Halloween Candy: A Treat or a Trick?

Fall is fast approaching, and when many of us think of this season of cooler temps and falling leaves, we think Halloween.  Some of your kids are probably already dreaming of their costumes, Halloween parties, trick-or-treating in Kailua – AND all the candy. Don’t let these little treats trick your body this Halloween season! What is the best way for a parent to approach this season to maximize fun while minimizing the health issues caused by overdoses of sugar?

First, how bad are Halloween treats for your health?  Let’s look at American Heart Association guidelines for sugar in the diet.  For children aged 4-8, the recommended daily intake is no more than 130 calories of added sugar, or 3 tsp daily.  For older children and pre teens, the maximum amount of daily sugar should be no more than 5-8 teaspoons.  These recommendations are made to not just limit daily calories.  Ingesting processed sugars causes our bodies’ insulin levels to spike, leading to increased hunger (leading kids to eat even more unhealthy sugars) and inflammation in the short term, and increased fat storage longer-term, fueling the childhood obesity epidemic and increasing our kids’ rates of obesity-related conditions like type II diabetes.

Keeping those recommendations in mind, let’s look at some typical candies that are passed out to trick-or-treaters.  One single Snickers Fun Size contains 17g of added sugar.  A Jelly Belly Snack Pack contains 18g of added sugar.   It can get much worse, believe it or not:  one single Milky Way Mini contains 27g of sugar – nine times the recommended daily amount for a 4-8 year old, and 5 times the amount recommended for older children and preteens.  And let’s face it, most kids do not stop at just one piece of candy on Halloween night!

How can we minimize the damage of overindulgence in sugars on this holiday, and maximize the fun?  Here are some tips for parents and families:

  1. Never send your child to a Halloween party with an empty stomach. Make sure she eats a high-protein meal beforehand with plenty of vegetables and fruits, which will minimize her desire to overindulge.
  2. Same for Halloween night: make sure everyone partakes in a nutritious, protein-rich meal before trick-or-treating.
  3. Come to an agreement beforehand with your child on how much Halloween candy is okay to eat at one sitting. Whether you feel comfortable with 2 bite-size bars or 5, when limits are set beforehand, kids tend not to overindulge.
  4. For Halloween parties, prepare healthier snacks and treats for kids. I love these Banana Ghosts and Pumpkin Tangerine snacks:  http://www.lovethispic.com/image/32864/healthy-halloween-treats
  5. Following the Halloween holiday, get your kids back on track by preparing protein and vegetable rich meals for several days after. This will help decrease insulin secretion by the pancreas to prevent continuous over-indulging long after the holiday is over.
  6. Check in with your local dental office. Many offer incentive programs for kids to turn in their Halloween candy, such as payment per pound, or small gifts.  Most kids will love getting rewarded in some way for making healthy choices!

Here at OSR Weight Management we offer a weight loss solution on Oahu! Our physician assisted diet is here to help you with you with a healthy dieting process!

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