The experts at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life have analyzed the calories, fat and sugar content of a typical Halloween pumpkin filled treats and the results are frightening.
One pumpkin full of Halloween candy can have as much as 365 teaspoons of sugar; the same amount of sugar in 12 double scoop vanilla ice cream cones (which can be nearly 69 times the recommended daily serving of sugar for kids). This is also the same amount of fat in four sticks of butter or nearly 15 large servings of fast food French fries. In total this could total nearly 11,000 calories.
“Allowing your child to consume nearly 11,000 calories in Halloween candy is like standing by and watching them eat almost seven days’ worth of food in one sitting, or 21 meals based on 3 meals a day for a child,” said Dr. Stephanie Walsh, Medical Director, Strong4Life at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “There are so many fun things to do for Halloween that have nothing to do with candy. It should be about getting dressed up and going door to door, and family time.”
Candies with rich ingredients such as chocolate and peanut butter tend to have the highest sugar and fat content, Walsh said. But many specialty Halloween candies such as candy corn contain unhealthy amounts of sugar if not consumed in moderation. Walsh, mother to three boys ages 14, 12 and 10, gives out a mix of sweets and non-food items such as glow bracelets, light up rings and stickers.
Parents, she said, need to remember they are in charge. Just because children return home from an evening of trick-or-treating with huge bundles of candy doesn’t mean they have to eat all of it. She suggests limiting children to one or two pieces a day and then after about a week or so, either “buy back” the candy (in exchange for a small toy or family outing) or donate it.
Despite the dangers of eating too much candy, she’s not sure a complete-ban on candy is the way to go.
“If you forbid candy altogether on Halloween, it may feel restrictive and what can happen sometimes is the child will end up sneaking candy,” said Walsh. “That’s why this can be an opportunity to teach your child moderation and balance.”
Before you know it, little ghosts and goblins will be at your door yelling “trick-or-treat!” What will you be handing out? Rather than running out the night before to grab whatever is left over, plan ahead and consider how you can provide healthier options. Think plastic light up rings or necklaces, pretzels or stickers, etc.
Giving out candy is OK too, but be sure to select candies with nutritional value like chocolates (the darker the better). To get your kids involved (and teach them about “healthier” candy options), take them shopping with you. Pick the five you think are healthiest and then let your kids choose which candies your family should provide at the door.