Trick or Treat! Health Tricks for Your Halloween Treats

Friday, October 21, 2011

Although Halloween is only one day a year, leftover candy is likely to hang around the house for weeks, which can mean thousands of unwanted calories, fat, and sugar just BEFORE the holiday season!

Here is some advice from Coach Katrina on how what to give trick-or-treaters, what to do with leftover candy, and ideas for a healthier Halloween.

Think small. Offer mini-bars and snack-size treats such as snack-size pretzels, raisins, dried fruit and Chex-mix because they can be used for school snacks and decrease the overall calorie load in the trick-or-treat bag. Hand out mini-sized kid favorites like peanut butter cups and candy bars out one at a time rather than by the handful.

Choose less-indulgent candies. Chocolate covered raisins still count as candy, but they are at least packed with fiber and other healthful nutrients. Compared to most other candies, dark chocolates, such as Hershey’s® Dark Chocolate Kisses® or Special Dark Miniatures, have a bit less sugar, plus some fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Peppermint Patties are low in fat. Here are some calorie counts of popular candies:

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup = 105 calories
Mini Snickers = 45 calories
Mini Hershey’s bar = 45 calories
Kit Kat = 73 calories
Fun Size Twix = 80 calories
Mini Milky Way = 75 calories
Fun Size Butterfinger = 100 calories
22 Pieces of Candy Corn = 140 calories

Try organic dark chocolate. Research shows that real chocolate has health benefits, but most commercial candy bars are so highly processed many of the healthy flavonoids are lost. Give out small organic dark chocolate squares this year.

Don’t rule out lollipops. Even though they’re still all sugar, candies like lollipops that take longer to eat are a good idea because they help kids eat less overall.

Skip the candy. Kids prefer toys over candy, according to recent research. Here are some toy ideas:
• Temporary tattoos
• Bouncy balls
• Yo-yo’s
• Stickers
• Plastic spider rings
• Colored pencils
• Play-Doh
• Glow necklaces
• Super balls
• Plastic or wax fangs
• Party favors, like slide puzzles
• Noise makers or whistles

Talk it out. Ask your kids about how much candy is reasonable for a day and when during the day they would like to have the candy. Agreeing on set parameters beforehand is important in helping your children feel like a part of the decision.

Work it out—literally! You and your kids can burn quite a few calories walking (sometimes in heavy costumes) and climbing up and down stairs!

Consider other activities. Instead of focusing on trick-or-treating, go to a haunted house, pumpkin picking/carving, or hayride. Children will have a ton of fun, especially while dressed in their favorite costume! Then if your kids still have some energy left, a little trick-or-treating provides a nice way to conclude your day.

3-Step Post-Halloween Slim-Down: Out of sight, out of mind!

1. Get rid of leftover candy as soon as possible, especially those candies that aren’t their favorites.
2. Donate to local charities/shelters.
3. Many dentists and orthodontists are now paying their patients to bring candy—as much as $5 per pound! Have your kids weigh their candy if you have a food scale and make a list of what they want to spend their money on.
4. Throw it out—yes, you can!

References and recommended readings:

Schwartz MB, Chen EY, Brownell KD. Trick, treat, or toy: children are just as likely to choose toys as candy on Halloween. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2006;35:207-209.

Vinson JA, Proch J, Bose P, et al. Chocolate is a powerful ex vivo and in vivo antioxidant, an antiatherosclerotic agent in an animal model, and a significant contributor to antioxidants in the European and American diets. J Agric Food Chem [serial online]. 2006;54:8071-76. Available at: Accessed April 6, 2011.


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