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Providence Health & Services
Swedish Health System | Seattle, WA
Kadlec Regional Medical Center | Richland, WA
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Halloween is right around the corner, and that means handing out, and indulging in, bowlfuls of sweets to trick-or-treaters.
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Indulging in Halloween candy – trick or treat?

Ghouls, witches and zombies are pretty frightening. Do you know what else is scary? The amount of sugar that an average kid consumes around the Halloween holiday. With treats ranging from deluxe-sized chocolate bars to tiny pumpkins packed with sugar and artificial dye, it’s no wonder that kids are buzzing long after they’ve hung up their costumes. Halloween is right around the corner, and that means handing out, and indulging in, bowlfuls of sweets to trick-or-treaters.

Halloween is a great opportunity for parents to take charge of how much sugar their kids are eating. You can treat it like a holiday, and let your kids eat as much as they want but restrict their diet the rest of the year, or you can try portion control by freezing the candy and doling out the goods in moderation.

While typical Halloween candy by itself isn’t particularly bad, eating such large quantities of sweets, without a nutritious element in general, can lead to obesity and other children’s health issues. Parents should definitely not make a habit of giving their kids the same amount of candy during the rest of the year and might want to try encouraging sharing. Have your kids bring the candy to school to share with their classmates so everyone can have a smaller portion. Speaking to your kids about dental hygiene and healthier eating habits won’t hurt either.

We definitely don’t want our kids to feel self-conscious, so the way you approach the subject needs to be handled with care. Don’t shame them about the way their bodies look or how eating too much sugar will make them fat. Instead, use a compassionate tone and focus the discussion more on eating whole foods that are nutrient-dense. Get creative—there are healthier options that are still enjoyable and holiday appropriate.

If you want to try something a little more health conscious this year, here are some alternatives that your kids—and the rest of the neighborhood—can benefit from:

  • Honey sticks – Honey is still a sweet treat, but its beneficial properties make it a safer bet than rock candy or lollipops. Because the honey is already portion controlled, you won’t have to worry about your kid going overboard. Honey sticks also come in a variety of natural flavors—great news if your kid already gets into the stash you have at home. Fun fact: eating local honey can make you less sensitive to pollen-related allergies.
  • Toys – Do you know any kids who love bouncy balls, toy dinosaurs or stickers? Bulk packs can be pretty inexpensive, and these toys will really stand out among a sea of candy wrappers.
  • Glow bracelets – These are pretty fun on a regular day, let alone Halloween. We have a feeling your neighborhood werewolf will really enjoy lighting up the night with these.
  • Apple cider – If your neighborhood permits, set up an apple cider dispenser in your front yard. The warm drink will help keep trick-or-treaters cozy, and apple cider is generally pretty sweet on its own without added sugar.
  • Slime – Easy to make, this trendy substance is sure to be a hit. Slime is fairly inexpensive to make and can keep kids entertained for hours. Hand out small containers filled with the stretchy, slippery goop and call it a night.
  • Themed accessories – Head to the party store and grab a bunch of pirate eye patches, flashy costume jewelry and temporary tattoos. These are not only fun, but Halloween goers can mix and match items with their already complete outfits.
  • Craft supplies – If you want to get a little practical, craft supply stores often sell themed projects like papier-mâché and ghoul-shaped cookie cutters. Kids may not appreciate it at the time, but these sorts of treats are extremely useful at connecting family and great alternatives to candy.
  • Fruit – Never mind if you get a groan for this one. Fruit can be just as sweet as candy but with added nutrients and fiber. Dress up your oranges by decorating them like pumpkins. Parents will thank you for it and the kids will love getting it in their school lunch the next day.

There are many other creative opportunities to banish sugar from your holiday. If your kid insists on eating sugar, opt for naturally sweetened treats that taste like the real thing. Don’t forego the conversation about health, however. Childhood is a time when kids start forming habits, so the sooner you start the better.

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Halloween is right around the corner, and that means handing out, and indulging in, bowlfuls of sweets to trick-or-treaters.