Eating candy stock

By this time today, it’s highly likely that you are sitting at home on your couch, rifling through the remainders of your kids’ — or your own — Halloween candy.

You have obviously picked out the “good stuff” and have tossed aside the Smarties and other various nonchocolate items. You have eaten your fair share of candy, probably repeated the phrase “I shouldn’t be eating this,” and even repeated that phrase as you were unwrapping something delightful to stuff into your face.

Don’t worry. You are pretty normal. But lets talk about all that sugar since we are gearing up for holiday season and no one wants to tack on that extra “holiday five.”

If you were to eyeball one of those candy labels, could you discern how much sugar you are consuming? Do you speak in “grams”? This is often a question I ask my students. The resounding answer is “no.” In fact, I don’t know anyone who speaks the technical language of gram conversion. So, to ease that up for you, four grams is equal to a teaspoon. I’ll list a few Halloween candies with their accompanying sugar amounts, from most to least, for your references. Note: all of these are the Halloween “fun” sizes.

Skittles: 14.5 grams, Whoppers: 13 grams, Nerds: 12 grams, M&M’s Plain and Peanut Butter: 11.5 grams, 100 Grand, Dots, Milky Way Dark, York Peppermint Patty: all have 11 grams, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: 10.5 grams, 3 Musketeers, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Charleston Chew, Milky Way: all 10 grams, M&M Peanut, Mike & Ike, Raisinets, Take 5: all 9 grams, Almond Joy, Heath Bar, PayDay, Snickers, Twix: all 8 to 8.5 grams, Hershey’s Bar, Jelly Bellys, Kit Kat, Mounds, Mr. Goodbar, Nestle Crunch: all 7 grams, Milk Duds: 6.3 grams, and SweeTarts: 2.4 grams.

Now let’s assume that you can just “work off” your food through exercise alone. Let’s choose a few of these candies and see how much exercise you would have to do to burn off a few of them. For this measurement, we will use calorie content. Starting with a fun-size Snickers, 130 calories, you would have to jump rope for five minutes. A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, 110 calories, would see you running for five minutes at a 10 minutes per mile pace. A little pack of Whoppers at 100 calories? That would put you on a stationary bike for five minutes – peddling vigorously. One of those delightful little Twix mini-bars with 80 calories would set you back a 15-minute walk.

Calories are interesting little things. There’s lots of science and research behind what they do and how they behave in your body. All in all, there are about 3,500 calories in a pound. So, you would have to eat about 29-30 100 calorie-fun-size candies to reach that number.

Is that possible? Yes! It seems that about everyone has a little dish of candy out and it’s just all too easy to walk by and mindlessly snack on one. If you needed to burn all that off, you are looking at five hours of jump rope or running! That sounds just painful and seriously time-consuming.

Perhaps the idea isn’t to refrain completely, unless you have serious willpower, but to snack mindfully. Try just getting the treat from your co-worker or from your own snack dish, and just put it down for a little while before you eat it. That could help you see if you really want to eat it or if you are just mindlessly eating. Consider putting all of the wrappers from your already eaten treats where you can see them. This may help you see how many you have consumed and help you put the brakes on the sugar consumption.

Moving into the holiday season, consider mindful eating as a way to help you through the times where food is sometimes plentiful. Watch the sugar intake. If you are getting a soda with your meal, skip the dessert. Put a few green things on your plate. Don’t make the samples at Trader Joe’s a buffet and park further away from your shopping center to get a little more exercise. Overall, enjoy the season, and remember that moderation is the key!

Dr. Merilee Larsen is an assistant professor of public health at Utah Valley University.