Healthy Halloween: Managing Candy Consumption

Trick-or-treating and Halloween candy can be tempting for both children and parents. Find tips to manage candy consumption for a healthy Halloween this year.

When it comes to children going trick-or-treating, you may be concerned about Halloween candy consumption, candy safety, and the impact of sugary candy on your childrens teeth. Here are some ideas for managing the candy craze at Halloweenfor children and parents.

Halloween Candy Safety Tips

Parents have different anxieties and fears about Halloween safety. Media stories and unconfirmed reports online can give us a sense that the world is a more menacing place than it really is. But no amount of debunking can alleviate all parental anxiety. "After all," our fear tells us, "However rare, it could happen!"

As a precaution, here are some safety tips:

  • For young children, remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.
  • Instruct your children to show you all their Halloween candy before eating it so that you can carefully inspect it for tampering.
  • Tell your children not to accept or eat anything that isnt commercially wrapped. Throw out candy or treats that are homemade, unwrapped, or have torn wrapping.
  • Eating too much candy can lead to an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is actually a much more realistic concern on Halloween. To reduce trick-or-treat munching, give your children some healthy Halloween treats or a light meal before you leave to go trick-or-treating. Dont head out on an empty stomach.

Limit Your Childs Candy Consumption

How can you handle the candy craze after youve inspected the Halloween candy for safety? Some strategies for a healthy Halloween:

  • Let your child know ahead of time how many pieces of candy he can eat on Halloween night.
  • The day after Halloween, have your child choose ten to fifteen pieces of candy to keep, and either give the rest to a local food bank, donate to deployed military troops, find candy buy back programs around you, or throw it out.
  • Limit your childs candy consumption to one piece per day and have her follow eating with good teeth brushing.
  • Freeze candy bars and chocolate for special treats throughout the winter.

Dental Care and Candy

The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) believes that not all candy is created equally and there are good and not-so-good options for satisfying every trick-or-treaters sweet tooth.

According to Dr. Shelley McBride, an MDS member and past president of the Massachusetts Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, its the sticky, chewy candy that may really be harmful to a childs teeth. "Really any food that contains carbohydrates, sugar, or starch can cause tooth decay. So, as far as your dental health is concerned, eating a piece of chocolate is actually not much different from eating a slice of bread or an apple," she notes.

For candy, and all food, make good dental care a part of your childs normal routine:

  • Limit candy consumption to a couple of pieces after dinner, which has the added benefit of being close to the time when most children brush their teeth.
  • Steer your children away from candies that stick to their teeth, such as caramels and taffy. The best candies are those that can be quickly chewed and swallowed.
  • Rather than giving children free rein to snack on their candy throughout the day, use the treats as dessert, to be eaten immediately after meals. By reducing the number of times a child snacks on candy or sugary foods during the day, teeth are less exposed to the potentially harmful acid created when residual food is left in the mouth.
  • Remind your children to brush their teeth at least twice a day, especially at bedtime.
  • Help your children floss between the teeth once a day.
  • Check with your doctor or dentist to make sure your child is getting enough cavity-fighting fluoride each day.

Tips for the Parents Eating Halloween Candy

Halloween can be a tough time for candy-loving parents. We make Halloween healthy for our kids by trying to limit the amount of trick-or-treat candy, but then we raid the plastic pumpkin ourselves (and make the mistake of buying the candy we like). Or, in an effort to get some of the Halloween candy out of the house, we bring it to work. Unfortunately, our colleagues all have the same idea and the office is covered in leftover Halloween candy. Some of us may even find ourselves inventing reasons to walk by the table/desk/office/cubicle with the candy, particularly in the hours between lunch and quitting time.

In order to avoid making unhealthy choices, try to bring healthy, energy-boosting snacks to get you through this time when your blood sugar plummets. Good suggestions include: apples and cheese, oatmeal, celery with peanut butter, trail mix with unsalted nuts and raisins, or a protein bar. If you find yourself "unconsciously" eating the office candy, leave the empty wrappers in plain sight so youre forced to be honest with yourself about how much candy youre actually taking in.

Sometimes the truth will set you free from the pull to the candy dish. With a little education, a little moderation, and proper brushing after eating, your children (and you) can have a healthy Halloween and enjoy candy without ruining your teeth (or waistline).

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Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

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