For many parents on Halloween, it’s not the gory costumes that frighten but the impending sugar overload. According to the USDA, the average child consumes a terrifying three cups of sugar and one and half cups of fat on Halloween night. Scared yet? Here are the reasons why candy can be so bad for you – and how to make the evening less ghastly with easy tips and healthy Halloween treats.
We know it’s hard to turn down a delicious snack size Mars bar or a handful of Twizzlers but here’s some information on why candy is such a horror show:
1. Why Sugar Is Bad For You
Fact: High sugar diets are associated with an increased risk of multiple diseases. The host of problems which could potentially develop include obesity, inflammation, diabetes, heart-related diseases and cancer. Besides sugar harming the body, it also attacks teeth and promotes tooth decay. Because sugar is scientifically linked to so many health issues, the American Heart Association recommends that kids should eat less than six teaspoons of sugar (or 25 grams) per day. To put Halloween treats in perspective, one full size Caramilk chocolate bar almost takes up an entire day’s worth at 24 grams.
2. High In Saturated Fat?
On top of the sugar content, many types of candy – especially chocolate bars – are packed with unhealthy saturated fat. This type of fat is associated with the development of high cholesterol which leads to heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. The AHA doesn’t specify a recommendation for a child’s saturated fat intake, but they do advise that most fat should be healthy fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, and that saturated fats should be limited. A single chocolate bar, though, can contain a concerning 11 grams of saturated fat.
3. Facts About Empty Calories
When you’re eating large amounts of sugar and saturated fat, one of the unfortunate consequences is that they replace healthy food choices. Empty calories provide a feeling of fullness without the corresponding nutritional value. Especially for children, it can be easy to fill up on large amounts of candy that replace food containing essential vitamins, minerals and vital nutrients. When kids are eating sugar-filled treats as a substitute for healthy food, the result is that the opportunity for nutrition is lost.
Healthy Halloween Tips
Eminence Kids Foundation would love to keep Halloween healthy yet fun this year: Here are three ways to celebrate this spooky day without the spine-chilling consequences of junk food.
1. Have a nutritious meal before the festivities begin
Whether your child is trick or treating or celebrating at home, you can provide a healthy, filling meal before the deluge of sugar begins. Registered Dietitian Annie Tsang recommends nutritious options that stay fun by sticking to the Halloween theme: “A great alternative to having candies is to enjoy different recipes made with pumpkin with your kids around Halloween, such as pumpkin soup or pumpkin pancakes” (or Eminence Organics’ Pumpkin Spice Bars!). Once your little one’s tummy is full, the quantity of sweet treats consumed usually decreases.
2. Allow the kids to choose a few pieces of candy
We know that parents would secretly love to ban candy altogether. However, such a drastic step can be extreme and may backfire on decreasing sugar consumption. According to a study in the Netherlands, children who were restricted from forbidden sweets wanted more of the food they couldn’t have and ate more overall. Experts generally recommend that you let your child control their sugar stash and allow them eat to a few pieces of candy Halloween night. Annie also recommends, “Why not keep Halloween fun by allowing your kids to indulge a few candies each week? Just don’t forget to remind them to keep up their oral hygiene to prevent cavities.”
3. Serve healthy Halloween treats
Make sure that candy isn’t the only option, and that you provide healthy Halloween treats as well. We love these suggestions from Martha Stewart, and we’re sure that kids will be tickled (not terrified) by them too. Our favorite? Vampire Lips are more appetizing than they sound. Here’s an easy recipe for this nutritious snack:
Vampire Lips (Adapted from marthastewart.com)
1 organic green apple
Organic peanut butter
30 mini marshmallows
8 blanched organic almonds
- Core the apple and slice it up into eight wedges
- Spread peanut butter on one side of each wedge
- Taking one wedge, gently press 7-8 mini marshmallows into the peanut butter so they stand up like teeth.
- Place a second wedge and press, peanut butter side down, on top of the mini marshmallows.
- Complete the “vampire lips” by placing two blanched almonds (or “fangs!) into the peanut butter.
- Repeat for the rest of the apple wedges.