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Prairie Fare: Tame the Holiday Treats Behind Most Doors

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
The good news is that “discretionary calories,” such as sweet treats, can fit in an overall healthy diet.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

The doorbell rang at about 9 p.m. on Halloween. My bowl of treats for the visiting miniature superheroes and ghouls was nearly empty. I looked out the window to see how many trick-or- treaters were at my door. I was contemplating “plan B” treats just in case I had a bunch of visiting goblins.

When I looked out, I couldn’t see anything, not even the lamp in my yard.

This is odd, I thought to myself. I tentatively opened our front door to get a better look. I was greeted by a door blocking the light. The door had a sign that said “knock on the door.” I paused, a bit leery about what would happen next.

I was a little hesitant to reach out, so I said “knock, knock.” I half expected a punch line.

A high school-aged girl popped out from behind the door and said, “This is a reverse trick or treat!” She extended her hand toward me.

I’m sure I had a dumbfounded expression on my face. After an awkward pause, I reached out and she dropped candy in my hand.

"Wow, thank you!" I said as she and the door walked to the next house.

At this time of year, opportunities for treats await us behind almost every door. The treats begin with Halloween candy, continue with pies and assorted goodies at Thanksgiving and build to cookies, fudge and trays of treats at Christmas and New Year’s parties.

The good news is that “discretionary calories,” such as sweet treats, can fit in an overall healthy diet. Depending on age, gender and physical activity level, most people have room for about 200 calories worth of treats once they meet their basic nutrition needs based on the recommendations in

If you have a sweet tooth, don’t be dismayed. We’re born with a liking for sweet foods, which dates back to our distant ancestors and served as a mechanism for survival. A sweet food was more likely to be a safe, edible food.

As an ingredient in many foods, sugar has several functions. Sugar serves as food for yeast, allowing bread to rise. It provides flavor, enhances tenderness and aids in browning. It improves the appearance of canned fruits and it serves as a preservative in jams and jellies.

Sugar, like most other ingredients, also provides calories. Too many calories from any source, whether carbohydrate, protein or fat, can promote weight gain. Managing portion sizes is the key to preventing weight gain and the various health issues associated with being overweight or obese.

Enjoy your favorite treats with moderation in mind. Now is the time to come up with a plan to manage the opportunities for treats of all types. Try these tips:

  • Tame your appetite by having a bowl of soup, such as chicken noodle, before you leave for a party.
  • Stand a distance from the serving table and spend most of your time talking. Remember your manners: Don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Watch your beverages. They can add lots of calories. Sip on ice water or diet soda instead of punch.
  • Give yourself a generous helping of fresh fruits and vegetables. Go light on the dip.
  • Decide in advance how many treats you will have. Many types of cookies contain 100 or more calories each. An extra 100 calories a day can result in a 10-pound weight gain in a year.
  • Use a napkin instead of a plate to gather your food. That way you are less likely to choose the higher-fat, higher-calorie “sticky” foods.

Here’s a seasonal treat with fewer calories and fat than the traditional pumpkin pie.

Magic Crust Pumpkin Pie

2 large eggs

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (or 2 c. cooked pumpkin)

1 c. nonfat dry milk powder

2/3 c. brown or white sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. water

Whipped topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together, except water, in a large bowl. Gradually stir in water until well mixed. Pour into a greased 9-inch pie plate or an 8-inch by 8-inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the center comes out clean. Top with whipped topping if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 140 calories, 30 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 2 g of fat, 2 g of fiber and 140 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., 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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