The truth about sweet treats and Halloween

Halloween is in the air. Retail stores have their shelves stocked full of candy corn, tootsie rolls and bite-sized candy bars. These treats are part of the Halloween fun, but they don’t have to ruin our attempts to lose weight or to maintain a healthy diet.

An estimated 90 percent of parents admit to occasionally dipping into their kids’ Halloween candy stash, according to the National Confectioners Association. And when they dive into the treat bags, they typically take more than one kind of candy. Those small pieces of candy can really add up in terms of calories and fat grams. For instance, a snack-size Snickers candy bar has 72 calories and four grams of fat per bar. That doesn’t sound too bad, but the reality is that most of us will grab three to four candy bars at a sitting. That adds up to almost 300 calories and 16 grams of fat for a snack, which over time can contribute to weight gain.

One suggestion to combating these extra calories is to hand out non-food items such as stickers, temporary tattoos, Halloween themed pencils and trinkets, or small containers of bubbles. According to a study published by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, when given a choice, kids ages 3 to 14 years old are just as likely to choose a toy as a piece of candy. Offering non-food treats not only benefits the trick-or-treater, but also the person handing out the treats. Once Halloween night is over, there won’t be any leftover candy calling your name and potentially ruining your best effort at losing or keeping weight off. If you don’t want to offer non-food items at your house, consider handing out healthier foods such as cheese and cracker packages, sugar free gum, 100 percent real fruit juice boxes, or individual packages of raisins or pretzels.

If your kiddos come home with a bag full of candy treats, instead of gobbling down all those high-calorie goodies, remember, “all things in moderation.” This applies to both parent and child. It is a good idea to know how much candy your child has collected and store it out of reach from them. Out of sight, out of mind. Consider being lenient about candy eating on Halloween, within reason, and talk about how the rest of the candy will be handled. Also, if you wish to reduce your child’s candy stash, consider buying back some of the remaining candy and replacing it with a little spending money. Have them pick out a few of their favorite pieces then “sell” the rest of it to you. Finally, be a role model by eating Halloween candy in moderation yourself. Once Halloween night is over, get rid of the candy leftovers. Give leftovers to a food pantry, church, shelter, or if necessary, toss them in the garbage.

Halloween doesn’t have to be synonymous with candy. And one night of trick-or-treat fun doesn’t have to destroy a healthy diet.

Whitney Roberts is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.

© 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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