The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

October 3, 2012

Please Do Not (Over)Feed The Boos

We’re facing trick-or-treat season here in one of the most overweight states in America, a country battered and deep-fried in a serious epidemic. There’s a greater than 30 percent obesity rate for the West Virginia population. Misery loves company from a national perspective when it comes to oversized youth — holding at 15 percent in overweight high school students for the Mountain State, among a combined national average of 13 percent (for students with a BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile, according to 2011 Centers for Disease Control data).

All of which beg the question: Is there any reason we should still give out candy for Halloween? At least those who feel the conviction to try and promote a healthy lifestyle might consider a few healthy alternatives.

Before entirely deboarding the good ship lollipop, remember the fun you had assuming another identity for a night, becoming the hero you always admired or adopting a personality you weren’t brave enough to try in broad daylight. You don’t have to take to handing out pistachios to travel the nutritional highroad.

 Average miniaturized Halloween versions of candy bars are at least 100 calories per serving less than their full-sized parents. Snickers minis, for instance, are 170 calories for four squares, versus 271 calories in a full-sized bar. And who says anyone has to have a full four squares? A conscientious eater could, in theory, enjoy a single Snickers snack for just under 50 calories. One could even make the argument that there are healthy peanuts swimming somewhere in the ocean of nougatty, caramel goodness.

Those forced by conscience into straddling the fence between hosting an all-out Wonka-fest and getting toilet-papered for going treatless could consider the best of the worst. Raisinettes, a candy standard, are sugary, but mostly from the raisins. Peanut M&Ms are generally accepted among the healthy set as at least more nutritionally dense than their solid chocolate siblings, and a definite go-to when your only option for lunch is the office vending machine. Dark chocolate versions of any candy are usually more healthy than their milk chocolate counterparts, with less sugar and a higher level of antioxidants.

When parting from among the popular, avoid the charlatanism of “fat free”. It’s usually added sugar making up for all the fat-cutting. Nutritionally flat though they may be, Twizzlers are guilty of playing the fat-free card, but they’re still this old girl’s weakness. Four of the snack-sized versions have only 120 calories (though mostly carbs). Still, on a good night, I can self-restrain to stealing just one from my kids’ bounty for 30 calories of artificial fruit-flavored satisfaction and a little guilt-free energy boost. In fact, I’d be disappointed if everyone read this article and boycotted candy-giving altogether. Sheesh, people! Lighten up!

If you’re going to just say no to feeding Spiderman, channel all that social responsibility into doing more. Volunteer to help a local church or organization with their Fall Festival efforts or Tailgate Halloweens. Treat the neighborhood kids to a community Halloween party, do a walk-through Haunted Garage with the help of a few neighbors or plan to perspire through a haunted trail or cornmaze with your own goblins.

But for those zombies who, in spite of the unholy and unhealthy tags stamped against their favorite fall activity, still press on furred and frilled against a waning gibbous moon, couldn’t you at least reward them for the trek? Find NO or LOW CALORIE giveaways like these and keep them by the door. That way, you won’t be among the dark, unwelcoming houses  every kid hates where, not knowing what to do, someone refused to do anything at all.

— lshrewsberry@register-herald.com

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