CORIANNE EGAN | The Sun
Halloween candy is just one category of fall treats and foods that don't provide the best nutritional value, as many of these treats can be loaded with sugar and excessive calories that people's bodies don't burn off. Where more calories are consumed than expended, the excess calories will be stored in people's bodies as fat.
MURRAY — The fall season is known as much for its colorful splendor and waning temperatures as it is for America’s lively sporting traditions and fall festivals.
So while the chilly air might beckon a bowl of steaming chili for a game-day tailgate party, how can people enjoy the seasonal fare without taking the caloric plunge and packing on the pounds?
According to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, calories consumed must equal calories expended to maintain the same body weight, so consuming additional calories than lost results in weight gain. And with current trends of overweight and obesity in the United States, many Americans are in a caloric imbalance.
Lauren Gray, a registered dietitian with Murray-Calloway County Hospital, suggested taking some healthy variations on those fall staples, and it can start with steering clear of the late-night Halloween candy splurge.
“Try to avoid it all as much as possible, but for a lot of us it’s habit and it’s just something that’s going to happen,” Gray said.
According to the USDA, while many candy bars average more than 200 calories and more than 20 grams of sugar per serving, a feast on some of the most popular treats can quickly add up. And especially when consuming several bars just before bed, the majority of those unused calories absorb into the body and are stored as fat.
Therefore, Gray suggested seeking sugar-free candies or the fun-sized treats which usually contain a fraction of the calories, sugar and carbohydrates.
“Don’t buy too much candy because a lot of times if it’s there we’re not going to want it to go to waste and we tend to eat it,” she said. “Keep the kids’ and grandkids’ trick-or-treat bags put away because if it’s sitting there, not only are you going to be tempted to dig in it, your kids will too. Out of sight, out of mind.”
Additionally, for people waiting to hand out candy, the bowl of sweets can be extra tempting. Seek a healthier snack choice like fresh fruit or heart-healthy nuts. If the chocolate craving is inescapable, though, opt for a moderate amount of dark chocolate over milk chocolate. Gray said dark chocolate has less calories, less fat and is rich in anti-oxidants.
For those die-hard fans that stake out their favorite football games every weekend, the deeper into the season means colder temperatures and a warmer, heartier buffet of tailgating treats. But consequently, many of those favorite fried foods pack loads of fats and calories.
“For most of us, the typical game day foods are generally the things that aren’t best for us,” Gray said. “The common denominator is that most of these foods are fried and very high in fat.”
Instead of cooking fried chicken wings, opt for baked wings, and instead of traditional meaty chilies, Gray suggested cooking leaner chili with low sodium ingredients, vegetables, beans and leaner meats.
Reaching for the lighter beer helps also, as many light beers contain fewer than 100 calories per bottle, Gray said. For people really staying conscious of calories, simple exercise or activity like throwing the pigskin before the game, can help burn needless calories and keep the body in check.
“With just some simple switches, we can still enjoy our favorite game day foods,” she said.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.