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Trick or Treat! Managing Treats and BOOze this Halloween

By: Amanda Turner MS, RD, CSSD | October 21, 2016

Believe it or not, Halloween is here again! For those of you managing your nutrition for athletic performance, health or weight loss, a holiday that revolves around candy can be tough. Here are my tips for managing what I see as the toughest items on Halloween.

Treats

The most common complaint I get around Halloween time is that candy is EVERYWHERE! It’s in the house, at the school, at work, and even in your dreams. If you claim to have a sweet tooth or be a candy lover, this can be tough when you’re working toward a specific nutrition-related goal. Here are my pointers on managing candy:

1. Buy your Halloween give-a-ways last minute.

You don’t need to buy mass amounts of candy to keep in the house for 2-4 weeks. The longer you have it around, the more pieces you are likely to grab. Rather than “stocking up early”, go to the store the night before Halloween (trust me, there will be candy somewhere), pass out your treats the next day, and discard of them that night after all your visitors have left.

2. Choose non-candy give-a-ways.

Fruit leathers, pretzels, stickers, bouncy balls, stick-on tattoos, and slinkys are all items that kids will love for Halloween. Try mixing these in with some candy if you want to lessen the sugar load (in your home and theirs) while also still participating and having fun with the holiday.

3. If it’s going to be around, plan it into your day.

Do you find yourself really wanting a couple mini Reese’s peanut butter cups at the end of the day? Plan it into your meals. Skip the deprivation and have portions of your favorite items planned in daily to help you stay on track while still enjoying what’s around.

4. Stay satisfied.

Plan your meals and snacks evenly spaced throughout the day. When you feel satisfied and aren’t overly hungry, you have much better brainpower and make better nutrition choices.

Keep easy snacks around that will keep you full and fueled.

What’s the effect of extra candy on your goals?

Candy is a dense source of sugar with very little nutritional value typically. Depending on your goal, sugar can play a detrimental role when OVER-consumed. However, having it in small portions (recommended above) can be a manageable way to enjoy your favorite items without negative outcomes.

In athletes looking for performance enhancements, sugar can actually be beneficial in terms of recovery. It’s a fast absorbing carbohydrate that can rapidly replace muscle glycogen stores. However, the downfall is that having too much of these foods is also highly inflammatory. Excess inflammation can slow muscle repair and increase soreness during the recovery period.

In individuals working on weight loss or other health-related goals, sugar is still an inflammatory substance. Again, it should be consumed in moderation. I have had many clients under the impression that to lose weight, they can’t have any sugar at all. That is simply not true! It’s important to plan those items into your nutrition plan, but you can absolutely enjoy a sweet treat and still manage your weight as well as your health.

BOOze

Halloween is the kick-off party for celebration through Valentine’s Day. It’s common for most of my clients to participate in more drinking than usual during these events as well. If alcohol is common at your holiday parties, consider using the following management tools:

1. Choose light drinks.

Light beer and other drinks labeled “light” typically have less alcohol and are less filling than your typical cocktails and microbrews. Also, having a liquor mixed with a non-caloric beverage (think soda water, diet tonic, diet soda, or water) is a great, light option. In general, choose something that is satisfying for you to enjoy without over-indulging.

2. Pace yourself with the 1:1 ratio.

For every alcoholic beverage you drink, have a glass of water in between. This will help slow down the delivery of alcohol to your body, keep you hydrated, and allow you to enjoy yourself with a lesser chance of over-consuming.

3. Recognize your usual patterns.

Do you always want to eat while you drink? Are you a fourth meal type of gal? Think about what your usual behavior is while drinking alcohol and plan accordingly. If you make best choices when you’ve had a meal before your drinks, be sure to have something satisfying before your event. If you know you’ll want a snack later, what’s an option that you can have available?

What’s the effect of extra alcohol on your goals?

Alcohol is also a calorically dense nutrient that does not promote as much meal satisfaction as the same amount in food. If alcohol intake increases over the holidays, there is a good chance that you will see weight gain due to the extra caloric intake. However, research has shown that drinking in moderation (one drink maximum per day for women and two for men) has not been shown to adversely affect weight.

In athlete’s looking for performance enhancement, alcohol drains glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in the body aka main energy source for athletic activity) stores. When you drink alcohol, your body uses your glycogen that you’ve worked so hard to store to help metabolize the toxin and rid it from the body first. Thus, drinking alcohol will negatively affect your performance over the next two to three days until glycogen stores are replenished.

As with all things nutrition, enjoy your favorite items in moderation. Listen to your body, and find the balance of sweets and drinks that can work with you and your goals. Favorite foods should be allowed in every diet, and balance with foods that fuel you optimally will help keep you on track to meet your goals.

Happy Halloween!