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Prairie Fare: Let’s Define “Moderate” Eating

You won’t set a record for longevity by eating lots of candy.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

With 12 years of experience as a mother, I have grown accustomed to “selective hearing.” For some reason, sometimes my kids can’t detect my voice.

Today I experienced the results of “selective reading.” My children weren’t involved.

I was amused because chocolate was involved.

As I sat at my computer in my office, I overheard a conversation just outside my door. The conversation involved one of our nutrition graduate students, who has been working on a project in schools.

“The teachers were talking about candy. They mentioned a newspaper column that said we should eat more candy because it’s good for our health,” she quoted the teachers as saying.

From the sound of it, the teachers were enjoying more than a “moderate” amount of candy bars.

My ears perked up. I popped out of my office into the conversation. Yes, that was my column, but that wasn’t exactly the message I was trying to convey.

Here’s the research I quoted in my article. Harvard researchers studied the relationship between candy consumption and lifespan among male alumni who were undergraduates between 1916 and 1950. They took age, diet, physical activity and smoking habits into account as they studied the data.

Those who ate 1.5 ounces of candy one to three times a month lived about a year longer than those who skipped the candy jar. They encouraged more research.

Bottom line: you won’t set a record for longevity by eating lots of candy. You may be storing your future teeth in a glass of water at night if you don’t brush your real ones after indulging, too.

Somehow, at least some of my readers appear to have skipped the part about how much candy the long-lived Harvard alums ate and how often they ate it. Eating 1.5 to 4.5 ounces of candy per month is fairly “moderate.”

Eating a similar amount of candy per day is not necessarily “moderate.”

Yes, it’s okay to enjoy “some” candy and other treats of choice, but not necessarily “more” than you currently are consuming. Grabbing a handful of leftover Halloween candy every time you pass the treat bowl isn’t necessarily good for your waistline, either.

Would a chocolate candy kiss or two satisfy your chocolate craving? Try it.

Candy and other treats are part of our “discretionary calories.” We all get some calories to “spend” as we wish after we’ve met our basic needs. You can learn your allotment of discretionary calories and ways to maximize your “essential calories” by visiting

If you prefer your discretionary calories to be crisp and salty, enjoy a “few” potato chips. Read the nutrition label, place a serving in a bowl and put the rest of the chips out of reach. Pay attention to what you’re eating. Eat the chips slowly and enjoy the texture and flavor.

If you have a chocolate craving, dip some fresh strawberries in chocolate sauce. If you’d like something sweet, try some crisp apples and pears with low-fat dip, such as this recipe.

Fruit and Dip

8 ounces yogurt, low-fat vanilla

2 Tbsp. orange juice, 100 percent juice, frozen concentrate, thawed

1 Tbsp. lime juice

2 tsp. brown sugar

2 red or green apples, cored and sliced

2 pears, cored and sliced

Mix together first four ingredients and refrigerate. Just before serving, prepare fruit. Makes four servings. Each serving has 140 calories, 1 gram (g) of fat, 3 g of fiber and 32 g of carbohydrate.

(Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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