10 Tips for a Healthy Halloween

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This week’s guest blog is written by Andrea Berez, MS, RD. Andrea is a registered dietitian and a certified specialist in pediatric nutrition.  For more information about her services and to read her bio, check out our team page at http://lwwellness.com/about/our-team/.

 

Halloween is just around the corner, and your kids can’t stop talking about how much more candy they’re going to get than their siblings or friends. Of course, all you can think about is how little candy you and your kids can get away with, so that everyone can still have their treat, but avoid sugar highs and crashes, stomachaches, and unwanted weight gain.  

 

Not only has the obesity rate tripled in children since the ‘80s; the number of cavities in children has started increasing for the first time in 40 years. The average trick-or-treater consumes 3,500-7,000 calories worth of treats alone (one to two pounds) just on Halloween, and 3 cups of sugar, the equivalent of 220 sugar packets!  

 

In order for the average 100-pound child to burn those calories, he/she would have to walk nearly 44 hours or play full-court basketball for 14.5 hours straight! We, as parents, know that will never happen!  So, the question becomes, how can you keep Halloween a treat for your kids, without it being too tricky?  Here are some tips that you and your family can try…

 

  1. Make a plan ahead of time.  Your homework as a parent is to first decide which of these tip(s) will work best for you and your family.  The goal is that each person in the household is satisfied and you feel like you can live with the choices as well.
  2. Consider being somewhat lenient on Halloween. For some parents, letting their kids indulge on that day may be okay as long as there is a discussion of how the rest of the candy will be handled.  (This will be discussed in more detail in upcoming tips.) Again, the key is that a plan should still be in place for dealing with the days prior and following Halloween.
  3. Consider handing out less sugary foods or toys.  This can benefit both the trick-or-treaters and your family. Having leftovers of healthier foods will have health benefits for you and your family in the long-run. Examples of less sugary treats include small apples, small packages of pretzels, raisins, animal crackers, whole grain cereal or crackers, mini cereal or granola bars, trail mix (not containing candy) light/low fat popcorn, Kind Bars, mini Lara bars, and Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Bug Bites.  Examples of toys that can be given out are stickers, erasers, fun straws, glow sticks, false teeth, Play Doh containers, bubbles, pens, pencils, creepy creatures, flashing rings, and small games such as card games. The American Dental Association has taken a stance against cavities with its “Stop Zombie Mouth” campaign, offering coupons for the game “Plant vs. Zombies”, as well as coupons for other items such as hats and tee-shirts that can be given out to trick-or-treaters instead of candy.  See http://www.stopzombiemouth.com.
  4. If you like to hand out candy, purchase it the day of.  That way it’s not sitting in your house ahead of time for days for all those tempting lurkers (including yourself).  Also, consider buying less than what you think you need, because, let’s face it, you usually have lots of leftovers!  Remember to make sure you buy the most mini version of the candy that you can find. You may also consider buying candy you and your family least typically crave so the leftovers are less tempting.  
  5. Fill up before trick-or-treating.  Just like you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you and your kids should not go out trick or treating on an empty stomach.  If you and your kids eat a family wholesome meal or filling snack ahead of time, there will be less noshing on the treats while trick-or-treating and much less over-consuming overall.  
  6. Buy back some or all of the remaining candy.  Give your child a nickel or so for each remaining piece of candy leftover.  They’ll be excited to get a big stash for their piggy bank to help save up for that special toy or activity they’ve been wanting so badly.
  7. Or donate the leftover candy.  Many dentists have a buy back program, which supports military support groups. See http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com. Your child can also donate their leftover candy to a local food bank, hospital or shelter.
  8. Don’t make Halloween an excuse to eat candy.  Just because it’s Halloween, doesn’t mean it’s the one day of the year that you and your kids should eat candy to your/their hearts and stomach’s content (which ultimately becomes a discontent!) Don’t restrict candy for days or weeks ahead of time, as this will only cause a candy binge on that day. The motto should always be everything in moderation!
  9. Be a good role model.  Whichever of these tips you decide to try and/or adopt, make sure you follow them best.  Your family will more likely do as they see. Remember, as with everything else in life, you set the bar for how you expect your children to act.
  10. Allow your children to take part in the decision-making.  Give younger children choices for the treats (or toys) your family gives out.  Allow them to make the ultimate decision so that they’re excited about what is being given out.  If you have older children or teens, encourage them to be mindful of how much candy they eat, and to stop before they feel full or sick.
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