The Candy Conundrum

By Shelby Spears

I'm pretty certain that I was born a "chocoholic." 

I have always - and will always - love chocolate. But as I continue to improve my nutrition and eat healthier, my tastebuds have begun to evolve, as has my digestive system. As Jonathan would say (excuse the language,) "If I'm going to have dessert, you can believe it is the best damn desert I can get." Basically, indulging in packaged candies like those we see on Halloween, does not fit that bill. 

But that hasn't always been the case. Just a few years ago when we moved into an apartment in Vancouver, Washington, we would buy trick-or-treating candy, have zero trick-or-treators and then eat ALL THE CANDY. The first year we had Halloween here and ate way too many Kit-Kats, we realized we had made a huge mistake.

My stomach was sick and we both had ringing in our ears. We swore off Halloween candy. And having no trick-or-treators has made that pretty easy the past couple of years. 

But we just moved into a house in Camas and likely will have some little ghosts and goblins knocking at the door. 

I love Halloween, especially the fun of seeing all the costumes and watching scary movies. Fall is my favorite season and the scary month of October is one reason why. 

I think we can pretty safely say Jonathan and I will steer clear of the candy if we buy it but I'm torn on what to hand out. Do we say, 'hey, it's just once a year' and give the kiddos something we wouldn't eat ourselves? Or do we hand out a healthier alternative, risking a potential egging or at the least, displeased little faces dressed liked pumpkins. 

So I turned to my fellow Spears Stronger Bamini Pathmanathan, MS, RDN. Bamini is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist and has a great philosophy when it comes to food. 

"I think, like most things involving food, it's up to each individual to decide whether they are in, out or halfway in when it comes to this holiday," Bamini says. "You can choose to say, 'heck with it, it's Halloween! It comes once a year, so what.' But the sad truth to that is, we are always justifying our actions by saying, 'it happens only once a week, once a month or once a year.' These 'only once' occurrences are never just once. They add up. They alter the way we want to live." 

Bamini suggests rather than going the traditional route of endless candy, try an alternative: 

  • Give out one candy per person
  • One natural fruit candy
  • Something all natural or 100% fruit based
  • Buy hard candy and not chewy or small sample like size candies and not the big ones. (things in this country are mass produced in massive sizes) 
“Of course, when you buy things that are “organic” or “natural,” it tends to be pricey but that’s all the more reason to buy less quantity of high quality food.”
— Bamini Pathmanathan

I love this last statement from Bamini and think it's the route we will try this Halloween. 

For those of you who have little trick-or-treators who will be collecting candy, I'm sure it can be an even bigger conundrum.

Bamini said she often suggests people do what she does at her house: give them a day to "wow" over the collection of candies and then you ask them to pick the ones they absolutely love. The next day, she reduces the "loved" pile to half. Eventually the candy is "out of sight is out of mind."

"The point is not to overdo it in ONE DAY," she adds. One sweet per day is better or rather less worse than five pieces of candy or more a day. I think it's important to have some strategy to reduce the amount of candies that are brought into the house on Halloween. Whatever works for the individual is better than no plan at all. It is Halloween ONE day out of the year, NOT everyday until the candies are finished." 

Here are some steps to help with that: 
1. Get rid of it all the next day.
2. Give to several dental offices that pay money to the kids, by weight, for the candies they bring in.
3. Or give to several places that collect to send to the troops.

Holidays are great but they can also be a time where it's easy to make excuses for bad choices - like eating a million Kit-Kats and then feeling sick for a week. But above all, enjoy the holiday and if you're going to indulge, make it an extra cheesy scary movie (and a nice piece of dark chocolate).