Don't be frightened by Halloween treats

“Remember that moderation is key,” says Sue Mah of Nutrition Solutions Inc. in Toronto. “Halloween...

“Remember that moderation is key,” says Sue Mah of Nutrition Solutions Inc. in Toronto. “Halloween is a celebration of sorts, so it’s OK to go a bit overboard on the treats for a day. In my house, I hide the treats bag after a few days. Out of sight, out of mind!” (Supplied)

LINDA WHITE, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:35 PM ET

They arrive home from trick-or-treating and dump their candy-laden bags on the kitchen table. You cringe at the sight of all that junk food and wonder if you should have a plan to manage their candy consumption. While Halloween shouldn't be a free for all, don't blow it out of proportion, some dietitians warn.

"Remember that moderation is key," says Sue Mah of Nutrition Solutions Inc. in Toronto. "Halloween is a celebration of sorts, so it's OK to go a bit overboard on the treats for a day. In my house, I hide the treats bag after a few days. Out of sight, out of mind!"

The registered dietitian reminds her kids - ages 10 and eight - about the importance of balanced meals. "The treat is the add-on at the end of the meal, after they have eaten foods from each of the four food groups," she says.

Loreen Wales, a registered dietitian with Revive Wellness in Edmonton, doesn't limit the candy intake of her six-and eight-year-olds on Halloween. "By the fifth day, the excitement of eating as much candy as they want as usually worn off," she says. "Most kids realize they don't feel good after stuffing themselves with junk food."

Like many parents, Wales ends up getting rid of the candy that still hasn't been consumed weeks after the costumes have been forgotten. She also advocates the importance of teaching your children about the importance of healthy eating. She typically lets her kids enjoy a treat every day and doesn't mind when they indulge their sweet tooth at birthday parties and other celebrations. "Don't preach to them about diet," says Wales. "The best way they learn is by the example you set for them."

Like many nutritionists, she believes that kids who regularly enjoy treats don't obsess over them and learn about moderation early in life. It's a belief supported by a 2011 study published in the Food & Nutrition Research journal. It found children and teens who eat candy and chocolates on a regular basis were less likely to be overweight or obese.

"We need to teach our kids about setting their own boundaries and empower them to make their own choices," says Wales. She sifts through their Halloween haul, discarding items they don't like, along with gummy candies. "They go straight to the garbage because of the yellow and blue food dyes, which have been linked to hyperactivity, something many people blame on sugar."

She also removes any sports drinks her kids may have collected. "They're not a good option because they also have food dyes. These are sports drinks with electrolytes to help you replenish your muscles after a strenuous workout. Children do not need that." Chocolate bars are acceptable "because when I read the ingredients, I can understand where they come from," says Wales. Chips are also acceptable in moderation.

Worried about your own ability to keep your sweet tooth in check? "If you can stop yourself at one chocolate bar, you're OK but because they're small, many people will eat three or four and all of a sudden, they're eating at least the equivalent of a regular chocolate bar," says Wales. "If they're your trigger, don't buy them to give out for Halloween."

Especially if you have younger children, consider giving out such non-food treats as Halloween stickers, crayons, pencils, tattoos and friendship bracelets. "When my kids were young, I created an easy Halloween word search and we handed those out to the kids at school for the class parties," Mah says.


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