Take the Sugar Fright Out of Halloween Kids’ Treats
Skimming sugar in seasonal Halloween sweets keeps healthy eating balanced for children—learn how with these 5 quick expert tips.
As All Hallows Eve hovers in the distance, parents are likely feeling the haunt of this holiday’s month-long explosion of treats. Have no fear! Those sweets don’t have to sabotage your household’s healthy eating habits. Finding balance between eating a nutrient dense diet while still enjoying a few sweet treats is all it takes to ensure those cute little superheroes, and princes and princesses, as well as mom and dad, have a happy Halloween.
Scary Sugar Stats
What would Halloween be without candy? The tradition is all good fun, yet, over-consumption of added sugars is a definite concern. Especially for young children. A recent study found that many toddlers are eating more added sugar per day than is recommended for adults—an average of over 7 teaspoons of added sugar a day! This, despite the recommendation by the American Heart Association that children under age 2 consume no added sugars, and, for children ages 2 to 19, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests a limit of 6 teaspoons or less per day. Another even more recent study found that children in every age group, from one year to 11 years old exceeded the recommended intake of no more than 15% of calories from sugar, with the only exception of the adolescent group aged 11 to 17 years. The bottom line? Kids from little to big are eating way too much sugar!
For perspective, every 4 grams of sugar on ingredient labels equals 1 teaspoon of added sugar. Here is a quick look at the amount of sugar found in even the small-sized Halloween treats.
- Skittles fun-size = 11 g
- Starburst 2-pack = 6 g
- M&M’s fun-size = 10 g
- Tootsie Pop = 10 g
And why all the worry? Eating unhealthful foods at an early age can influence food preferences and create patterns that impact both short and long-term health. Too much added sugar has been linked to a host of health problems, including increased risks of type 2 diabetes, obesity, cavities, asthma, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure—all risk factors for heart disease. And these health risks may start appearing at younger ages, as well as contribute to chronic diseases later in life.
Treat Them to Healthier Traditions
Halloween is the perfect time to establish the holiday’s traditions you want to continue in your family. Rather than a candy-based Halloween, choose to focus on costumes, seasonal decorating, crafts, and baking. Toddlers have a candy innocence that won’t likely last, so keep it at bay as long as you can by teaching them fun and healthy ways to enjoy the holiday and the autumn season that don’t involve candy. Introduce kids to your favorite childhood traditions or find a recipe for a fun Halloween pumpkin smoothie, like my Pumpkin Peach Spice Super Smoothie or this recipe for Smoky Pumpkin Hummus.
The reality for most families is Halloween involves candy. When it comes to any kind of sweet, it’s important to treat it as a treat: something special, eaten occasionally, and in small portions. Involve your kids by having them choose their favorite candies, then tuck them out of sight. Whether you decide on one piece in the lunch box or two pieces after dinner, stick to it. Kids of any age can learn about routines centered upon healthy, nutrient-rich meals based on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and legumes. They can also learn about healthy snacks like fruit, cut veggies and dip, whole grain pita and nut butter, as well as healthy prepared snack options. Consistent, healthy eating is the foundation for creating that balance between nutrient-rich meals and seasonal treats.
Another way to sweeten the Halloween season more naturally is to focus on hand-made treats that you can create yourself, thus, control the ingredients. Less added sugars and more healthful additions (whole grains, nuts, fruits, veggies) is the ticket! Whether it’s peanut butter cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bites, or persimmon snack cake, lead the way with some amazing, home-baked goodies with love.
Check out these quick tips to help balance out Halloween sweets this season.
5 Quick Tricks to Balance Treats
1. Focus on Fun!Make Halloween more about costumes, games, décor, crafts, and baking with the whole family. Try getting the kids in the kitchen to cook up some healthier sweet treat recipes, such as this Sweet Potato Bread.
2. Remember, Sweets are Treats. Halloween candy is a special treat, so dole it out wisely. Keep it special by adding it as a treat at the end of a healthy meal that features delicious, plant-based dishes, such as this kid-friendly recipe for Veggie Burritos.
3. Fill Their Tanks. Feed your kids nutrient-rich meals and snacks, as always, during the Halloween season.
4. Watch the Sugar Portions. Practice portion size, minimizing the total added sugars in their day. Keep in mind sugars hidden in a variety of other foods that can push kids over their limit, such as sugary beverages, yogurts, sauces, and baked goods.
5. Get Everyone On Board! Ask family and friends to give non-candy treats or at least fewer treats during the season.
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