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Dr. Tim Says....

Halloween Candy Is Your Friend: Really!

Five Ways to Enjoy Halloween Candy without Going Overboard

Halloween Candy

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year, but the challenge is that there's always a lot of leftover candy. Having all those sweets around the office can be tempting, and it's pretty easy to rack up a ton of extra calories at this time of year. You can, however, make the season work for you.

Here are five simple tips that can keep you from feeling like you've spent the days after Halloween at the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory:

1. Keep it hidden

There's great research to show that keeping the treats out of sight and less accessible can help you manage how much candy you eat. In one study forty secretaries were given candy dishes filled with Hershey’s Kisses. Half of the dishes were clear and the other half not. When the dish was clear the secretaries consumed 2.2 more candies per day. Moving the dish away from you makes a difference also. When the candy dish was placed closer to the secretaries they ate 1.8 more candies per day.

Tip: Put treats in an opaque dish or put the dish in a cabinet where you can't see it and you have to get up from your desk to get it.

2. Keep track of how much you eat (that mobile phone may be good for something)

We know that food diaries help people lose weight and manage their diet, and treats are part of this - so keep track of the number of candies you eat.. One good strategy is to snap a picture of the candy with your cell phone before you eat it. There's recent research showing that this may be even more effective at managing your intake than writing down what you eat.

Tip: When you're tempted by the candy bowl, check your mobile phone to see when your last treat was.

3. Portion control works with candy too

Halloween candy is your friend because it comes in small, single serve portions. You do, however, have to make the right choice.

Your guide should first and foremost be calories. Select candies that are less calorie dense. When you are going through the basket decide beforehand that you will only select 1 or 2 candies and choose those that are lowest in calories.

Starburst Fruit Chews, for example, are small, have only 20 calories per serving, and each one takes a longer time to open, slowing down your snacking. Another great choice along this line are Hershey's Kisses. They're only 25 calories each and they are, of course, chocolate. Other good choices are Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, Jolly Ranchers, Mary Janes and small lollipops like Tootsie Roll Pops and Dum Dums. While these all have sugar and are candy, they take time to eat and are lower in calories than eating a whole candy bar.

Tip: Choose the smaller portion of your favorite candy.

4. When you have chocolate, choose the best quality

You deserve the best, so select for yourself only the best quality chocolate. If there's a bowl of mixed candy, pick through and look for the darkest chocolate choice. There's great research that shows chocolate is one of the best treats you can choose. Dark chocolate has a higher cacao content than milk chocolate and is chock full of good quality antioxidants that can actually help improve your cholesterol profile. Chocolate does have a lot of fat along with the sugar but it's good quality fat - the type that has been shown to not raise cholesterol.

Tip: Choose the small, single serving pieces and limit yourself to one or two per day.

5. Savor it

Folks tend to gobble candy. Good candy, like good sex, should be slow and easy. I work with some colleagues who research consumer behavior and it's clear that slowing down and savoring life is a good strategy to being healthier and happier. Take your time with that intense Ghirardelli chocolate square. Let the M&Ms melt in your mouth. Don't take only three licks to get to the center of your Tootsie Pop.

Tip: Relax, slow down, savor the moment.

As they say, "Halloween happens." Well, that's not exactly what they say but it does happen and that means a lot of temptations. It takes so little to feel great about the season - choose the best candy, keep it out of sight and out of mind, take small portions, keep track and savor the moment.

First posted: November 1, 2010