Trick or Treat? Breaking the Holiday Weight Gain Cycle

I’m proud of my self-restraint.

There’s a bag of Snickers buried deep in my pantry. It’s the third week of October, during candy gorging season, and I have yet to rip open the bag and indulge.

I love candy. I really love Halloween. Every year, my somewhat healthy eating habits take a sharp spiral downward. It starts around Halloween and ends right after Valentine’s Day.

After the chocolate goodness of Valentine’s Day, I spend the next eight months adopting healthier eating habits as I try to shed holiday weight gain. But Halloween comes again and that all goes out the window.

This year, I’ve vowed to break this vicious cycle of holiday weight gain! For help, I consulted Pat Salzer, a registered dietitian at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. She’s sharing her healthy eating tips for the holidays, starting with Halloween.

Tip #1: Don’t buy just candy

My downfall begins with the candy I buy for the trick or treaters who ring my doorbell Oct. 31. Before the big day, I pick through my stash and snack on the leftovers. This year, I’ve resolved to hand out granola bars, pretzels and popcorn, along with some candy. This should (hopefully?) reduce the temptation to gorge on chocolate!

Tip #2: Swap out the big candy for the minis

If I do give into my candy cravings, it’s definitely better to devour a mini Snickers than a full-sized bar.

A word of caution from Salzer: “We tend to overeat miniature pieces because it’s easy to justify eating just one more. Keep the wrappers in front of you so you’re mindful about your consumption.”

Tip #3: Candy in moderation

You can snack on a little candy. Just try eating healthier the rest of the day. Want to prevent weight gain? Don’t consume more calories than you burn.

Counting calories can be daunting. For help, I love (love) the FitBit app on my phone. I log my food in the app, and it tracks how many calories I’ve consumed. (MyFitnessPal is another app that counts calories.)

I wear my FitBit all the time, so it also tracks my physical activity and calories burned. As soon as I begin typing in a frequent food choice, the app “remembers” and completes the entry. It makes tracking calories super easy.

Even if I’m not fully accurate with my food/calorie estimates, I find that journaling is enough to keep me “honest” about what I’m eating throughout the day. When I crave candy, I can determine if that Snickers bar will take me over my daily calorie goal. Maybe an apple is a better choice?

Tip #4: Get your kids in on the act

Don’t worry, I’m not asking your kids to forsake candy.

Instead, help them learn to indulge in moderation by focusing on the goodies they love.

Salzer suggests having your kids separate the candy into three piles:

  • a “yes” pile (candy they love)
  • a “maybe” pile (candy they like, but it’s not their favorite)
  • a “no” pile (candy they dislike)

Keep the candy in the “yes” pile and discard the “no” pieces. (Some dentists and orthodontists offer a Halloween candy buy back program.) Put the “maybe” pile away.

Too often, we snack on candy just because it’s “there.” Why not eat less of it and focus on what you really like? You kids can enjoy a moderate amount each day from the “yes” pile. They may (or may not) remember the candy from the “maybe” pile. If they forget about it, you don’t have to remind them that it’s there!

“It’s important to set a good example, indulge in moderation and establish limits so you and your family can enjoy Halloween without feeling like a witch!” said Salzer.

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