Avoiding Halloween candy weight gain

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Halloween is almost upon us, and we know what that means, lots and lots of candy filling the grocery store isles and ultimately our diet. It has been estimated that the average American eats a whopping 3.4 pounds of candy over the Halloween season!

Ali Miller, Integrative dietitian and owner of Naturally Nourished, explains what eating that much candy can mean for our health and how we can make better choices.

The sugar is a huge part of the issue but beyond the impact of eating too much sugar, there are other harmful ingredients in these common candy items that can be much more concerning.

Trans fats are very common in the chocolate candy bars that we see more of especially this time of year. Trans fats are a predominantly man-made fats and are highly toxic and have been shown to increase risk for heart disease, breast cancer, hormone imbalance, and colon cancer. These processed fats that are mechanically manipulated to mimic the structure and function of saturated fats while prolonging shelf life. Look for ingredients that say hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

Besides sugar, and trans fats, we also need to limit if not eliminate entirely take of food-colorants or food dyes. Petroleum-derived food colorants are synthetic compounds that interfere with frontal lobe of the brain. Studies have shown these additives to increase hyperactivity behavior in children. Also these colorants act as endocrine disruptors scrambling our hormonal communication.

When talking about Halloween candy, we are looking at much more serious issues of ADHD, heart disease, and cancer, issues beyond what sugar alone could be causing.

Is the sugar a concern at all and what are ways that people can avoid these things on a holiday so focused on candy?

Miller encourages handing out tricks rather than treats. Yale University researchers conducted a study several years ago that involved giving a total of 284 Halloween trick-or-treaters a choice between a toy and candy and the toys proved to be just as popular as the candy! Another option is handing out fruit and nut bars with real ingredients like premium nuts, whole grains and seeds. Those bars tend to have 50 percent less sugar compared to the average candy bar and is free of trans fats and food dyes. It also doesn’t replace the sugar with artificial sweeteners, and actually uses honey and dried fruit for the sweetness!

Miller demonstrates how to prepare banana ghosts and Cuties tangerines with permanent black marker "pumpkin carvings."