As any good parent can sense in her bones, Halloween is near. Along with costume anxiety and yard-decorating drama, the issue of candy consumption may haunt you this time of year.
What can a parent do? Unless your child is very young or you resort to Draconian methods (ie: taking away all the candy), children will eat candy--often large quantities of it.
But parents wouldn't be parents if they didn't at least try to direct kids towards healthier choices.
Not All Candies Are Equally Bad
The worst candies for your health are the ones that pack the largest amounts of fat, sugar and calories in the most deceptively small packages. A fun-size Butterfinger Bar, for example, packs more bad-for-you stuff (twice the fat and 30 percent more calories) than a fun-size 3 Musketeers, notes David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men's Health.
This is a good reason to read the nutrition label before you let your kids munch--especially when dealing with those bitty, bite-size candies (as they say: bet you can't eat just one).
Teach Portion Control
Serving size is key, as most Halloween treats are loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. All that extra sweetness can create a craving for more sweets--and that can lead to obesity--especially troubling given the sheer volume of candy doled out on Halloween. It might be tempting to let kids eat to their heart's content, but it's probably wiser to ration out the loot.
"The major issue with all the candy they get is quantity," says Dr. Janet Silverstein, chief of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Florida. "It is important for children to learn reasonable portion sizes, so parents can follow a rule of thumb of giving their children one candy a day."
Don't Forget to Brush
All that sugar has another effect too. It can cause cavities. Candies that dissolve slowly and linger in the mouth or treats that stick in nooks and crannies are the real horrors, according to Chicago Tribune writer Julie Deardorff.
Another no-no: Constant snacking. It keeps teeth exposed to acids in foods. Eat the treat after a meal and then brush.
Substitute Something Healthy
Of course, the easiest way to avoid all the extra sugar is by substituting fruit or homemade treats for candy.
"Children will eat what is offered to them," says Silverstein. "If vending machines are full of water, children will drink water. So, it is good to feed them healthy foods at all times; fruits are great treats for Halloween."
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