By Sarah Haan, for SparkPeople
Fall is as good a time of year as any to re-evaluate your weight-loss goals and plans. But before you know it, Halloween brings the focus to candy and treats that may be tempting you to fall off the health wagon. One indulgent day of Halloween treats won't hurt most people's progress, but considering that Halloween is just the beginning of a two-month season packed with party foods and desserts, try not to get carried away.
As you're looking for ways to enjoy the season without losing sight of your health and fitness goals, pick the smartest treats, but say "Boo!" to the biggest calorie monsters.
Here are five Halloween treats that should scare you!
1. Fun-Size Candy Bars
At an average of about 100 calories a pop, these popular trick-or-treat goodies may seem innocent-but that's only the case if you stop at one. It's pretty easier to eat four or five mini-bars as you take your kids trick-or-treating, and if they're eyeing you from the reception desk at your office-forget about it! You may be eating one or more every day for weeks leading up to Halloween.
The bars that really pack the most calories are those with peanut butter, coconut, chocolate, caramel, and nuts. Plus, once they're out of the larger packages, their nutrition facts are nowhere to be found on those individual labels.
Trick: Start reading nutrition labels of fun-size treats before throwing out the package. Figure out the best choice for you and stick with that when you're having a Halloween treat. Peppermint patties and Twizzlers have about half of the calories than the average candy bar, but that doesn't mean they are calorie free. Popping in a piece of sugar-free gum can help curb some cravings if you're feeling tempted after eating just one.
2. Pumpkin Breads and Muffins
Pumpkin puree delivers vitamin A and fiber along in a deliciously low-calorie package that just screams of fall. But pair it with sugar, cream cheese frosting, shortening and butter, and you have a high-cal treat dressed in a healthy-looking orange costume. Restaurants and bakeries are the biggest villains: Pumpkin scones, muffins, donuts and breads range from 300 to 530 calories per serving, but most portion sizes can be double or triple in size. For a single treat, that's a lot of damage to your calorie budget.
Trick: Bake your pumpkin goods at home, where you can control your recipe and make healthy baking substitutions, like subbing applesauce in place of oil and fat, choosing whole wheat flour over white, and cutting down on the sugar in a recipe. Using a mini muffin tin will help with portions as you bake perfectly-portioned pumpkin goodies.
3. Pumpkin-Flavored Lattes
Many coffee joints will have a special feature on their menu for the harvest season: pumpkin-flavored coffees. A medium pumpkin spice latte with whole milk from Starbucks has 410 calories, and the calories in similar drinks from other chains like Panera Bread and Dunkin Donuts are pretty similar. Think before you sip: Can you really budget 400+ calories into your day for a single drink?
Trick: Order the smallest size and lighten the load by requesting fat-free milk and holding the whipped topping. Plain hot chai tea with some added low-fat milk can also give you the warm fuzzy feeling of the season without all the added sweeteners of a pumpkin latte.
4. Candy Corn
Yes, these ever-so-traditional candies are quite small, but for candy corn lovers who wait all year for their favorite seasonal candy, they can be devastating to your healthy eating plan. The quintessential white, orange and yellow triangles have 140 calories for 22 pieces, which is a small handful at most. Have a few, and it's no sweat, but sit near a candy jar full of candy corn, it can be hard to track just how much you've eaten since there is no built-in portion control.
Trick: Never eat candy corn from a large jar or straight from the bag. This can lead to mindless overeating and no real sense of calories or serving size. Pre-portion yourself a small serving and stick to it. Then put the bag away and walk away from the jar: out of sight, out of mind. Also try stretching out the sugar by combining a few pieces of candy corn with a trail mix of dried fruit and nuts for an added nutrition boost and more filling power.
5. Candy Apples
Don't fool yourself: Just because there's a piece of fruit underneath a thick layer of caramel, and possibly nuts, cookie chunks or even chocolate does NOT mean it's good for you-or low in calories. If you cover a healthy fruit with sugar it becomes a much less healthful choice. A single apple might only contain around 80-100 calories of nutrition, but when it's coated in caramel, it can more than triple in calories. Designer or "gourmet" candy apples covered in sprinkles, chocolate candies, nuts and chocolate are even worse.
Trick: Enjoy your apples by cutting them into wedges and dipping them into low-fat caramel dip, fat free vanilla yogurt or peanut butter.
The most important thing to remember during the Halloween season is to see these seasonal treats for what they really are: treats that should be eaten in moderation and in small amounts. Put your label reading skills to work and keep your goals in mind, and you'll have no trouble avoiding Halloween treat temptation.
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By Sarah Haan, for SparkPeople