The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

October 21, 2012

Halloween treats don’t have to become a health scare

There are few things as American as the Halloween tradition of dressing up in costumes, going door to door and collecting candy.

There are also few things quite as American as the skyrocketing obesity rate, to which candy and other sweet treats contribute a significant amount.

Which presents a dilemma.

As a parent, do you let your kids partake in Halloween the way it’s been done for years, which is to say let them amass an arsenal of sweets that could make Willy Wonka jealous? Or do you put your foot down and resolve to change the way Halloween is done to reflect a new health consciousness?

According to the American Dental Association’s recent survey, a lot of parents are starting to think it’s time for a change in how Halloween is done in this country.

The ADA surveyed 1,000 parents. Among the results: 70 percent agreed it would be good if children received less candy. Of that 70 percent, nearly 60 percent believed kids eat too much Halloween candy. The average child, the survey said, gets 90 pieces of candy on the average Halloween night outing.

Mankato Clinic Dietitian Erin Gonzalez says there are things families can do to avoid turning Halloween into a sugarfest.

“My suggestion would be to hold Halloween parties instead of trick or treating,” Gonzalez said. “Then you’d have control.”

At a Halloween party, parents could serve healthy snacks. Feeling creative? Cook up some whole wheat pasta and scare up a blood-and-guts theme.

“It doesn’t have to revolve around candy to make it fun,” Gonzalez said.

But as much as that ideal sounds great, it doesn’t solve the notion that, for many, trick or treating is a powerful rite of fall that isn’t about to be abandoned.

It’s still possible to maintain that tradition and limit the amount of candy consumed.

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