It’s that time of year. The beginning of a downright cornucopia of excessive, delicious, and typically not too nutritious food. I’ll be tackling each of the glutinous holidays in turn (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa, and New Year’s), as well as overall strategies to approach the upcoming surge of excess food and merry making, from office parties, to family dinners. But, let’s start with the first of these food-focused occasions – Halloween.

While Halloween didn’t start out as a costume party adorned with candy, that’s often the way it’s treated these days, especially in our country. For many, this means the mini candy bars and orange-colored treats will start showing up in office candy bowls and lounges as early as October 1st and keep on coming right into November as the trick-or-treating “extras” make an appearance. And if you have kids or part-take in handing out candy around your neighborhood, that means left-over candy, trick-or-treating spoils, and often, extra sugar from school functions, too. What’s a trying-to-be-healthy-but-still-love-chocolate person to do?!

As I’ve said before, I believe in moderation in all things, including moderation.  So, set limits and reasonable expectations. Is there a Halloween party on Friday at the office? Make a clear, firm decision about what you’re going to do. Are you planning to indulge? How much? One serving of dessert? Two pieces of snack-sized candy? Or, are you going to abstain? If so, hold firm, don’t give in at the last second. Enlist a friend’s help. Is a coworker also trying to lose weight or avoid unhealthy food? Hold one another accountable. Don’t give in to temptation at the last minute. And if you’re going to indulge and made the decision to do so, go for it, but don’t overdo it. Make a clear plan ahead of time so you have established your limits. Scope out the offerings and decide what you want to indulge with and stick to it! And be especially good about your eating and exercise the rest of the week and weekend before and after the indulgence. Indulging now and then will not derail or set-back your overall weight loss and health journey. In fact, it can actually help keep it on track, as you won’t feel like you’re constantly depriving yourself and be more likely to binge!

What about that trick-or-treating candy? Well, there are a couple of approaches. You can certainly set limits for yourself, but it can be difficult to stick to them when the temptation is just inches away. I actually recommend a more “strict” approach. Growing up, the Halloween “rule” was we could eat as much candy as we wanted that night, but then the rest got thrown away. Now, my mother might keep a piece or two to surprise us with in our lunches over the coming weeks, but ultimately, the message was, “This is a special night. Indulge. Enjoy. Go nuts. But, it’s just for tonight, then we’re back to normal”.  Candy isn’t good for anyone – you and your weight loss and health efforts, or your kids and their overall health and slowly forming eating habits. Just because your kids or spouse don’t need to lose weight or improve their lab values doesn’t mean they should eat junk. That’s a bad habit to form and will ultimately be more likely to end in them having to make drastic changes further down the road to “recover”. Set a good example now and build healthy, life-long habits. Maybe everyone gets to pick 5 pieces of candy from the haul to eat. Any five, but then the rest gets tossed. Or maybe you do as my family did and go crazy on Halloween, but then get rid of the rest immediately. Whatever you choose, make it something that encourages moderation and, ultimately, overall healthy eating for everyone. A week long sugar binge is not a healthy habit.

The fall and winter months are full of temptation. Halloween is the first big test; set the tone for the holidays and put yourself in a position that your New Year’s resolution can be something other than losing weight!

Aubrey Phelps MS RDN