As a dietitian, I am always reminding people that food is more than just fuel. It’s emotional, it’s cultural, it’s social, etc. So naturally, when we go to celebrate, food is usually involved.
Halloween is a bit extra special, given the holiday is actually surrounded by candy! Unfortunately, lots of the joy and fun can get muddled from the stress about food. Am I eating too much candy? Should I skip it all together? Should I buy only “healthy” candy? Here are five ways to feel (and stay!) in control this Halloween.
We’ve all been in the situation where we eat the Starburst because they’re in front of us, not because we really want them. This year, instead of eating every candy in sight, start thinking about which candies you actually ENJOY and skip those you don’t. We don’t need to deprive ourselves of the treats. But let’s make sure we are actually leaning on ones that will satisfy us, instead of shoving a bunch of twizzlers into a snickers shaped hole in your stomach.
Mindful eating is being aware of the food we’re eating and being present and showing up for meals and giving it your full attention. Be present and use most of your senses while you eat the pumpkin bread. Notice the smell of the chocolate before it even gets to your lips. Taste the texture of the crunch bar.
To practice mindful eating at home, get in the habit of using a plate and sitting down. Instead of eating the treats straight from the jumbo sized bag, take out a plate and put on the amount you think you need. Then, take a seat and actually enjoy it. This helps increase satisfaction and will help you get satisfied on less food.
Going along with that, skip distractions. A recent study found that using media, specifically smartphone usage during meals, led to 15% increase in calories during said meal. This can make a big difference over time. So this year, while you enjoy that candy, use a plate, take a seat and turn off distractions.
Lots of us get into the “all or nothing” thinking with food. We ate a donut for breakfast, so we might as well get a burger and fries for lunch and Chinese food for dinner. In reality, one less nutritious choice feels a heck of a lot better than a day or week of less nutritious choices. But control what you can. If it’s a big dinner out for a birthday party, make the rest of the day feel great and worry less about what happens at dinner.
Let’s be clear on one thing: candy is candy. That being said, lots of the traditional candies come with much more than just sugar. Many of them are laden with food dyes and weird additives. While it doesn’t matter if you eat something with this stuff once, it is something to think about if there is a lot of candy in your house.
Guilt is not an ingredient. Feeling guilty about eating candy doesn’t change what occurred and can actually make you feel physically worse. So instead of judging yourself if you over do it, be curious. Did you not eat enough early in the day? Were you eating out of the bag? Were you watching TV and not paying attention to the food? Swap the judgement for curiosity and use that information to be better prepared for next time.
Lastly - ENJOY! Halloween comes once a year. Be choosy. Savor the candy. Be mindful. But make sure you’re giving yourself the space you need to have fun.
MPM Nutrition is a nutrition private practice run by NYC registered dietitian Marissa Meshulam. Marissa coaches clients (both in person and virtually) towards their individual wellness goals by taking a mindful approach to the world of food and nutrition. You can learn more about MPM Nutrition or make an appointment at their location inside HealthQuarters here.