Dietitians share tips on kids' Halloween candy-eating
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Sunday, October 28, 2012
10/28/12 at 5:20 AM
Candy isn't evil.
"It shouldn't be scary or frightening like Halloween is," said Stephanie McKinney, a registered dietitian with Nutrition Consultants of Tulsa.
People tend to "elevate its status, give it more attention that it deserves," she said.
Of course, you can't deny your kids candy, agreed Sonja Stolfa, a registered and licensed outpatient dietitian for St. Francis Hospital. Or "they're going to hide it."
We just need to learn to monitor how much we're eating, McKinney said. That's the real trick to treating.
So with Halloween less than a week away, local dietitians shared their suggestions on making Oct. 31 as healthy as possible without sucking the fun out of it for kids.
Develop a strategy
Before Halloween night, have a plan, McKinney said. You can even involve your kids in the process.
Maybe you'll decide they can have only two or three pieces that night, then save the rest to have one piece a day thereafter.
Perhaps they can have one piece at lunch, another at dinner, Schumann said.
"If the novelty wears off after a week or two, they usually forget," she added.
Your strategy should also involve looking through the candy, as Stolfa does with her three kids at Halloween.
"They're supposed to let us check it," said Stolfa - and they're also not supposed to be eating it while trick-or-treating, which is primarily for safety reasons.
When her kids come back from trick-or-treating, Dr. Sarah-Anne Schumann, an associate professor of family medicine at OU-Tulsa, goes through their candy. This is partly because her son has peanut allergies. Parents with kids in similar shoes should look as closely as possible at the ingredients.
Beyond that, she makes sure the packages of candy aren't opened. If they are, toss them.
More than just candy
Halloween doesn't have to be all about chocolate and other goodies.
"Make the holiday about something else other than how much candy you can get in your bag," McKinney said. Put emphasis on costumes, too, and decorating pumpkins.
Also, kids can learn the "give and take" of Halloween, she said - spending an hour or so trick-or-treating, then some time giving it out at the door.
Trick-or-treating can also be great exercise, Stolfa pointed out, what with all the walking and running from house to house.
Fill up first
About 20 percent of kids will eat their entire Halloween haul at some point, Stolfa said. Not in one sitting but over time. Still, that can be a lot of candy, considering some kids' trick-or-treat haul.
To prevent overeating, especially on Halloween night, make sure your trick-or-treaters eat a nutritious meal first.
"The best defense is a good offense," said Stephanie Harris, a registered and licensed dietitian with Hillcrest Hospital South. Start the night with a well-balanced meal or healthy snack, like a peanut butter sandwich and fruit.
If they're eating healthy beforehand - a little cheese, meat, maybe some peanut butter and veggies or fruit - they're less likely to go "hog wild" with candy, Stolfa said.
The candy key: moderation
"Anything is OK in a small amount," said Schumann, mom to two kids - both of whom have door-to-door candy-collecting plans next Wednesday night. "It's the eating 20 pieces of candy while they're trick-or-treating,"
When kids come back home and they're sorting through their hauls, treat it like a large dinner portion at a restaurant, Harris suggested: "Ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal."
Then, put the rest away - on top of a shelf kids can't reach, or hidden in a cabinet. Some folks will stash their leftover candy in a freezer and use it in recipes, like cookies.
After her kids pick their favorites, Schumann might take it to the hospital and share with resident physicians.
In Halloweens past, Schumann has seen some folks dispense packaged fruit snacks, which are lower in fat and calories than chocolate.
You don't even have to give out food items, as she's also witnessed people offering pencils, rub-on fake tattoos, stickers, even coins.
Other non-food treats can be thrown into the candy mix, Stolfa said, like glow-sticks, costume jewelry, fake eyeballs, false teeth, decks of cards, funny glasses, stuffed animals, book markers, crayons and brushes. You can find many of these at dollar stores.
What about sunflower seeds?
"I can tell you from the kid perspective, they're not going to like that," Schumann said.
'Lesser of evil' candies have fewer calories, not as much fat and sugar
"What's your favorite candy to get when you're trick-or-treating for Halloween?" Dr. Sarah-Anne Schumann asked her 12-year-old daughter, Noa, while we were on the phone discussing Halloween candy's potential pitfalls.
"Anything chocolate but with no nuts," Noa said.
Hard candy is a no-no, as Noa has braces. But she loves the miniature chocolate bars, including Milky Ways. Twix is a family favorite, too.
Moderation in all is key, multiple dietitians told us for our Halloween candy story.
Among them was Stephanie Harris, a registered and licensed dietitian with Hillcrest Hospital South. She provided the calorie and fat count for a jack-o-lantern-ful of popular trick-or-treatable candies.
Most fun- or snack-sized candies, which are often available in bags for Halloween, contain at least 80 calories and 4 grams of fat, Harris said. These sizes are between one-fourth and one-half the size of regular candy bars.
One of the least healthy fun sizes is Butterfinger, which has 100 calories and four grams of fat, two of which are saturated - plus 10 grams of sugar.
When trying to pick the lesser of evils among candy, opt for fruit flavors and hard candies, which are usually lower in fat and have half the calories, Harris said. If you must have chocolate, pick the lighter, more airy ones, like 3 Musketeers. The denser ones, like Snickers, have more fat and calories.
Here's a sampling of candies Harris discussed:
Fun-size M&Ms: 73 calories, 3 grams fat
Candy corn (10 pieces): 75 calories, 0 fat
Fun-size Skittles: 60 calories, less than 1 gram fat
Tootsie pops: 60 calories, 0 fat
Fun-size Snickers: 80 calories, 4 grams fat
Snack-size Hershey's milk chocolate bar: 67 calories, 4 grams fat
Reese's pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cups: 170 calories, nearly 10 grams fat
Fun-size Reese's cup: 80 calories, 4 grams fat
Tootsie rolls (6 pieces): 155 calories, 1 gram fat
Original Print Headline: Dietitians share tips on kids' candy-eating
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
Monitoring children's candy intake is the real trick to treating. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World file
If kids eat a healthy meal or snack before trick-or-treating, they are less likely to go crazy with candy.