Archived Story

Four tricks for enjoying the Halloween treats

Published 5:33pm Saturday, October 26, 2013


Vidant Beaufort Hospital


Sixteen percent of children’s total calories come from added sugar, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Added sugar is sugar that is added to processed or prepared foods as an ingredient or sugar that is added to foods at the table. To break it down, sixteen percent of calories are equal to 13 to 24 teaspoons of added sugar daily, and, believe it or not, more of it comes from foods, such as candy, cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream and sweetened breads than drinks. These added sugars are a problem because they have no nutrients and add additional calories that can contribute to obesity and health problems. 

Then here comes Halloween when sugar-added treats abound. What can you do? Well, save your fear for the haunted house because it is possible to have a Halloween that will meet the approval of your children and also your children’s doctor.

Maybe you weren’t planning to dress up for Halloween, but you can pretend for a little bit with these tips for a healthier Halloween.

Be a dentist and buy treats for a winning smile.

Don’t buy the candy early. If your family is likely to cave and snack on the candy pre-Halloween, make an effort to hold out on buying it.

Consider giving out nonfood treats this year. Try browsing your local dollar store for glow-in-the-dark rings or necklaces, glow sticks, stickers, slime, temporary tattoos, pencils, bouncy balls or bubbles. You don’t have to worry about disappointing the little ghosts who show up at your door. A study from the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found when trick-or-treaters were offered a choice between comparably sized toys and candies, they were just as likely to choose the toys as the candy. The study also found that the majority of children were willing, and some would even prefer, to make changes to the types of treats given out.

If you decide to give out treats, choose healthful options. Treats such as raisin boxes, squeezable fruit pouches, mini-bags of cereal, trail mix or mini bags of nuts provide needed nutrients, and you could feel good about adding any leftover to lunchboxes. For example, mini-bags of pistachios have protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals and are fun to open. Sugar-free gum is another good choice, as it increases saliva production that can help wash away cavity-causing bacteria. Other options are mini bags of goldfish or animal crackers, pretzels, fruit snacks, or mini-Rice Krispie treats.

Be a coach and provide a nutritious power meal for your sports star before the big event. No need to be a gourmet chef.

Enjoy a nutritious meal with your children before heading out for the evening so your children aren’t starving amidst an array of sweets. Try a quick turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with a side of carrots and light dressing or spaghetti with lean meat sauce and a salad.

Be a businessperson and set a long-term candy plan.

Agree ahead of time on a set number of candies your children can eat. Let them pick out that set number to eat that night, and then decide how many treats your child can have and when. Keep the treats out of sight to prevent mindless munching and give away any that aren’t favorites.

Be a Wall Street trader and trade for a good deal.

One of my favorite options for dealing with Halloween candy is trading the candy for something such as a toy, game or outing, such as a night bowling, a trip to the skating rink or a night out to eat that your child wants more. You could also let them keep a few favorites and then buy the rest from them; I’ve heard amounts from $1 per pound or 25 cents per piece. Your children will have fun bargaining with you on the going rate. Another great option is having a “Candy Fairy” come one night and exchange the candy for a toy or game. Then, you could donate the candy to the food bank or ship it far from you by sending it to the troops overseas. You could also freeze it and use it to make holiday gift goodies.

A survey done by the American Dental Association found most children’s favorite part of Halloween is going door to door, followed by getting to dress up — not the candy they had at the end of the evening. Start Halloween traditions that don’t center on the candy. This teaches children how to enjoy treats to prevent the cavity monster and stay healthy to grow strong. Then, they will be all ready for the body-builder costume next year.


Andrea Nikolai is a registered dietitian at Washington Pediatrics, 1206 Brown St., Washington, and can be reached at 252-946-4134.

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