October 25, 2010

Help Kids Make Better Bad Choices This Halloween

Halloween is a night of tricks and especially treats for children but for parents it can turn into a nightmare as their little ghosts and goblins splurge on candy with no health benefits.

"Halloween is one day, and for most children a handful of their favorite candy is not a problem. The challenge is what happens to the rest of the trick-or-treat goodies," said Roberta Anding, registered dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital.

She advises letting children enjoy a few of their favorites after a night of trick-or-treating, and then putting the rest out of sight, such as in the freezer. "It is true that out of sight is out of mind," Anding said.

All food encounters can serve as teaching moments for parents, she said. Parents should not refer to candy as "bad" food, but rather label it "once-in-a-while" food and serve it as a dessert after a meal, not as a snack.

While no candy can be viewed as a health food, there is such a thing as a "better" bad choice, Anding said.

"Certainly, dark chocolate does have some health benefit, and partnering this with a fruit, such as chocolate covered raisins, would be an option," she said. "If allergies are not a problem, dark chocolate covered almonds might be another."

Sugar free candy should be avoided, she added. Many of these treats are sweetened with sugar alcohols, which can cause diarrhea. Read the packaging for ingredients ending in "ol," such as sorbitol, manitol and xylitol.

All small candies can pose a choking hazard, so younger children should be monitored, Anding said.

By making smarter choices and monitoring when youngsters are eating their treats "“ and how much they're eating "“ parents can ensure a fun Halloween.


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