Walk into any grocery store this time of year and the displays of Halloween candies, cookies and cupcakes overwhelm the senses before the shopping cart even moves.

Holiday weight gain does not need Thanksgiving to get started.

Those bags of Halloween candy can quickly add the extra 100 calories a day people need to gain 10 pounds in one year, fitness and diet experts say.

But extra Halloween calories do not always stop with candy and 100 calories.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the frightening eating habits possible this week:

Healthy fall foods – such as apples, pumpkins and sweet potatoes – are turned into diet nightmares with butter, sugars, caramel, pie crusts and creams.

Those bags of Halloween candy on sale, two for one, send insulin levels soaring. One of those snack-size goodies (not one bag, one candy) can easily reach 100 calories. Eat four or five and they become a meal replacement with little to no nutritional value.

The workplace can be just as scary.

Employees bring in extra baked goods and candies left over from school parties. The traditional 3 p.m. coffee break turns into a calorie fest.

One adult Halloween party complete with sweets and alcoholic beverages can produce the amount of calories that should be consumed by an adult during the entire day.

Hit a fall festival over the weekend and the Halloween calorie count goes into overload. Fudge, hot dogs, funnel cakes, caramel apples, pumpkin ice cream and kettle corn are just some of the offerings.

“For anyone trying to lose weight, Halloween can be a frightful night of calorie-laden candies,” said Gail Manginelli, a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, Inc.

But there are ways to beat the evils of sugar, she said.

“The good news is that by making smart choices and practicing portion control, you can include some of your favorite treats without “goblin’ up scary amounts of excess calories and fat,” Manginelli said. “Be a little more liberal with sugar-based candies like lollipops, Lifesavers and Jolly Ranchers, and more cautious with chocolate-based candies like Snickers, Milky Way and Butterfinger bars.”

The risk level of Halloween weight gain depends on personal preference, said Cheryl Robertson, a Weight Watchers ambassador in Alabama.

“If candies and treats are your temptation and challenge, this could be a tough time of year for you,” she said. “We discussed Halloween in our meetings and most people have figured out a plan. They were going to buy candy they didn’t particularly like and make sure they gave it all away, even if that meant putting the bowl on the front porch and letting the kids help themselves.”

The dangers of overloading on Halloween candy and other sugars are much more than gaining weight, said Dr. Joseph Jones with Rocky Ridge Chiropractic in Birmingham, Ala.

The chiropractor and nutritional consultant said most people are concerned with fats, but they should cut sugars just as aggressively. High blood pressure, cholesterol, type II diabetes and heart disease are all associated with sugars, he said.

“People go to the doctor and they all want to know their cholesterol,” Jones said. “They should be asking about their glucose level.”

With so many goodies available everywhere from home to work, cutting sugars this week can be complicated.

“Candy should not be the enemy,” Robertson said. “Healthy eating is enjoying a variety of foods, including treats. When it comes to kids and treats, what’s important is to teach them moderation and a sense of portion control.”

Adults should go out with a full stomach, she suggests, and carry a bottle of water.


(Lisa Osburn is a staff writer for the Birmingham (Ala.) News. She can be contacted at losburn(at)bhamnews.com.)


AP-NY-10-30-07 1328EDT

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