Lately, large displays of Halloween treats greet us as we shop for groceries and other necessities. That means that little goblins with flashlights and plastic jack-o-lantern buckets will be haunting neighborhoods and shopping malls collecting goodies.
However, kids in Halloween costumes aren’t the only ones who enjoy sweet treats. Americans spend about $102 per person yearly on candy, and the candy industry tops $3 billion in sales in the United States according the National Confectioners Association.
Here’s a study that many a “sweet tooth” will hold up as evidence for candy as an essential nutrient. Harvard researchers studied the relationship between candy consumption and lifespan among Harvard University alumni who were undergraduate students from 1916 to 1950.
All the subjects were males who completed questionnaires and detailed their eating habits, including candy consumption. The researchers took age, physical activity, diet and smoking into consideration when studying the data.
The somewhat surprising news: Eating candy was associated with living longer. Males who ate about 1.5 ounces of candy one to three times per month lived about a year longer than those who skipped the candy jar.
Note that the amount of candy was consumed per month, not per day.
However, emptying the candy jar daily does not mean you can set the Guinness World Record for longevity. Perhaps the candy consumers were just a little happier because they were looking forward to a sweet treat.
Or maybe, as the researchers speculated, the antioxidant chemicals (phenols) in chocolates helped protect them against cancer and heart disease. Dark chocolate, by the way, is higher in protective antioxidants.
In reality, this isn’t a license to eat a daily chocolate bar without some other possible consequences. Does buying a larger wardrobe fit into your budget? Enjoy an occasional treat-size candy bar to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Engage the “rule of one” in your life: one small treat per day.
Parents should inspect candy before their excited kids enjoy the tempting loot from an evening of trick-or-treating. Kids and parents should agree on guidelines for the number of treats to enjoy per day. Sweet, sticky treats can cause cavities, so make sure that little ghouls brush their “fangs” well after enjoying a few treats.
Here are some suggestions from the American Dietetic Association for nutritious goodies and a few non-food items that will please the little goblins haunting your neighborhood. For more information about healthful eating, visit this Web site: www.eatright.org
- Individual boxes of mini rice cereal bites
- Cereal bars
- Small boxes of raisins or other dried fruit
- Sugar-free gum
- 100 percent fruit juice boxes
- Snack-size packages of peanut butter and crackers, graham crackers or oatmeal cookies
- Halloween pencils, pens, stickers, tattoos or spider rings
Here’s a tasty recipe featuring the icon of Halloween, the pumpkin. Before sending children out to haunt the neighborhood they might enjoy a small cauldron of this tasty, naturally sweet soup. This recipe is courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension.
Quick and Easy Creamy Pumpkin Soup
2 c. finely chopped onions
2 green onions, sliced thinly, tops included
1/2 c. finely chopped celery
1 green chili pepper, chopped
1/2 c. canola oil
3 (14.5-ounce) cans chicken broth, reduced sodium or 6 cups homemade chicken stock
1 (16-ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 c. undiluted, evaporated skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley
Note: Canned chicken broth and canned pumpkin may contain added salt. Taste the finished soup before adding salt, as additional salt may not be needed.)
1. In a 6-quart saucepan, sauté onions, green onions, celery and chili pepper in oil. Cook until onions begin to look translucent.
2. Add broth, pumpkin, bay leaf, and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove bay leaf. Add evaporated milk and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Do not boil. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, if desired.
4. Transfer hot soup to pumpkin tureen. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Serve hot.
Makes eight servings. Each serving has 210 calories, 15 grams (g) fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 3 g fiber and 100 milligrams of sodium (with added salt).