Halloween is all about dressing up, having fun and getting some candy. Candy isn’t evil. Yes, we have an obesity problem in this country but one night of trick-or-treating is not going to tip the scales one way or another. The real trick to trick-or-treating is learning to monitor and moderate how children go about eating their candy.
Many parents are going to disagree, but it is a popular myth that eating sugar causes children to be hyperactive. To date, no research supports this. Instead, eating a lot of sugar is usually associated with special activity such as Easter, Halloween, a birthday party or other event. The celebration is what leads to the hyperactivity.
Before your children come home with their candy, set the ground rules on how it will be consumed. Will they be able to eat a few pieces Wednesday night and then two pieces a day after that? Is it OK to have a piece of candy for a snack when they come home from school?
It is not a good idea to allow children to keep their candy in their room. Out of sight out of mind really does hold true. My daughter’s candy gets stored in the pantry and she still has candy left from last year. The novelty wears off after a few days for most children. About 20 percent of children consume all of the candy they collect.
Remind your children not to eat anything while they are trick-or-treating. It is best to have them come home, spread their haul out on the table and take a look at it to make sure no packages have been tampered with. If there is more than one child in the family this is also a good time for some friendly trading back and forth.
Be sure that brushing their teeth is part of the plan after eating candy. If your child is somewhere that it isn’t feasible to brush teeth, then encourage them to chew sugar-free gum. Chewing gum for one hour after meals can significantly reduce the risk of cavities. That’s because saliva flow associated with chewing gum washes away excess sugar and bacteria from the teeth. Look for gums containing xylitol, the birch bark-derived sugar-free sweetener. Xylitol, popular in Europe, actually stops cavity-causing bacteria from adhering to your mouth.
Many dietitians recommend that you provide your child with a nutritious meal before they go trick-or-treating. Try a quick meal of some cheese, crackers and apple slices or a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread.
If you are having a hard time dishing out candy to those that come knocking at your door you could try offering them choices. Have a bowl with candy treats, noncandy edible treats and nonfood treats mixed together, such as pretzels, Halloween pencils, stickers, toothbrushes, sugar-free gum, fake eyeballs and glow sticks.
Make Halloween for your family more than just about candy. Decorate your home. Help your children make their costumes instead of buying them. Encourage family time.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.