How to Have a Healthy Halloween?

By Tao Newsletter

Here at the beginning of October our Tao of Herbs employees are excited and looking forward to fun fall festivities associated with the upcoming Halloween holiday, and we hope you are too.  But as you decide whether to put together the latest “Super Hero” costume or to dress up as a spooky ghost instead, we want to share some of our favorite helpful tips to make sure you sail through the day enjoying all those great “TREATS” and no nasty “TRICKS” whatsoever.

No doubt Halloween can be the worst of all holidays when it comes to overindulging in high-calorie candy treats.  In a recent TIME.com article, Donna Arnett, Ph. D, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama - Birmingham's School of Public Health, revealed that the average child accumulates 3500 to 7000 calories worth of treats on a typical Halloween night.  According to another report a 100-pound child who consumed all of those 7000 calories in a single-sitting sugar binge would need to walk briskly for almost 44 hours or play full-court basketball for more than 14 hours to burn off the calories.  Yikes!  That is a scary statistic indeed, especially when you consider that Americans are expected to spend close $2 billion on Halloween candy alone this year … and ten per cent of the nation’s medical costs on obesity-related disease.

 And remember too: Halloween hazards are not limited only to the damage sweets can do to the diet.  Since the kiddos are traveling neighborhoods mostly on foot in search of treats, police reports document more child pedestrian accidents on Halloween than on any other day of the year.

 Even so, the holiday shouldn't be all scary.  If children generally eat well for the rest of the year, most experts agree that you can relax and let them gobble a little candy on Halloween and maybe even consume a few mini pieces for a few days afterwards.  The key here, of course, is MODERATION.  From nutrition experts weighing in on the topic, here are some of our favorite tips to include healthier foods -- even exercise workouts -- into trick-or-treating and what to do with the "leftover loot" once the spooky holiday has ended.

 If you plan to hand out candy, do not buy it far in advance.  Purchase, instead, on Halloween morning to take advantage of last minute sale prices -- and to avoid the temptation to “sample” the fare beforehand.  To minimize the candy wallop, always purchase the “fun-size” or “snack-size” portion options and look for lower-calorie brands such as Peppermint Patties, Twizzlers or Three Musketeers.  For your own sake, pick a candy you do not like, one that will not tempt you to sneak a bite from the bag in advance.

Ÿ Plan to hand out more wholesome treats to the youngsters who ring your doorbell. "Animal crackers, mini rice cereal or granola bars, whole grain cheddar cheese crackers and sugar-free hot chocolate packets make good treats," suggests Kristi King, senior pediatric dietitian at Texas Children's Hospital.  Vandana Sheth, a California-based registered dietitian, recommends pretzels, apples, tangerines, fruit leathers or a trail mix of whole grain cereals.  She also says that, if given a choice, kids will usually opt for cool toys over candy and, therefore, mentions pencils, erasers, stickers, temporary tattoos, glow sticks and small Play Doh containers as alternates for candy.  "Often [children's} excitement is more so in the collecting than in the consuming of treats," Sheth observes.  See sidebar for additional recommendations for non-candy treats.

Ÿ "Consider encouraging your kids to eat something healthy and well-balanced -- high in protein and fiber -- before they go out so they are not tempted to overeat candy on the way," suggests Sheth.  If children from tots to teens have a full tummy before they go trick-or-treating, they will probably eat fewer sugary treats during and afterwards; so, plan to serve a favorite family meal, or at least a substantial, nutritious snack, beforehand.   And remember that a good multi vitamin, selected to be appropriate for your child’s age and need, can help to bridge the nutrition gap today and every day.  See sidebar for recommended Tao of Herbs children’s supplements.

Ÿ  Stay well hydrated because thirst often masquerades as hunger.  You or your children maybe tempted to eat a high-calorie Halloween treat when a drink of water is what your body really needs.  Take a water bottle along for sipping as you travel from house to house.

Ÿ  Set a limit of only one Halloween treat per house.  If someone tries to give them more, children should be thankful -- and say so -- however, you can very simply inform the adult who is handing out treats that you and the children have already agreed to a limit so that other children can enjoy the largesse as well.  And perhaps consider limiting your traveling route to only two or three blocks from home to cut back on the “wretched excess” that can accumulate all too fast otherwise.

Ÿ  To promote healthy activity, King encourages parents to insist that children walk -- or even skip, hop or jog -- from house to house instead of driving them.  Parents might even consider providing siblings and friends with pedometers or activity meters to wear while they walk in the spirit of friendly competition to determine who has been the most active "Halloween champion" while collecting those goodies.

