Intuitive Eating: Halloween Edition
This article was written in October of 2017. I know now that my perception of intuitive eating at that time was wrong and a lot of what I said in this post comes from a very “diet culture-y” place; however, I want to be transparent and show the evolution of my beliefs, values and education as a non-diet dietitian here, so I’m going to leave this article the way it is. It definitely takes courage to admit you were wrong, and I hope you all appreciate the fact that I am willing to acknowledge that! : )
However, if you want more accurate information on intuitive eating and what that truly looks like, I want to encourage you to check out my more recent post – My Journey to Food Freedom (with Intuitive Eating Resources included at the end).
Halloween is the start of a slippery slope for a lot of people. It’s the first holiday of the season, and it’s typically when you start seeing more and more candy and treats around at work/school/literally everywhere you turn. It can be pretty hard to say “no” to all the delicious, pumpkin-y, sugary goodness, but unfortunately, you have to draw the line somewhere for the sake of your health (and your waistline).
I’m all about living that “balanced” life, and I truly believe in and practice the 80/20 rule; 80% high-intensity workouts and fueling my body with healthy foods, and 20% treating myself (preferably with pumpkin-flavored anything at this time of year) and resting when I need it (which typically falls on the weekends due to our schedules AKA social lives).
I typically don’t go too overboard when it comes to treats, but that’s because I honestly enjoy eating healthy foods and I feel much better on the inside and outside when I do. With that being said, I do have an enormous sweet tooth, and love to eat cake, ice cream, cookies, etc. too, whenever I feel like it.
But around the holidays when the treats are aplenty, you come to a point where you have to make some tough decisions. For example, if there is a huge spread of treats at work, try your best to stick with a small serving of your most favorite item, and skip on the rest. Or take a bite-sized portion of a few different treats. Alternately, if you know there is a treat day coming up, bake something lighter at home so you know there will be at least one option that you can feel better about eating, but still fully enjoy. For example, pumpkin cookies made with pumpkin puree, bananas, whole wheat flour, and dark chocolate chips. And, if the “treat day” turns into a “treat week”, try to pass on a few of those days, or just continue to stick with small portions.
Are you surprised I didn’t say, “Slowly step away from the treat table so you don’t hate yourself all day for giving in and eating a cupcake“?
Some of you might be thinking I’m a bad dietitian at this point, but sulking at your desk chewing on ice cubes instead of eating what you want is not what I recommend. I personally say “no” more often than not in these situations, mostly because I am always armed with healthy snacks that truly satisfy me and make me feel full (and because my tummy doesn’t like me when I eat certain things).
Some of my fav snacks include:
- Kind, Larabar, or That’s It! pressed fruit and veggie bars (no added sugars)
- Fresh fruit with peanut or almond butter
- Whole grain crackers & string cheese
- Hard boiled eggs
- Carrots & hummus
- Or my healthy homemade trail mix — which you will get the recipe for at the end of this post 😉
But if there is a certain treat that I absolutely can’t pass up and only get to eat once a year, (or I’m just really in the mood for some dessert), then hell yes, I’m going to have me a piece. If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you know I treat myself to something sweet almost every day. I always try to be transparent about this so it doesn’t look like I eat perfectly healthy 100% of the time, because I definitely don’t! I have a serving of Halo Top almost every night; the other day at work I had a piece of Halloween candy; another day last week I ate a “healthy” (but still cake) birthday cake for one of my coworkers, when we go out for family birthday celebrations, I help finish the fried ice cream. Do I feel guilty about eating any of those things? Nope.
Avoiding feelings of deprivation is key, because when we deny ourselves the things that we truly want over and over, it often ends up biting us in the ass later. We ultimately end up binging on unhealthy foods, rather than simply practicing portion control and eating those things more intuitively.
Intuitive eating is a fairly new concept in the past few years, and it’s super mainstream right now, and it can be incredibly challenging to practice, even for people like me, Registered Dietitians who eat well most of the time. What is intuitive eating, you ask? Well, it involves truly listening to your body, and giving it what it wants and needs; removing guilt associated with eating the “wrong” things, and creating an overall healthier relationship with food, and yourself.
One large component of intuitive eating involves honoring your hunger and fullness cues, which can be really tough. Many of us were trained to clean our plates no matter what, or we have that “must eat it all” mentality because we spent money on it and don’t want to let it go to waste, etc. Whatever the reason may be, a lot of us overeat. That’s just reality. But think to yourself for a second — how blah do you feel after you totally overstuff yourself with food, whether it’s a huge Mexican entree on top of bottomless chips & salsa, pizza, Halloween candy, or something in between? I know it happens (even to me), but I personally despise that feeling, so lately I’ve really been trying to eat more mindfully and stop when I’m full. Like I said, this is very difficult for me too, believe it or not. I’m human!
When it comes to holidays, special occasions, and even ordinary days, there really shouldn’t be any foods that you consider “off-limits” all the time. As I mentioned before, unnecessary restriction typically just leads to binging, but more importantly, it creates an unhealthy relationship between you and food. It’s human nature to want what we can’t have, so instead of making ice cream, carbs, salty snacks, etc., forbidden 24/7, practice portion control when you do eat those things; just don’t let them outweigh the more nutritious foods in your diet, especially fruits and veggies, healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole grains.
I do want to acknowledge that some people have to restrict certain things in their diets due to personal health issues, beliefs, etc., and should not be judged for making those decisions. We all have to do what is best for us and our health.
