You know, as a dietitian, people expect me to always have my "food police" uniform on, especially on occasions such as Halloween or other holidays. If you've read my column over the last 17 years, you'll know that I don't own a food police costume, and I often use words like "moderation" and "realistic" when dishing out dietary advice.
I want people to be happy in their own skin, and learn how to eat well, while still honoring their own special food preferences and health. There are so many wonderful types of food in the world, how can we possibly all follow the same "diet"? Banning foods or food groups, going on a fad diet, or following a rigid meal plan, can only last for so long, and it's important to develop the skills and strategies you'll need to get through the next thirty years or so. A strategy for eating you say? Yes, adults need a strategy to maintain a healthy weight, or to make dietary modifications due to disease.
For instance, here comes Halloween: A time where stores are stocked with ghoulish costumes, and tons of candy. I usually offer advice during this month for the children, but this time, I'm offering it up for the grown-ups!
If you find your sweet tooth awakens from the dead during the month of October as you peruse stores filled with bags of candy, or "five for a dollar" candy bar specials at the local convenient mart, I hope these little tidbits will help you out:
- Calories matter. It's okay to indulge in a craving, but have a calorie-control strategy. A fun-size snickers candy bar is only 70 calories, the King-size provides about 540. Which do you think is the better choice? You may be better off buying a bag of fun-sized bars, portioning out a few, then "allowing" yourself one per day at a designated time. This will satisfy your craving, but control your calorie intake.
- Count it. Do you have diabetes but find yourself craving a candy bar? Well, some may think it's ludicrous for me to recommend that you eat one, but the reality is you have eaten one (and maybe fibbed to your doctor about it), and another day may come that you want to eat one again. The same advice applies - portion control. Diabetes management involves controlling carbohydrate and calorie intake through the day. Allow yourself a small treat, but count it toward your normal carbohydrate and calorie intake.
- Read the label. Sometimes just seeing the reality of a "how many calories are in that?" is enough to help you skip it or make a different choice.
- In addition to managing your candy intake, it's also important to keep track of everything else you eat too. The more balanced your diet is, the easier it is to avoid high-calorie snacking or random eating.
- Don't skip meals. Drink lots of water.
- Eat at least 4 servings of fruits and veggies daily. Afternoon sweet craving? Be sure you have two pieces of fruit with you at work, and eat a piece of fruit before you head for anything else.
- Plan healthy snacks. If you find you are hungry at a particular time of the day (it may be 10:30 in the morning, or 4:00 in the afternoon) be sure to have a healthy snack ready. A chunk of cheese with an apple, a cup of Greek yogurt, a small handful of almonds, or a half a peanut butter sandwich might do the trick.
Honor your sweet tooth with small portions and maintain a balanced diet otherwise. Happy haunting.
Rust is a licensed, registered dietitian, nutrition communications consultant, and author. She's co-authored Restaurant Calorie Counter for Dummies®, 2nd ed (2011), Calorie Counter Journal for Dummies® and The Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies® (Dec 2010). To learn more, visit: www.rustnutrition.com.