Tips for a fun and healthy Halloween
How much is too much when it comes to Halloween candy?
Since 2016, The American Heart Association (AHA) advises children consume no more than 6 teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar per day. One fun-sized Snickers bar contains about 2 teaspoons of sugar, which is one-third of a child’s daily total recommended intake. In addition, the AHA reports children already consume three times the recommended amount each day. As a result, Halloween serves as a day to exacerbate the already alarming sugar statistics.
What’s the harm?
The study published by the AHA found that a diet high in added sugar is strongly associated with weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, abnormal cholesterol, and fatty liver disease in children. All of those factors increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes later in life.
My child brought home a bulging bag of Halloween candy - Now what?
No need to confiscate the whole bag. Instead, consider setting a limit to how much candy your child is allowed to consume. For example, have your child choose their favorite 25 pieces of candy to keep and allow them to add one piece to their lunch every day. What to do with the extra candy? Ask around your community for places to donate the sweets. Dentists and pediatricians often have candy buy back incentives. For example, for every pound of candy a child donates to a dentist office, a dentist may give a prize or even cash. The office will then donate the candy to a charitable organization.
Sugar is not the only villain around Halloween. Food allergies in children are on the rise and can be a literal nightmare for parents. Researchers with the Food and Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE) approximate 5.9 million children under the age of 18 have at least one food allergy. That statistic translates into one in every 13 children or about two children in every classroom. Many food allergies are life threatening and as a result, any sweet with a possible allergen is unsafe to come into contact with a child.
How can I help?
Consider placing a teal pumpkin on your porch this year. The Teal Pumpkin Project was started by FARE to bring awareness to food allergies and to give all children an opportunity to enjoy Halloween. The teal pumpkin symbolizes a house that offers non-food treats to trick-or-treaters. Passing out non-food treats is great tradition to start because even children with no food allergies can enjoy it! Some ideas include glow sticks, bubbles, novelty stickers, funky pencils, and costume jewelry. Register your house at tealpumpkinproject.org and let your neighbors know your house is allergy friendly this year!
More nutritious treats
Maybe non-food treats sound fun but you also want to promote nutrient-dense snack choices. Consider offering clementine oranges decorated like a Jack O’Lantern. Pass out applesauce “monster” cups adorned with googly eyes. No time to decorate? There are lots alternatives at your local grocery store. Boxes of raisins, bags of trail mix, and bags of pumpkin-shaped pretzels are nutritious treats all pre-packaged and dressed for the occasion.
No matter what you choose to pass out for Halloween, consider creative ways you can dial down the sugar and turn up the fun.