Moving on. In regards to Halloween candy, one good strategy would be to purchase candies and treats that are individually wrapped, or better yet “mini” or “fun-sized”. That will take care of the portion control part for you; then it’s up to you to stick to just one. Or maybe two. ; )
Have you ever heard the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”? It’s so true! If you have a big candy bowl on your desk staring at you and begging you to eat it all day every day at work, chances are, you are going to find your hand in that bowl quite often. Instead, place the candy in a less visible spot, such as a drawer or community area; then it won’t constantly be on your mind, but it is available if you have an afternoon craving. My recs to keep on hand would be things like dark chocolate Hershey kisses, mints, OR my healthy trail mix (which includes chocolate) — coming up soon! : )
Not to get too dietitian-y on you, but another thing to keep in mind is the latest Dietary Guidelines of Americans recommendation to limit added sugars to less than 10% of total daily calories. For someone on a ~2000 calorie/day diet, that would mean less than 200 calories (or 50 grams) are coming from added sugars each day. In case you’re curious as to what that looks like in terms of candy, here are just a few examples:
- 1 package or 2 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups = 22 grams of sugar
- But, a mini Reese’s cup = only 3.3 grams of sugar!
- 1 normal-sized bag of Skittles = 46 grams of sugar (almost an entire day’s worth)
- 1 normal-sized bag of M&Ms = 30 grams of sugar
On some days, you will probably exceed that amount (especially this week), and guess what? That’s life, and everything is going to be okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it or dwell on it for days; that is not helpful! Just get back to your normal routine and keep your chin up.
When it comes time to choose which types of candy you are going to “indulge” in this year, I would recommend simply going for whichever kinds you love the most! Even if it’s not necessarily the healthiest, now you know that depriving yourself of what you are truly craving isn’t always healthy either.
Life is about having fun, stressing less, doing what you love, laughing with friends, fully enjoying every bite of food you eat, and not skipping out on Halloween and Christmas parties and making memories because you want to avoid being “bad”; it’s also about loving your body and taking good care of it. What’s most important is following a generally healthy, balanced diet the majority of the time (and being active as often as possible) and practicing moderation when choosing less nutritious foods.
You are probably craving something now that is somewhat healthy, but also sweet, to stock the bowls around your house or office instead of candy.
Well, you’re in luck, because today I’m sharing my Healthy Homemade Trail Mix recipe!
I love this trail mix for multiple reasons. 1) It is chock-full of healthy fats, from multiple types of nuts, including omega-3s from walnuts; 2) it is extremely satiating, and helps quiet my in-between meal / all the time hunger; and 3) most importantly, it contains chocolate. The dried cranberries and dark chocolate give it the perfect little amount of sweetness to satisfy my sweet tooth, which is very much alive at all times of the day.
This is a great snack to bring to work to get you through that mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump between meals.
Pro tip: dish this trail mix out into snack-sized Ziploc bags or small Tupperware containers to bring to work/school to help with portion control. Otherwise it can be super easy to eat way too much straight out of the jar!
I have been making this at home for years now, so I figured it was time I stop holding out on you guys and share the recipe on the blog (rather than just Insta-stories) so you can refer back to it whenever you need it!
This trail mix could not be easier to make, and it’s seriously delish!
Wellness For The Win Healthy Homemade Trail Mix
- Unsalted Roasted Mixed Nuts (we buy this from Aldi because it’s WAY cheaper)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Reduced-Sugar Dried Cranberries (has 1/2 the sugar of the regular kind)
- Sea Salt Dry-Roasted Edamame (we buy this super cheap at Big Lots!)
- Chopped Walnuts
- Dark Chocolate Chips (the higher cocoa % the better)
- I don’t measure any of the ingredients, and you really don’t need to. I just pour in however much of each ingredient that I like, and call it good. If this gives you anxiety, let me know and I’ll come up with some rough estimates for you. ; )
- Ethan and I keep an OXO container full of this 24/7 in our pantry. Whenever it’s starting to get low, I just whip up another batch, because I always have all the ingredients I need. (I use most of them for salad toppings too!) Like I said, it’s great for bringing to work, something to snack on before dinner to avoid getting hangry, or even a bedtime snack!
- Portion trail mix into small Tupperware containers or baggies to bring with you anywhere you might need it.
Lastly, my good friend Dr. Julia Morgan of F.I.T Muscle & Joint Clinic reached out to me about sharing this post on their Instagram and website as well, because they too are passionate about nutrition and want to spread the word about the importance of a healthy diet and taking good care of your body for overall health & wellness.
F.I.T Muscle & Joint Clinic is a chiropractic clinic with 3 different locations in the Kansas City Area. I encourage you to check out their website here and follow them on Instagram at @fitmjc to see what services they can offer to help you achieve your best health.
Thanks so much for reading — have a Happy Halloween & enjoy snacking intuitively! ; )
Shanna Hutcheson, RD LD
#WellnessForTheWin #HealthyTrailMix #HealthySnacks
Love this go-to trailmix! Also loving everything you mentioned here. It truly goes back to the basics of balance! Nourishing foods can be so satisfying (when you find what you enjoy and works for you) AND you can still have your favorite foods!! ??
Thank you so much Lindsey! I couldn’t agree more — it’s all about finding that healthy balance that works for YOU!! So glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
You should do a post for lazy people that always forget to prep lunches ahead of time… are there healthy things you can grab together and shove in the microwave? (about the only cooking appliance in most offices) I would LOVE that!
I will try to come up with something! 🙂