October 22, 2011
Jonnell, Registered Dietitian
As I was walking my dog this morning and enjoying the Halloween decorations in my neighborhood, I realized that Halloween is fast approaching. I am looking forward to seeing the costumes that my neighborhood children have chosen and handing out treats (no tricks, please!). As a dietitian, I think about a number of things when considering what Halloween goodies I will be handing out to the children in my neighborhood. First, I usually consider nutrition. While I will not be the person handing out individually wrapped prunes (an actual suggestion I saw online), I do tend to hand out treats that are of the “lesser evil” variety. This year, for example, for the smaller children I will be handing out wax lips, mustaches and fangs as well as Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks (they contain vitamin C and have only 5 grams of sugar per serving). For the older children I will be handing out Pop Rocks (fun and only 10 calories and 3 grams of sugar per serving). I will also mix in some non-food items such as spider rings or glow sticks. You might have noticed that the items I chose don’t have nuts. This brings me to my second consideration when choosing Halloween treats: Allergies. I am aware of how serious food allergies can be, so I always offer at least one treat that does not contain nuts, gluten or dairy. Some other items that I also considered handing out are sugar-free gum, Cliff Kid Z Bar (there is a Full Moon Brownie flavor that seems perfect for Halloween) and the PayDay candy bar (the first ingredient is peanuts).
Once Halloween is over, candy should be treated the same way a snack would be at any other time of the year. Under ideal circumstances snacks should be scheduled (does not have to be an exact time, but a general schedule such as having an after-school snack sometime between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.), the snack should be eaten at an official eating place (dining room table, breakfast bar, etc…), the child should be given some choice and reasonable limits should be set. Another thing to keep in mind is that if your child is getting more than the usual amount of sugar then sugar should be cut from somewhere else in the diet. Think about cutting back on sugar-sweetened breakfast cereal, not offering sweetened beverages (even juice), or offering other forms of sweet snacks during this time. I do not have children, but have asked some of the parents I know how they handle this topic. My sister, who I feel is an excellent parent, has a three year old son and she allows him to eat candy on Halloween (after she checks it over, of course), but then the candy mysteriously disappears that night. He is young enough that he does not seem to wonder what happened to the candy. Several other people I know allow a set amount of candy per day with the child choosing which candy to consume. I’d like to hear how you handle this in your household. Please post what your method of handling this is and how it’s working for your family.