From Children's Healthcare of Atlanta:
Many of us spend hours decorating the house and creating the perfect costume for a spooky Halloween, but the spookiest part of Halloween is not the scary costumes or the spider web on your front porch – it's the amount of fat, sugar and calories consumed by trick-or-treaters.
By visiting 15 houses, the average trick-or-treater can collect up to 60 pieces of "fun-size" candy on Halloween night. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta looked at the calories, fat and sugar content of a bag of typical Halloween treats and found it to be equivalent to 4,800 calories, one-and-a-half cups of fat and three cups of sugar.
"Allowing your child to consume three cups of sugar is like standing by and watching them eat 200 packets of sugar," said Dr. Stephanie Walsh, Medical Director of Child Wellness at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "Halloween and candy are synonymous, but it's important to provide sweets in moderation and focus on the fun and family time of the event – not the candy."
According to Dr. Walsh, candies with rich ingredients such as chocolate and peanut butter have the highest sugar and fat content. And many specialty Halloween candies, such as candy corn, contain unhealthy amounts of sugar if not consumed in moderation.
Childhood obesity has become a threatening epidemic in Georgia. Weighing in just below Mississippi, Georgia has the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the United States. Nearly one in three children ages 10 to 17 in Georgia is considered to be overweight or obese (National Survey of Children's Health, 2007), and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is continuing to witness a steady rise in obesity cases at all three of its hospitals.
To combat this chronic illness, Dr. Walsh offers several tips to help Georgia's families have a fun and healthy Halloween:
- Offer to "buy back" the candy from your kids in exchange for a small toy.
- Provide plenty of water with the sweets, and set aside time to be active to help burn the extra calories consumed.
- Provide a nutritious meal that includes fruits and vegetables before going to gather candy. This will lower your child's appetite for the sweets they are about to collect in the hours to come.
- Distribute candy with lower sugar and fat content to trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood.
- Talk to children in advance about boundaries for how many pieces of candy will be eaten Halloween night (three to five recommended).
- When choosing candies to give on Halloween, select ones with nutritional value like chocolates (the darker the better) or candies with nuts.
- Send kids trick-or-treating on a full stomach by planning an easy meal, like a bowl of whole-wheat pasta or a quick peanut butter and banana sandwich.