Trick or…Health Food? Is Fear of Fat Stealing Halloween from Kids?

Halloween– Are People Making it A Big Fat Deal?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Yay! Halloween! Candy! Chocolate bars! Healthy Food?

Randi (my best friend), and I used to love getting dressed up for Halloween and collecting a large stash from all the neighbors. Mrs. Garvel (who lived next door) always had the biggest and best candy bars. Huge Hershey Bars. Colossal Kit Kats. Gigantic Swirly Lollipops. Yummy! Of course, we always had the one “strange” neighbor who gave out raisins. Seriously folks, what kid wants raisins for Halloween?

Well, I guess the word is out. People are trying to find alternatives for Halloween Candy– mainly due to the  “obesity” and “overweight” issues and fears in America. People are attempting to make deals with their kids over the amount of candy they can eat and what toys might be acceptable substitutes for the old sugary pastimes on this all-access holiday.

It wasn’t the gruesome costumes or gory masks turning up at Lisa Bruno’s front door that spooked her on Halloween. It was the pudge lurking beneath the costumes. “The kids were just so huge,” Bruno says.

Be careful folks. We don’t want children to think treat=fat=Bad! Bad! Bad! Let’s not add to the body image scare that’s already permeating our country!

The weight controversy aside, we all know it’s not really healthy for kids to sit in their room with a plastic pumpkin full of sweets—or worse yet, an overflowing pillow case like Randi and I used to use for maximum storage capabilities. It’s not great for the teeth, the belly, the skin, or the brain! But do we need to exchange them with dental floss and raisins?

If you are concerned about too much candy on and around Halloween,  here are some of the suggestions for dealing with the sugar overload:

(1) Refrain from saying “No” to all candy: When candy is the forbidden fruit, kids will try to pluck it from any source they can find. Unless your children have extreme dietary restrictions due to health, and absolute “no” can backfire.

(2) Provide limits on how much is consumed: Allow your children a certain amount of the treasured stash each day or allow them to pick 10 pieces of candy and give the rest away to charity, the local police, or another location. This is a great time to talk to your children about portion sizes.

(3) Use the “Sugar Fairy:” The fantastical creature is also known as “The Switch Witch.” Ask your children to switch whatever amount of candy they want for a toy. A little candy leads to a little toy. A lot of their candy leads to a big toy. In the middle of the night, “The Sugar Fairy” or “The Switch Witch” flies in, takes the candy they’ve laid out, and replaces it with a toy commensurate with the amount of candy donated. Some children will be more apt to do this than others but it’s definitely worth a good try if you’re concerned about too much sugar.

(4) Buy back the candy: You can do this with actual money, books, or even time doing something special with Mom or Dad. For example, a piece of candy can be worth 5 cents, 20 pieces of candy could be worth one book, or 50 pieces of candy could be worth a special outing to dinner and the ice cream shop with Dad. Ice cream might seem counter productive—but many parents would you rather their children to have 1 ice-cream sundae over 50 pieces of candy.

(5) Provide yummy or cool alternatives: Those of you who really don’t want to give candy on Halloween need to be really creative here. No kid really wants cheese sticks, raisins, and juice boxes for Halloween. They get that stuff everyday! Come on. I mean, who are these people giving out dental floss and tooth brushes when the children ring their bells? However, for young children, you can find some neat things.  Magic wands, temporary tattoos, stuffed animals, match book cars, balloons, and cool stickers can work. Even gift certificates for a slice of pizza, a sundae, or a doughnut could be a good alternative since parents can allow the children to use once Halloween is just a memory. Some other alternatives are here, here, and here.

(6) Don’t make fat such a big fat deal: One night of eating candy isn’t a travesty. It takes much more than that to consider a life style unhealthy! We don’t want to make children worry about body image simply because they’re eating candy on Halloween. We all like to indulge every once in a while and Halloween is fun and yummy! It’s not healthy or good for one’s belly to stuff themselves with too many candy bars but teaching children that they can eat a treat and enjoy it once in a while is important AND healthy.

“It’s important that we as parents help them find the balance between that very traditional fun activity and a healthy lifestyle. The government’s food pyramid allows about 10 percent of the day’s calories for most kids to come from extras, which includes candy. That’s going to allow every child to have some candy on a daily basis, and it really is OK.” (Connie Diekman, past president of the American Dietetic Association)

Remember what it was like participating in Halloween when you were little. Teach your children well but don’t suck the fun out of Halloween. And please, keep your raisins and dental floss to yourself.

You have any good ideas about candy and Halloween? Do you agree about providing alternatives or do you think kids should be able to live and let live during the weeks around Halloween? Are people making it too big of a big fat deal? Please share your suggestions as well as your opinions. We can all learn something from each other!

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