The candy in an average trick-or-treat bag can contain as much as 7,000 calories, according to Dr. Donna Arnett at the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s school of public health, and all that candy can lead to tooth decay and a lot of extra pounds for the entire family.
What’s a health-conscious parent to do without ruining one of the most child-friendly celebrations of the year?
• Instead of candy, opt for healthier or non-food alternatives. Candy is fun, but healthy food can be, as well. Making small oranges, popcorn balls or fruit cups with pumpkin faces drawn on them can encourage healthier eating while still getting into the Halloween spirit. Give trick-or-treaters dried fruit, fruit leathers, crackers or trail mix.
Or, if you want to avoid giving out candy or snack foods altogether, give small toys, stickers, temporary tattoos, pencils, Halloween erasers or glow-sticks. Kids receive plenty of candy on Halloween and will enjoy being surprised with the “extras” they gather while trick-or-treating.
• Get out and exercise. Candy consumption certainly increases on and around Halloween, but so does walking. Fitbit recently analyzed its data and found the average user walked an additional 2,750 steps on Halloween. While those extra steps won’t cancel out all those candy bars you ate, the added walking and exercise can help you control your weight and improve your health.
Take family walks around the neighborhood before Halloween to plan your trick-or-treating route. The additional movement can benefit the whole family.
• Fill your little goblins’ tummies with healthy food before they hit their candy stash. Eating a healthy dinner before trick-or-treating will help ensure your kids are properly fueled and less tempted to snack their way around the neighborhood. Plus, for safety you should save your candy until you get home to screen for anything potentially hazardous.
If you return home and your family has more candy than they should eat, search online for a local dentist or other business participating in candy-donation or buy-back programs. Call first for each location’s program details.
This Halloween, have fun dressing up and eating a few treats, but balance the usual indulgence with making healthier choices.
Dr. Karen Cassidy is a medical director for UnitedHealthcare of Tennessee.