Store shelves are packed with treats, pumpkin-themed items are in abundance, and everyone knows Halloween is around the corner. From corn syrup-packed candy corn, to chocolate-filled skulls, bats and eyeballs, this is the time of year when kids are most tempted by holiday treats. Halloween need not be the demise of dietitians or healthy dieters. However, planning ahead for this time of year is essential.
Here are some tips for a healthier Halloween:
1) Plan ahead
Talk to your kids about Halloween. Help them understand that this is not a time where junk food needs to be part of the daily diet. Discuss the downfalls of consuming a large amount of sugar-containing foods including cavities, blood sugar crashes, and upset tummies!
Most candy is loaded with sugar. Too much sugar has been proven to increase cavity formation in teeth, especially without proper dental hygiene. Further, candy is made of simple carbohydrates, which are broken down quickly in the body. This gives our bodies a rise and fall of blood glucose, causing “sugar crashes,” making us feel tired and fatigued quickly after consumption. Foods with complex carbohydrates are digested slower, which provides us with more steady blood glucose levels, leading us to feel satisfied longer.
2) Set a good example – Promote healthy treats
Instead of purchasing another bag of fun-size chocolate bars, this year try these alternatives:
Snyder’s Halloween Mini Pretzels
Brother’s All Natural Disney Fruit Crisps
Welch’s Fruit Snacks
Mini boxes of raisins
Individual bags of popcorn
Tube yogurts (Stoneyfield Farms Squeezers or Horizon Organic Tuberz)
Or think of some non-food items available at your dollar store including crayons, mini cars, sticker books, Frisbees or even Whoopie cushions!
3) Enjoy Trick or Treating, but avoid indulging until you get home
Advise your kids to divide the candy when they return home from trick or treating. Allow them to pick out about 30 or so pieces of candy. This holiday should be filled with treats, but don’t let it get out of hand. As a parent, it is our job to set limits.
What to do with the rest of the candy? Donate it to your kids’ school for special occasions, use it to make a gingerbread house or project for the holiday season, or simply just throw it away. Resist the temptation to take it to the office. For the same reasons the candy shouldn’t be around your kids, bringing it to work will just increase the waistlines of our colleagues.
4) Consume in moderation, suggest a 1-piece-per-day rule
Dispense the chosen 30 or so treats into a bowl, and let your kids pick 1-2 pieces per day. Candy calories add up, so during this holiday season, it is important to balance the treats with healthy foods as well. Remember, adding just 50 calories per day can pack on 5 pounds per year! Kids need to incorporate good calories along with vitamins and minerals to maintain growth and development. If they are filled up with empty calories from candy, they will not benefit.
5) Guide your kids to make smart decisions
When your kids are dividing their stash, guide them to make smart choices. Looking at the nutrition facts, some candy may be more satisfying than others, thus our kids MAY not be tempted to want more. For example, in just one fun-size pack of peanut M&M’s, there are 90 calories, but also 5 g fat and 2 g protein. The protein and fat content will help satisfy the sweet tooth. Better yet, because the fat and protein take longer to digest than simple sugars, such as those contained in candy corn, they may be less likely to yearn for more.
Take the stress out of the holiday by following these easy tips. Happy Halloween!