Today’s blog post comes from Mary Donkersloot, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant with a private nutrition practice in Beverly Hills, California. Donkersloot has helped individuals dealing with diabetes, heart disease, weight management, and eating disorders for more than 20 years. She is also one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors.
Every year at this time the question comes up. How should parents handle the over-abundance of Halloween candy? And every year, my advice is the same. Let kids have their candy, enjoy it, and use it as an opportunity to teach them to set limits. Parse it out over the week, giving kids a few pieces each night. Parents shouldn’t hesitate to say, “that’s enough!” and put the bag out of reach if the child has a hard time maintaining control.
While the debate about sugar’s role in obesity, diabetes and heart disease goes on, no one denies Americans eat too much added sugar.
It’s not the kind put into foods by Mother Nature, like the sugar in fruit, but the type in processed foods, or the sugar added to beverages or cereal. The average American takes in about 22 teaspoons of this added sugar each day. That adds up to 17 pounds of sugar per person, per year. According to the American Heart Association, the daily target should be no more than six teaspoons for women (24 grams), nine for men (36 grams.)
Rather than get too bent out of shape about Halloween candy, move on to something more important — the amount of sugar in the diet on a daily basis. It’s a good time to take stock – how much sugar are you and your children getting on a typical? Here are a few foods you might want to check:
- Peanut butter
- Protein bars
- Orange Chicken
- Macaroni and cheese
- Chicken tenders
- Salad dressing
Do the best you can to get the sugar OUT of your meals, and then give yourself permission to have a Halloween treat or a dessert. My favorite fall dessert is pumpkin custard. I like it because it is not only a treat, but also contains beta-carotene, milk, egg protein, and fiber. Here’s the recipe adapted from a can of pureed pumpkin.
¾ cup solid-pack pumpkin
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground allspice
1 cup low-fat, evaporated milk
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325F.
Whisk pumpkin, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in milk. Divide mixture among soufflé dishes. Place dishes in large baking pan. Add enough water to baking pan to come halfway up sides of dishes. Bake until custard is set, about 55 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate up to 2 days.