STILLWATER, Okla. – Most of the children across the state who plan to celebrate Halloween already have determined what super hero, Disney princess or television character they plan to dress up as for the fun-filled night. They have planned what neighborhoods in which to trick-or-treat so they can fill their candy containers to the brim with sugary, sticky and sweet treats.
While the children are excited about trick-or-treating, many parents may be wondering how all of this candy will fit into a healthy eating plan, especially when childhood obesity is at an all-time high, said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.
“This is the time of year when children will have access to more sugary treats than normal,” Hermann said. “Between school parties, town-sponsored activities and trick-or-treating itself, kids will most likely bring home more treats than they could possibly eat. Based on the nutrition labels of popular candies, your child could bring home as much as 7,000 calories worth of candy. The key to dealing with this overload of sweets is moderation.”
As a safety precaution, parents also should remind their little ghosts and goblins it is not a good idea to consume any candy while trick-or-treating. It is vital for parents to inspect all of the candy before children eat any of it.
To help curb your children’s consumption of treats, make sure they have a healthy snack before they leave the house to trick-or-treat. Kids who are not hungry will not be as tempted to eat candy throughout their trick-or-treating adventures.
A positive side to trick-or-treating can be extra exercise. Encourage your children to walk from house to house, as long as the conditions are safe, instead of driving them. Have your children wear a pedometer or other step-counting device and have a contest to see who takes the most steps.
“Parents may want to consider allowing their children a few days to enjoy the Halloween candy, by letting their children pick out one or two items they want once each day,” she said. “If parents don’t want their children eating a lot of candy, offer to let them pick out a few of their favorites, then buy the rest from them. This way the children end up with a few sweet treats along with a little money in their pockets. The rest can be tossed or used for other purposes.”
For example, if your children receive a lot of miniature chocolate bars, consider freezing them and using them in recipes containing chocolate chips for upcoming holiday baking. To extend the Halloween fun, include the children in the baking activities.
“If you prefer not to hand out any candy, consider other alternatives such as sunflower seeds, animal crackers, whole fruit, sugar free hot chocolate packets, small bags of pretzels, trail mix or microwave popcorn,” Hermann said. “Pencils, colorful erasers, trading cards or stickers also make fun alternatives to sweet treats. Just remember that a little bit of Halloween candy isn’t such a bad thing as long as limits are set.”