Ÿ  "A little goes a long way," say some nutritionists when referring to accumulated Halloween candy treats and consequently suggest allowing kids to have only one to three pieces of the sweet stuff on any single day, perhaps as a dessert for lunch at school, as an afternoon snack or after dinner as part of the regular meal schedule.  The rest of "the stash" might be better consigned to the freezer -- out of sight and out of mind as well.

Ÿ  Note also: nutrition peril is not limited to youngsters; parents should be every bit as vigilant about their own candy consumption as they are about their children's intake. Says Karen Ansel, a New York nutrition expert, "Kids go to school all day, and parents are home with candy lying around.”  She reminds us once more to limit purchases to small snack/fun-size bars and again cautions, “If you're buying Halloween candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, choose your least favorite brands so that you are less tempted to eat it yourself."

Ÿ  When the children finally return home from collecting treats, first inspect each item for safety and then have them divide their "loot" into two piles -- one for the candy they really want to keep and eat but the other for any candy they do not intend to consume.  Then consider donating the second pile to your local food pantry, Ronald McDonald House, senior center or children's hospital.

Ÿ  Check around to determine whether any of your local dentists or other health professionals in your area might be participating in a buy-back program such as Operation Gratitude, which was started by Wisconsin dentist, Dr. Chris Kammer, to purchase unwanted candy (usually for about $1 per pound) and then ship it to U. S. military troops overseas.  As part of this program service personnel also receive toothbrushes, floss and mouthwash along with each handful of candy so that they all can brush thoroughly afterwards.  "You can't get a cavity in a short time with only a handful of exposures to sweet treats," Dr. Kammer says.

Ÿ  Consider an opportunity to trick-or-treat for charity instead of amassing huge quantities of candy this year.  Kids have been collecting funds for UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) on Halloween for more than 50 years.  To participate, you may enroll through their website: http://www.unicefusa.org/mission/usa/trick-or-treat.   For other good causes, your local Better Business Bureau will be able to provide you with names of worthy and reputable organizations that operate right in your own neighborhood.

With a final word of encouragement experts at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remind us that celebrations such as Halloween can provide a chance to give out healthy snacks, get physical activity and focus on safety.  Visit their website for additional specific suggestions to make the festivities fun and safe for trick-or-treaters and party guests: http://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween/

 

Additional helpful online advice can be found at the following websites:
http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/nutrition-tips-for-a-healthy-halloween
http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/
nutrition/nutrition/life_stages/hgic4112.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/halloween-candy-nutrition/
http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/tips-for-a-healthier-halloween-night
http://nutrition.about.com/od/nutritionforchildren/qt/halloweencandy.htm

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--- ALTERNATIVE HALLOWEEN TREATS ---

 

  • individual packages of nuts, raisins or whole grain trail mix
  • single-serving packs of cashews, sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • personal-size microwave popcorn servings
  • sugarless chewing gum packs
  • Goldfish or other snack crackers, individually packaged
  • sugar-free hot chocolate or cocoa beverage mix envelopes
  • single servings of graham crackers, Teddy Grahams or animal crackers
  • prepackaged Rice Krispie or other cereal/nutrition bars
  • sealed, single-portion packets of cheese and crackers
  • fruit leathers or dried fruit envelopes
  • coupons to redeem for a small cone from your local yogurt shop
  • holiday-themed party favors
  • pencils and/or erasers
  • little plastic Halloween toys or jewelry
  • trading cards
  • stickers or temporary tattoos
  • glow sticks
  • small boxes of crayons
  • coins/currency/cash
  • bottles of bubble fluid with wands

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--- MULTI VITAMINS FOR CHILDREN ---

(available at Tao of Herbs)

  1. BerryLicious Super Multi - Irwin Kids
  2. Kids Complete Multi+Omega 3+Vitamin D - SmartyPants
  3. Kids Multiple Vitamin & Mineral Powder - All One
  4. Kids’ One Daily - MegaFood
  5. Yummi Bears Multi Vitamin & Mineral - Yummi Bear

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  Kids Complete Gummy  
  Kids Complete Gummy by SmartyPants, Multi with Omega 3 and Vitamin D, 120 Delicious Gummies  
  BerryLicious Super Multi  
  BerryLicious Super Multi by Irwin Naturals, Irwin Kids, 30 softchews  
  Kid's One Daily  
  Kid's One Daily by MegaFood, 60 Tablets