by Katherine Roberts, MD
It’s that time of year again. Pumpkins everywhere (including the flavor in your coffee), costumes on display, and kids getting excited for…candy! I have loved Halloween since I was a kid (and still do!), but as a pediatrician I cringe at the idea of mounds of candy and sugar highs paving the way for cavities and diabetes in our otherwise healthy kids. So here are some tips to keep Halloween both healthy and fun:
Preparing for Trick or Treat Day
Younger children: Focus on fun at home
Children less than 3 years old can easily do without candy and not feel they are missing anything. Their fun is in dressing up, painting or carving pumpkins, and delivering treats to trick-or-treaters. You can also trick-or-treat at home, having your child walk from room to room, and fill their Halloween bag with some healthy goodies and little toys.
Preschool-aged children enjoy these same activities as when they were younger, so keep up the fun activities at home. When you do go trick-or-treating, visit just a few houses and you can start by putting healthy treats in their bag first to get them started.
Elementary and older children: Talk about it!
While you are planning that perfect costume, include talking to your child about candy consumption ahead of time in a positive way. Do not make Halloween candy the evil “forbidden fruit” that needs to be controlled. Instead talk about how it is a treat, and treats are a “sometimes” food that are enjoyed in small quantities, and are best balanced with healthy foods. You can ask them how many pieces of candy they would like to eat that day. Although they might not stick to that number, the act of asking them and discussing it in advance sends the message that you trust that they will make thoughtful choices. This empowers kids to be a part of the discussion, rather than feeling controlled.
Hand out non-food treats
When choosing treats to be handed out in your own home, consider purchasing non-food treats such as coloring books or pens and pencils, temporary tattoos, stickers and glow-sticks.
The Big Day
Eat a healthy meal
Have a healthy meal with protein before going out trick or treating. This will keep your kids feeling full and less likely to load up on sweets through the night.
Sorting through the loot
Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items. Also set the number of treats that your child can keep – you may even want to separate the goodies into categories and choose a specific amount from each. Encourage them to sell the rest to a local dentist candy buy-back program. Most dentists participating in a Halloween buy-back program will pay $1 per pound of candy, which is then shipped out in care packages for U.S. soldiers serving overseas. Ask your pediatric dentist whether they are participating in a similar program during the first week of November.
Keep leftover candy out of sight. It shouldn’t necessarily be hidden, but it does help to not have the visual reminder day-in and day-out. Generally, the stash gets forgotten after a week or two.
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The contents of this web site are provided as an informational tool. This is not intended to replace medical advice or care administered by a healthcare professional. Common sense should always be used when referencing this site. If, at any time, you feel your child is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.