Halloween is all about the candy, right? While that may be true, it's still important to remember that too much of a good thing is, well, not such a good thing.
Here are nine tips from Mimi Wu, MS, RD, a nutrition information specialist with Nutrition.gov, and Dr. Warren Brill, president of American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, for how you can manage the candy in your home -- during Halloween and the rest of the year.
If your nanny or babysitter is taking your kids trick-or-treating, share these tips with her.
Before going trick-or-treating, feed kids a hearty snack or dinner to ensure their bellies stay full while trekking around the neighborhood. Make the festivities extra special by serving up a favorite (hopefully nutritious) meal. "This will help ensure that [they] fill up on something healthy, and be less likely to overindulge when confronted with a tray full of treats," says Wu.
Not all Halloween candy is the same. If you and your kids are going to indulge, learn what the best choices are.
Experiment with organic candy products this year. Many companies, such as YumEarth, now offer options that taste great and are better for you.
And controlling how much sugar kids get isn't as important as controlling what kind of sugar they get and what form it comes in.
Dr. Brill recommends choosing candy or sweets that are eaten quickly, rather than something that stays in the mouth. "The important thing with sweets is how long the sugar sits in the mouth," he says. "The sugar turns into acid and demineralizes teeth." So forego the lollipop or lifesaver, and offer a Hershey's Kiss or peanut butter cup.
Kids (and parents!) get very excited on Halloween and it's easy to overindulge. Set ground rules beforehand. What's allowed during trick-or-treating, when you get home and the days after? Have a plan, so it's not a free-for-all.
"Let him know that he will have an opportunity to eat treats at a certain time (i.e. after dinner, as a snack), how much of it (i.e. two pieces of candy, one mini-cupcake), and that he can choose what he would like to eat," suggests Wu. "This helps to teach him how to prioritize his preferences."
Or you could just tell your kids that you ate all their Halloween candy!
Just because kids get a lot of candy during trick-or-treating, at a party or during a holiday season, doesn't mean that it all has to be eaten at once. Stretch the stash so everyone can enjoy their treasure for a little while longer.
Water is not only important for hydration, but also protecting your teeth. When your kids are enjoying sugaring foods (like Halloween candy!), give them water to wash it down. "Water will help [kids] feel full and prolong the amount of time it takes to eat the treat, possibly leading to him eating less of it," says Wu. It also helps rinse sugar away from teeth.
Be a Good Role Model
Children follow in the footsteps of their parents and caregivers. Limiting your kids' sugar intake is great, but it'll be useless if they see you constantly slipping your handy into the candy jar. But if you make healthy choices and reduce sweets, your children are bound to do the same.
"If you are hosting [a Halloween party], serve fun treats that are still nutritious, such as fruit kabobs, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and fruits and vegetables with healthy and fun dips, or smaller portions of popular treats, such as mini cupcakes or doughnut holes."
Visit the Dentist
If your child hasn't been to the dentist in a while (or at all yet!), this is a great time to make an appointment -- while candy is on the brain. The earlier dental care is started, the less likely serious problems are to emerge. "As soon as a child gets teeth, they need to see a dentist," says Dr. Brill. Find a pediatric dentist who can help your little one develop good dental practices at home.
Childhood and experiences like trick-or-treating are meant to be enjoyed. "Remember that one day or even a few days of indulging in sweets will not cause long-term damage to your child's health," says Wu. "It is his overall pattern of eating that makes the greatest impact. If he is making healthy choices the majority of the time and staying active, then you can rest assured that he can indeed have his cake and eat it too (in moderation, of course)!"
Jillian Amodio is an author and freelance writer who lives in Maryland with her husband and their two-year-old daughter. She enjoys being a stay-at-home mom and meeting new people through her work as a writer. More of her work can be found here.