5 Tips for a Healthy Halloween
- Posted in Health & Wellness Tips
Halloween is that sweet time of year when children can collect and eat as much candy as they want. But with the obesity rate triple what it was a generation ago, and the number of cavities among children increasing for the first time in 40 years, some health experts consider the candy-focused holiday a nightmare.
Based on the nutrition labels on popular candies, the average child accumulates 3,500 to 7,000 calories worth of treats on Halloween night, according to Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s School of Public Health. According to a recent report, a 100-pound child who consumed all of those treats, or 7,000 calories, would have to walk for nearly 44 hours or play full-court basketball for 14.5 hours to burn those calories.
Are you wondering if it’s possible to have a healthy Halloween? Well, you can incorporate healthy foods, even workouts, into trick-or-treating — Here are some tips from dentists and nutritionists and some ideas for what to do with the rest of the loot when the trick and treating is over.
Fill up before trick-or-treating
If kids are full before they go trick-or-treating, then they will eat fewer pieces of candy afterwards. “Consider having your kids eat something healthy before they go out so they aren’t tempted to eat the candy along the way,” said Vandana Sheth, a registered dietician based in Los Angeles.
Hand out non-sugary foods and toys
Nutritionists suggest some more wholesome treats that parents could give trick-or-treaters. Kristi King, senior pediatric dietician at Texas Children’s Hospital, thinks animal crackers, mini rice cereal or granola bars, whole grain cheddar cheese crackers, and sugar free hot chocolate packets, make good treats. She also says kids will usually take cool toys over candy if given a choice, so she advises parents to consider pencils, erasers, stickers, tattoos, glow sticks, and Play-Doh containers. “Often [children’s] excitement is in collecting the candy, rather than eating the candy,”
Trick-or-Treat and Exercise
Make children walk from house to house instead of driving them. Parents can even encourage siblings or friends to wear pedometers or activity meters and start a friendly competition for who can be the most active while they are collecting candy.
Keep your favorite sweets. Hide the rest…
Some nutritionists suggest that a little goes a long way and say it’s best to allow kids to have 1-3 pieces of candy a day, starting with lunch at school, as an afternoon snack, or after dinner, making it a regular part of meals. The rest of the candy can go in the freezer so that it’s out of sight and out of mind.
Parents should be just as vigilant about their candy consumption as children, says Karen Ansel, a New York nutrition expert. “Kids go to school all day, and parents are often home with the candy lying around,” she said. “If you’re buying Halloween candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, buy your least favorite ones so that you are not tempted to eat them.”
…Or give it away
When children get back home from trick-or-treating, have them make two piles: one for the candy they want to keep, another for the candy they will not eat. Consider donating the second pile to a local senior citizens home, food pantry, Ronald McDonald House, or children’s hospital.
You can even make money off your stash and make a U.S. soldier’s day at the same time. This year, more than 1,000 dentists nationwide are buying candy from kids — $1 per pound — and then shipping it to U.S. troops overseas via Operation Gratitude as part of a Halloween Candy Buy-Back program, started by Wisconsin dentist Dr. Chris Kammer. He says that soldiers will receive toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash with each handful of candy so that they can brush thoroughly afterwards. “You can’t get a cavity in a short amount of time with a handful of exposures to candy,” he says.