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Celebrate Halloween, not the candy

halloween candyHalloween. The crisp, October breeze in the late afternoon and the mounds of giggly, costumed kids running around the neighborhoods asking for treats is a sight to be seen! Halloween is a fun day filled with laughter, surprises, tricks, and…treats.

Many parents wonder what to do with the candy, most of which have little or no nutritional value. Kids want to eat it (preferably all in one sitting!); parents want to curb its consumption. Some parents want the treats out of sight to avoid the temptation for their own sake!

Here are a few suggestions to having a guilt-free Halloween:

1. Establish rules before Halloween. Designate a jar or some sort of similar container (that can be closed) for candy. Tell your child they are allowed to keep only what fits in that container. This will help them choose wisely on what treats to keep. They can decide which candy they value the most and from there decide which ones to keep, and which to give away. This process allows children to be in control and make their own decisions. It also helps reduce the amount of temper tantrums or feelings of anger later.

Your family could have other pre-established guidelines such as: no gum or no sticky candy, etc. These have to be developed before Halloween season, so it does not come as a surprise to anyone.

Other rules can address how often treats can be eaten in one day. One suggestion is allowing kids to enjoy one small treat a day, and explain to them that a bite size treat is just the right size! Teach them the difference between ‘every day foods’ and ‘once in a while foods,’ with candy falling in the latter category. This allows kids to enjoy these kinds of foods for what they truly are… treats!

2. Contact your dentist’s office. Many dental clinics will buy unopened Halloween candy. Some of them even offer a nominal payment per pound of treats for registered patients ($1 a pound for a $5 maximum, for example). Other dental clinics accept donated treats during a specified time period around Halloween. Contact your dental clinic to find out if they participate in a similar program.

3. Donate the treats. There are quite a few websites such as http://www.operationgratitude.com/ or http://treats4ourtroops.org/ that will accept donations of unopened Halloween candy. The treats are sent to troops serving overseas.

Check with your local food pantries. Some local food pantries accept unopened factory wrapped treats and use them for special occasions.

4. Consider giving non-food items as treats. Consider giving out items like pencils, glow sticks, tiny decks of cards, bookmarks, small containers of Play-Doh, key chains, stickers and other non-food items as treats. If you want a Halloween treat that promotes physical activity, consider bouncy balls, jump ropes, or beanbag hacky sacks. You can purchase these items in bulk at a considerable discount from many online stores or from discount stores in your area.

Whatever you do this Halloween, always examine the treats your children receive from others for choking hazards, or any kind of tampering before eating them. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers and keep only factory wrapped treats.

If you have other suggestions about what to do with Halloween treats, leave a comment!

Happy Halloween!

About Julia Salomón MS, RD, CD

Julia is the corporate dietitian at Affinity Health System and also a nutrition educator. She works at various sites throughout the organization working with Affinity’s employee wellness program. She earned her Master’s degree in nutrition science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996 and became a dietitian shortly thereafter. Julia has worked on several nutrition projects abroad as well as domestically. Before joining Affinity Health System in June of 2011, she worked as a college dietitian and later in the school nutrition field. She has earned certificates of training in adult and childhood weight management. Julia has a special interest in nutrition, public health and wellness.

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