This year, Americans plan to spend about $2 billion on Easter candy according to a recent National Retail Federation survey. All those chocolate bunnies and jellybeans can mean trouble for Americans’ expanding waistlines and our risk for chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
If you’re finding it difficult to maintain healthy habits now, check out my answers to questions from patients and clients who’ve struggled with these issues. The info can help you develop your own healthy strategy.
Q: Is it better to eat a little bit of candy every day or to just allow one day to eat whatever I want if I’m trying to lose weight or maintain my current weight?
A: Consistent eating is really the key. It’s one of the habits that helps people maintain their weight loss according to research from the National Weight Control Registry. Although one day’s splurge day won’t undo weeks of healthy eating, those “I’ll just eat what I want” days can quickly become your new normal. Find ways to include treats in small quantities once in awhile and you may actually stay on track better and not feel the urge to splurge. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy celebratory meals, but enjoyment doesn’t have to equal overindulgence. Be consistent with healthy choices that are working for you, be smart about portions of any high calorie food and when you do allow yourself treats savor every bite.
Q. Should I choose low fat candies, like jelly beans and avoid the chocolate?
A: Regardless of the candy you choose, the bottom line is how much you eat. It’s true that high fat candies like chocolate will have more calories per bite than pure sugar candies, but if you can be satisfied with a couple of small chocolate eggs versus a bag of jelly beans, you may be better off with the chocolate. You can be a “food snob” and choose only your very favorites. Don’t settle for knock-offs or substitutions that won’t satisfy you. The goal is to find satisfaction with a small quantity. Read more about managing these candies in this HealthTalk column.
Q: How many calories are in chocolate eggs and bunnies, marshmallow chicks and jellybeans?
An ounce of chocolate candy averages around 150-160 calories but a caramel egg has 190 calories. Five Peeps add up to 160 calories and just 30 small jellybeans (about 1 oz.) contain 120 calories. If you think that 7 oz. chocolate bunny looks like just another candy bar, think again. It weighs in at over 1000 calories.
Q: When candy is in the house I can’t help it, I just want to eat it. I try not to buy the candy, but other family members like to keep it around – how can I stop myself?
A: There are several strategies you can try. First, discuss with your family and try to come to an agreement that works for everyone. If you’re a parent, then you decide what food is routinely kept in the house. Children benefit from having plenty of healthy food around with limited high sugar and high fat foods in the house. It doesn’t mean no treats ever, but they are only treats if eaten occasionally. For other adults in the house, perhaps they could keep their sweets at work or maybe have separate storage at home in a non-see through box, for example. The more it is out of your sight and the more barriers, the less likely you are to eat it. This is another good time to be a “food snob.” If it’s not your favorite, don’t bother.
Of course, it’s also important to maintain other healthy habits, like physical activity, during holidays. If you want to do a little more exercise to balance any extra calories you may be consuming, here is a handy calculator to determine how much walking is needed to lose the candy calories.
What are your usual strategies for healthy weight habits during holidays?