The IndyStar ran a rather shocking article highlighting that on Halloween kids, on average, will eat between 3,500 to 7,000 calories from candy!
Make way for the onslaught of sugary, high-calorie Halloween sweets that are passed out in droves to children today and often consumed in mass.
But can Halloween be made any healthier for your kids or those who knock on your door?
Yes, some better alternatives to traditional candy exist and, perhaps more importantly, parents can take steps to cushion the sugar hit, say a local dietitian and national experts
The average child accumulates 3,500 to 7,000 calories worth of treats on Halloween night, based on the nutrition labels on popular candies, estimates Donna Arnett, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham's School of Public Health, in an article on www.healthland.time.com.
It would take a 100-pound child 44 hours of walking or 14.5 hours of playing full-court basketball to burn off all 7,000 calories. That's a lot of exercise.
Given that many people still pass out traditional candy, local registered dietitian Heather Fink, said the best strategy is to manage the candy that children get.
"Parents can determine how long their children are trick or treating, which will limit how much candy they will get," said Fink, founder of Nutrition and Wellness Solutions, which consults with individuals, corporations and athletic teams.
"Instead of letting them go hog-wild, have them pick out a couple pieces every day until the candy is gone," she said. "Make sure they have a healthy dinner first."
Teaching them moderation is important and, after a few days, some children may not even ask for the rest of the candy, she said.
Rather than leaving the candy in full view of children, putting it out of sight, out of reach or in the freezer, if possible, is a good way to temper the cravings.
On Halloween, Fink suggested another alternative is to try to have some fun at home with orange foods, such as pumpkin pancakes, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted pumpkin seeds or carrots with dip.
As far as treats to hand out, she recommended options such as granola bars, trail mix perhaps with candy like M&Ms, and raisins.
Here are some other food and toy options, suggested by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based health and nutrition advocacy organization:
For younger kids, try small toys like:
- Temporary tattoos or stickers.
- Super bouncy balls.
- Halloween-themed pencils, erasers.
- Bracelets or hair accessories.
- Healthier foods/drinks:
- Individual packages of dried fruit.
- 100 percent fruit leathers.
- 100 percent juice boxes.
- Small water bottles.
- Sugar-free gum.
- Whole wheat Fig Newtons.
- Light or low-fat popcorn.
- Candy options:
- Fruit-flavored snacks/gummies.
- Small lollypops (they last longer).
- Fat-free or low-fat candy like York Peppermint Patties, Junior Mints, Twizzlers, Skittles.
- One fun-sized candy per child.
But not everyone agrees on what candy is the least odious.
One way to judge what might be a "smarter" candy option is to look at the list of ingredients. This advice comes from Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center and HuffPost blogger. He suggests looking for "ingredients we know, recognize, can situate in some part of the plant or animal kingdom and can pronounce."
Of course, you can also compare the calories and fat content, as well as the sugar content. But most candy will be high in sugar or sugar substitutes -- some more than others.
Another way is to choose foods with five or fewer ingredients. Those with lengthy ingredient lists are often packed with preservatives, sugars and other additives, says the HuffPost, which examined different types of Halloween candy. It didn't find any with five or fewer ingredients, though, and many of the top five ingredients in the most popular treats are forms of sugar.
HuffPost tallied up the ingredients in classic candies and published a list of those with 15 or more ingredients. Here are the "worst offenders," but some are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest's preferred list:
- Twizzlers, 20 ingredients, including glycerin, used in some soaps.
- Skittles, 19 ingredients.
- Butterfinger, 19 ingredients, including TBHQ, a former of butane (lighter fluid).
- Whoppers, 17 ingredients.
- Wonka Nerds, 17 ingredients.
- Kit Kat, 15 ingredients.
- Milky Way, 15 ingredients.
So, how does candy corn, the traditional Halloween treat, fare? With 14 ingredients, it just missed this dubious list.