"Trick or treat, money or eat, give us something good to eat!" That's the whole version of the kids' chant tomorrow night. Halloween is right around the corner, and the kids are gearing up for the ultimate candy holiday.
There are probably more than just trick-or-treaters eating candy tomorrow night. And I think we probably can safely assume that kids and adults alike are eating candy on more than just the days around Halloween. But it's during the Halloween season that we see what I think is the best (or maybe worst) example of the practice of portion control.
One thing that is interesting about Halloween candy is that it comes in little packages. Many candies nowadays come in smaller packages - fun-size, bite-size, etc. This is a good thing, considering how many little packages get distributed and eaten. But often times we think that a little package means little calories and we don't take into consideration how many of those little packages we actually eat!
This same principle applies to many of the foods we eat. The portion sizes that Americans eat have increased over the years - along with our waistlines, and it doesn't just apply to the candy we eat. Many foods come in bigger and bigger portions. For example, beverages that used to come in standard 8 ounce cups or containers, are now served in 12 ounce, 20 ounce, 44 ounce or larger containers.
Bigger is not necessarily better, and sometimes we are lured into getting the bigger portion when it is a "better deal" or in combination with other foods. Americans like to get a "deal" and our "money's worth" often at the expense of overeating.
It's important to pay attention to the label and look to see first, how many servings are in the package and then secondly how many calories are in one serving. Sometimes a package will contain more than one serving but will be consumed as one serving. The next time you have a package of chips, crackers, juice etc., check the label to see how many servings it really contains.
Another thing to consider is that getting the most food for your money may not really be the best "deal" in the long run. For example, if it costs an extra 50 cents to substitute a tossed salad for fries, that could be an even "better deal" if you're trying to cut back on calories and fat. Words like: Ultimate, king size, deluxe, supreme and all-you-can-eat are tip-offs that the meal could be more than you wanted to or should consume.
Now is a good time to be mindful of what and how much you eat. The days are shorter and colder, and it isn't as much fun to be outside for any length of time any more. The Halloween candy can stretch to Thanksgiving and then the holiday parties start. By paying attention now and having some strategies in place, you can enjoy the fall and winter season and avoid the dreaded winter weight gain.
I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween night.
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. In addition to her column, you can also find nutrition tips and ideas on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org.