Halloween is upon us, and as kids gear up for a night of trick-or-treating, many parents have the same question on their minds: What should we do with all of the candy?
While some parents opt to dole out one or two pieces a day, others choose to let their kids eat their fill for a few days before discarding the rest.
Parents and teachers once took a more benign view of Halloween candy. But as childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed — and evidence has mounted about the link between obesity and conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease — many people have changed their opinions.
The average American child eats 19 teaspoons of added sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association. That’s three times more than the maximum amount recommended in AHA guidelines on added sugar in children’s diets.
We asked two Kaiser Permanente pediatricians for suggestions on how to minimize Halloween’s negative after-effects. Here are some ideas they’ve used with their own kids:
Moderation in all things: The eating habits that kids develop now will shape their relationship with food for the rest of their lives. Do your children a favor by teaching them the value of self-control.
“Tonight at dinner, talk with your kids about sugar, candy, excess and moderation,” said Vacaville pediatrician Kate Land. “How does eating too much candy make them feel? Can they learn how to stop after just one or two pieces?”
Put candy in its place: When kids eat too much candy before a meal, they often ruin their appetite for healthy food. Encourage your kids to eat a healthy lunch or dinner before having sweets. “Full kids eat a lot less candy, and so do full grownups,” said Dr. Land.
Out of sight, out of mind: “If kids keep Halloween candy in their rooms, they’ll eat some every time they see it,” said Oakland pediatrician Arlene Fischhoff. “So after the first night, I always insisted on holding onto my kids’ candy for them. I stored it in a cupboard or a closet — someplace where they wouldn’t be constantly tempted by it.”
Bartering for health: Some parents put an end to post-Halloween binging by “buying back” candy from their kids. A pound of candy might earn a book or a small toy. “As my kids got older, they found the offer of a few dollars quite motivating,” said Dr. Fischhoff.
Pass it on: Donating candy is a great way to limit the amount of sugar kids consume while encouraging them to be generous. Operation Gratitude sends more than 250,000 care packages to veterans and first responders each year, and they welcome donations of candy (as well as dental hygiene products). Other options include nursing homes, food banks and women’s shelters.
Get crafty with it: Candy’s appealing colors and shapes lend themselves to sweet crafts projects such as mosaics, collages or gingerbread houses. Use toothpicks or glue to build an entire candy city.
Be a mad scientist: Few kids can resist candy experiments. Drop Skittles and M&Ms into water to see how long it takes for their letters to come off, or drop Sweethearts into club soda to test their buoyancy.
Turn candy into trail mix: Combine a small amount of candy with nuts, seeds, dried fruit or whole wheat crackers to make a tasty trail mix that’s irresistible to kids.
Do you have other ideas for getting rid of that extra Halloween candy? Please share them in the comments section below.