Halloween season is here, and many Veterans are searching for ways to make this very different season special.
As a dietitian who works with Veterans, I’ve noticed some are also thinking about all those comfort foods they have eaten to cope with all the changes in our lives this year.
This creates a new Halloween dilemma: “I want my fun Halloween treats but I’m also trying to be healthier! Can I do both?”
Tips for a healthy Halloween
- Change your “food language.” You may have noticed your favorite vegetable and your favorite Halloween treat have a different nutrition profile, so you label the vegetable “good” and the candy “bad.” Unfortunately, labeling food like this makes us sound like “good” or “bad” people based on food choices. Sounds like a gloomy way to approach holidays, let alone life!
- Remember food is also a symbol of the good times in our lives, not just fuel. You don’t need to feel “bad” for eating foods associated with happy times. Try calling treats “holiday foods,” “special foods,” or “planned indulgences” instead.
Weight not the only health marker
- Set realistic health goals for the holiday season. Most “healthy holiday” messages focus on your body weight. However, how your weight changes (or doesn’t) is not the only marker of health. Other health related goals to consider include keeping your teeth feeling fresh and clean, avoiding the drowsy feeling that comes from overeating, or avoiding feeling “stuffed” from too many “special foods.”
- Think about which holiday foods you like and which ones you can do without. Maybe you love Skittles but not mellocreme pumpkins. Focus on the candy you love instead of mindlessly buying or eating less tasty candy. To help focus on your favorites, try this mindfulness exercise with some available treats. If you concentrate on eating and enjoying what you really love you will have a more enjoyable holiday.
Your body will cry out for fuel
- Stay well-nourished on Halloween and throughout the coming holiday season. Your body needs fuel to get you through the day, especially if these times have given you extra stress about planning family events. Remember, if you skip nutritious foods during the day, your body will cry out harder for fuel.
- As a result, you might eat your treats so fast that you can’t enjoy them, or you overeat and feel physically miserable.
If you need more advice on how to improve your daily nutrition, make sure you contact your local VA nutrition clinic to learn how to keep yourself properly fueled.
Focus on new Halloween traditions that are not completely food related. For example, some families with young children get visits from the “Switch Witch.” The Switch Witch is the Tooth Fairy’s sister. She flies around on Halloween night looking for candy to trade for toys to keep those teeth healthy for her sister.
Have a Healthy for You Halloween, however you choose to celebrate!
Melanie Clemmer is a dietitian and diabetes educator in the Dallas VA Home Based Primary Care system.