NUTRITION | Ask Elesha
Have a Happy and Healthy Halloween
Every Halloween, kids across the country head out for trick-or-treating and the amount of sugar consumed can be frightening! Children love the sweets associated with this festive season, so a little indulging is inevitable (even nutritionists’ kids eat candy!).
Is there any way to cut back without being a monster? While we don’t want to spoil the fun, we can set limits. Reduce your kids’ sugar rush by following a few tips to help make this a healthier Halloween:
- Feed them a nutritious meal before going trick-or-treating or at least a small, healthy meal when they get home from school on Halloween. If they hit the streets hungry, they will only feast on more candy.
- Limit the number of homes to lessen the amount of candy. You may want to set a time limit or agree to trick-or-treat on a certain number of blocks in your neighborhood.
- Reduce additional sugar in the house by getting rid of sugary cereals and sodas since you know they will be eating more candy than usual over the next several weeks.
- Establish a rationing system. Allow your kids to select two to three pieces of candy per day. Pair the candy with a healthy snack or a glass of milk or water.
- Practice out of sight, out of mind. Instead of letting your kids keep the candy in their bedrooms, keep it in a kitchen drawer so you can supervise when it is eaten. Most kids, especially younger ones, will forget about the candy after a few days. This will be another opportunity to throw out candy or donate to a local school or shelter. For older kids, offer to buy back some of the candy.
- Buy your candy at the last minute. Storing candy for Halloween in the house ahead of time will cause everyone to eat more even before the trick-or-treating begins.
- Encourage healthier candy selections. Snickers, Peanut M&M’s or any chocolate candy with nuts are more filling, as opposed to candies that are nothing but sugar, and the nuts provide a little protein and heart-healthy fat. Dark chocolate is an added bonus—it packs healthful antioxidants and the rich taste will typically stop you from over-indulging. Discourage brightly colored candy like Skittles, Gummy Worms, Candy Corn and Starburst; while these choices are sometimes lower in calories and are usually fat-free, they don’t provide any nutrients—just pure sugar. The sugar surge spikes blood sugar levels, followed by a drastic drop that leaves you feeling fatigued and usually hungry for more.
- Try a few lower-sugar options like sugarless gum (it’s still gum; they won’t know the difference) or individual bags of pretzels, peanuts, popcorn or trail mix.
- Think outside the candy box. Explore party supply and dollar stores for alternative treats to pass out on Halloween, such as small yo-yos, stickers, temporary tattoos, bubbles, bouncy balls, crayons, crazy pens or pencils or trading cards. Since kids will already have an overwhelming amount of candy, they may appreciate a toy.
The bottom line: Let kids enjoy Halloween and have fun, but set a few limits to prevent hyperactivity, stomachaches, trouble sleeping and of course, so many extra, empty calories.
For more information, contact registered dietitian, Elesha Kelleher, MPH at (504) 842-6096 or [email protected].