gut health and potentially influence weight regulation.”
Forget the controversial candy corn. Head to farm stands for fall fun, and you’ll probably notice popcorn is prevalent this time of year. The movie theater staple is a perfect alternative to candies.
“Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain snack with relatively low-calorie content,” Best said. “Its high fiber content can help with satiety, preventing overeating. Just be mindful of the toppings you add, as excessive butter or salt can negate its health benefits.”
Instead, Best suggests using herbs and spices like nutritional yeast, garlic powder, or chili powder.
Knowing you have options is empowering and allows you to take control of your health and choices. However, sometimes, you may choose to just eat your favorite candy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
“Sometimes when we try to find a healthy version of a food, our craving never gets satisfied, and an eating frenzy unveils eating more calories than if we simply ate that one food we were craving in the first place,” Balls said.
Best agrees, adding there’s room for the “real treats” and alternatives. Moderation is key.
“Instead of devouring a whole bag of candy, savor a small portion,” Best said. “This allows you to satisfy your craving without overloading on sugar and calories.”
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