Are you spooked by the piles of candy in your kids’ bags? Try these tips for a healthy Halloween and beyond.
[3 MIN READ]
Trick or treat: one night of fun that’s often followed by days of eating sweets. You don’t want to be wasteful (or be the bad guy!) by trashing the treats, but you also want to protect your kids’ teeth and overall health. Check out these tips to help make sure your trick-or-treaters enjoy their bounty without harming their health.
Before your ghouls and ghosties leave the house
Costumes on? Check. Goody bags ready? Check. A healthy meal or snack before they leave the house? Make sure you can check that off as well. A tasty, nutritious meal or snack before heading out will help discourage kids from filling up on treats.
Set the ground rules
- Tell youngsters they must wait until they’re home to sort and check their goodies. A responsible adult should look over all treats and throw away any items that aren’t factory-wrapped or that seem suspicious.
- Teach your child to politely turn down items that are homemade, such as cookies and brownies.
- Remind your kids not to share or taste other kids’ treats while they’re out and about.
- Set a rule for yourself to offer non-edible treats to little trick-or-treaters who knock on your door. Hand out glow sticks, vampire fangs, bubbles, stickers, stencils — they’re fun options that last longer than a chocolate bar.
Once the treats are home
Believe it or not, the American Dental Association (ADA) isn’t on a witch hunt to take all the sweet fun out of Halloween. According to one ADA dentist, “It’s OK to eat that candy on Halloween as a splurge as long as you’re brushing twice a day and flossing once a day all year long.”
Still, you’ll want to sort out the candy before the kids dig in. That’s one way to safely avoid allergy problems and gorging on goodies. Here are some other tips to keep in mind as you’re looking toward the candy-filled days ahead.
- Know your sweets. According to the ADA, chocolate candies may be your best bet when it comes to protecting teeth. That’s because chocolate washes off teeth easier than other kinds of candy, such as the sticky, gummy or hard varieties.
- Give them to the grownups (snicker, snicker). Let the kids keep a few favorites, then take the rest to work and leave them in the break room. Or save them up for game nights with friends.
- Put them to work for other holidays. Use hard candies to create a fanciful gingerbread dwelling. Or use that extra candy corn as decoration for a Thanksgiving turkey (they make great “feathers”).
- “Donate” your candy to science. Fun science experiments, that is! Kids’ endless curiosity often tops the temporary joys of sweets. Head to the Candy Experiments website to get ideas for turning those goodies into great experiments.
- Donate your candy for a cause. Here’s a great way to help kids learn about giving and sharing. Together, choose places and programs where the candy will be enjoyed. That includes homeless shelters, nursing homes and programs such as Ronald McDonald House Charities. You can also support our past and present troops by sending sweets to deployed service members and veterans.
A word about kids and food allergies
If you have or know food-allergic children, you understand how important it is to keep them safe from certain foods. Along with reading ingredient labels on all treats your child receives, be aware that candies may not be as allergen-free as they seem. And not everyone knows how to spot allergens, so you are the final word on whether it’s safe for your child.
Get involved with the Teal Pumpkin Project®, which raises awareness about food allergies and promotes including all trick-or-treaters — including those with allergies — in the Halloween fun. It’s a movement that offers choices for kids who have food allergies and other children who can’t have candy for various health reasons. Since it’s caught on in recent years, many porches you see will have a teal pumpkin outside to indicate that they are giving safer treat alternatives.
Halloween is one of the most exciting times of the year for kids. Follow these tips and you can all look back on a fun, healthy time — long after the treats are gone.
Find a doctor
Looking for more information about your child’s nutrition or food allergies? Talk with a doctor about resources. You can also find a Providence pediatrician by using our provider directory. Or, you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.
Are you and your kids ready for #halloween? Share tips with other #nutrition readers @psjh.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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