5 Tips for a Heart-Healthy Halloween

Halloween from a nutritional standpoint

For children and adults alike, candy has become a key “ingredient” for celebrating Halloween. Registered Dietitian Julia Renee Zumpano RD, LD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation department, says a little planning and reading of nutrition labels can make for a fun, tasty and heart-healthy holiday. 

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Here are the 5 tips for a heart-healthy Halloween 

1. Create traditions that take the emphasis off food and candy. “Shift the focus of Halloween to the fun of coming up with a great costume or creative decorations for your home or office,” she suggests. “If you have kids, ‘trick-or-treating’ doesn’t have to be all about the candy. Enjoy the exercise and seeing your neighbors and the Halloween costumes.”

2. When it comes to the goodies, Ms. Zumpano suggests setting a good example by eating and giving out healthy sweets such as granola or fiber bars, dried fruits, 100 percent real fruit snacks, a healthy trail mix, or dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa). If you want to go with more traditional candy, she encourages getting the mini or bite-sized candy bars or boxes. “Smaller portions will instill healthy eating habits,” she points out.

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3. When selecting candy, avoid sweets with any transfats, which are listed on the ingredients as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. “These are liquid oil that have been ‘hydrogenated’ or solidified at room temperature. They cause our bad LDL cholesterol to go up and our good HDL cholesterol to go down,” she warns. These oils are most often found in chocolate bars, snack foods and fried foods. Also, select candies and goodies that are lower in saturated fats with no more than 2 to 3 grams of saturated fat per serving.

4. Eat sugar in moderation. “Excess sugar is stored as fats in the blood which are called triglycerides (blood fats). High triglycerides are a risk factor for developing plaque build up in the arteries.” Another key ingredient to avoid is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is a processed form of sugar that is highly concentrated in candy and sweets. Keep candy intake to two to three smaller pieces each day and try to screen out all candies that have HFCS (and transfats). If you are trying to lose weight, keep it to one piece a day.

5. When the Halloween candy is in the house, try skipping dessert after dinner and think of the candy as your dessert. And make sure that the kids finish all of the fruits and veggies on their plates before they can have any of their Halloween candy.

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With the growing trend of obesity in children, it is important to create healthy eating habits at a young age. “You can use Halloween as a learning opportunity, helping children to get a better understanding of what moderation is,” she says. “These are habits that will serve them well into their adult lives.”

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