By: Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD
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For many of us parents, it’s fundraising time – that time of year when our youngsters are hawking everything from cookies to caramel corn to chocolate bars to benefit their school, team or club.
We know you want to support the activities of your children, your extended family or your neighbors. But like many of us, you’re probably trying to reach or maintain your healthy eating goals.
We talked to registered dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, to find how to handle all the tempting foods that may be coming into your house. Here is what she had to say:
Q: What advice do you have for people who want to buy these fundraiser foods, but are watching their fat and sugar consumption?
A: If you’re watching your fat and sugar intake, it makes sense to try to find out nutritional information about the foods you’re thinking about ordering. Some organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, put their nutritional information online.
This is a task best done before you order, of course! But even if you’re looking the information up as you’re eating, it’s good to know what you’re consuming. It might help you with future decisions about those caramel peanut clusters.
Q: Is there a way to incorporate these kinds of food in a healthy diet?
A: It could be possible to incorporate these goodies into a healthy diet. But there is no way around the fact that you are eating added sugar with no health value.
But I believe that everyone deserves a treat and that they can be incorporated into an overall healthy diet. This is a smart way to maintain nutrition success over time.
However, it is very difficult for many of us to have only a single serving of cookies or cheese popcorn. Most people end up eating the entire sleeve or package in a day or even in a single sitting.
With these kinds of foods, people need to know their boundaries and if they are able to beat the craving.
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Q: So you’ve bought the goodies. What should you do?
A: There is some advice to put these types of tempting foods in the cupboard or the freezer. That way, they aren’t so immediately available and won’t beckon you from the kitchen counter. This could work for some.
But, like everyone else, I can sometimes hear treats call to me to eat them even when they are buried deep in the freezer or cupboard. It’s tough!
Another strategy could be to extend the treat by adding it to a healthier food. For example, you could crumble a cookie into a healthy granola, fat-free greek yogurt or in a snack mix where you might normally add dark chocolate pieces or another treat. This way, you still get the cookie taste, but you don’t have to eat an entire sleeve to enjoy it. Or mix that caramel corn with some homemade air-popped popcorn.
You also could try dividing the goodies into individual portions in sandwich bags. Then you can have a portion when you feel like having a treat. It satisfies your craving without breaking up your healthy lifestyle. Having an open box or bag of a treat hanging around often means the treat will not last for very long.
Q: Is it best to simply not buy this stuff?
A: Many will tell you to avoid it altogether. You could always give the money to your young fundraiser and tell them to keep the goodies.
I, on the other hand, love some of these treats, especially cookies! People just need to know if they have that limit – keep those malted milk balls a little bit out of reach or take them to work to share with co-workers.
Read more expert advice from Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD on her blog.