Taking a treat from the pail of Halloween candy can be fun at any age, but you don’t have to sneak it! Did you know that you can eat candy—and not gain weight? The trick is to eat your treat mindfully and in moderation.
You Can Eat Candy and Still Manage Your Weight
Candy has been a part of our culture and diets long before obesity became a public health concern, and most people enjoy this sweet treat accordingly. Since candy contributes such a minor percent of calories to the diet, by itself it is not likely to make you gain weight. Your overall diet and physical activity will affect your weight more than a single food such as candy.
In fact, several studies have shown that Americans who eat candy have the same—or lower—weight or body mass index (BMI) than people who don’t eat candy. Candy only contributes on average 2-3% to the American diet.
- A study of more than 15,000 American adults found that, while people who ate candy had more calories in their diet, they did not have a higher weight or body mass index (BMI).
- A similar study of more than 11,000 children and adolescents in the United States showed that those who ate candy were less likely to be overweight than those who did not eat candy.
- Another recent study of approximately 1,000 men and women found those who ate chocolate more frequently had a lower body mass index than those who ate chocolate less often.
If you eat sensible amounts of candy, you can enjoy it frequently and still maintain your weight.
“It comes down to ’calories in, calories out,’” said Roger Clemens, DrPH, a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. “It’s all about balance, moderation, variety in the diet and physical activity—and this [research] suggests some candy consumers may understand how to navigate the critical calorie equation.”
References: Weight Management
Depriving Yourself of Treats Can Backfire
If you’re trying to lose weight, restricting treats can be counterproductive.
If you can’t enjoy your favorite foods, you might not be motivated to try to eat healthy. Over 70% of adults may not try to achieve a balanced diet because they don't want to give up their favorite foods.
Even if you try to eat a balanced diet, being overly restrictive may lead to the notion of treats as “forbidden fruit,” according to several studies. The thought that you can’t enjoy any treats at all may increase desire for treats and ultimately lead to overeating, according to consumer and scientific research. Children may be especially susceptible to these eating behaviors, which can lead to increased weight.
Professionals with hands-on experience in the field have similar opinions. In fact, nine out of 10 Registered Dietitians believe that people are more likely to maintain a balanced lifestyle when they don’t deprive themselves of treats.
Enjoying a moderate portion of a sweet snack each day as part of a reduced-calorie diet may help sustain your efforts to lose weight, suggests a pilot study at Penn State of women who did just that.
Chewing Gum May Help Prevent Overeating
Chewing gum may help with weight control, too. Having a stick of sugar-free gum before a snack can reduce hunger, diminish desire for certain foods, and help you to eat less of your snack, according to recent studies. And sugar-free gum won’t pack on pounds. The American Diabetes Association calls gum a “free food,” which is any food or drink providing less than 20 calories and 5 grams or less of carbohydrates per serving.
References: Gum and Overeating
Candy Does Not Cause Hyperactivity
Research shows that neither sugars nor artificial food coloring cause hyperactivity or other behavior problems in children. Children may act excited at birthday parties, Halloween, and holidays where sugary treats are served because they’re having so much fun!
How does candy fit into a healthful lifestyle? Check out our guides in How to Treat Right.
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- O'Neil CE, Fulgoni VL and Nicklas TA. Candy consumption was not associated with body weight measures, risk factors for cardiovascular disease, or metabolic syndrome in U.S. adults: NHANES 1999-2004. Food & Nutrition Research. 2011; 55. Available online.
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- Nutrition and You: Trends 2008. American Dietetic Association. Oct. 26, 2008. Available online.
- Hershey’s Survey of Nutrition Professionals. March 2010.
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Gum and Overeating
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- American Diabetes Association. Available online.
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- FDA 2011 Food Advisory Committee meeting materials for the Committee meeting on March 30-31, 2011.