Halloween marks the beginning of a long season of eating too many candy treats, not just for kids, but for many women, too. Candy indulgences are in full force around Halloween and follow a steady procession through the Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa season, right on to Valentines and, for some kids, Easter.
On Halloween, a kid’s bag with 60 pieces of “fun-size” treats would contain an estimated 4,800 calories—including 1.5 cups of fat and 3 cups of sugar, according to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Just one or two snack-size candies provide 100 calories.
No wonder one in three U.S. children and teens is considered overweight or obese and about 17 percent of kids are obese. That's triple the obesity percentage in 1980, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So what's a parent to do? First, we can't ignore it. Being overweight or obese puts children at risk for serious problems such as heart disease and diabetes. It can also affect joints, breathing, sleeping and moods, health experts say.
But we all remember how much fun Halloween can be. It is fine to let kids splurge once in a while—but make sure the occasional treat doesn't become a steady diet of sugar.
Here are some tips to help you and your kids control those holiday candy indulgences:
- Eat before the treats. Before your kids go out trick-or-treating, feed them a healthy meal. Maybe a bowl of chili or other hearty soup that will help keep them warm and prevent them from being so hungry that they want to eat every piece of candy handed to them. Same rule applies if you or your kids are going to a holiday party: Eat something healthy before you go, so you don't arrive overly hungry.
- Walk, don't ride. If you live in a safe neighborhood—or can get to one—take your kids trick-or-treating on foot. You'll all burn calories while they rake in the loot. For other holidays, remember to work out or at least work in some extra movement if you know you'll be splurging later in the day.
- Sort the candy. When the kids come home, have them dump their candy bags on a table, so you can make sure it all looks safe and not tampered with in any way. If there are candies your child doesn't care for, put them aside to give away or throw away. If you work in an office or have somewhere else you can share them, do so. If not, just dump them—and don't feel guilty. It's better for everyone's health.
- Set quotas. Depending on the age of your child, it may be OK to eat a couple of pieces—or even a dozen pieces—on Halloween night. But, enough is enough. It's no fun to eat until you're sick, so make sure that they don't. After the first rush of sugar, tell your child that they are only permitted a piece (or two) a day. For example, they may pack one small treat in their school lunch and have another after school. No more.
- Put it away. After giving away any candy that the kids don't want, seal the rest in a plastic zippered bag and put it out of site. You can store it in a cabinet or the refrigerator or freezer. Just put it somewhere it's not staring you or your kids in the face: out of sight, out of mind.
- Toss it. You may find your kids lose interest after several weeks. If so, it's OK to just toss the remainder in the trash.
Another occasion and more treats will roll around before you know it.