I remember the days where I'd skip-run (mostly skip) around my neighborhood in the early afternoon with a chaperone in tow and a pillowcase hanging from my tiny fingers. My sweet, sweet Halloween candy - Snickers, Twix, the works - was all I cared about during trick-or-treating. Well, that and how convincing I looked as Ariel from The Little Mermaid with my tomato-red wig and Disney princess fishtail dress. But you're never too old to enjoy treats come jack-o'-lantern season, and registered dietitian Lauren Cadillac, CLT, CPT, agrees. She also knows that no matter the diet or eating habits you follow, it's easy to label sweets as off-limits or bad. This, she said, isn't healthy.
Although there are obvious differences in the nutritional value of, let's say, raw vegetables and your favorite brand of chocolate, Lauren, aka the "Feel Good Dietitian," as she calls herself, told POPSUGAR via email that she doesn't like to use the words "bad" and "good" to describe food. "Bad and good imply morality, meaning if we eat these 'bad' foods, then we ourselves are 'bad,'" she explained. "Eating a 'bad' food can elicit guilt and shame, which are two emotions that should not coincide with eating." That's precisely why she doesn't want you to view Halloween candy in a negative light, and we spoke with her more about why she wants you to eat the darn treats if you really want to.
Reasons You Should Just Eat the Halloween Candy You Crave
Eating Halloween candy can be considered "play" food, as opposed to "good" or "bad," Lauren suggested. "Play food might not have as much nutritional value as some other foods, but it does provide us with satisfaction, enjoyment, and nostalgia, which are all valuable parts of the eating experience." Those are all good reasons to enjoy that beloved Twix bar when you want to, but another reason is that, often, if you choose healthier options, they might not satisfy you as much. Then, you're likely to eat more as opposed to less of what you've been eyeing.
Lauren explained how this concept works in intuitive eating. Choosing healthier options is known as chasing "phantom foods," she said. "By choosing what we 'think' we should eat instead of what we are truly in the mood for, we are left unsatisfied and searching for more. This can result in us eating beyond our true hunger needs in an effort to fill this void. Long story short: eat what you are actually craving and enjoy it fully. You will be much more satisfied."
On the other hand, make sure you honor your hunger and fullness cues a majority of the time, Lauren said, which she also told us about in a previous interview. This way, you won't overeat Halloween candy. Start eating at about a three or a four on the one-to-10 scale, one being you're extremely hungry and 10 being you're overly stuffed (how you might feel after a binge, she said). Stop eating around a six or a seven when you're comfortably full. "Make sure you stay nourished throughout the day," Lauren advised. "When we allow ourselves to get ravenous, think a one or two on that scale, we tend to make choices out of primal hunger and eat quickly and beyond what our body needs. By staying fueled, we can enjoy the candy in a comfortable way."
Try This Mindful Eating Exercise While Eating Halloween Candy
Lauren said people may fear that if they allow themselves to eat sweets, they'll never stop. Though this is understandable, it's not necessarily going to happen; you just have to be mindful. Plus, "your body will not feel good if you eat Halloween candy all the time. It will crave variety and different nutrients," she said. So, "allow yourself to enjoy some candy without guilt or shame and move on with your day." She suggested the following mindful eating exercise:
- Notice how you're feeling physically and emotionally before biting into the candy.
- Take note of the shape, texture, smell, color, and feeling of it.
- Chew slowly, and notice how it feels in your mouth.
- Continue to notice if the taste of each bite remains the same as you keep eating.
- Check in with your body and how you're feeling physically and emotionally.
- When you're done, ask yourself if that was enough and how you might feel if you have more.
Healthier Halloween Candy Options
If you truly enjoy healthier Halloween candy options, your body feels better when you eat them, or you have an allergy to ingredients in the regular versions, then Lauren said you can certainly stick to those. Fruit bars, apple chips, and granola bites might be more of your style. There are also better-for-you sweets like Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears, Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, and SmartSweets candy, which you can find in this extensive roundup we put together. Also, check out these healthier recipes for smoothies, baked goods, and other treats. Bottom line? When it comes to Halloween candy this and every year, you can do you without overdoing it.