By Jared Miller
During the holiday season, I give myself permission to eat more candy than I normally do. We keep the house stocked in case visitors come over, and when family arrives, we always have a couple bowls of sweet treats to choose from. But sometimes I indulge even when we don't have guests -- and that's OK, because here's the thing: I do it responsibly. I know it sounds strange to talk about eating candy responsibly, but it can be done.
Here are some tips on how to maximize your enjoyment while minimizing your sugary guilt.
Good: Stick To Hard Candies
I’m not to be trusted with a bag of candy, especially of the gummy variety. I’ll mindlessly pop piece after piece into my mouth, so sometimes I need help pacing myself. If you’re like me, give hard candies a shot. upwave diet and nutrition expert Shoshana Pritzker, RD, CDN, says, “It takes longer to consume one piece of hard candy, so ultimately, you'll eat fewer pieces in any given period of time.”
Many hard candies have the same number of calories as chewy, non-chocolate ones, but unless you quickly crunch them up, they're a better bet than the alternative. Since it’s the holiday season, candy canes are readily available, but you can always toss a couple Werther’s Originals or individually wrapped Life Savers in your pocket to have on the ready. That way, you can avoid overloading on the M&Ms in grandma’s (or your own) candy dish.
Better: Go For The Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is always popular during the holidays. This time of year, my wife and I keep our candy dish stocked with Hershey’s Kisses (more on why later) and we always have hot cocoa on cold nights. If you're a chocolate fan too, dark chocolate is the way to go. "Dark chocolate that is 70 percent cacao or higher has more antioxidants and less cream and sugar," Pritzker notes. "That makes it a bit better for you than the milk-chocolate varieties or those that are filled with caramel, nougat or nuts." The antioxidants are called flavonoids, and their potential benefits include lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and blood sugar, a potentially reduced risk of colon cancer and a lower overall BMI. Of course, dark chocolate is still candy, so moderation is key.
Best: Choose Fun-Size Candy
Regardless of whether you go for hard candy or dark chocolate, choose individually wrapped pieces or fun size packages. "Individually wrapped candies can be helpful when compared to an open bowl of M&Ms," says Pritzker. "It will take you longer to unwrap the candy and eat it, and it's easier for you to keep track of how many pieces you’ve had." In other words, it makes it easier to set a limit -- and stick with it.
Candy isn’t something you want to eat all the time, but it’s OK to treat yourself once in a while. Have a happy, healthy and delicious holiday!