Guest piece by: Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Halloween is right around the corner and everyone knows what that means – an overabundance of candy. While sweet treats are great in moderation, it’s easy for children and parents alike to splurge on chocolate and sugar around this time. In fact, the average American consumes approximately 3.4 pounds of candy, the equivalent of 7,000 calories, over Halloween. Scary, right? Don’t worry; there are a few ways that parents can make this spooky holiday healthier for everyone.
Dinner First, Treats Later
Eating a nutritious and filling meal before heading out to trick-or-treat can be a great way to ensure little ones do not overindulge in treats throughout the night. Though a few snacks along the way are probably guaranteed, full tummies will discourage them from making candy their dinner selection for the night.
Halloween can be a great time to emphasize the importance of walking and staying active, especially when considering all of the extra, candy-induced calories. While it might be tempting to drive from house to house, specifically if it’s cold outside, it’s important to dress for the weather and keep moving. To put it in perspective, a person would need to go for a 39-minute bike ride to work off the calories from five, mini chocolate peanut butter cups. Make a family goal of how many houses to visit and get walking, but don’t forget to bring water!
Moderation is Key
Make a plan with children that outlines how much candy will be eaten. Let them pick out 10 of their favorite pieces for the week and then span those items out so only one to two pieces are eaten per day or every other day. Through this routine, kids not only learn about moderation, but how to make better choices and ration their treats. For example, if a child eats all 10 pieces of candy at once, there’s none left for the rest of the week. In addition, this allows parents to cut down on the amount of candy available and take control over how much is consumed on a day-to-day basis.
Share the Wealth
Americans purchase approximately 600 million pounds of candy each year for Halloween. Children in bigger neighborhoods tend to bring home a hefty amount of goodies and if moderation is exercised, will not be able to consume his or hers entire bounty from the night. One way to lessen the amount collected is to use a smaller bag, instead of a pillow case or tote. Still, to ensure nothing goes to waste, there are donation programs that will take leftover candy and ship it to those without access such as Operation Gratitude, which sends candy to U.S. Troops. Some dentists even participate in a candy buy-back program that allows them to pay children one dollar for every pound of candy donated. These programs are great ways to rid the house of sweet temptations while also donating to a great cause.
Mix It Up
With free-flowing candy abound, it’s nice to provide trick-or-treaters with something different. Instead of sweets, parents can pass out granola bars, snack-sized cracker bags or decorated produce like jack-o-lantern clementines or ghost bananas. For some, it might be even easier to do something non-edible like stickers, spooky tattoos, glow sticks or coloring books. To encourage physical activity, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk and bouncy balls also make great treats and can be purchased at many local dollar stores. Get creative! Kids are more likely to remember the house that gave them something unique, as opposed to just another candy bar.
Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.