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Tricks for All Those Treats

Posted: 10/27/2006

Posted Oct. 27

Halloween can be a scary time for nutrition.

"We're on what I call the cusp of the season of gluttony," said Rene Norman, a registered and licensed dietitian with Nutrition Consultants of Tulsa. The feasting kicks off at Halloween, goes through the November and December holidays, then culminates in Super Bowl Sunday.

But trick-or-treaters and their parents can start off this season on a lighter foot by watching what they stuff themselves with on Tuesday night and those candy-filled days after.

"Have a game plan going into it," advised Norman, who recommends setting parameters before trick-or-treating or parties. Guidelines could be not allowing kids to eat large amounts of candy at once, perhaps limiting it to one package per day.

Parents also could let their children pick favorites from Tuesday night's sweet haul, Norman said, then give or throw the rest away. Once the door-to-door confection begging has ended and little ghouls and boys are back home, pay attention to the nutrition facts on candy.

"Any time we're looking at candy or sweets of this nature, you have to be concerned about calories in general," said Jennifer Parham, a registered and licensed dietitian with St. John Healthy Lifestyles. Most calories in this case are coming from fat and carbohydrates, specifically sugar.

Some of the most caloric candies have milk chocolate, Parham said, like Snickers, Baby Ruth and Butterfinger.

Avoiding pure refined sugar should be a priority when picking healthy treats, said Sloan Taylor, a registered dietitian with St. Francis. Pixy Stix, for example, are pretty much nothing but sugar.

Also, look out for "those wicked trans fats," Norman said, and monitor the grams of sugar per serving. The higher the grams, of course, the more cautious you should be.

Healthy options, though, abound, with Pay Day bars ranking tops on Taylor's list. "They're great," she said. Pay Days have a low saturated fat content and nuts, which provide fiber and vitamin E. Plus, they're lower in refined sugar than a York Peppermint Pattie or Hershey bar.

Taylor's next recommendations were sugar-free gum and raisins. Those wanting a chocolate fix should consider coated almonds or peanuts, which will have some healthy benefits, Norman said. She also suggested fruit leathers -- dried fruit that's been pureed and dried.

"Yes, it's sugar," she said, "but it's from the fruit or fruit juice," which means it would have vitamins and minerals.

Parham's picks were miniature 3 Musketeers and Milky Way bars, as well as gum and Twizzlers. Little Dum Dum suckers, although all sugar, are just 40 to 60 calories, and they last longer than a quick, higher-calorie pop of chocolate in the mouth.

Those throwing a party might make heart-healthy homemade treats, such as caramel apples, pumpkin bars and popcorn balls. You could also serve pretzels with various dips.

And don't be fooled by low-fat candies, like candy corn or Swee- Tarts, Parham said. A serving size of candy corn might be 26 pieces and 140 calories, but people tend to eat more than that -- several hundred calories more. So pay attention to serving sizes, or opt for the smaller pre-packaged candies.


Copyright © 2006, Tulsa World, Okla.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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